Zodiac Killer ended age of innocence 

Before Oct. 15, 1969, Abraham Lincoln High School student Scott Evans never thought twice about looking out over the fog-shrouded city from the seclusion of Mount Davidson.

But his innocence changed after that day, when Evans learned that the Zodiac killer — who had until that point killed young people in Napa and Vallejo — had come to San Francisco. The murders joined the assassination of Robert Kennedy and the coming Manson family murders as a sign that the idealistic ’60s and the high point, Summer of Love, were coming to a bloody end.

"It was a turning point. San Francisco — which was to me a very innocent town or a private club — changed," said Evans, 54, who still lives in The City.

In an Oct. 15, 1969, article in The Examiner, the murder of cabdriver Paul Stine was linked to three other attacks from the previous year. Because of the coded messages sent to local newspapers, the articles at that time referred to the Zodiac as the "Cipher Killer."

As fear rose, Evans said everyone he knew began formulating theories as to who the killer could be, and suspicious people from home, work or school became suspects. For years, he said he was sure it was a guy he had gone to high school with who used to tell of graphic, disgusting things he’d do to their female classmates.

"For years afterward, when I’d walk down the street, anybody that even fit the description, I remember thinking‘I wonder if that’s the guy,’" Evans said. "It wasn’t until he stopped writing that people stopped worrying, because they thought that if he wasn’t writing then he wasn’t going to kill anymore."

Within five years of the final confirmed Zodiac murder, two other killers would use the same method of killing and sending letters about the crimes. Dennis Rader, known as the "BTK Killer," in Kansas, and David Richard Berkowitz, the "Son of Sam," in New York, both sent letters or packages to law enforcement agencies regarding their crimes.

Rader’s final letter, in 2004, led to his arrest.

"The Zodiac was smart, you’ve got to give him that. He never tripped himself up," Evans said. "If he is still alive now, he’s really laughing at us."

The Zodiac Killer coined his name in a 1969 letter to the Examiner. Our special section reviews the new "Zodiac" movie and looks back at his still-unsolved killing spree.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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