Images: Upper left is Arthur Leigh Allen, Richard Gaikowski. Further down is Jack Tarrance
Unless you are someone really interested in the case of the Zodiac Killer, or perhaps a late sixties Bay area resident, you are probably only familiar with the San Francisco serial killer from the movies. The most recent major movie production was David Fincher’s Zodiac. The movie introduces audiences to author Robert Graysmith’s favorite suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, the most famous person of suspicion in the case.
Tom Voigt, of ZodiacKiller.com, has gathered an overwhelming amount of information on the case, much of which he has made freely available via his website. There are police reports, photographs, news articles, video, audio, and much, much more for the amateur Zodiac investigator to peruse. Tom also has had his favorite suspects over the years, including Arthur Leigh Allen. He has shifted his focus lately, however, to an underground newspaper editor named Richard Gaikowski. Tom, and a few other investigators, have gathered a large amount of information that they believe implicate Gaikowski in the killings.
To date, there is not one person I suspect of being the Zodiac Killer. That is, I do not think the killer has yet been identified as a suspect by anyone. I hope to see a good case put together someday. I hope this case will see the answers so many have been seeking for so many years.
In this post, I will write about a suspect that has received a certain amount of attention. The proponent of the suspect theory and the theory itself, have been the subject of much controversy over the years.
I have long been a critic of Dennis Kaufman, the man who claims his stepfather, Jack Tarrance, is the Zodiac Killer. In February of 2006, I wrote a post entitled Does Dennis Know Jack? wherein I expressed my opinion of Dennis Kaufman and his theory. The post detailed some correspondence between Dennis and myself, and he announced his upcoming book, The Man Behind the Mask. While there was some debate about the existence of such a book after it’s announced publication, I can say that there was a book, but that the quantity and quality of publication led many to believe that the book was nothing but a hoax.
As a webmaster who has covered the Zodiac Case for over two years now, I encounter many claims of Zodiac’s identity being uncovered and alleged solutions to the 340 cipher. Some of these people are obvious kooks and some have developed compelling cases for belief. Dennis Kaufman, in my opinion, falls somewhere in between. I do think that Dennis believes his own story. I just question how he has come to that conclusion. His story of Jack Tarrance, who admittedly held a striking resemblance to the Zodiac composite, was indeed compelling –at first glance. It’s when one began to take a hard look at the facts that the story seemed to lose all credibility.
The hard facts were… Well, there weren’t any. That was my main problem with his story. There was nothing placing Tarrance at the scene of any of the crimes. There was no DNA evidence. There was no fingerprint evidence. There was no solid confession, although Dennis claims there was. The audio of the alleged confession is there on his site. Dennis does claim to have other audio where he directly came out and asked his stepfather if he was , indeed, the Zodiac. This audio has never been presented to the public. There were supposed to be items that Dennis had seen proving his case, but he claims he didn’t show them to law enforcement, or even confiscate them for his own investigation, because he didn’t want to offend his stepbrother. Dennis has spent years making this claim. If he had the chance to actually prove his credibility, why wouldn’t he? He claims it is his obligation. I just couldn’t believe that he turned down the chance at redemption so as not to hurt the feelings of someone he hardly even knew. After all, if what Dennis is saying is true, he was holding the key to the man responsible for the cruel deaths of many victims.
Dennis claims his stepfather was responsible for his mother’s death. The death certificate indicates she died from “cardio respiratory arrest, anoxic brain injury, respiratory failure, and autoimmune cholangitis. There is nothing mentioned pertaining to a homicide. While he may blame his stepfather for her demise, a homicide was never proven. To my knowledge, the only thing that Jack Tarrance has ever been arrested for is poaching. He may be a mean sonofabitch, the world is full of them, but so far there is nothing pointing to Tarrance as a murderer.
The strongest evidence Dennis has presented to the public pointing to Jack Tarrance as the Zodiac Killer are weak at best. First, there’s a recorded phone call that Dennis claims is an admission of guilt by his stepfather. This confession is is not a direct statement. One could interpret Tarrance’s words as simply being a dubious response to a very strange sort of question. Then there are handwriting comparisons between known Zodiac letters and the writing of Tarrance. The writing looks a lot alike –not a perfect match. As an amateur researcher of the Zodiac case, I can tell you, I have seen many handwriting exemplars that match as well, if not better. Finally, there is the resemblance to the composite sketch. Jack Tarrance looks like the Zodiac sketch. He looks eerily like the sketch. However, so do a lot of other people. There is simply nothing so far that tells us that with all certainty “Jack Tarrance was the Zodiac Killer.”
I have often said the only reason that Jack Tarrance is even discussed as a Zodiac suspect is because Dennis Kaufman does his best to keep the story in the news. I saw that a lot of people were hitting on my site looking for information about Dennis Kaufman all of a sudden, so I checked the news. It is because of this renewed media attention that I feel the need to weigh in on the subject. Many people who have just read the articles about this “new evidence” can’t understand why this isn’t a major news story. They think this is the first time Dennis Kaufman has accused his stepfather of being the Zodiac Killer. This is not the case –not the case at all.
You see, Dennis Kaufman first gained media attention with his allegations eight years ago when he first told the FBI about his suspicions that Jack Tarrance was the Zodiac. He appeared on national television with his claims and used the alias “Kenny Kilgore.” Jack Tarrance died on August 26, 2006, six years after Dennis first turned the FBI onto Jack Tarrance. To this day, the Zodiac case has remained unsolved.
But, Dennis isn’t finished. He’s still convinced that his stepfather is the infamous Bay area killer. And now, Dennis is back in the media spotlight. His story is much greater now. His claims are much more chilling.
Dennis says that he was going through some of his deceased stepfather’s belongings and he found a knife that was covered in what he believes may be blood. “It could be a knife he barbequed with or a knife he murdered someone with,” Dennis said. He also says that he opened up an old PA system and discovered an item similar to garb once donned by the Zodiac Killer. “It was a black hood with a Zodiac on it,” according to Dennis. And, perhaps the most shocking items revealed by Dennis, are photographs depicting what appears to be homicide victims.
What items have actually been turned over for investigation are not exactly clear. The video of the new interview with Dennis Kaufman shows him handling the hood and the knife, casting doubt on whether either of those items have been given to the FBI. Dennis claims to have several rolls of undeveloped film he is also planning to give to the investigators. He believes they may contain more shocking images.
Note: Dennis has instructed me to be more observant; he is wearing plastic gloves as he handles the items. I checked the video and he is, indeed, wearing plastic gloves.
CBS13 is reporting that the FBI confirmed that they are testing some items that “may link a suspect to a killer.” I do have questions regarding this “new evidence.” Why is Kaufman handling the items if they are important pieces of evidence? Why did he touch them at all? Why is it that all of these things are only now worthy of investigation and only now coming to light? Tarrance, has after all, has been dead for two years now.
I have sent an email to Dennis asking for more details. As of this writing, I have not yet received an answer. However, I only sent it a short while ago, so he may not have had time to respond. I told him I would keep an open mind concerning this new information. I have looked things over and watched some of the video. As you can see, I have reached a tentative conclusion that should comes as no surprise. As always, I will be receptive to new information. I look forward to the FBI’s conclusion, though I seriously doubt anything else will be heard. I’ll be sure to update if Dennis decides to respond to my inquiries.
Update: I did receive a response from Dennis after this post was published. Needless to say, he was not happy with my post. To date, he has not answered the questions I had asked him on August 29. He did indicate he wore plastic gloves to handle the items. The actual questions (verbatim) are below:
–Why has your message board been disabled? (Re-enabled August 31)
–Has the hood been turned over for testing?
–What about the knife. I notice that you have been handling it. Has it been tested for evidence?
–Is there any sign (blood) that the hood may have been used in an attack?
–My view has always been that the DNA and fingerprint samples are useless for ruling a suspect “out” but a match would be very supportive of a person’s involvement. What sort of results do you expect in that regard?
This post will be updated should Dennis decide to answer a few of the more skeptical questions.
If this new investigation doesn’t have the result that Dennis Kaufman wants us to anticipate, the implications could be even more damaging to his already shaky reputation. It might just mean that things were exaggerated, perhaps even fabricated to further this story. That would be a reach by Kaufman I do not want to see. As I said, I think he really believes that Tarrance is the Zodiac. I know he wants us to believe along with him. I hope that any convincing is done earnestly and honestly.
Recently we have seen Leonard Padilla tell us that Casey would be talking –bogus. A real, live sasquatch was found in the northern woods of Georgia, a boatload of DNA evidence –bogus.
I realize that with all of this important FBI investigating and new found evidence and everything, my skepticism may make a fool of me. How can I, knowing the FBI is actually involved, stand up and say this is bogus? After all, there are photos of murdered people –how can you explain that? Dennis may have the opportunity to laugh in my face at my years of being his critic and say ” I told you so!”
I’m willing to take that chance. No matter how exciting this new information appears to be, I can not bring myself to believe that Jack Tarrance is the Zodiac Killer.
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