(SKH NOTE- While this blog is going to be posted on my EVIDENCE ROOM BLOG on occasion I will post in  both locations if I believe the information should reach a broader readership.)


What material an author includes in his manuscript and submits to his publisher and what actually finds its way into the finished book are frequently -AT ODDS.  The editor’s job is to essentialize, clean and polish. Because of my training in criminal investigation, my tendency is to include as much as possible. (From a publisher-editor’s point of view that is frequently, “too much.” Understandable since BDA with the 2004 and 2006 updates is now almost 700 pages.)   

The below CSI EFFECT included in my 2008 author draft relates to DNA and as they say, “didn’t make the cut.”  I will provide it here for my “hardcore researchers” as I believe it makes an important point related to the current status of all the DNA.

“This is the west sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Maxwell Scott, Shinbone Arizona newspaper editor

From the film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

In 1969, there must have been some LAPD old-timers and “top brass” that recognized Zodiac’s highly unique M.O. as being identical to George Hodel’s, Black Dahlia Avenger. Did they pass on any information? Is George Hodel’s name in the SFPD files? Or was it an LAPD Pandora’s Box that command officers dared not open?  

If George Hodel’s name had ever surfaced, or was forwarded on from LAPD as “a person of interest”, Northern California detectives would have (as I had initially done) immediately dismissed him as being- “too old.”  

They were looking for a younger man, not a sixty-two-year-old medical doctor and international marketing executive who as a frequent flyer traveled to San Francisco multiple times a year on business.

As a former homicide detective, who has been called upon to collect sufficient evidence to press formal charges and ultimately convince a jury, I realize that the chain of evidence linking my father to Zodiac and the Chicago Lipstick murders is largely circumstantial. But, as in the case of the Black Dahlia case, I believe that investigators have and are holding forensic evidence that links Dr. Hodel to the Zodiac and possibly even one or more of the three sixty-year-old Chicago “Lipstick” murders.

I also trust that the same thing will happen that occurred after the publication of Black Dahlia Avenger. Namely, people with evidence further implicating Dr. George Hodel will come forward. They don’t forget.

As I did at the end of Black Dahlia Avenger with regard to the LAPD, I urge authorities in Chicago, Riverside, Manila, Vallejo, Napa, Solano, and San Francisco to be forthcoming.

In the case of Zodiac, it’s been reported that possible DNA and fingerprint evidence does exist.

Many readers will ask, “Well, do you have a sample of your father’s DNA to submit for testing? Or, if not, why don’t you submit your own DNA for testing? Before answering those questions, it is critical to understand some basics as relate to forensics in general and how they apply specifically to the Zodiac evidence.

THE CSI EFFECT – Entertainment vs. Science

  Over the past decade, CBS’s popular television series, Crime Scene Investigation, has had a profound effect and impact on the criminal justice system. The good news- jurors have become more sophisticated in the field of forensics. The bad news- they frequently mix fictional entertainment for reality and form unrealistic expectations when weighing real evidence in real courtroom trials. This has come to be known as- “The CSI Effect.”  

     Current San Francisco detectives have publicly stated that the identification of ZODIAC will come down to the forensics. In their opinion, if he is ever positively identified it will likely be based on a combination of handwriting, fingerprints and DNA. I am in total agreement!

     To that end, in 2002, SFPD’s crime lab processed and developed what they believe may be a partial DNA profile on ZODIAC. They now have four (4) loci markers available for comparison. (A complete human chromosome contains 13 markers.)

Four markers are not enough to include any suspect, but when compared against a known donor, can exclude him from the suspect sample. That’s the science of it. Now, let us return to the CSI Effect and “entertainment.”

On October 17, 2002, ABC television featured an hour-show entitled, Primetime Live: The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer.  It was hosted by journalists Diane Sawyer and John Quinones. After a full review and summary of the facts surrounding the Zodiac crimes the program’s climax featured an on-air comparison of the Zodiac DNA sample to three possible suspects: Arthur Leigh Allen, and two others. I quote from the transcript:

JOHN QUINONES: (Voice Over) This is the San Francisco Police Department’s DNA lab six days ago, exactly 33 years to the day after Zodiac murdered taxi driver Paul Stine. Doctor Cydne Holt is about to answer the question, did the Zodiac killer leave a genetic trail that could lead to his capture. The answer is yes. [Emphasis mine]

DOCTOR CYDNE HOLT:  (Voice Over) I found a partial DNA fingerprint from a male individual who at sometime has had contact with the stamp. [Emphasis mine]

JOHN QUINONES: (Voice Over) You’re looking at the Zodiac killer’s genetic identity, the peaks on this graph.

JOHN QUINONES: (Voice Over) What Doctor Holt finds is four out of a possible nine DNA markers, plus an indicator of gender. XY means male. Not enough to positively identify anyone as Zodiac. But it’s enough to narrow suspicions or perhaps even eliminate suspects. Next, Doctor Holt compares the partial profile from the Zodiac letter, the pattern of peaks on that bottom row, to a DNA sample from Bay Area school teacher, Arthur Leigh Allen along the top there. You can see they’re distinctly differed.

DOCTOR CYDNE HOLT: Well based on the information that I developed, the, Arthur Leigh Allen could not have contributed the DNA that I detected on the stamp.

JOHN QUINONES: (Vocie Over) Arthur Leigh Allen, the focus of 30 years of research and a mountain of circumstantial evidence, exonerated by science. …

In the final minutes of the “show” Dr. Holt goes on to exclude the two additional DNA donor samples from the evidence sample.

This short excerpt from the transcript demonstrates the very real difference between entertainment and science. Ask yourself, were Arthur Leigh Allen and the other two suspects really exonerated?  No, they were NOT. It’s subtle and you have to be paying attention, but it is absolutely critical in differentiating the CSI Effect (fiction) from real science (fact), especially when a defendant’s freedom, reputation or life hang in the balance.

     San Francisco’s criminalist, Dr. Cydne Holt never said that the DNA sample belonged to Zodiac. If she were called to court and sworn in as an expert and asked the questions, “Does the DNA sample in police custody belong to the suspect known as “Zodiac”? Is that the killer’s DNA? Her truthful, scientific answer would be, “I don’t know?

All she can factually say is exactly what she said on camera: 

I found a partial DNA fingerprint from a male individual who at sometime has had contact with the stamp.

The reality is that “male” could be almost anyone. The DNA sample could have been deposited from the sweat on the hands of the postman who originally delivered it or a worker at the San Francisco Chronicle, or a SFPD print-man who dusted the envelope for prints, or any one of the many detectives who handled the letter over the past thirty-three years. Or, it may also belong to- Zodiac.

It is my understanding that since 2002 additional ZODIAC DNA “profiles” have been developed by other involved law enforcement agencies. I believe that Riverside, Vallejo, Napa, and possibly California’s DOJ, all have their own separate samples. The fact that apparently none of these are matching each other is of major concern. To confirm that they have the actual killer’s DNA then at least two of these samples should match. Absent that, any one of the samples could be valid, or none of them could be ZODIAC.

The bottom line on DNA is this.  As things now stand, none of the DNA in police custody can be utilized for elimination purposes. The samples are only valid for INCLUSION of a possible suspect. And even then, four markers are not enough to positively identify- law enforcement needs to attempt to develop additional samples from some of the untested mailings. (My hope is that this has been done and they do have a more complete profile.)[1]

Now, let’s return to the earlier hypothetical questions, that many of my readers will ask. Does your father’s DNA exist? Are you going to submit his or your own DNA for comparison? 

My answer- Yes, but conditionally.  I will first need to know or at least feel confident that one or more of the law enforcement agencies does in fact have Zodiac’s DNA.

     My primary reason for concern is that I want to know the truth of it. I want to know that my father’s DNA is in fact being compared to Zodiac’s. To date, that has not been the case in any of law enforcement’s “eliminations.”   

A secondary reason is that laboratory DNA testing is very expensive and I anticipate the need to test multiple samples from some of my father’s personal effects that remain in my custody. Potential items in my possession are his: Breitling Navitimer wristwatch with metal extension band (potential for minute skin cell scrapings caught in the band from years of wear) his Bally shoes (sweat from feet from years of wear) and most significantly a number of personal letters and envelopes with postage stamps attached, mailed to me over the decades.     

The second forensic source that holds the potential for a positive identification is- fingerprints. The same science and procedures that we have just discussed on DNA applies equally to all fingerprint “evidence” lifted from the various crime scenes. I would expect that the combined total of unidentified “lifts” totals, “in-the-hundreds.” 

     In my three-hundred LAPD homicide investigations rarely if ever did I have a case that did not have some “unidentified lifts.” Every crime-scene has them, and rarely do any of them belong to the actual suspect! Occasionally, I would “get a hit.” But most unidentified prints are pre-existing left by some unknown person who in no way was involved in the later crime. (An earlier caller from the public telephone booth, a college friend who rode in the victim’s car, or a former passenger in the taxi.)

So, like the DNA, existing prints can only be good for INCLUSION, and not for elimination, or EXCLUSION. The fact that a possible suspect’s prints don’t match those booked in evidence means nothing, because the police do not know if they have Zodiac’s prints or not. They can only hope that a comparison will result in “a hit.”[2] Like the DNA, the fact that none of the hundreds of fingerprint lifts from the separate Zodiac crime scenes match each other, does not bode well.

As far as comparing my father’s prints to the multiple crime scenes, it should be the very first action taken, providing law enforcement can locate a full set. LAPD claims that my father’s 1949 arrest and booking prints have “disappeared from the files” and they cannot find a set. I find this highly unusual in that he would have been fingerprinted multiple times, including: the felony arrest for incest, California physician’s license, L.A. County employment, U.S. Department of Health, U.N.R.R.A. military service, and possibly in the Philippines. Even if his fingerprints have disappeared from Los Angeles files, standard operating procedure required additional sets be sent to Sacramento’s CII and the FBI.    



[1]On the subject of DNA, Mike Rodelli, a knowledgeable and highly respected civilian Zodiac researcher reports that SFPD homicide Inspector Mike Maloney, (now deceased, but in 2002, was one of the two primary detective assigned to the Zodiac investigation) had a conversation with Lyndon Lafferty, a retired police officer (California Highway Patrol) shortly after the airing of Primetime Zodiac. Insp. Maloney reportedly acknowledged to the retired officer that the questioned DNA sample in police custody “was invalid.” Separately, Rodelli reports that he had conversations with “a former SFPD criminalist” who provided information that indicated earlier tests (1990s) showed that Zodiac stamps and envelopes were most likely sealed by the suspect using water, not saliva. I cannot speak to the accuracy of this information, as new results may exist from more recent testing. However, both of these reports do add fuel for thought addressing the question of whether or not any valid Zodiac DNA exists. As a point of interest, during my two-month stay in Manila in 1972, I actually participated in helping both my father and June seal several hundred envelopes for INRA promotional mailings. We used a sponge and water to accomplish the task. The envelopes were not physically stamped in my presence. 


[2]Routinely, homicide detectives in “high profile” murders like the Black Dahlia or Zodiac will use “print elimination” as an opportunity to get bothersome victim relatives or the press or a meddling command officer, off their back. They will run the potential suspect’s prints against the unidentifieds and when they prove negative they will follow up with a, “We ran his prints and there was no make. He’s eliminated. He’s not the guy.” Again, a print run can only INCLUDE not EXCLUDE.     




  1. Hooday on September 29, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Good to see this information posted. Has SFPD requested a DNA sample from you, or has it responded to any of your inquiries?

  2. Steve Hodel on September 29, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    The follow-up will take some time, nothing to report at this stage.

  3. Jared Ramirez on October 2, 2018 at 11:57 am

    I have read pretty much all the Zodiac related books and literature, that I would deem worthy of reading Steve, and I have got to say that I think you lay out the best argument and evidence as to whom the best candidate for Zodiac is. I have been following your books for the past half year, and have listened to and read all but Black Dahlia Avenger 2, but I have to say, you have me convinced sir. I am a hard guy to sway and had honestly thought Leigh Allen was a good suspect until I came across your Black Dahlia and Most Evil 1&2 books…but hoo boy, I am absolutely convinced GHH is both the BDA and Zodiac without a doubt. There is just way too much evidence to indicate otherwise in my mind, just wanted to pay my respects, so to speak, and give credit where it is due Mr. Hodel.

    • Steve Hodel on October 2, 2018 at 9:04 pm

      Jared R: Hi Jared. Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated. Glad you approve. Most of the naysayers on GHH as Zodiac have never read the books. Stay tuned. BDA III will be out on Nov. 1st with some amazing new evidence and linkage to my father’s crimes. Will be giving a talk on it on that date at the South Pasadena Library 7pm if you’re in the hood. Best Regards, Steve

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