Critiquing History Channel’s “The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer” and their Discovery that “Zodiac May Be Copycatting the Black Dahlia Murder from 1947?”

December 31, 2017
Los Angeles, California













Zodiac’s 340Z Code (Mailed to San Francisco Chronicle 11.9.69

  • Spoiler Alert- For any readers that plan to watch the History Channel’s “The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer” be advised that the following critique contains numerous disclosures and addresses many of the show’s findings.
As many of you know, I have been reluctant to watch the recently aired episodic miniseries, “Hunt for Zodiac.”
These programs, while billing themselves as “a search for the truth” almost always do just the opposite.
A fog of sensationalism is created to promote the myth and legend in overly dramatic “recreations” as the show’s producers play fast and loose with the facts in an attempt to present “new truths,” as “alternative facts.”  Each episode promising the solution is at hand so “stay tuned.”
In what should be a serious and objective search for the truth of whodunit by following the evidence almost always becomes a three-ring circus. The ringmasters are usually presented as a team of world-renowned investigators, experts all, who are determined to ferret out and solve these Cold Case crimes on-screen, regardless of how many television seasons it might take.
And so it goes.
So, here is my generalized critique specific to the History Channel’s five-part series, “The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer.”
Quickly into Episode 1, it becomes apparent that neither of the two-man team of detectives “working the case” has any serious background knowledge of the real facts. They have not done their homework, and that mistake will undermine and play a major negative role throughout the entire series.
Regardless, they quickly focus on two old Zodiac suspects and rather than following where the evidence leads them (Basic Homicide 101) they decide to see if they can make the evidence fit their preconceived “Prime suspects.” Unfortunately, they stick with this plan throughout the entire series.
The show would have us believe the detectives are discovering new evidence and making “new linkage” from crime to crime.  They bounce from the known San Francisco Zodiac crimes to the Riverside Cheri Jo Bates crime, to a possible Santa Barbara double homicide, to the South Lake Tahoe, Donna Lass suspected Zodiac murder.  Of course, to anyone even slightly familiar with the serial crimes, they know that all of these have been linked and looked at decades ago. Nothing new here.
Bomb-sniffing dogs are taken up to Mt. Diablo and cadaver dogs taken to a suspected location provided as an anonymous mail-in clue at “Donner Pass for Donna Lass.” (Though I have to admit that particular observation does have a very GHH ring to it.) Despite an “alert” by all three dogs in a generalized area, and the calling in of a forensic anthropologist for a dig. Alas, no body. No victim.
Despite the two detectives constant repetitive claims of “This is big. This is groundbreaking. This is huge.”  By the end of the series, no evidence was presented to offer forth a viable suspect, and the show ended with their still hoping they might be able to identify one of their two “prime suspects” as Zodiac.
 A lot of money was spent on producing this series. The producers were able to open doors in the LE community that had been locked tight with a big “Do Not Enter” sign for the past forty-eight years. Thanks to “The Media” those doors, at least in a few police and sheriff’s departments were unlocked and they were able to gain access to and permitted to have potential DNA evidence analyzed.
Good on them. I have been asking that this be done for the past ten-years, with not even so much as a  response from any of the involved departments.
In three of my four books, (Most Evil 2009, BDA II 2012 and 2014, and in Most Evil II 2015) I have repeatedly asked that Law Enforcement retest and obtain confirmed Zodiac DNA.
Thanks to the efforts of the History Channel, it appears they may have accomplished what I could not. (New DNA samples obtained are pending comparison between cases.  Zodiac Stine to Riverside Bates)
In addition to the DNA results, some apparent advancements (pending further confirmations) were made by the shows Geek Team of cryptologists and Artificial Intelligence experts using what they call their “supercomputer” named, CARMEL.
Carmel’s first contribution centered on the question of whether the 1966 Riverside PD Cheri Jo Bates murder was a legitimate Zodiac murder?
The 1966 Bates note included the words “twich and squirm” with twich misspelled. This was identical to the 1969 Mikado Zodiac letter which also included “twich and squirm” also twich misspelled.
Carmel agreed this must have been the same writer in both crimes pronouncing that the odds of it happening are “one in 1.5 million.”
The shows ace detectives agreed, declaring, “Our most amazing discovery to date. These matching words are like a fingerprint. They can’t be a coincidence.”
(Author’s Note to History Channel and detectives:  While I didn’t have the benefit of a “supercomputer” I did present this evidence in my original publication of Most Evil (Dutton 2009). Here is a scan of the pages from my Chapter 15:
Super Computer Carmel’s Second Revelation:
Cryptologist Team member Craig Bauer working with leads from Carmel claims he has at least partially “cracked the 340Z Code.”
In his opinion, the opening line reads, “Here it is” and in his research, he presents a handwritten letter from the 1947 Black Dahlia Murder investigation, and makes the following on-air statement, “I found the same wording made by the Black Dahlia Avenger.” I think Black Dahlia killer could have been the source of inspiration for Zodiac.” (The on-screen leader under the BDA note reads, “Zodiac may have copycatted Black Dahlia Avenger.”
Seemingly unaware of my investigation and four books written on the subject that present Dr. George Hill Hodel as the same killer, along with QDE testimony (and my own identification)  that the handwriting is George Hodel’s.  Bauer goes on to speculate to his team members that “maybe Zodiac was copying the 1947 Black Dahlia Avenger.”

Below is my graphic included in BDA in 2003, showing the original HERE IT IS note as originally sent to police on January 26, 1947.

Carmel’s and Craig Bauer’s next deciphered claim is that a name is found in the middle of the coded text, followed by what Bauer believes is “gibberish.”  (Other outside experts question that claim indicating that “ perhaps there is a second cipher concealed within the present cipher that will further illuminate Zodiac’s hidden message.” I tend to agree with them on that point.)
Bauer claims that inside the Z340 Code known to be mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle (George Hodel’s former employer) on November 9, 1969, the hidden signature reads:

                 RICHERD M NIKSON

If Craig Bauer is correct, why would Zodiac use the name of president Richard M. Nixon in his 340Z letter to the press?
(Richard M. Nixon was elected President of the United States one year prior on November 5, 1968.)
Would Zodiac in 1969 have any reason to have President Nixon’s name in his consciousness?  Why include it in his cryptogram? Is there anything that would suggest a connection?
I answer with a most assured YES. And, forgive the pun (must be genetic) but HERE IT IS.

This front page headline from the November 9, 1968 Manila newspaper may explain why Zodiac/Hodel after conducting and spearheading an extensive survey likely lasting a year or more involving seven countries could well have had NIXON ON HIS MIND, even one year later.
Here is where the History Channel program, in my opinion, rolled first a seven then an eleven—The DNA.

The 7.

Riverside Chief of Police Sergio Diaz greenlit his Homicide detective Jim Simons to allow access to Cheri Jo Bates property for DNA retesting. (Last tested in 2000) The sealed Riverside Property was transported to the AISOCC DNA  lab in San Diego.

AISOCC Serologist Suzanna Ryan (seen in above photos) tested the pants worn by Cheri Jo Bates at the time of her murder for human blood. The result was “positive.” She then used an MVAC  (micro vacuum) in an attempt to recover a new DNA sample.
The results indicated that “A male DNA sample mixture was obtained from the victim’s pants and is enough to compare.” 
The show’s producers stated that the Bates new sample “is being sent to a respected DNA lab in Virginia in an attempt to develop a DNA profile.”

The 11.


Ms. Pam Hofsass, reveals the existence of stranger DNA previously obtained from inside SFPD Stine gloves.
Ms. Pam Hofsass, Director, Forensic Services Division, Contra Costa County was contacted and interviewed. She formerly worked for SFPD assigned to the Zodiac case from 1989-2015. She had never previously spoken publicly regarding her findings.
Ms. Hofsass advised that in 2002 saliva from a stamp was found on one of the Zodiac letters, but it “showed weak and incomplete DNA.”
In a subsequent attempt to obtain DNA Ms. Hofsass tested the men’s size seven gloves found in the rear seat of the Stine cab. (Unclear exactly when this test was conducted by her but apparently post 2002?)
Her results, “Paul Stine’s blood was found on the outside of the gloves and there is an unknown male profile on the inside.”
The show closed with the statement that “they are going to compare the Bates DNA to the Stine gloves DNA.” (Analysis pending)

Bottom Line

As far as I am concerned despite the History Channel’s tendency to sensationalize, overdramatize and to get on their horses and ride off in all directions, still they were able to get LE to cooperate.
This resulted in one new DNA sample and the disclosure that a second previously unknown DNA sample exists and more importantly it was obtained from what I have always maintained was the best potential source- THE STINE GLOVES.
This is good news going into 2018. I remain optimistic that this case will be “officially solved” through confirmed DNA.
Investigation Continued and HAPPY NEW YEAR!
 Jan 2 2018 Update:  For those who missed it, here is a link to a PDF of my previously published Avenger/Zodiac identical crime signatures as published in Most Evil II.








  1. Steve: Excellent review of the History Channel’s show: “The Hunt For The Zodiac Killer”. They could have saved themselves a lot of time and energy if they had just read your books! rjs

  2. Luigi Warren says:

    Steve: Is that the first GHH photo you’ve released coming from exactly the “Zodiac” era? The resemblance to the composite is rather eerie. All the best and happy hunting in 2018! -LW

  3. Steve Hodel says:

    LW: In Most Evil I published photos of GHH from 1962 and 1974, but didn’t use this one as it was not a very good quality as it comes from a Xerox of the Manila newspaper. I wrote to the paper trying to get a higher resolution but never heard back from them. Happy 2018 back at you. skh

  4. Luigi Warren says:

    And any resemblance to Count Zaroff from THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME is purely coincidental. Jesus! -LW

  5. Steve: what did you think about all the known crimes being committed on ‘Dali’ day…wasn’t that GHH’s favorite artist? And the police rendering from the Steine murder looks exactly like GHH. Best wishes for the new year!

    • Steve Hodel says:

      Teresa: Haven’t really got stuck into the “Dali Day” lunar calendar stuff. My thinking is it may just be a red herring/coincidence (yes, sometimes there ARE COINCIDENCES.) His work related travels as he came in and out of the country limited his time/days in any one city, so may not have had the luxury to plan them to all fall on Dali Days? Kind of have it on a backburner for now, but certainly interesting that the symbol is the circle and cross. Regards, steve

  6. J.R. Neumiller says:

    Curious as to why this program only manages to develop two profiles. I had heard the DNA evidence was “substantial,” or something to that effect. I understand the Stein gloves are the only physical evidence of something left behind by the killer, but aren’t there plenty of other DNA sources from the other physical evidence?

    Anyway, it will be interesting to see what they discover. (Did you ever get your father’s profile entered into the CORBIS database?)

    • Hi J.R. Some of the other agencies ( Vallejo, Sonoma, Los Angeles) do have additional evidence potential Zodiac DNA evidence some of which I think has been tested way back when, but not in recent years. I don’t believe the LA mailings (stamps) have ever been tested. Don’t believe the Fairfield Letter has ever been tested, nor have the John Walsh “Scorpio” letters, which I think could well be Zodiac. And, of course, NONE of the L.A. Lone Woman Murders have ever been looked at or tested for DNA. As far as GHH’s DNA profile, no not entered into CODIS. The requirements are apparently difficult to meet and also, I don’t want it “eliminated” on questionable Zodiac DNA. (As they have done on other “suspects” which they reportedly have “eliminated” even though they have no clue whether the partial DNA they have is or is not Zodiac’s. Not going to happen with GHH DNA. I am hopeful that the Stine gloves and or the retesting of the Bates pants MAY yield Zodiac DNA. Should be an interesting year. Best, Steve

      • J.R. Neumiller says:

        I had never seen any of these Scorpio letters. They sure look authentic to me. Same hand-writing, same attitude, same phraseology, same cryptographic cypher. Makes sense your dad wanted to engage John Walsh and brag some more, but he was ever wary. (Also interesting he kept communicating until quite late.)

        Do you have a section on your site with all the various suspect letters reproduced. Would be a nice addition.

        • Hi J.R. Happy New Year. Good question. No, I don’t have a section with all the suspect letters. I do have most of my father’s handwriting samples entered in “The Evidence Room” on the main page. Also, some of the Zodiac HW comparisons, but not complete. The Walsh Scorpion Letters seem to be mostly overlooked by most researchers. Yes, very similar in every respect and add to that the fact they were mailed to John Walsh in 1990, the very year that GHH returned/relocated from Asia to San Francisco. Also, as you know, in the 1971 “Dirty Harry” a Zodiac-like San Francisco serial killer uses the name “Scorpio” which is probably why the sender of the letters to John Walsh used “Scorpion.” I will go ahead and post the section on John Walsh and the letters from BDA II for my next blog here on my website. As I say in my book, the Walsh Letters, at the very least, should be tested for potential DNA. I’m pretty sure the FBI has the originals given to them from Walsh.

          • J.R. Neumiller says:

            You had also mentioned to me at our last lunch about some letters LAPD had produced for some display, that you had never seen, but that also appeared genuine GHH communications. Any chance of getting a hold of these and reprinting them?

          • J.R. Yes, those letters and detailed information included in a new chapter in the BDA II (2014) edition and will be reprinted in the upcoming revised edition of BDA II which I hope to publish in March 2018.

  7. Luigi Warren says:


    Do you have any theories concerning the vehicle(s) used in the Zodiac crimes? Looking at the 1971 DOJ PERT chart summarizing the case, it appears one or more old, junk cars might have been employed. Wondering whether they were dumped or sold after the attacks. Or, could GHH have had “beaters” stashed near LAX/SFO for day tripping while “in country?”


    • Steve Hodel says:

      LW: No, not really. To me that’s a hard one to figure. Dad as far as I know always took cabs in town. Not that he couldn’t or wouldn’t rent a car, but hard to see him in a “beater”. The car linkage is probably the most unclear aspect for me, but also, there really are no definite descriptions on make/models as far as I’ve seen. So?

      • Luigi Warren says:

        Steve: Under “Suspect Vehicle” the DOJ summary mentions a ’48 – ’52 Studebaker noted near the Riverside crime scene. (Also, contemporary press accounts mention an ear-witness report of an “old car starting” just after the sound of scream.) The summary says in regards Lake Berryessa: “Unknown veh, had 2 different size tires on front,..Tires were worn.” If relevant — a pretty big if, admittedly — than these observations would argue against the use of a rental for the crimes. Perhaps GHH kept cheap bolt holes with vehicles for his extracurricular activities in the US. He had to get to those locations somehow. -LW

      • Luigi Warren says:


        Of possible relevance, from the DA’s surveillance transcripts (BDA II, p 108):

        March 20, 1950: Sounds like Hodel is trying to pull a fast one of some kind.

        March 21, 1950: Hodel phones someone about $50.00 a month he paid some woman. Said “I’m in trouble.” want some advice- do you have a farm.


        • LW: Pretty sure the woman he called was Dorero. His divorce settlement indicated he was ordered to pay her $50 month support and $50 for each of us totaling $200. He was behind on payments three or four months. I think it related to that money. “Pulling a fast one I think related to taxes and his accountant. Farm????

      • Luigi Warren says:

        Steve: In the bugging tapes GHH phones a car dealership about using his ’36 Packard as a downpayment on a new, 1950 model automobile — somewhat surprisingly, as he’ll shortly be fleeing the country. The model he asks about is available with or without a backseat. I think those alternate configurations were fairly common in those days, so not sure it tells us much. Still, the 1950 Studebaker lineup did include such a model — the “bullet-nose” Champion, considered quite a futuristic bit of industrial design in its day. There has been some discussion that this might have been the particular Studebaker model witnesses saw parked near Cheri Jo Bates’ VW in 1966. -LW

  8. Luigi Warren says:

    Steve: There’s also a conversation in the transcripts that seems to be about about possibly selling the Packard in Mexico City. Seems like GHH is exploring three different escape routes in the Dahlia tapes: move to Mexico and rent or buy a fishing resort/sanitorium/brothel (?) he’s evaluating south of the Arizona border, relocate to Tibet at the personal invite of some mucky-muck there, or take the job as a purported expert on the psychopathic mind in Territorial Hawaii (as actually happens). Still, he’s leaving with a lot of connections in the US, not least his art dealer-occultist-blackmailer-extortionist friend, Baron Harringa (who leaves for India in ’52). I do wonder if GHH left some kind of footprint behind. Something “frozen in time” about the ~16yo Studebaker story. -LW

  9. Luigi Warren says:


    Just noticed another striking coincidence…

    The 1924 Caltech “Big T” annual and 1923 Caltech Bulletin, which cover the academic year GHH spent at the Institute before he was expelled after impregnating a faculty members’ wife, contain several items of potential relevance to his future criminal exploits, e.g.:

    1). One-year course in Military Science & Tactics and classes in technical drawing and shop. (Bulletin, p. 86)

    2). Work as a reporter and as an editorial assistant, editor “ALFRED A NEWTON.” (“T,” p. 92, p. 94)

    3). Scrap-book humor featuring white, hand-drawn lettering & cut-out photographic faces. (“T,” p. 214, p. 219)

    4). Possible familiarity with the Riverside area through intercollegiate activities involving Redlands University (e.g., “T,” p. 68)

    5). Razzing tradition (“Bookstore is razzed by scientific methods,” “Dorm phone is razzed,” “Assembly cards and Dorm phone are razzed,” etc. (“T,” p. 204-207)

    6). Scarlet RIVET “razz sheet.” (“T,” p. 124, see also “T” for 1922, p. 62)

    But it gets better. Zodiac’s 1970 “Bus Bomb” diagram is nerd humor — it’s obviously a wind-up. At one level, it’s a classic Rube Goldberg contraption. An example of such can be found on p. 200 of the 1924 “T” (“Automatic spanker for initiates.”) But the diagram also looks like a very Caltech-ish cartoon parody of a physics experiment. Any experiment in particular? Throop College had only very recently been re-invented as Caltech, a world-class scientific institution, at the time your father was admitted as a freshman. In November 1923 the head of the Institute, experimental physicist Robert A. Millikan, was awarded the Nobel Prize for two achievements: his work measuring the charge on an electron, and his experiments verifying Einstein’s theories regarding the Photelectric Effect. GHH might have covered the attendant celebrations as a reporter for the weekly “Tech.” A comparison of the “Bus Bomb” diagram and a diagram of the apparatus Millikan used to verify the Photelectric Effect reveals striking parallels: the apparatus comprises an electric circuit including a battery and two plates, with incoming light rays striking one of the plates and controlling the flow of current. The Millikan Memorial library, which today towers over the Caltech campus, was opened in 1967. Perhaps GHH saw it on one of his return trips to Los Angeles and it brought back memories and thoughts of what might have been.


  10. LW: Thanks. Yes, lot of potential connections. One of the problems with GHH is the fact that when you combine his 22-years of education and perfect photographic memory with his multi-professions, links to Art, Photography, Literature, Music, and the cross-culture of friends in so many areas, it leaves almost nothing to the imagination. Very few degrees of separation.

    Another Redlands connection is KIYO, his ex-girlfriend and my future wife. She attended Redlands University way back when. Not sure what year? Would have to have been the late Thirties, before the war or late Forties, early Fifties, after the war? Have to make a note to check that out. My guess is 1938 to 40?

  11. Luigi Warren says:

    Steve: The Photoelectric Effect thing kind of blows me away. If there were a Nobel Prize for Murder your dad would have gotten it. -LW

    • Steve Hodel says:

      LW: Is there a diagram of the CalTech photoelectric Millikan apparatus from back then? Something we can look at side by side and compare to the Zodiac diagram? Could well show it to be his “inspiration”?

  12. Steve Hodel says:
  13. Steve Hodel says:

    LW: He may have been thinking of Mexico as a relocation at this point? He wouldn’t have bought a model Studebaker then and had it sixteen years later for the Bates crime. Besides these “suspicious car in the area seen by a witness” cannot be relied on in general. Eyewitness observations, for the most part, are highly unreliable.

  14. Steve: Brilliant analysis.

    To me, the final episode communicated less of the Hollywood stay-tuned-next-time-folks! drama and more like a big “Oops – sorry, FBI.” I can’t really explain it. Something about the ending seemed incongruous for some reason. Did you get that feeling at all?

    I’d like to see them spend five episodes trying to DISPROVE BDA and Zodiac was GHH. Or was that what this series was, covertly? And when they failed, they gave us the “ongoing investigation” jazz?

  15. Steve Hodel says:

    Lisa: I don’t know what is was? But, the bottom line is if it took Hollywood hocus pocus to get additional DNA, so be it. Let’s see if they can compare and get “confirmed Zodiac DNA” like I’ve been asking for since Most Evil published in 2009. Could happen. s.

    • Steve: Thank you for your faithful replies. Undoubtedly I am asking questions you have answered too many times, and my stating the obvious helps none at all.

      But is there anything we in the public can do to support the progress of that confirmation DNA analysis? For those of us who live outside of the jurisdiction? As viewers of the History Channel series perhaps? FOIA requests or anything?

      I realize this case is on investigators’ backburners, and I understand this particular lack of urgency and threat. I know there will always be issues of ego and territory and politics wherever crimes occur, and this by no means diminishes the incomparable accomplishments of law enforcement in these districts. But I do not believe this observation is unduly harsh: Beth Short and the many victims with her, and their survivors who loved them, will also always deserve the truth – you, Steve, deserve the truth – and yielding it for egos and territory after just so long when science can more possibly give us the answers by the day simply makes authorities’ persistent neglect seem colder than the cases themselves.

      • Steve Hodel says:

        Lisa: “…persistent neglect seem colder than the cases themselves.” Couldn’t have said it better. When I hear comments like the old newspaper reporter, Will Fowler says about the solving of the Dahlia, “I hope it is never solved. As long as it remains unsolved it’s like an unwrapped Christmas present.” Or now-retired LAPD Detective Brian Carr parroting fictional author James Ellroy when he say ‘s, “There’s no such thing as closure” it really gets my blood up. There is great closure for the families and distant relatives in finding the answer to whodunit, even if the killer is now long dead and the case is decades old. TO KNOW the TRUTH does set ones family free, at least to some degree.

        Thank you for the offer to try and help, but I think we are moving forward each year to the realization that the cases are solved and expect science will support my findings in the near future.
        The strongest force for making that happen right now as I see it is The Fourth Estate. They are the only ones that can bring enough pressure on LE to force them to take some action.
        It’s not like they have to investigate anything. Just pick up the phone to their crime lab and say, “Let’s vacuum the evidence for touch DNA”, a five-minute phone call.

        I am focused this year on attempting to bring my investigations forward by way of film and or television to make them better known to the public. (Not everyone reads books.) I think we will see some major progress soon.
        My thanks to you and the many readers of my books and this website for helping me move from darkness into light. Steve

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