The first step in a thesis to law enforcement concerning a person of interest is often not the first thing that is discovered in an investigation. In the case of a cold case where there is no more than some composites, it is necessary to uncover just which composite (or sets) are truly the most accurate. Naturally, this is important since it gives us the face of a perpetrator that is otherwise a phantom.
This can take some doing. For the appearance on the sketch must be interpreted according to the conditions under which the witness saw the suspect. Cases (like EAR/ONS) that have many sketches can be daunting, but there is a chance of finally averaging out the best sketches. For the case at hand– The Zodiac– there are only a few.
The last sketch is the most famous, but it is unquestionably the most inaccurate. Combined with the depth of the footprints at Lake Berryessa and the witnesses’ descriptions (including Mageau at Blue Rock Springs) we know Zodiac was quite heavyset with a big face. The circumstances of the SF witnesses (kids in their early teens) tell us that they saw Zodiac by Stine’s cab from a downward angle– thus making his face look more angular. Officer Fouke saw him in the darkness from a seated position, and thus Zodiac may have looked older. Neither could be accurate. Those witnesses who heard Zodiac’s voice knew he had a young voice.
The most useless composite imaginable. It nevertheless has become the face of The Zodiac Killer.
We are left with only the Lake Berryessa composite, which is the first. This gives us the big face, the stylized hair, and the heavyset young man. The circumstances were daylight, prolonged view, and at least 3 adult witnesses. The circumstances indicate that this young man was probably waiting around for the 3 coeds to leave. Nearby there was a couple– and they fit Zodiac’s signature type of victim.
Probably the most accurate view of the Zodiac. This still isn’t saying much. But this at least gives us a framework– small nose, high cheekbones, heavyset, young, a distinct part on the lower left side, no widow’s peak, straight brows angling up, relatively small ears, no glasses.
Sadly, the first sketch was obscured by the sketch made by San Francisco. SF’s sketch was made during the height of the media blitz and it replaced the original sketch made under much better conditions. No one following the SF sketch could ever identify The Zodiac Killer.
One cannot base a person of interest on looks alone. Yet so many “suspects” have been put forward in the Zodiac case merely because of a slight resemblance to the SF sketch and by the fact the suspect had worn similar glasses. One starts with the circumstances of the crime and then from there determines (based on all the evidence) just what the perp looked like. Then you start looking for persons of interest.
Amazingly, in my thesis I will have to point out why this sketch is the best. I must inspire the official investigators to want to follow through and follow the trail where only badges can go.
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.