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Arthur Leigh Allen

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Arthur Leigh Allen, the prime suspect in the Zodiac Killer case and the only suspect in the case in Vallejo.

Arthur Leigh Allen (December 18, 1933-August 26, 1992) was the prime suspect of law enforcement in the case for the Zodiac Killer. Allen became publicly known as a Zodiac suspect shortly after the release of Zodiac, a book authored by Robert Graysmith. Allen was cleared through a comparison of DNA, fingerprints, palm prints, and handwriting.

Arthur Leigh Allen died on August 26, 1992 of a heart attack in his home in Vallejo.

Early Life Edit

Allen was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on December 18, 1933. He grew up in Vallejo, California and graduated from Vallejo High School in 1950. He received an Associate of Arts degree from Vallejo College in 1957.

Personal Life Edit

Arthur Leigh Allen was dishonorably discharged from the Navy in 1958. He also lost his job as an elementary school teacher in 1968 for molesting school children. In 1974 he was arrested for molesting children, and served his sentence at Atascadero State Hospital until 1977.

Incriminating Evidence Edit

All evidence against Allen is circumstantial, though the large quantity of circumstantial evidence is the primary reason why Allen became the primary suspect in the Zodiac case.

Circumstantial Evidence:

  • Allen communicated to his friend Don Cheney (through the premise of writing a novel) the following ideas:
    • He would like to kill couples at random.
    • He would taunt the police with letters detailing his crimes.
    • He would sign the letters with the cross-circle symbol from his watch.
    • He would call himself "Zodiac."
    • He would wear make-up to change his appearance.
    • He would attach a flashlight to the barrel of his gun in order to shoot at night.
    • He would fool women into stopping their cars in rural areas by claiming they had problems with their tires, then loosen their lug nuts and eventually take them captive.[1]
  • In 1992, surviving victim Mike Mageau picked Allen out of a police lineup.
  • Surviving victim Bryan Hartnell identified his voice and physical appearance as being similar to the Zodiac.
  • Allen lived in Vallejo near the Blue Rock Springs and Lake Herman Road murders.
  • Allen was allegedly in Riverside on the weekend when Cheri Jo Bates was murdered. He later claimed to be in Pomona when he heard of Bates' murder.
  • Allen took his only sick day of the year on Nov.1, 1966 (Bates was murdered on Oct. 30, 1966).
  • The Vallejo Police Department seized a Royal typewriter with Elite type from Allen's home, which is the brand of typewriter used to write the Bates' letters.
    • Note: To date, the typewriter has not been compared to the Bates letters.
  • Received a Zodiac watch from his mother for Christmas in 1967, according to his brother. Allen estimated receiving the watch in 1969.
  • Allen communicated to his friend Philip that he was fascinated with the idea of killing people. He believed that people were more challenging to kill than animals since they were more intelligent. Similar sentiments were communicated during the three-part cipher mailed to newspapers. Allen also mentioned to the police that his favorite book was The Most Dangerous Game, a book about killing humans and possibly alluded to in a Zodiac correspondence.
  • Mageau described a brown Corvair at the Blue Rock Springs scene. Allen's friend, Philip, owned a brown Corvair that Allen was allowed to use.
  • Allen told friend Don Cheney that he was fond of a waitress at the International House of Pancakes in Vallejo, the place where Darlene Ferrin worked as a waitress.
  • An unidentified man named "Lee" was known to associate with Ferrin, and Allen frequently went by his middle name.
  • Told police he was going up to Berryessa on the day of the Hartnell/Shepard attack, but decided to go up the coast instead.
  • Allen admitted to possessing bloody knives on the day of the Berryessa attack, claiming that he used them to kill chickens.
  • Cheney mentioned to Ron Allen that Arthur had two .22 caliber weapons.
  • Zodiac is frequently theorized as having military ties, and Allen was at one time a sail maker in the navy.
  • Allen wore size 10.5 shoes, similar to those left at the crime scene.
  • In 1991, a nemesis of Allen's named Ralph Spinelli told police that Allen admitted to being the Zodiac and that he would prove it by going to San Francisco and "killing a cabbie."
  • In 1991, the search warrant for Allen's house found bomb diagrams and the same ingredients for bombs that were mentioned in a previous Zodiac letter.
  • Karen Allen, his sister-in-law, stated that Allen would use the shortened "trigger mech" in place of "trigger mechanism," as well as spelling Christmas with two S's. Both idiocyncracies appear in the Zodiac letter to Melvin Belli.
  • Karen also stated that he was taught to write right-handed as a child, even though he was left-handed.
  • Allen claimed to have consulted with Melvin Belli, an attorney mentioned by name in the Zodiac letters.

Exculpatory Evidence Edit

Circumstantial Evidence:

  • The eyewitnesses of the Stine murder scene claimed Allen was not the man they saw.

Physical Evidence:

  • Fingerprints/palm prints did not match.
  • DNA did not match.
  • Handwriting was not a match.

Media Edit

The original case against Allen was detailed in the book Zodiac by Robert Graysmith. In it, Graysmith laid out the circumstantial evidence against Allen using the pseudonym Bob Hall Starr to hide Allen's identity.

David Fincher based his 2007 movie Zodiac off the Graysmith book.

Death Edit

Allen died of arteriosclerotic heart failure on August 26th, 1992.


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