Notorious SF: Zodiac Killer
The Zodiac Killer murdered cab driver Paul Stine in his cab in front of this house at 3898 Washington Street in Presidio Heights at approximately 10 p.m. on October 11, 1969. Stine was the last of seven confirmed victims of Zodiac, who claimed in letters to Bay Area newspapers to have killed 37. The shooting of the San Francisco cabbie brought national attention to the bizarre killer who corresponded with the media and others using cryptograms featuring astrological signs and mocking the efforts of police to find him. Zodiac shot Stine in the head. Three teenagers watched from the second story of #3899 across the street as a man struggled with the cabbie. Police responded quickly to the scene but allowed the killer to slip away because a dispatcher mistakenly communicated that the suspect was black. A white man now believed to be Zodiac was observed by police walking in a direction away from the crime scene but was not detained. Zodiac used blood soaked swatches cut from Stine's shirt to identify himself in a letter sent to the Chronicle two days after the murder. In the letter Zodiac - who had previously stabbed and shot victims in Vallejo, Lake Berryessa and Riverside - threatened to blow up a school bus. Though letters from the Zodiac continued to appear until 1978, the notorious serial killer was never captured. The case influenced copy cat criminals, counterfeit Zodiac letters, and fictional murderers including the serial killer in "Dirty Harry," the Gemini in William Peter Blatty's "Legion," and the Tinkerbell murderer in Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City." Controversy surrounds the final Zodiac letter, now believed by police and researches to be counterfeit. In an only-in-San Francisco twist, police Inspector David Toschi was exposed for writing counterfeit fan letters to Maupin after the writer used Toschi as a character in "Tales of the City" in 1976. The letters encouraged Maupin to continue using Toschi in the serial. Though Toschi was transferred off the Zodiac case for writing the Maupin letters, he was later reinstated as a homicide Inspector. Speculation - but not much - lingers that Toschi authored the final Zodiac letter, the only one to mention the inspector by name. The seven victims, says Zodiac researcher Ray Nixon, were Betty Lou Jensen & David Faraday, Darlene Ferrin & Mike Mageau, Brian Hartnell & Cecilia Ann Sheppard, and Paul Stine. Says Nixon, "Both Mageau and Hartnell recovered from their wounds. Hartnell is an attorney in San Diego and Mageau, still suffering severe psychological stress from his ordeal, is apparently in hiding."

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