Zodiac Killer Movie

  • FACT vs. FINCHER: The Only Movie Review That Matters

    By Michael Butterfield - Zodiac researcher / writer, consultant for David Fincher’s ZODIAC

  • Director David Fincher’s newest film, ZODIAC, opens with the words “based on actual case files.” The credits then state that the book ZODIAC also served as the basis for the film. Written by cartoonist Robert Graysmith, ZODIAC proved to be a highly fictionalized account of the long unsolved murder mystery. Based on the facts of police files and the fiction of Graysmith’s book, Fincher’s version of the Zodiac story can only exist in the gray area in between.

    “I am interested in an impression,” Fincher reportedly told Graysmith. “We need to construct Zodiac from its emotional truth as opposed to its factual truth.” Producer Bradley J. Fischer said, “David is beyond ZODIAC being a reconstruction. He is interested in the progression of events that he can accurately capture on film and that dispel any myths in the case.”

    “I said I won’t use anything in this book that we don’t have a police report for,” Fincher told reporter David M. Halbfinger in an interview for The New York Times. “There’s an enormous amount of hearsay in any circumstantial case, and I wanted to look some of these people in the eye and see if I believed them.”

    “I don’t want this to be about convicting Arthur Leigh Allen,” Fischer added. “If the characters in the movie believe Arthur Leigh Allen is the Zodiac, I’m completely fine with that, but I don’t want to make a movie about convincing the audience.” Fischer’s comments seem at odds with those of David Fincher as quoted in The New York Times - “It was an extremely difficult thing to make a movie that posthumously convicts somebody.” That somebody is Graysmith’s longtime suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, portrayed in the film by actor John Carroll Lynch.

    Any claim to convict a man in the court of public opinion requires extraordinary scrutiny, as do the facts used to implicate the defendant and the methods of his accusers.

    The following review does not address the artistic merits of the film. In an attempt to separate fact from fiction, this scene-by-scene, fact-by-fact review examines the accuracy of Fincher’s account of the Zodiac story, and the evidence said to implicate the eternal suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen.

  • ZODIAC - Directed by David Fincher - Screenplay by Jamie Vanderbilt - Based on the book ZODIAC by Robert Graysmith - Produced by Mike Medavoy, Arnold W. Messer, Bradley J. - Fischer, James Vanderbilt and Cean Chaffin. - A Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures release.

    Running time: 2 hrs 36 min

    MPAA rating: R

    Budget: $65 million dollars + advertising costs = total (estimated) $85 million dollars.

    Release date: March 2, 2007

    According to the website www.Variety.com, ZODIAC earned $29,465,540 in the first 18 days after its release. During the opening weekend ZODIAC earned $13,395,610, and generated $6.6 million dollars during its second week when audience attendance declined by 50 percent. Box office returns again dropped by 50 percent to little more than $3 million dollars during the third weekend. [To view the total box office results for the film ZODIAC, go to BoxOfficeMojo.com.]

    The website www.BoxOfficeMojo.com and the magazine ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY compiled movie reviews from critics and viewers to provide an average grade of B. Film critic Mark LaSalle of The SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - the Zodiac's favorite newspaper - reviewed ZODIAC and gave Fincher's film a grade of C+.


  • Scene 1 - Vallejo, California - July 4, 1969

    On the streets of Vallejo, residents celebrate Independence Day as a vehicle makes its way to the home of Michael Mageau. The teenager emerges from the house and climbs into the car to join twenty-two year old waitress, wife and mother Darlene Ferrin. Hungry and eager to get on the road, Darlene heads to Mr. Ed’s diner but, once they arrive, the pair decides the lot is too crowded, and they drive to nearby Blue Rock Springs Park to talk.

    At the park, Darlene and Mike see a group of partygoers who throw firecrackers at Darlene’s Corvair and then drive off with laughter. Mike shouts at the tricksters, telling them to “Fuck off and die!” Darlene finds the remark amusing, and the two continue to talk as they listen to Donovan’s classic song, Hurdy Gurdy Man. Soon, another car approaches and stops behind them. Mike notes, “I saw that car at Mr. Ed’s.” The car drives away and Mike asks Darlene if the driver was her husband, but Darlene says, “No.” Mike again asks, “Who was that, Darlene?” and Darlene responds, “Don’t worry about it.” Mike, concerned, tells her, “Don’t tell me not to worry about it. Who was it?” Darlene replies, unconvincingly, “It’s nothing.”

    Seconds later, they hear the screeching sounds of a vehicle turning around at high speed. The car, a reddish brown colored Mustang, speeds back into the parking lot and comes to a stop behind the Corvair. Fearful, Mike tells Darlene, “Let’s go.” A man emerges from the Mustang, holding a light. Mike tells Darlene to get her identification out, as if he believes the man is a police officer. The light shines along the passenger side of Corvair as Mike looks up at the man and says, “Man, you really creeped us out.” Before he finishes speaking, bullets rain down upon him and Darlene. The man fires a gun into the Corvair. The sounds of the shots are loud and reverberate although the gun has a silencer attached to the barrel. The man then walks back to his vehicle only to return to open fire on Darlene and Mike again. The gunman then walks back to the Mustang and climbs inside.

    Moments later, a motorcycle officer arrives on the scene and discovers Mike, bleeding profusely from a wound to his mouth, lying by the rear wheel of the Corvair. The officer inspects the interior of the Corvair and the lifeless body of Darlene. The audience hears the audio of a phone call to police as the killer confesses his crime and directs authorities to the scene.

    FINCHER: A reddish-brown colored Mustang is visible as Darlene and Mike drive through the parking lot of Mr. Ed’s diner. After the two drive to Blue Rock Springs Park, the same or an identical Mustang appears, causing Mike to remark that he had seen the vehicle earlier at the diner. Once the car drives away, Mike asks Darlene if she knew the driver and she responds evasively. The car returns and again stops behind the Corvair. A man emerges and approaches the passenger side of Darlene’s Corvair. Mike looks up at the man and says, “Man, you really creeped us out.” The man then shoots Darlene and Mike using a gun that has a silencer attached to the barrel.

    FACT: Survivor Michael Mageau never described a reddish-brown Mustang. In fact, Mageau told police that the gunman had driven a vehicle similar to Darlene’s car – a light colored Corvair.

    Michael Mageau never told investigators that he had seen the killer’s vehicle at Mr. Ed’s diner prior to the shooting. The statement in the film gives viewers the false impression that the killer had followed Darlene and Mike to the scene of the crime.

    Michael Mageau did not tell police that he asked had asked Darlene whether the driver of the mysterious car was her husband, and he did not persist with his questions regarding the driver’s identity.

    Mageau emphasized that he had difficulty seeing in the darkness and he never looked up at the gunman. He said that he did not speak to the gunman and the gunman did not say anything before, during or after the shooting.

    In an interview with Detective Ed Rust only days after the shooting, Mageau admitted that he did not get a good look at the suspect and only saw him in profile, but he thought that he might be able to identify the man by a profile view. Rust did not believe that Mageau could accurately identify the gunman.

    Michael Mageau did say that the sounds of the gunshots seemed muffled, as if the gunman has used a silencer. However, a witness who was approximately 800 feet from the scene at the time of the shooting told police that he heard the sounds of the shots, and he described the exact sequence of events provided by Mageau. The witness could not have heard the shots if the gunman had used a silencer, and Mageau never claimed to have seen one attached to the gun used by the shooter. [NOTE: Director David Fincher explained his use of a silencer in his recreation of the crime and said that the silencer was “in the police reports.” The actual reports simply repeated Mageau’s original statements that the shots sounded somehow muffled, as if the killer had used a silencer, however the same reports also stated that a witness, George Bryant had heard the shots that night. Fincher justified the use of a silencer and said that, while some witnesses had reported hearing gunshots, other witnesses had heard firecrackers which may have been mistaken for gunshots. Bryant told police that he had heard the sound of firecrackers prior the shooting, and that he then heard the sound of gun shots. With the exception of Michael Mageau, Bryant was the only witness who claimed to have heard firecrackers, and he was the only witness who said he had heard the shots. Fincher’s comments are curiously unfounded, and his attempt to justify the inclusion of the silencer may be a minor issue but serves as an example of the overall apathetic view taken when addressing the factual nature of the film.}

    CONCLUSION: Michael Mageau did not see the gunman’s car at Mr. Ed’s prior to the shooting, and he did not say, “I saw that car at Mr. Ed’s,” as shown in the film. The car driven by the gunman in the film is not similar to the car described by Michael Mageau. Contrary to the film’s depiction of the events, Mageau did not speak to or look at the gunman as he approached the car. Further, Mageau never claimed that he had seen a silencer attached to the barrel of the gun used by the killer, but the gunman in this scene fires a weapon with an apparently defective silencer attached while the sounds of loud shots ring out in the night.

  • Scene 2 - Opening Title Sequence – San Francisco, “Four Weeks Later”

    This scene depicts the morning activities of editorial cartoonist Robert Graysmith and the staff of The San Francisco Chronicle on the morning of August 1, 1969. Graysmith sends his son off to school and drives to work at the newspaper, where a suspicious envelope addressed to the editor arrives with the morning mail.

  • Scene 3 - The Chronicle

    Graysmith, along with the rest of those in the meeting, are stunned to learn that the offices received a letter from someone claiming to be the killer of Ferrin and two other victims shot to death in December. Accompanying the letter was a coded message, and the writer tells the newspaper to publish the code and threatens more bloodshed if the editors fail to comply with his demands. The writer claims that the coded message will reveal his identity. Graysmith says that the killer would not give his name. Many of those in the room, including reporter Paul Avery and Graysmith, touch the letter and the code, leaving fingerprints that will further confound the investigation and the hunt for the killer.

    The publisher and the editors learn that other newspapers plan to publish other letters and coded messages mailed by the killer, and decide to do so as well.

    FINCHER: Graysmith touches the letter and the coded message.

    FACT: Even Graysmith never claimed he had touched the Zodiac’s letters or codes, and, if he did so, his name joins the list of those who contaminated the only evidence linked directly to the killer.

  • Scene 4 - The Reaction

    Graysmith returns home with his young son and, in a symbolic move, removes one of his own cartoons from a bulletin board and replaces it with a copy of the killer’s code. Law enforcement agencies examine the code while a couple in Salinas, California, see the cryptogram in a newspaper and decide to solve the puzzle.

  • Scene 5 - The Chronicle

    Paul Avery introduces himself to Robert Graysmith, and reveals that the Salinas couple had solved the killer’s code. He asks how the cartoonist had known that the killer would not give his identity. Graysmith reads the deciphered message aloud, and wonders why the phrase “most dangerous animal” seems familiar to him. When he sees the last eighteen letters of the code remain unsolved, he uses a pencil and paper to rearrange the letters to form the name Robert Emmett the hippie. Avery is impressed with Graysmith’s abilities.

    FINCHER: Avery and Graysmith begin a friendship of sorts as they enter the case. Graysmith discovers the name Robert Emmett.

    FACT: Paul Avery claimed that he had no contact with Robert Graysmith until both men left the Chronicle years after the Zodiac case was history. Avery said he met Graysmith twice, and the retired reporter was not impressed with Graysmith’s book or his influence on the unsolved case. This scene, along with EVERY other scene depicting Avery and Graysmith together, is pure fiction.

    Many individuals reported the name “Robert Emmett the hippie” to Vallejo police and the name was the subject of speculation in many news reports at the time. Graysmith may have come up with the name but, like most attempts to make sense of the last eighteen letters of the Zodiac’s code, Robert Emmett the hippie is not a valid solution. The name requires more letters than provided by the eighteen characters.

  • Scene 6 - The Zodiac Speaks

    The staff of the Chronicle responds to a new letter featuring the name “The Zodiac.” The writer provides more details about his crimes.

  • Scene 7 - Lake Berryessa - Napa, California

    College students Cecelia Shepard and Bryan Hartnell are resting on the banks of Lake Berryessa in the late afternoon sun. A man approaches the couple and Cecelia becomes suspicious. She watches as the man approaches, carrying a gun and wearing a black hood with a crossed circle. Bryan attempts to talk to the stranger, who orders Cecelia to tie Bryan’s hands behind his back before doing the same to her.

    The hooded stranger then stabs Bryan in the back before setting upon Cecelia. The young victim faces the camera as the killer’s knife plunges into her chest. She screams and writhes in agony as blood soaks through her clothing. The stranger then walks away. The audience hears the audio of a phone call to police as the killer confesses his crime and directs authorities to the scene. Bryan Hartnell, shown clutching a bloody blanket in the darkness and sitting near the open door of truck, survives and waits for the ambulance to arrive.

  • Scene 8 – Avery and Graysmith at the Chronicle

    Graysmith sketches at his desk. Avery is surprised to see a drawing of the hooded costume worn by the Berryessa suspect. Graysmith then remembers that the phrase “most dangerous animal” was reminiscent of a line from a classic film, The Most Dangerous Game. Based on the famous short story of the same name by Richard Connell, the film features the murderous Count Zaroff, a hunter who prefers humans as his prey.

    FINCHER: Graysmith and Avery discuss the case while Graysmith works on his sketch.

    FACT: In previous interviews, Graysmith had claimed that he produced the sketch after his interview with surviving victim Bryan Hartnell in the late 1970s.

  • Scene 9 – Taxi Driver

    On a dark, rainy San Francisco street, a man climbs into the cab driven by unsuspecting victim Paul Stine. Dressed in a blue, long-sleeved jacket and wearing glasses, the man waits until the driver stops at the intersection of Washington and Cherry, where he then places a gun against Stine’s head and pulls the trigger. Stine’s body falls in slow motion as blood sprays into the interior of the cab. The gunman is then shown handling Stine’s body as the audience hears the audio of a phone call to police by a frightened young girl reporting the crime in progress. The gunman then exits the cab, walks around to the driver’s side, reaches into the driver’s window and shuts off the headlights before walking north on Cherry Street.

    FINCHER: In interviews with the media, Fincher claimed that he had come up with the stunning theory that the Zodiac had taken Stine’s glasses and worn them as he escaped. If true, Fincher’s theory demonstrated that the infamous sketch of the killer depicted a man wearing not his own glasses, but those of his victim.

    FACT: Fincher’s film shows the killer wearing glasses as he enters the cab before the shooting.

  • Scene 10 – Introducing Inspectors Toschi and Armstrong

    The sound of a ringing phone awakens Inspector David Toschi of the San Francisco Police department. On the line, Toschi’s partner, William Armstrong, informs the sleepy inspector of a cab driver murder in Presidio Heights. As they head to the scene, Armstrong says that witnesses described the gunman as a Negro Male. Toschi asks Armstrong asks his partner for his usual box of Animal Crackers.

    The two men arrive at the intersection of Washington and Cherry and learn that the suspect was actually a white male. A bloody fingerprint left on the exterior of the cab appears to belong to Stine’s killer. Puzzled by the behavior of the suspect, the inspectors wonder why a robber would choose to get in the front seat with the bleeding victim. They learn that officers found a pair of gloves while searching the interior of the cab and witnesses across the street from the cab provided the description of the suspect. Toschi then attempts to question the young witnesses.

    FINCHER: Characters repeatedly refer to these gloves throughout the rest of the film as the Zodiac’s gloves.

    FACT: In his book, ZODIAC, Graysmith wrote that Inspector Toschi had learned that the gloves belonged to a female passenger who had ridden in the cab earlier that day with another driver. Suggestions that Graysmith invented this female passenger in order to protect the “key” piece of information that only the real killer could confirm fail to consider the fact that Graysmith revealed the existence of the gloves in the first place. Graysmith must have had a source for this information, and, if true, the fact that the gloves belonged to a female passenger indicates that the gloves did not belong to the killer.

    A report on the Zodiac crimes prepared by the Department of Justice stated that the black gloves found in the cab were men’s size seven gloves. A size seven glove is the smallest glove size available, worn by men with below average size hands. The suspect described by the witnesses was most likely too large to wear a size seven glove.

  • Scene 11 - Proof

    At the offices of the San Francisco Chronicle, a secretary holds an envelope addressed to the editor. She opens the envelope and discovers a bloody scrap of Paul Stine’s shirt. Her scream echoes throughout the building. The new letter states that the Zodiac killed Stine and threatens to shoot schoolchildren.

    FINCHER: The same secretary was shown discovering and opening the first Zodiac letter mailed to the Chronicle. In fact, she immediately walked into the editorial meeting and delivered the letter to the editor.

    FACT: If the same woman handled the second letter in the manner depicted in the film, it is clear that members of the Chronicle staff had little regard for the evidence in an ongoing murder investigation.

  • Scene 12 – Handling the Letter

    Armstrong and Toschi arrive to collect the letter and reveal to Avery that police discovered a partial bloody fingerprint on the cab. After promising Toschi that he would not reveal this secret, Avery immediately tells Graysmith about the fingerprint. Graysmith thinks the Zodiac will send another code. The publisher then admonishes the Chronicle staff not to reveal the killer’s threat to assassinate children.

  • Scene 13 – Get Off The Bus

    Graysmith is reluctant to put his son on the school bus and decides to drive the boy to school himself.

  • Scene 14 – Sherwood Morrill

    Toschi consults Sherwood Morrill, Questioned Documents Expert for the California State Department of Justice. Morrill is stiff and unfriendly, even hostile as he essentially scolds Toschi and asks him to leave the room. Outside, Toschi and Armstrong realize that they are involved in a massive manhunt.

    FINCHER: The film portrays Sherwood Morrill as rigid and uncooperative. In later scenes, Graysmith is shown consulting Morrill and relying on the expert’s advice and opinions. However, once Morrill excludes the suspect favored by Toschi and Graysmith, the characters refer to the previously respected expert as, “Sherwood Morrill, who drinks like Paul Avery now,” and mention that Morrill lost his position at the Department of Justice due to reasons that remain unexplained.

    FACT: Sherwood Morrill was a respected professional who served as Questioned Documents Expert for the Department of Justice until the mid-1970s. He continued to provide analysis of the Zodiac’s letters at the request of investigators, and he even defended David Toschi amid rumors that the inspector had forged a Zodiac letter in 1978. Like most intelligent and even eccentric experts, Morrill had critics who sometimes considered his conclusions controversial. Morrill concluded that the Zodiac was responsible for several writings connected to an unsolved crime in Riverside, California, including a poem written on the surface of a wooden desk. Some handwriting experts and investigators questioned Morrill’s conclusions concerning these writings while others agreed with his findings.

  • Scene 15 – Chaos at the SFPD

    Inspector Toschi fields phone calls and answers questions from his superior, Captain Martin Lee. Armstrong speaks by telephone with Detective Jack Mulanax, in charge of the investigation of the Vallejo shooting. When he asks to interview surviving victim Michael Mageau, Armstrong learns that the witness has “split.” Mulanax then complains that the San Francisco police had not included Vallejo authorities in the handwriting analysis and Armstrong assures him that the SFPD will cooperate. Mulanax refers Armstrong to Detective Ken Narlow, in charge of the investigation in Napa County.

    FINCHER: Mulanax tells Armstrong that witness Michael Mageau has vanished. The detective also complains about a lack of cooperation from the San Francisco investigators.

    FACT: Mulanax had sent photos of suspects to Mageau for his examination and the witness had returned the photos just two weeks prior to the time of the phone call depicted in the film. In fact, Mulanax knew the whereabouts of Mageau at the time in question and authorities could have located the witness at any time in the weeks and years following the shooting.

    As a member of the Vallejo Police Department, Mulanax had access to the same information available to Armstrong. The SFPD and the VPD were in constant contact with the FBI, and the many pages of reports in the bureau’s files demonstrate that the Vallejo police department had access to all analysis and results concerning the handwriting of the Zodiac communications.

  • Scene 16 – The Cops Who Let Zodiac Escape

    Inspectors Armstrong and Toschi confront two patrolmen, officers Donald Fouke and Eric Zelms, who were on duty in Presidio Heights on the night of the cabdriver killing. The patrolmen confess that they had seen a white man matching the killer’s description as he fled the scene but did not stop to talk to him because the description broadcast identified the suspect as a Negro Male. Toschi and Armstrong are incredulous and question the stunned officers.

  • Scene 17 - Master criminal?

    Graysmith and Avery discuss the evidence, including the fingerprints found on Stine’s cab. Meanwhile, Armstrong and Toschi also discuss the fingerprint and likelihood that a “master criminal” could be so sloppy and leave behind such damning evidence.

    FINCHER: This scene casts doubt on the fingerprint evidence used to exclude the various suspects identified during the investigation.

    FACT: In interviews with the media as late as 1978, Inspector Toschi declared his confidence that the fingerprint belonged to the killer and would identify the Zodiac. When asked for his opinion in 1988, Inspector Armstrong told a television producer that the fingerprint evidence would identify the Zodiac.

    The hundreds of pages of police reports, FBI files, and other documents demonstrate that police believed that the fingerprint was a valuable piece of evidence that could help exclude suspects and identify the killer. Although investigators retained a healthy and logical position regarding the fingerprint and considered all the evidence when examining a suspect, the location of the fingerprint matched the movements of the killer as described by the witnesses, and traces of blood indicated that the print most likely belonged to the Zodiac.

    Those who question the validity of this evidence usually do so while accusing a suspect whose fingerprints did not match the fingerprint found on the cab. In the film, the character of Ken Narlow cites the standard line of those who dismiss the value of the fingerprint evidence and speculates that clumsy cops or curious onlookers somehow left the fingerprint on the cab.

    Officer Armand Pelissetti, first on the scene that night, stated that he saw the so-called “bloody” fingerprint on the driver’s side of the cab when he arrived. Pelissetti, Toschi, Armstrong and others had stated in previous interviews that officers preserved the crime scene and obtained elimination fingerprints from those at the scene that evening.

  • Scene 18 - Melvin Belli and Sam

    Inspector Armstrong once again awakens his partner with a late-night phone call, and news that a man claiming to be the Zodiac telephoned the Oakland police department with his demand that famous attorneys F. Lee Bailey or Melvin Belli appear on a local television program. Belli, a San Francisco celebrity and self-promoter linked to many sensational cases, agrees to appear on the air with local TV host Jim Dunbar.

    A man calls the television station and introduces himself as the Zodiac. When Belli asks for a less ominous moniker, the caller says that his name is “Sam.” Belli questions Sam, who complains of painful headaches that drive him to kill. After Sam hangs up, Dunbar states that the police are unable to trace the calls. The line rings and Sam once again complains of his headaches and says he is going to kill children. Belli pleads with the caller and eventually convinces Sam to meet him in person. A media circus ensues as reporters follow Belli to the agreed upon location and the sinister Sam fails to keep the appointment.

    Shortly thereafter, surviving victim Bryan Hartnell sits in the television station and listens to a tape of Sam’s voice. He tells Inspector Armstrong that the voice is not similar to the voice of the man he encountered at Lake Berryessa.

    Armstrong then informs the audience that police had “pulled off the trace” and located the mysterious “Sam,” who proved to be a patient at a mental hospital.

    FINCHER: Armstrong states that police had identified “Sam” by tracing the calls to the television station.

    FACT: Police were unable to trace the phone calls placed to the television station and could not identify or locate “Sam.” Bryan Hartnell and the police dispatchers who had spoken to the Zodiac all listened to the tapes of Sam’s voice in the days after the television spectacle. All agreed that “Sam” was not the Zodiac.

    When “Sam” called Belli’s home several months later, police traced those calls to a mental hospital and identified the caller as a patient. Armstrong’s dialogue in this scene gives viewers the false impression that police had identified “Sam” and that the real Zodiac was most likely responsible for the subsequent calls to Belli.

  • Scene 19 - Déjà vu, Again

    Avery, Graysmith, Toschi, Armstrong and others sit in the newspaper offices as the publisher reads the newest communication from the killer. The news that the Zodiac sent another coded message leads Avery to invite Graysmith for a drink. Toschi angrily scolds the staff for touching and contaminating yet another piece of evidence.

  • Scene 20 - Graysmith, Avery and Male Bonding

    Over drinks, the reporter and the cartoonist shares thoughts on the Zodiac case. Avery mentions that the seemingly obsessive Graysmith has been going through his trash. Graysmith explains how the killer constructed his ciphers as Avery snorts cocaine and watches in disbelief.

    FINCHER: The two men continue to “work” together.

    FACT: Graysmith and Avery had no contact with one another at this time and the scene depicted in the film never occurred.

  • Scene 21 - “Basement for future use”

    Toschi worries about the case at home and calls Armstrong with the insight that basements are rate in Northern California. Armstrong says he will check into the angle and Toschi hangs up the phone.

  • Scene 22 - The Melvin Mistake

    Christmas music plays as Toschi and Armstrong arrive at the home of Melvin Belli. Inside, they find the melodramatic attorney sitting behind his desk and holding a new letter from the Zodiac. Belli reads the letter to the inspectors who are not happy with him. Belli says that the people have a right to know about the letter and Toschi says, “Which is why you contacted the Chronicle.”

    Armstrong asks when the letter arrived and Belli says that the envelope came during “the middle of last week.” He believed that the Zodiac had chosen to write to his home because he had been unable to contact Belli at the TV station or “here.” Armstrong asks, “He tried to contact you here?” Belli responds, “Several times,” and explains, “I was out but he spoke with my housekeeper.” Armstrong then runs off to question the housekeeper.

    FINCHER: Belli is in San Francisco. Christmas music plays in the background. One week after the letter arrived on December 23 places this scene on December 30, 1969. The film shows Belli sitting in his home, holding and reading from the letter. Toschi chastises Belli for contacting the Chronicle before notifying the police. Belli then tells the inspectors that the Zodiac had called his home several times and spoken with his housekeeper.

    FACT: On December 20, 1969, Melvin Belli left San Francisco en route to Germany, where he attended a conference of military lawyers. Belli remained in Munich throughout the week, and was still there when the Zodiac’s letter arrived at Belli’s San Francisco home on December 23. The housekeeper forwarded the letter to Belli’s office where it arrived several days later. Belli’s staff opened the envelope, which contained another letter and another piece of Paul Stine’s blood soaked shirt. The staff immediately notified the police. Armstrong and Toschi took possession of the evidence and experts determined that the scrap of cloth came from Stine’s shirt and that the handwriting matched that of the Zodiac.

    Chronicle reporter Paul Avery contacted Melvin Belli in Munich by telephone on December 28, 1969. The attorney informed Avery that an assistant had flown to Germany and provided him with a copy of the Zodiac’s letter. Belli told Avery that he had left for Germany on December 20, 1969, and would remain in Munich. After his conversation with Belli on December 28, 1969, Avery then wrote, “Belli said he is scheduled to remain in Europe for several weeks – he has a trial starting next week in Naples, and then plans to fly to Algiers (Africa) to confer with fugitive Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver …”

    CONCLUSION: The facts demonstrate that Belli was in Munich, Germany, and not in San Francisco, when the Zodiac’s letter arrived at his home on December 23, 1969. He was not at his home and did not touch the Zodiac letter, nor did he contact the Chronicle before alerting authorities. Belli did not tell police about phone calls to his home at that time because no such calls had occurred. The FBI files indicate that Belli’s housekeeper did not report receiving any phone calls from someone claiming to be the Zodiac at the time in question but several weeks later in January 1970.

  • Scene 23 - Kathleen Johns – “March 22, 1970 - 2 ½ Months Later”

    This scene depicts one of the most controversial incidents of the Zodiac story – the purported abduction of Kathleen Johns. According to the official reports documenting this incident, Johns claimed that she had encountered a strange man who had threatened her life, and that the man looked like the Zodiac.

    The film shows Johns driving along a dark road when another car approaches with its horn blaring. The driver signals for Johns to pull over and she guides the car to the side of the road. After he stops behind her vehicle, the driver approaches and informs Johns that the rear wheel of her station wagon is loose. He offers to tighten the lug nuts and, after he apparently does so, he sends Johns on her way. When the rear wheel then slips away from the station wagon, forcing Johns to side of the road, the stranger offers to drive her to a nearby gas station for help.

    Johns gathers her infant daughter and climbs into the man’s car. He is surprised to see her with the child but heads down the road. He drives past a seemingly open gas station, making Johns suspicious. She asks if he often helps strangers and the man responds that people do not need help after meeting him. He then threatens Johns’ life and tells the frightened mother that he is going to throw the child out of the open window.

    A motorist and a truck driver later find a traumatized Johns hiding along the side of the road, fearful that the stranger would return to harm her baby.

    NOTE: This timing of events places the scene in Belli’s home approximately 2 ½ months before March 22, 1970, or, in the second week of January. The timing of the events concurs with the known facts concerning the calls to Belli’s home and the conversation between “the Zodiac” and Belli’s housekeeper. According to the FBI reports, the first documented report of any calls to the home of Melvin Belli took place in the second week of January 1970, or 2 ½ months prior to the Johns incident.

  • Scene 24 - Graysmith and Avery Go To The Library

    A series of audio voice-overs illustrates the passage of time and the various letters sent by the Zodiac. One letter mentions an interesting ride with a woman and her baby in an obvious reference to the Johns incident. Graysmith asks Avery why the Zodiac waited so long to claim responsibility for the botched abduction and Avery responds that the Zodiac is lying. The two then travel to a library where Avery shows Graysmith an article from The Modesto Bee newspaper that contains all of the details regarding the Johns incident. Avery explains that the Zodiac simply used the details provided in the article to take credit for a crime he did not commit. He then shows Graysmith another article that states the Zodiac took credit for the murder of a San Francisco police officer.

    Avery says, “Zodiac didn’t do it, but he took credit for it anyway.”

    The reporter then reveals that his discovery that a wristwatch, named Zodiac, is the only place where the name Zodiac and the crossed-circle symbol used by the Zodiac killer appear together.

    FINCHER: Avery claims that the articles concerning Johns and Radetich prove that the Zodiac attempted to take credit for crimes he did not commit. Avery also states that the watch is the only place where the Zodiac’s name and symbol appear together.

    FACT: While the Zodiac’s claim to have abducted Johns continues to be the subject of debate, Inspector William Armstrong told a television producer in 1988 that it was likely Johns had encountered the Zodiac. Debate concerning Zodiac's involvement in this incident continues.

    The Zodiac never claimed he had killed Officer Radetich, and he never even mentioned the shooting of a police officer or Radetich’s name. In a letter mailed to the Chronicle, the Zodiac had written that he had “shot a man sitting in a parked car using a .38.” Radetich was sitting in his patrol car when an unidentified gunman shot him using a .38 caliber weapon. The only attempt to link Zodiac to the shooting of Officer Richard Radetich was an article that appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle titled “Zodiac Says He Killed S.F Officer.” The author of the article was Paul Avery.

    For many years, speculation and theories have attempted to explain the origins of the Zodiac’s chosen name and symbol. Suspect Arthur Leigh Allen wore a “Zodiac” wristwatch, as Avery described. This watch is not the only place where the name and the symbol appear together. The Zodiac boat company also used the name and the crossed-circle symbol. Ford Motors introduced a car named “The Zodiac” that had a hood ornament similar to the killer’s crossed-circle symbol. Yet most attempts to explain the origins of the name and the symbol ignore the most obvious explanation – one discovered by police in the early weeks of the investigation.

    The name "Zodiac" is derived from the Greek word "zodiakos," which, translated, means "a circle of animals." The American Heritage Dictionary (1983) offers the following definitions:

    zodiac: n. 1.a. A band of the celestial sphere, extending about eight degrees to either side of the ecliptic (the sun's path), that represents the path of the principal planets, the moon and the sun. b. In astrology, this band divided into 12 equal parts called signs, each 30 degrees wide, bearing the name of a constellation for which it was originally named. 2. A diagram or figure representing the zodiac. (Gk. zodion small represented figure). zodiacal, adj.

    In astrology, the crossed-circle symbol is used to represent the Zodiac, and, therefore, is called a Zodiac. Astrologers use this symbol in all aspects of astrology and, in order create a natal chart or “read” a horoscope, one must begin by drawing a crossed-circle, or, a Zodiac.

    Captain Martin Lee of the San Francisco Police Department told reporters that investigators had consulted astrologers regarding the Zodiac’s name and symbols. “We have made two or three inquiries of people in that business to gain information on what particular signs might mean. In fact, it was just a day or so ago that we learned that little symbol of the circle with the cross in the center of it, uh, what they told us is that this symbolizes the center of the universe, and this is called ‘The Sign of the Zodiac.’”

    Put simply, the crossed-circle symbol IS a Zodiac. Well documented throughout history, the astrological origin of the name and symbol inspired the companies that manufactured the Zodiac watches and Zodiac boats to use the name and the symbol together. The Zodiac used other astrological symbols in his coded messages, indicating that an interest or knowledge of astrology may have inspired his decision to use the name and the symbol.

    The Zodiac watch may have inspired the Zodiac killer, as Avery claims in the film, but the watch is not the only place where the name and symbol appear together, nor is it the most logical explanation for the Zodiac’s choice of his name and symbol.

  • Scene 25 - Happy Birthday, Bill

    Inspectors Toschi and Armstrong sit in a car at the intersection of Washington and Cherry. Armstrong laments that the Chief has ended the security for local school buses. Toschi wishes his partner a happy birthday.

  • Scene 26 - Graysmith, the Retard

    Cartoonist Robert Graysmith is shocked to learn that his fellow Chronicle employees refer to him as “retard.” The sound from a television attracts Graysmith’s attention and Avery explains that the woman on the screen is Vallejo Mayor Florence Douglas. The mayor criticizes police for overlooking clues concerning the killing of victim Darlene Ferrin. Avery opens an envelope addressed to him and is horrified to find a taunting Halloween card and another scrap of Stine’s shirt. Toschi and Armstrong arrive to collect the card and Avery asks to carry a gun.

    FINCHER: The mayor of Vallejo is concerned that police have overlooked clues in the Ferrin murder case. Paul Avery opens the envelope mailed by the Zodiac.

    FACT: The mayor of Vallejo did voice such concerns at a press conference. Florence Douglas based her opinions on information provided by Ferrin’s mother, and a psychic. According to the mother, Darlene had made a rather cryptic comment on the night she was killed: "You might read about me in the paper tomorrow.” Darlene’s mother did not remember this important information in the days, weeks or months after her daughter was murdered. In fact, the woman was only able to recall Darlene’s statements with the assistance of the psychic. Darlene’s mother did not contact police with this important information.

    Paul Avery did not open the envelope that contained the famous Halloween card from the Zodiac. In an interview for a 1989 television program, Avery explained how the events had actually unfolded. “The two homicide inspectors working the Zodiac case came in and tapped me on the shoulder, and pulled me outside, and said, uh, ‘We received another letter from the Chron-er, from the Zodiac, and it was addressed to you.’” This envelope did not contain a piece of Paul Stine’s shirt as seen in the film.

  • Scene 27 - Graysmith and Avery At Home on the Range

    Avery tries out his new pistol at the firing range while Graysmith reads an article about “I Am Not Paul Avery” buttons. The reporter tells the cartoonist that he received an anonymous tip regarding a possible Zodiac murder in Riverside.

  • Scene 28 - Melanie Misses the Warning Signs

    Graysmith arrives at a restaurant for his first date with Melanie. After they introduce themselves, Graysmith explains that he is working with reporter Paul Avery on the Zodiac murder case. He tells Melanie about Paul’s trip to Riverside to check on the anonymous tip. Melanie points out that the tipster could be Zodiac, and, soon, Graysmith is worried about Avery. After calling Avery’s home from a payphone, Melanie accompanies Graysmith to his apartment where they await news from the missing reporter. Hours later, the phone finally rings, and Avery tells Graysmith that he has important news.

    FINCHER: Graysmith spends his first date with Melanie worrying about Avery, and they wait together by the phone all night.

    FACT: Graysmith and Avery had no relationship whatsoever, so Graysmith did not spend any time at the gun range with the reporter and he did not spend his first date with his future wife worrying for Avery’s safety. Graysmith himself said that this scene is purely fictional.

  • Scene 29 - The Riverside Connection

    Toschi and Armstrong are stunned to see reporter Paul Avery on television claiming that he has discovered a Zodiac crime in Riverside, California. The inspectors arrange to fly to Riverside to investigate and, once on the plane, the men run into Agent Mel Nicolai of the Department of Justice. Nicolai asks the inspectors why he learned about this development from the newspaper. Paul Avery appears and attempts to socialize with the investigators but the men snub the reporter.

    Inside the offices of the Riverside police department, Toschi, Armstrong, Nicolai and Napa County Sheriff’s investigator Ken Narlow listen as the local lawmen provide the details regarding the possible “Zodiac” murder. Student Cheri Jo Bates was reportedly last seen leaving the Riverside City College library with an unidentified male on the night of October 30, 1966. A groundskeeper found her body the next day, and an autopsy revealed that the killer had used a small knife to stab Bates to death. After the murder, a local newspaper received a typed letter titled “The Confession.” The letter provided a detailed description of Bates’ murder. Six months later, a local newspaper, the police and even Bates’ father all received handwritten notes apparently sent by the killer. A college employee later discovered a desk with a strange poem written on its surface.

    Handwriting expert Sherwood Morrill concluded that the Zodiac had written the letters and the desktop poem, but the local cops are not convinced. Toschi scolds the Riverside police for cooperating with reporter Paul Avery. The men leave the police station and find Avery outside the building, still looking for information. Toschi scolds Avery for interfering with the investigation and the two have a heated exchange. The inspector leaves Avery by saying, “Go fuck yourself.”

    FINCHER: Investigators greet Sherwood Morrill’s conclusions with skepticism. Riverside police state that victim Cheri Jo Bates was last seen leaving the library with an unidentified male.

    FACT: Sherwood Morrill’s conclusions were the subject of debate, but, while some experts refuted his findings, others confirmed his conclusion that the Zodiac was responsible for the Riverside writings.

    Witnesses did not report that Cheri Jo Bates left the library with an unidentified male. While some have speculated that the killer met Bates inside the library, the evidence indicates that the killer waited outside in the parking lot. The killer had tampered with Bates’ car, and investigators believed he used this situation to engage the victim and offer his assistance. In fact, the so-called “Confession” letter described a similar scenario.

  • Scene 30 – Crackpots

    Inspectors Toschi and Armstrong face a seemingly endless supply of kooks and crackpots offering clues to the Zodiac’s identity.

  • Scene 31 – Donald Cheney, Concerned Citizen

    Armstrong interviews a man named Donald Cheney at his place of employment. Accompanied by friend and employer Sandy Panzarella, Cheney tells Armstrong that a mutual friend, Arthur Leigh Allen, might be the Zodiac killer. According to Cheney, he and Allen were drinking Coors together one night when Allen was “raw” about losing his teaching job. Allen had confessed a desire to commit similar crimes and use the name “Zodiac” in letters designed to taunt the police. Cheney says that Allen had spoken of hunting humans, “like that book” – The Most Dangerous Game. Allen also allegedly claimed he would attack a school bus and shoot the “little darlings” as they attempted to escape. Cheney explains that he had made a previous attempt to report this information but police dismissed him. Armstrong asks Cheney to clarify when this conversation with Allen took place and Cheney assures the inspector that the conversation occurred on January 1, 1968.

    FINCHER: Cheney says, “like that book,” a reference to the short story The Most Dangerous Game. Cheney says that Allen was upset about losing his teaching job. He is certain that the conversation occurred on January 1, 1968.

    FACT: Donald Cheney has told many sensational tales over the years, and his stories change from one telling to the next. Cheney never mentioned any book, or the short story The Most Dangerous Game.

    In the film, Cheney says that Allen was “raw” about losing his teaching job when he last saw the suspect in January 1968. Cheney is certain that he never saw Allen again after this disturbing conversation, and he was certain that the conversation took place on or before January 1, 1968. Armstrong apparently looked Cheney in the eyes and decided that he believed Allen’s estranged friend. Had he looked at a calendar and used his common sense, Armstrong would have realized that Allen lost his teaching job in March 1968 – three months after the alleged conversation between Cheney and Allen. Armstrong most likely would then correctly deduce that Allen therefore could not have been “raw” about a termination that had yet to occur.

    Police never investigated, and apparently never noticed, this discrepancy despite the fact that the timing of the conversation was crucial, as Cheney claimed Allen made the incriminating statements before the Zodiac crimes began. In fact, although Cheney based his timing of events on the date he believed he moved to Southern, California, police never checked on the timing of his move or made any other attempts to investigate or verify his story.

    During an interview in 2000, Cheney mentioned that Allen had been upset about losing his job. When informed that Allen did not lose his job until March 1968 – three months after the alleged conversation – Cheney then changed the timing of the conversation to January 1969.

    In the early 1990s, Cheney added another detail to his story. He claimed that Allen had shown him a “new” Zodiac wristwatch during the conversation in January 1968 or 1969. Cheney had not mentioned the watch to police in 1971 and did so only after Robert Graysmith’s 1986 book revealed that Allen owned such a watch. Cheney’s later stories also incorporated details from this book.

  • Scene 32 - Checking On Cheney

    The two inspectors go over Cheney’s story. Toschi wonders why Cheney waited so long to come forward, and Armstrong informs him that the first recorded report on Allen from Cheney occurred on January 10, 1970. Armstrong then calls Cheney’s employer, Sandy Panzarella, and learns that Allen is ambidextrous and can write with both hands.

    FINCHER: The inspectors learn that the Pomona police documented Cheney’s first attempt to report his suspicions regarding Allen. Sandy Panzarella informs Armstrong that Allen can write with both hands.

    FACT: Armstrong tells Toschi that Pomona police recorded Cheney’s first attempt to report Allen on January 10, 1970. This is a “guesstimate,” based on comments made by Cheney during a 2000 interview with Tom Voigt, webmaster of Zodiackiller.com. Armstrong’s statement gives viewers the false impression that Cheney previously reported Allen and that documents support his claim.

  • Scene 33 - The Arthur Leigh Allen Interview

    Detective Jack Mulanax accompanies Inspectors Toschi and Armstrong to Allen’s place of work. The suspect is called to a room and the interview begins. Armstrong takes the lead and asks the suspect if he had any conversations with anyone regarding the Zodiac case. Allen is unable to explain the source of Armstrong’s story and the allegedly incriminating statements. In an obvious effort to explain why someone would say that Allen had made such statements regarding hunting people, Allen offers that he has been a long time fan of the story, The Most Dangerous Game.

    Allen explains that he had already been interviewed by a Vallejo police sergeant shortly after the stabbing at Lake Berryessa. He also mentions that he had bloody knives on his car seat and tells the investigators that he had seen a neighbor, Bill White, on the day in question. Allen tells the investigators that he had used the knives to kill some chickens he then ate. He explains that White had died shortly after this, and wonders aloud if Bill White had seen the knives and called the police.

    As Allen speaks, Jack Mulanax eyes the suspect’s footwear – a pair of boots virtually identical to the Wing Walker boots worn by the Zodiac at Lake Berryessa. Allen tells the men, “I am not the Zodiac, and if I was, I wouldn’t tell you.” After examining Allen’s Zodiac watch, the investigators dismiss Allen and agree the suspect warrants further investigation.

    FINCHER: Allen theorizes that neighbor Bill White may have seen the knives and called police. Allen is seen wearing boots that are identical to the Zodiac’s Wing Walker boots.

    FACT: Allen never offered any speculation concerning Bill White and the knives – he simply stated that White may have seen him at the time in question. According to the police report written by Vallejo police detective Jack Mulanax, Allen did state that he had bloody knives on the seat of his car that day but Allen explained that he had used these knives to kill chickens. [In his book ZODIAC, Robert Graysmith later claimed that Allen's sister-in-law had seen these knives yet this was not true-- Karen Allen never claimed to have seen these knives and no one but Graysmith ever claimed that she had seen these knives.]

    Allen never told investigators, “I am not the Zodiac, and if I was I certainly wouldn’t tell you.”

    There is no credible evidence to indicate that Allen ever owned or wore Wing Walker boots, and he was not wearing these boots during the interview with police. Had Allen been wearing these boots during the interview, Mulanax and the other investigators would have noted this extremely important detail in their police reports. They did not, and, during the last 37 years, no one has ever claimed that Allen was wearing these boots during the interview.

    The fact that the character is shown wearing the same boots worn by the Zodiac gives the audience the false impression that Allen and Zodiac wore virtually identical boots when they did not.

  • Scene 34 - Allen’s brother and sister-in-law

    NOTE: In the film, these characters are given fictitious names in order to protect their identities. However, elsewhere in the film, close-up shots of actual police documents reveal the true names of Allen’s brother and sister-in-law. For the purposes of this review, the real names are not used.

    Armstrong meets with the brother and sister-in-law of suspect Arthur Leigh Allen. The brother learns that Allen is a Zodiac suspect. Armstrong asks the couple whether it is true – “about the children.” The couple says it is true, and says that Allen has been troubled for some time.

    When asked if he knows Donald Cheney, the brother asks if Cheney was the one who reported Allen to police. Armstrong replies that that information is confidential, and the brother says that Cheney is a responsible person and that if he had said something he would believe it was true. The sister-in-law then interrupts to tell Armstrong that Allen had once sent them a card with the same misspelling used by the Zodiac – “Christmass.”

    FINCHER: Allen’s brother-in-law tells Armstrong that he would consider Cheney’s statements to be “true” and he is then interrupted by his wife who cites the similarity between the misspellings of Allen and the Zodiac.

    FACT: Detective Jack Mulanax was present during the interview with the Allen's brother and sister-in-law. His police report states: “(Allen’s brother) did say that he was well acquainted with the sources of information who had originally given statements to police indicating Arthur Leigh Allen was a prime suspect. [Allen’s brother did not know the nature of Cheney’s statements at this time.] (He) stated that they were responsible people who would not have made such statements if they were not true. He further stated that he had received a complaint from Cheney that his brother had made improper advances toward one of his children. This might be a motive why Cheney would make such an accusation against Arthur Leigh Allen. This is RO's (reporting officer's) observation and not [that of Allen’s brother].”

    In reality, three key pieces of information were revealed during the interview:

    1: Allen’s brother knew Donald Cheney and said that he was a trustworthy person.

    2: In the same breath, he said that Cheney had complained that Allen had attempted to molest one of Cheney’s children.

    3: Allen’s sister-in-law told Armstrong about the “Christmass” misspelling.

    In the film, the scene presents the first piece of information, then skips the second important detail and jumps straight to the third. This omission gives the audience the false impression that Donald Cheney had no reason to invent his tale about Allen. Viewers may have reached different conclusions regarding the veracity of Cheney’s claims had they known all the facts.

    When they were informed that Allen was a suspect, his brother and his sister-in-law told police that they did not believe he could be the Zodiac. The opinion of the couple remains the same more than 35 years later.

    NOTE TO THE READER: The misspelling of “Christmas” as “Christmass” is extremely common, and even police officers unintentionally misspelled the word in the exact way when writing their own reports. These misspellings were not quoting Zodiac’s misspelling.

  • Scene 35 - Assessing Allen

    The Inspectors discuss the case against Allen. They mention that Vallejo police sergeant John Lynch had interviewed Allen on October 6, 1969, but dismissed the suspects because he did not resemble the description of the Zodiac.

    FINCHER: Toschi and Armstrong are aware of the Lynch interview.

    FACT: Detective Jack Mulanax reviewed the Vallejo police files and was unable to locate any report mentioning an interview of Allen at the time of the Lake Berryessa attack. Years later, a search of the files revealed a brief entry by Lynch regarding the interview.

  • Scene 36 - Sherwood Morrill Rains on Dave’s Parade

    Inspector Toschi consults handwriting expert Sherwood Morrill, who examines Allen’s handwriting and declares, “This suspect is not your Zodiac.” Toschi is not happy to hear this news, and questions the expert regarding ambidexterity. Morrill explains that even the ability to write with both hands could not produce writing so different as to avoid detection.

    FINCHER: Morrill’s conclusions are presented as rigid and even questionable.

    FACT: Many handwriting experts examined Allen’s handwriting, including samples produced by his left and right hands, and confirmed Morrill’s conclusions. Only one expert, Terry Pascoe, told police that an altered state of consciousness could also alter handwriting. This scene is depicted later in the film. However, even Pascoe concluded that Allen did not write the Zodiac letters.

  • Scene 37 - Giving Up On Allen

    Armstrong talks with Jack Mulanax by telephone. The two men reluctantly agree that the investigation of Allen has nowhere to go.

  • Scene 38 - Time Passes

  • Scene 39 - Avery – The Marked Man

    In the offices of the San Francisco Chronicle, Avery is no longer able to conceal his drug use and alcoholism. His boss takes him to task, citing Avery’s kook-like letter to the Department of Justice on Chronicle letterhead, in which Avery asks to be appointed the head of the Zodiac investigation. As he storms out of the offices, Avery is stopped by Robert Graysmith, who asks, “Paul, are you all right?” Avery replies that he not all right, and stumbles off.

  • Scene 40 - The Sister-In-Law Again

    September 1972. Inspector Armstrong sits in the living room of Allen’s sister-in-law. She is concerned that police are not pursuing the investigation of the suspect. She tells the inspector that she and her husband had arranged for Allen to see a social worker but he only went twice. The sister-in-law had asked the social worker if Allen was capable of killing and the social worker said, Yes. Allen was now said to be using a trailer in Santa Rosa.

    FINCHER: The sister-in-law was concerned that police were not pursuing the suspect. Armstrong learns that Allen had a trailer in Santa Rosa.

    FACT: The sister-in-law did not contact police and ask that they continue the investigation. Most mental health experts would agree that the alleged opinions of the social worker in question could not be considered sound when based only on two short visits. The sister-in-law had told Armstrong about the Santa Rosa trailer in August of 1971, more than a year before this scene in the film is dated.

  • Scene 41 - An Altered State of Expert Opinion

    Sherwood Morrill’s opinions are once again called into question as Armstrong consults the expert’s subordinate at the Department of Justice, Questioned Documents Examiner Terry Pascoe. Working under Morrill, Pascoe is reluctant to refute the conclusions of his superior, but Armstrong presses him concerning Allen’s ability to write with both hands, and the possibility that an “altered” psychological state could manifest in a change of handwriting. Sensing Armstrong’s lack of options and confidence in the suspect, Pascoe tells the inspector not to exclude the suspect simply based on handwriting alone.

    FINCHER: Armstrong doubts that handwriting can identify the killer.

    FACT: As late as 1989, Armstrong believed that handwriting and the fingerprint found on the cab of victim Paul Stine would identify the Zodiac. Pascoe rightfully advised that it would be unwise to exclude a suspect based on handwriting alone, but a fingerprint comparison had also cleared Allen.

  • Scene 42 - Armstrong’s Warrant

    After confirming that Donald Cheney would testify that the “Zodiac” conversation with Allen had occurred on January 1, 1968, Armstrong obtains a warrant to search Allen’s Santa Rosa trailer.

    FINCHER: Armstrong meets Cheney to confirm his testimony.

    FACT: According to Cheney, Armstrong made the confirmation by phone, and not in person as seen in the film. If Cheney had, in fact, testified in court that Allen spoke of being “raw” about losing his teaching job, and that this conversation took place on January 1, 1968, Cheney would have been committing the crime of perjury. Allen lost his teaching job three months after the alleged conversation, in March 1968.

  • Scene 43 - The Search

    Investigators descend on a trailer lot in Santa Rosa, and invade the unit owned by suspect Arthur Leigh Allen. Inside they find squirrels running amok, in cages, and in the refrigerator - part of Allen’s work towards a biology degree. They also discover two handguns, an M-1 rifle, and two blue windbreakers similar to the one worn by the killer of cabdriver Paul Stine. A large jar of Vaseline and a wooden dildo are visible near the bed. Toschi discovers a pair of black, size seven gloves, and remarks that Allen and Zodiac share the same boot and glove size. Allen arrives and the investigators seem happy to see him, but the search of the trailer fails to uncover any further evidence to implicate the tempting suspect.

  • Scene 44 - Allen Aftermath

    After the fruitless search, Toschi faces more disappointment. A fingerprint comparison excluded the suspect, and writing samples produced by Allen's left and right hands did not match the writing of the Zodiac. The experience has taken a toll on Toschi, but the investigation moves on in search of other suspects.

  • Scene 45 - Dirty Harry

    At the San Francisco premiere of Clint Eastwood’s action movie, DIRTY HARRY, Inspector Toschi grows uncomfortable and heads to the lobby. Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith appears and tells Toschi that he will catch the Zodiac someday. Toschi is pessimistic, and says that the case is already the stuff of Hollywood movies.

  • Scene 46 - The End of an Era

    Graysmith watches as reporter Duffy Jennings arrives in the offices of the Chronicle and assumes his place at Paul Avery’s old desk. Graysmith introduces himself to the disinterested Jennings, and he is visibly shaken by the changing times.

  • Scene 47 - The End of a Partnership

    Toschi stops the car in front of Armstrong’s home, and tells his partner that he will see him the following day. Armstrong confesses that he has asked for a transfer out of the homicide detail and wants to see his kids grow up. He worries that he has left Toschi alone, but his partner tells him to go in peace. Armstrong walks off with his wife as Toschi watches from the car.

  • Scene 48 - The Beginning of a Book

    Robert Graysmith sits at home, looking through his own Zodiac scrapbook. His wife, Melanie, appears and tells him, “No one has more Zodiac stuff than you.” The cartoonist gets an idea.

  • Scene 49 - Paul is Dead

    Graysmith arrives at the new home of disgraced reporter Paul Avery. He is surprised to find Avery living among ashtrays filled with half-smoked joints, liquor bottles and debris. Avery is surprised to see Graysmith and says that no one from “the old days” visits him anymore. Graysmith then tells Avery that he should write a book about the Zodiac case. Avery is not amused by the idea, and is not pleased that Graysmith took it upon himself to give Avery a sense of purpose. He rather cruelly dismisses the cartoonist, saying that he had done little more than “go to the library.” Graysmith is shocked by Avery’s lack of concern for the Zodiac case, runs back to his car and drives away.

    FINCHER: Graysmith visits Avery to inquire about a Zodiac book only to be attacked by the cruel and self-destructive Avery.

    FACT: This scene is pure fiction.

  • Scene 50 - Home Again

    Graysmith returns home with an armload of books. When Melanie asks where was, and he replies, “The library.” Melanie begins to suspect that something is not right.

  • Scene 51 - Obsessions

    Toschi sits at the scene of the cabdriver killing, lost in thought. He drives away as Graysmith arrives in a cab, signaling the beginning of his own investigation.

  • Scene 52 - The Beginning of a Great Friendship

    Graysmith arrives at the San Francisco Police department and introduces himself to Toschi. He invites the inspector to lunch and, soon, the two are sitting in a nearby diner. At first, Toschi refuses to discuss the case, but after Graysmith shows him the results of his amateur detective work, he refers the cartoonist to Ken Narlow of the Napa County Sheriff’s Office.

  • Scene 53 - Narlow

    At the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, investigator Ken Narlow tells Graysmith that he does not discuss the case with writers. Once he learns that Graysmith is an Eagle Scout and a cartoonist working with reporter Paul Avery, Narlow naturally agrees to share information concerning the still-open investigation of the most notorious serial murder case in California history

  • Scene 54 - The Vallejo Police Department

    Graysmith meets with Detective Jack Mulanax at the Vallejo police department. Mulanax agrees to let Graysmith view the department files on the Zodiac case, but he tells the cartoonist he must do so without any pens, pencils or paper. He leaves Graysmith alone with the files. As he sifts through the documents, Graysmith mutters to himself, “Arthur Leigh Allen,” “painting party,” and other details from the reports.

  • Scene 55 - Notes

    Graysmith dashes into a diner to take notes from his memory of the police files. He writes down the name of George Waters and other information regarding Darlene Ferrin.

  • Scene 56 - Strangers on a Bench

    Toschi meets Graysmith on a bench on a quiet night. Graysmith asks about Michael Mageau and Toschi tells him the same “Mageau split” story offered by Mulanax in a previous scene. Graysmith then tells Toschi that the Vallejo police files revealed the fact that Darlene was being followed by a mysterious man in the months and weeks before her murder. He mentions George Waters, but then proceeds to tell Toschi that another man, still unidentified, was present for a “painting party” held in Darlene’s home in May 1969. This stranger apparently terrified Darlene.

    Toschi is surprised to learn that the Vallejo police files also revealed the fact that someone had placed strange “breathing” phone calls to the homes of Darlene Ferrin, her parents and the parents of her husband. These calls were placed on the night Darlene was killed but before news of her death had reached the family. Graysmith says that the calls must have been placed by Darlene’s killer, and that the killer must have known Darlene.

    Toschi then surprises Graysmith with the news that Zodiac had made other calls to the homes of others involved in the case. He tells the cartoonist to speak with attorney Melvin Belli in order to learn more.

    FINCHER: Graysmith learns that an unidentified man had been bothering and following Darlene in the months before her death, and that this man was also present in her home for a so-called “painting party.” Graysmith tells Toschi that this man is not George Waters. He also claims that the mysterious phone calls prove that Darlene knew her killer. Toschi tells Graysmith to investigate a phone call to the home of attorney Melvin Belli.

    FACT: The Vallejo police files mention only one individual who had been bothering Darlene – George Waters. Police investigated Waters in 1969 and cleared him as a suspect. In 1977, a woman who had worked as a babysitter for Darlene told police that she recalled a painting party at Darlene’s home sometime between January and May 1969. According to the babysitter, who was a young teenager at the time, three young men arrived at Darlene’s home but the babysitter left before the party began because she did not want to be around the three young men.

    When Vallejo police investigated this party, they encountered many witnesses with little credibility. Two of Darlene’s sisters – noted for telling fanciful tales and seeking attention – told investigators that a strange man had been bothering Darlene and had attended the painting party. The sisters neglected to mention this information to police during the original investigation, despite the fact that they were repeatedly asked if they knew of anyone who had been bothering Darlene. At that time, in 1969, the sisters had only mentioned George Waters. (In his book, ZODIAC, Graysmith cites the stories concerning George but replaces George with a mysterious stranger.) The man at the party was then identified as a suspect named in Graysmith’s book as Todd Walker. One of the sisters later identified the man at the party as infamous Zodiac suspect, Larry Kane. A former Vallejo police officer also identified “Walker” as the stranger at the painting party. This officer was famous for his claim to have heard a recording of Zodiac’s phone call to Vallejo police on the night of Darlene’s murder. No such tape ever existed, and, in later years, the officer admitted he had invented the story.

    When interviewed years later by Tom Voigt of Zodiackiller.com, Darlene’s brother Leo admitted that he was responsible for the calls on the night his sister was murdered. According to Leo, Darlene was supposed to bring him some marijuana, and, when she did not appear with the weed, he became impatient and began to call around looking for her. He did not speak when Darlene’s parents and in-laws answered the calls because he knew he was calling too late in the evening and did not want them to know he was the one who had called.

    Toschi had no reason to tell Robert Graysmith that the Zodiac had made phone calls to Melvin Belli’s home because the inspector knew that the individual who had made the calls to Belli’s home had been identified as a patient in a mental hospital and that this man was cleared as a Zodiac suspect.

    Police had been unable to trace the calls to the television station made by “Sam,” the person who claimed to be the Zodiac in conversations with Belli. After the Zodiac imposter contacted Belli by phone at the television station, the real Zodiac sent a letter to Belli’s San Francisco home. This letter was postmarked December 20, 1969. After the Zodiac’s letter to Belli was the subject of intense media coverage, a person claiming to be the Zodiac then began to call Belli’s home. A housekeeper answered the call, and the man on the line told her that he wanted to speak to Belli. She told the caller that Belli was in Europe and the man said he could not wait because, “Today’s my birthday!” The housekeeper then alerted police.

    Inspector William Armstrong notified the FBI of the developments in a report dated January 14, 1970. Once a trace was placed on Belli’s home telephone, subsequent calls were traced to the mental institution and the imposter patient. Armstrong notified the FBI on February 18, 1970, that the investigation had identified the individual responsible for the calls.

    CONCLUSION: George Waters, and not some mysterious stranger, was bothering Darlene before her death. Leo, and not the Zodiac, was responsible for the phone calls to Darlene’s house and the other locations on the night of her murder. The mental patient, and not the Zodiac, was responsible for the phone calls to Belli’s home, including the “birthday” call.

  • Scene 57 - Melvin’s Housekeeper Holds the Key

    Graysmith sits in the home of Melvin Belli, waiting to meet with the famous attorney. Melvin’s housekeeper brings the cartoonist some refreshments while he moans about the length of his wait. He tells her that he is writing a book about the Zodiac case and the housekeeper says, “I talked to him.” Graysmith asks, “With Mr. Belli, about the case?” and the housekeeper replies, “With Zodiac, when he called.” She tells Graysmith that the caller had said it was his birthday.

    When asked to recall the date of the phone call, the housekeeper says, “Mr. Belli was away for Christmas, gone for a week…then the letter arrived.” She further states that Belli “came back on Christmas.” Graysmith deduces, “So, the call came before December 20” and says to himself, “So, he (Belli) left on the 18th.”

    FINCHER: Belli’s housekeeper tells Graysmith that the Zodiac called while Belli was away for Christmas, and that Belli returned to San Francisco for Christmas. She also says that the Zodiac called before the letter from Zodiac arrived. Graysmith deduces that Belli left for Europe on December 18.

    FACT: Graysmith never interviewed Belli’s housekeeper, and he did not learn of this so-called “birthday” call until 1999 with the release of the FBI files on the Zodiac case. These files demonstrate that the phone calls to Belli’s home occurred in early 1970, and that these calls were traced to the patient in a mental hospital.

    Belli did not leave for Europe on December 18, but on December 20, as he told reporter Paul Avery. Belli was not in San Francisco for Christmas as his housekeeper described, but in Munich, Germany, as is well documented in press accounts of that time.

  • Scene 58 - Confirmation of a Call

    Graysmith breathlessly dials Toschi for confirmation on the “birthday” call. Toschi is evasive but then tells the cartoonist that, had his partner checked on the call, he would have to “put that in a report” for the Department of Justice.

    FINCHER: Toschi tells Graysmith that Armstrong checked on the call and put that information in a report to the Department of Justice.

    FACT: Any reports Armstrong would have filed with the Department of Justice would have stated that the phone calls to Belli’s home were traced to a mental patient and were not made by the real Zodiac. Toschi therefore had no reason to tell Graysmith otherwise.

  • Scene 59 - The Department of Justice

    Graysmith sits in the offices Agent Mel Nicolai of the State Department of Justice in Sacramento, California. The cartoonist babbles on about the “birthday” call until he is interrupted by an incredulous Nicolai. Nicolai states that none of the suspects had been born on December 18, the day Graysmith believes the “birthday” call took place. The agent says, “Armstrong checked this out,” and tells the cartoonist to focus on fingerprints and handwriting evidence.

    FINCHER: Nicolai is aware of the “birthday” call. He tells Graysmith that Armstrong had already “checked this out” and determined that none of the suspects had a birthday of December 18.

    FACT: If Armstrong had kept the agent informed during the investigation, Nicolai would have known that the Zodiac did not make the “birthday” call. If Armstrong had checked his own files, he would have discovered that his own suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, was born on December 18. None of the investigators seemed to notice this important coincidence, indicating that they knew that the “birthday” call did not take place on December 18, and they considered the call to be of little importance in the investigation.

  • Scene 60 - Graysmith at Home

    Melanie tells Graysmith that handwriting expert Sherwood Morrill had called. She then complains that Graysmith’s name appeared in an article in the Chronicle. She worries that the Zodiac will read the article. An anonymous tipster calls with news concerning a possible suspect named Richard Marshall. The caller claims that Marshall recorded the Zodiac murders on film and directs Graysmith to Marshall’s friend, Bob Vaughn.

  • Scene 61 - Sherwood’s Garden

    Graysmith visits with Sherwood Morrill at his home, and watches as the retired expert tends to his garden. Morrill explains that handwritings habits and tendencies are solidified early in life and do not change as a person ages. He also tells Graysmith that all of the suspects were cleared by his conclusions, and through comparisons to the fingerprint found on the cab at the last known Zodiac murder.

  • Scene 62 - The Calls Begin

    Graysmith is at home when the phone rings. He answers only to find heaving breathing on the line.

    NOTE: In media interviews, Graysmith had previously claimed that these sinister “breathing” phone calls first began after the publication of his book in 1986.

  • Scene 63 - Narlow Again

    Graysmith consults Ken Narlow of the Napa County Sheriff’s Office. Narlow tells Graysmith that Marshall is his “favorite suspect.” Graysmith asks how Marshall was cleared as a suspect and Narlow explained that the suspect’s fingerprints did not match the fingerprint from the cab. Narlow tells Graysmith that the fingerprint may actually belong to a curious bystander at the poorly preserved crime scene. He also mentions the gloves found in the cab as evidence that the Zodiac did not leave fingerprints.

    FINCHER: Narlow dismisses the evidentiary value of the cab fingerprint and blames poor preservation of the crime scene. He also refers to the gloves found in the cab.

    FACT: According to Inspector David Toschi, Officer Armand Pelissetti, and others present on the night in question, San Francisco police kept the crime scene well preserved and did not allow bystanders to touch the cab, much less permit them to cover their fingers in the victim’s blood and then do so.

    The gloves found in the cab were a size seven, the smallest size for men, and therefore most likely did not belong to the killer. According to Graysmith’s book, upon which Fincher’s film is based, Toschi determined that the gloves belonged to a woman passenger who had ridden in the cab earlier that day with another driver.

  • Scene 64 - Morrill Again

    Graysmith obtains a sample of what he believes to be the writing of suspect Richard Marshall. He then consults with Sherwood Morrill and learns that the expert considers Marshall’s writing to be “the closest I’ve ever seen” to the writing of the Zodiac.

  • Scene 65 - Zodiac Again – April 1978

    Inspector David Toschi sits in a car with his new partner, a man apparently unaware and unappreciative of Toschi’s fondness for Animal Crackers. Suddenly the radio call instructs Toschi to contact headquarters. He learns that a new Zodiac letter has arrived and that the killer mentioned Toschi’s name. The inspector speeds to the hall of justice to see the new letter

  • Scene 66 - Forgery?

    Graysmith sits at the dinner table with his family while the television announces that the Zodiac has returned with a new letter after four years of silence. Melanie allows him to leave the table to watch the breaking news. A reporter states that Chronicle columnist Armistead Maupin had received anonymous fan mail written by Toschi, and he suspects that the publicity-seeking cop may have forged the new letter in order to get attention. Graysmith calls Toschi’s home and the inspector’s wife tells the concerned cartoonist that Dave has been taken off the case and transferred to the pawn shop detail. Graysmith says he knows that Dave did not forge the new letter.

  • Scene 67 - Go Away, Graysmith

    Graysmith approaches Toschi outside the hall of justice and finds that the inspector wants nothing to do with him. The cartoonist begs for help with his investigation of Richard Marshall, but Toschi tells him that the “Richard Marshalls of the world” are a waste of time. When Graysmith mentions Sherwood Morrill’s opinion that Marshall’s writing is a close match to that of the Zodiac, Toschi spits out, “Sherwood Morrill, who drinks like Paul Avery now,” and reveals that the handwriting expert had been fired for mysterious reasons. Toschi angrily tells Graysmith to go away, and says that Zodiac was “my case, not yours.”

  • Scene 68 - Quality Time with the Kids

    Graysmith’s children have fun as they help him track press reports of unsolved murders according to astrological patterns. He receives a phone call from now Captain Ken Narlow and shares his new astrological findings. The children then present Graysmith with a copy of one of the Zodiac’s coded messages.

    NOTE: In his book, ZODIAC, Graysmith described how he took his children on a trip to the Ace Hardware store so that he could blend in while spying on the man he believed was a prolific child molester and the most wanted serial killer in California history, Arthur Leigh Allen.

  • Scene 69 - Graysmith, TV Star – August 9, 1979

    A television reporter tells viewers that Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith has solved one of the Zodiac’s mysterious codes. Paul Avery, aging and in need of an oxygen tank, sits in a darkened bar and watches the television report with amusement.

    FINCHER: Graysmith solves the Zodiac’s code.

    FACT: While reporters may have been eager to swallow Graysmith’s solution to the Zodiac’s code, FBI cryptanalysts and other code experts quickly concluded that the cartoonist’s solution had no merit. Even a cursory examination of Graysmith’s code key reveals contradictions that effectively prove his solution is not internally consistent and therefore invalid. Absent any further explanation, the scene gives the viewers the false impression that Graysmith had actually solved the Zodiac’s code when, in fact, he did not do so.

    Paul Avery was healthy and gainfully employed in 1979, and, he was in good health when interviewed for a television program in 1989. In fact, Avery did not require the use of oxygen until the late 1990s.

  • Scene 70 - Problems at Home

    Graysmith comes home to find that Melanie is unhappy about his television appearance. When Graysmith dismisses her fears, she asks, “Who’s been calling” in the middle of the night. Distracted by his hunt for the killer, he tells Melanie that Darlene’s sister is in jail and can identify Rick Marshall as the strange man at the “painting party.” Just then, the phone rings with more tips from the anonymous informant. He instructs Graysmith to meet with Marshall’s friend, Bob Vaughn. As he attempts to leave, Melanie confronts him regarding his obsessive behavior and failure to act as a husband and father. Graysmith darts out of the door and on his way to a divorce.

  • Scene 71 - Bob Scares Bob

    Robert Graysmith meets with the odd but friendly Bob Vaughn. The two travel to Vaughn’s home where Graysmith’s questions lead to the revelation that Marshall is a Zodiac suspect. Graysmith wants to know if Marshall, a movie buff who ran a theater, had ever shown the film The Most Dangerous Game. When citing the handwritten movie posters as possible proof that Marshall is the killer, Vaughn shocks Graysmith by revealing that the writing on the poster did not belong to Marshall, but Vaughn himself.

    Now fearful and trapped, Graysmith thanks the man for his time and starts to leave but Vaughn invites him into the basement to search for the records regarding the films shown at Marshall’s theater. Graysmith reluctantly joins Vaughn downstairs and becomes concerned when he hears what appear to be footsteps above them. Vaughn enjoys toying with the cartoonist until Graysmith flees the house in terror.

  • Scene 72 - Surprise, Surprise

    Graysmith returns home to find that Melanie has left with the children. A note tells him not to contact them.

  • Scene 73 - Linda, Jailhouse Informant

    Graysmith travels to the jail in San Joaquin to speak with Darlene’s incarcerated sister, Linda Del Buono. He asks about the painting party and the mysterious stranger. Linda says that she told police about the party “so long ago,” and tells Graysmith about a man who brought Darlene presents from Tia Juana. She says that Darlene was deathly afraid of this man and that he had killed someone, possibly while in the service. The man at the painting party had worn a suit, according to Linda, and he sat in a chair during the entire party. She recalls that Darlene was murdered only a few weeks later.

    Graysmith wants the identity of the man at the party, and Linda says that he had a short name. Graysmith says, “It was Rick.” Linda says, “No.” Graysmith insists, “It’s Rick.” Linda once again says he is wrong, and, as he leaves, she turns and dramatically declares, “It was Lee.”

    FINCHER: Linda remembers that a man who brought Darlene presents from Tia Juana was the same man who had terrified Darlene shortly before her murder. Linda further states that this man also attended the painting party and wore a suit for the occasion.

    FACT: Within hours of Darlene’s murder, police interviewed Linda near the scene of the crime. She told police that a man named Lee was one of Darlene’s closest friends and that he often brought her gifts from Tia Juana. At no time did she bother to mention that Lee had terrified her sister, had been bothering her in the weeks before she was killed, and had killed someone. In fact, Linda never mentioned any of this seemingly important information to police until the late 1970s, almost a decade after Darlene’s murder.

    Less than a handful of witnesses claimed to have attended the so-called “painting party,” and all lacked credibility. Yet none of these witnesses ever claimed that a man named Lee had attended the party. In fact, two of these witnesses identified another suspect, “Todd Walker,” as the man who had terrified Darlene at the party. Years after Darlene’s death, Linda identified suspect Larry Kane as Darlene’s mysterious friend.

    NOTE: Graysmith’s books present differing accounts of his encounter with Linda.

  • Scene 74 - The Vallejo Police Files – Open All Night

    Graysmith races through the darkness and rainfall to the Vallejo police department. He pounds on the glass door, begging the officer inside to let him check the police files. Detective Jack Mulanax suddenly appears and opens the door for the soggy amateur sleuth.

    Inside, Graysmith searches through the files until he finds the report describing Linda’s original statements regarding the Lee bearing gifts from Tia Juana. He proudly tells Mulanax of his discovery that Arthur Lee Allen is the Lee connected to Darlene Ferrin. Mulanax is not impressed and tells Graysmith that he and Toschi agree that Allen is not a good suspect.

    FINCHER: Graysmith finds the report that unlocks the mysterious connection between Darlene and her killer.

    FACT: The report in question demonstrates that Linda described “Lee” as Darlene’s friend and did not attempt to inform police that this man had bothered or frightened her sister. None of the witnesses who claimed to be at the painting party said that anyone named Lee had attended; in fact, these witnesses claimed that the man at the party was not Arthur Leigh Allen, but another suspect. Linda herself had identified this stranger as Larry Kane, and not Allen.

  • Scene 75 - Finish It

    Graysmith sits at home, surrounded by his growing collection of Zodiac memorabilia. Melanie walks in to deliver divorce papers. Graysmith says that the children should not see him in his present condition and she agrees. Melanie stoically tells Robert to finish the book and then leaves. Graysmith looks down to find the driver’s license belonging to Arthur Leigh Allen and notices that the suspect was born on December 18.

  • Scene 76 - A BIG Mistake!

    Outside the home of David Toschi, Robert Graysmith races through the darkness and downpour to pound on the inspector’s bedroom window. He shouts, “Dave, you made a mistake!” Toschi climbs out of bed and mutters something about getting his gun while Graysmith continues to shout his criticisms of Toschi’s investigative skills for all the neighbors to hear. Graysmith then blurts out, “It was Arthur Leigh Allen!”

    Toschi opens the door for the dripping detective as Graysmith proudly produces Allen’s drivers license and cites the December 18 “birthday” call to attorney Melvin Belli. Toschi then confides that Allen had written to him after finishing a sentence for molesting a child. Graysmith is convinced of Allen’s guilt, but Toschi reminds him of Morrill’s opinion that Allen did not write the Zodiac letters. Graysmith quotes Toschi’s previous remark, “Sherwood Morrill, who drinks like Paul Avery now?”

    FINCHER: Toschi seems impressed by Graysmith’s discovery concerning Allen’s date of birth and the date of the “birthday” call to Melvin Belli.

    FACT: Unless Toschi had suffered a recent head injury or a case of amnesia, the inspector would know that the “birthday” call did not occur on December 18, and that a patient in a mental hospital, and not the Zodiac, had placed the call. If Toschi somehow lacked the intelligence to retain such information, this could explain how he could have overlooked such an important fact for almost a decade when obtaining a suspect’s date of birth and other vital statistics is usually the first thing on an investigator’s list of things to do. Toschi’s seeming stupidity would seem to have also infected his partner, William Armstrong, and every other person involved in the investigation of Arthur Leigh Allen.

  • Scene 77 - Just the Facts, Bob

    Toschi sits at a diner table while Graysmith continues in his attempt to sell Allen as a hot suspect. He reminds the inspector that expert Terry Pascoe had warned them not to dismiss Allen solely based on handwriting alone. Toschi tells Graysmith that, if Allen were to stand trial, the defense would call Morrill to the stand to testify that Allen did not write the Zodiac letters. Graysmith then cites thirteen facts to prove that Allen was the Zodiac.

    Allen was seen with the Zodiac ciphers.

    Allen was in the Navy, and the killer left a military boot print at Lake Berryessa.

    Allen and the Zodiac shared the same sizes for shoes and gloves.

    Allen and the Zodiac were fans of the short story or movie, The Most Dangerous Game.

    Allen owned a Zodiac watch, the only place where the name and the crossed-circle symbol appear together.

    Allen had a background with schoolchildren and the Zodiac threatened to kill schoolchildren.

    Allen and the Zodiac misspelled the word Christmas as “Christmass.”

    Allen mentioned bloody knives in his car on the day of the stabbing at Lake Berryessa.

    When Toschi says that a search of Allen’s belongings should have produced the rest of Paul Stine’s bloody shirt as well as the cab driver’s missing wallet and keys, Graysmith notes a police report, and the statements of Allen’s sister-in-law. He explains that Allen suspiciously moved his trailer to Santa Rosa in the days after he was first interviewed by police in 1971.

    No Zodiac letters were received while Allen was imprisoned for molesting a child, and a new Zodiac letter arrived shortly after his release.

    The calls on the night of Darlene’s murder proved that she had known her killer.

    Graysmith had proved that Darlene also knew Arthur Leigh Allen.

    Darlene Ferrin worked at the House of Pancakes located less than a block from Allen’s home in Vallejo.

    Toschi is visibly convinced by Graysmith’s presentation, and leaves with a “thank you.”

    NOTE: This scene suggests that the circumstantial evidence described by Graysmith is convincing and based on fact.

    FACT: The thirteen points presented in this scene cannot withstand minimal scrutiny and cannot be said to implicate Allen in the Zodiac crimes.

    A friend of Allen told police that he had seen the suspect with a scrap of paper featuring symbols somewhat similar to those used by the Zodiac. This witness told police that Allen had these symbols AFTER the Zodiac’s codes had appeared in the newspapers. Allen told police that he had followed the Zodiac story in the news when the case first began. The Zodiac’s codes marked the beginning of the media coverage surrounding the Zodiac crimes.

    The military boot print was only relevant if Allen could be linked to the same boots that had made the boot print. No evidence existed to link Allen to such boots, despite the fact that the film shows him wearing identical boots when interviewed by police in 1971.

    Allen and the Zodiac may have worn the same shoe size, but the gloves found in the cab of Zodiac’s last known victim could not have fit Arthur Leigh Allen, who, by all accounts, was a very large man.

    Allen may have professed his fondness for the short story, The Most Dangerous Game, but the attempts to link the Zodiac to this story are tenuous at best. The Zodiac never used that exact phrase; in fact, the killer wrote that man was the most “hongertou” animal of all, or the most dangerous animal of all, and not, “the most dangerous game.” The short story may have inspired the Zodiac, but there is no evidence that he ever referred to the story in any of his many communications.

    The Zodiac watch was not the only place where the name Zodiac and the crossed-circle appeared together. Allen’s possession of such a watch might be suspicious if other credible evidence implicated him in the crimes, but such evidence did not exist.

    Allen’s background with schoolchildren did not link him to the Zodiac crimes.

    Allen’s comments concerning bloody knives were incriminating, and stand as one of the few facts said to implicate him.

    According to Graysmith, Allen had suspiciously cleaned and moved his trailer immediately after police alerted him that he was a Zodiac suspect. Graysmith cites a police report, and the statements of Allen’s sister-in-law, as evidence of Allen’s suspicious attempts to destroy evidence and avoid detection. Graysmith fails to mention that the very report in question states that the sister-in-law did not consider Allen’s behavior at all suspicious as the suspect had announced his plans to move the trailer BEFORE his first meeting with police.

    It is a fact that police did not receive any further Zodiac letters while Allen was incarcerated. However, it is also a fact that the Zodiac also failed to send further letters during extended periods of time when Allen was not incarcerated. The “Zodiac” letter of April 1978 was initially deemed authentic by some experts, but a majority of handwriting analysts determined that the letter was the work of a forger. The timing of the Zodiac’s letters does not implicate Allen.

    The phone calls to Darlene’s home, the home of her parents and the home of her in-laws on the night of her murder do not prove that Darlene knew her killer or implicate Allen. Darlene’s brother Leo stated that he made these calls.

    No credible evidence exists to connect Darlene and her killer, and no credible evidence exists to connect Darlene to Arthur Leigh Allen. The notion that Darlene knew a sinister man named Lee came from one witness, Darlene’s sister, Linda. In the days, weeks, months and years after Darlene’s murder, Linda never attempted to provide police with this valuable information concerning Lee, despite the fact that she had mentioned this individual within hours of the murder and described him as one of Darlene’s closest friends. In later years, Linda identified Larry Kane as the man in question – she did not identify Arthur Leigh Allen.

    At one time, Allen did live in his parents Vallejo home less than a block from Darlene’s place of work. However, the available information suggests that while Darlene worked at this location in Vallejo, California, Allen lived in a rented house many miles south in Calaveras County.

    CONCLUSION: The thirteen points cited by Graysmith’s character in this final summation scene do not implicate Allen in the Zodiac crimes. The phone calls on the night Darlene was killed, the terrifying “Lee,” and the “birthday” call to Melvin Belli on Allen’s date of birth, are the lynchpins of Graysmith’s solution to the case. All three of these points are easily refuted by the known facts.

  • Scene 78 - Staring At Allen – Date: Unknown

    Graysmith appears at Allen’s place of work, an Ace Hardware store. The cartoonist stares at the suspect until Allen asks if he is in need of assistance. Graysmith, at inner peace after finally tracking down the killer, tells Allen that he does not need help and leaves.

    NOTE: At the beginning of this scene, a title appears dating this event in March 1983. During the scene, Allen stands next to a calendar that reads, “February 1980.”

  • Scene 79 - The Almost Eyewitness

    August 1991. Retired Vallejo police detective George Bawart walks through the airport in Ontario, California. A display holds dozens of paperback copies of Graysmith’s book, ZODIAC, under a sign that reads “The National Bestseller.”

    Inside an airport security room, Bawart meets with Michael Mageau, the man who survived the shooting that killed Darlene Ferrin. Bawart shows the witness several photographs of men, including Arthur Leigh Allen. After a moment, Mageau points to Allen’s picture and says, “That’s him. That’s the man who shot me.” Bawart asks if Mageau is sure, and the survivor says, “Yes, he had a round face like him,” pointing to the photograph of another individual. When Bawart asks whether he is identifying the second man, Mageau says no. Bawart asks Mageau to rate his identification of the suspect on a scale of one to ten. Mageau replies that he rates his degree of certainty at 8. He adds, “I’m very sure that this is the man who shot me.”

    FINCHER: Mageau identifies Allen.

    FACT: The Vallejo police department did not consider Mageau’s identification of Allen to be valid, and even the detective who interviewed him days after the shooting did not believe that Mageau could have accurately identified the gunman at that time. Michael Mageau was blinded by a flash of light and then shot in the neck and jaw at close range. By his own admission, he never got a good look at the gunman and only saw the suspect briefly in a profile view. In the film, Mageau is shown looking up at the approaching gunman.


    The end titles of the film state that a DNA sample was later obtained from an authentic Zodiac letter and this DNA did not match that of Arthur Leigh Allen. According to the title, Vallejo authorities were allegedly preparing to charge Allen in the Zodiac crimes but were unable to proceed when he suddenly died in 1992. The title then informs audiences that the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, the Solano County Sheriff’s Office and the Vallejo Police Department still consider Allen to be the “prime and only suspect” in the Zodiac case.

    FACT: While spokesmen for the Vallejo police department have stated at various times over the years that Allen remains a person of interest in the investigation, all of the law enforcement agencies mentioned in the end titles of the film still investigate other suspects and other leads. Investigators from the Napa County Sheriff’s department, including Ken Narlow, do not believe that Allen was the Zodiac. The end titles make no mention of Allen’s suspect status with the one law enforcement agency at the center of the film’s plot – the San Francisco police department. At the turn of the century, the SFPD had little interest in Allen after announcing the results of DNA comparisons that appeared to exonerate the suspect, and the news that a “writer’s” palm print, found on the Zodiac’s infamous “Exorcist” letter, did not match the palms of Arthur Leigh Allen.

    All of the law enforcement agencies involved in the Zodiac investigation consider the case unsolved.


    This then was the case against Allen, fully and thoroughly presented by his accusers, uninterrupted by counsel, and unrestrained by the rules of evidence. The accusers claim that this evidence is compelling. An examination of this evidence reveals a rather weak circumstantial case against the suspect. A moderately competent defense attorney would have little difficulty winning an acquittal had this case been tried in a court of law.

    The court of common sense soundly discounts the evidence used to convict Allen in the court of public opinion. The astute reader will have ascertained by now that, had Allen lived, it is unlikely that any reasonably intelligent and responsible district attorney would have attempted to prosecute Allen using the available evidence and witnesses.

    The results of handwriting and fingerprint comparisons have consistently demonstrated that Allen’s handwriting and fingerprints do not match those believed to belong to the Zodiac. Recent palm print and DNA comparisons have also failed to implicate Allen. This apparent exculpatory evidence and the absence of credible evidence to link Allen to the Zodiac crimes indicate that the case against Allen would leave any modestly objective juror with reasonable doubts as to his guilt. A scenario in which Allen was the Zodiac would require jurors to accept a multitude of implausible impossibilities, while a scenario in which Allen was not the Zodiac would be consistent with virtually all of the known facts.

    Allen professed his innocence, and stated, “I’m not the damn Zodiac.” Had he lived to stand trial, a jury may have believed him.

    For years to come, viewers of David Fincher’s ZODIAC will become armchair jurors as they render judgment on Allen’s character using the facts selected and presented by his eternal accusers.

    A famous quote reads, “A good prosecutor can convict a guilty man, but it takes a great prosecutor to convict an innocent man.”

    If the evidence presented in the film ZODIAC proves sufficient to “posthumously convict” Arthur Leigh Allen, history may remember David Fincher as a great director.


    NOTE: The first draft of the screenplay ended with a long monologue by Graysmith's character as he addresses agents of the California State Department of Justice. In this scene, the cartoonist offers a long list of reasons why Arthur Leigh Allen must be the Zodiac. Graysmith's monologue is a blend of fact, fiction, fantasy and pure nonsense. Screenwriter James Vanderbilt has stated that, before he wrote this early draft, he spoke with Graysmith, read the author's books, and conducted his own research. Vanderbilt's first draft reveals that the writer had simply accepted most of Graysmith's version as fact and simply repeated many myths, exaggerations and falsehoods when writing this final scene. Once Graysmith's character finishes his final speech, he is asked to stay and continue to educate the DOJ agents, but instead decides to spend time with his kids. Audiences were spared this ridiculous scene in the final version of the film, but the screenplay is available online. Interested parties can read the original and absurd ending of ZODIAC.


  • UPDATE on the Director’s Cut
  • The big screen re-telling of Graysmith’s now infamous “Yellow Book” account of the case was released on DVD format on July 24, 2007. While this version did not provide any extra material, such as documentaries or even the original film trailer, a second release of a two-disc “Director’s Cut” contained a wealth of special features. Director David Fincher, actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., screenwriter James Vanderbilt, and James Ellroy, author of LA CONFIDENTIAL and MY DARK PLACES, all provided audio commentaries for the film. An “exhaustive” documentary presented a “behind-the-scenes” look at the production, including footage from the sets, photos of evidence, and interviews with producer Brad Fischer, Vanderbilt, Downey, Gyllenhaal, Graysmith and others. David Toschi made a rare and brief appearance with his on-screen counterpart, actor Mark Ruffalo. “This Is The Zodiac Speaking” featured interviews with many of the real-life individuals portrayed in the film, such as surviving victims Michael Mageau and Bryan Hartnell, investigators Ken Narlow, George Bawart, retired officers Armand Pelissetti and Donald Fouke, and more, as well as crime scene photos and archival news footage. A third featurette, titled “His Name Was Arthur Leigh Allen,” focused on the prime suspect and offered interviews with witnesses Santo Panzarella, Donald Cheney, Ralph Spinelli, and Allen’s long-time friend, Norman Boudreau. Additional featurettes examined the visual effects and recreations of the crimes. In one segment, Bryan Hartnell travels to the Napa County Sheriff’s Office to examine the door of his old car, and the handwritten message left by the Zodiac. Handwriting expert Sherwood Morrill also appeared in a brief clip from archival news footage.

    The documentaries also offered the occasional glimpse of actual evidence. A rare photograph of victim Betty Lou Jensen, lifeless on a morgue table, put an end to speculation regarding the location of the gunshot wounds to her back. The five small yet brutal holes in the young girl’s back led from her lower right back to her upper right shoulder, not in the “tight pattern in the upper right portion of her back,” as Graysmith had described in his first book. The author had repeatedly cited this “tight pattern” as proof that the Zodiac was an expert marksman.

    Documentary director David Prior attempted to address several subjects of debate and clear confusion regarding the crimes, the evidence, the investigation and the suspects. Retired police officer Donald Fouke once again denied that he and his partner Eric Zelms had stopped the Zodiac on the night of the Stine murder. Bryan Hartnell explained that he had not asked to be stabbed first. Retired Vallejo police officer Richard Hoffman denied that he had attended the infamous “painting party” in the home of victim Darlene Ferrin as described in Graysmith’s book. Despite the efforts of Prior and others, the interviews with those involved in both the case and the production also contained puzzling and problematic statements that created new confusion and minor controversies.

    The years had not been kind to fifty-seven year old Michael Mageau. Addled, animated and, at times, unintelligible, Mageau sat before a camera and while he admitted that his recall of events was cloudy at best, he told a new yet familar version of his story. Similar to the tales told by Darlene Ferrin’s sister Pam and those presented in Graysmith’s book, Mageau’s new account featured a mysterious stalker, Darlene’s fears that he would kill her, and a high-speed chase that ended at the scene of the shooting. In 1969, Mageau told police that he had no idea who would want to harm Darlene and never mentioned any chase to the crime scene. Contradicting his previous statements, Mageau now claimed that Darlene had said that she knew the man who had been following them, that he would “kill her” if he knew that she was talking about him, and that his name was “Richard.” According to screenwriter Jamie Vanderbilt, Mageau told Darlene, “I’m not getting shot for this.” He also said that the killer was approximately six feet tall and may have driven a Cadillac. In 1969, Mageau told police that the killer’s vehicle was similar to Darlene’s Corvair and was approximately 5 feet and 8-9 inches tall. Mageau said that he at first believed that the man carrying the bright light was a police officer, despite the fact that he also claimed that the same man had chased he and Darlene to the scene of the crime and that Darlene had said she knew the man. Mageau’s interview ended with his wish that Darlene’s killer would be caught and placed on “Death Row,” despite the fact that he already identified the killer as Arthur Leigh Allen and that Allen had been dead for over a decade.

    The cover of the DVD release boasted that the documentary titled “His Name Arthur Leigh Allen” offered “the truth” about the prime suspect - this distinction may have been necessary as the director’s cut of the film fictionalized the facts regarding Allen. In a scene previously cut from the original version, San Francisco Police list the “evidence” said to implicate Allen. Inspector William Armstrong (portrayed by actor Anthony Edwards) offers a rather compelling - yet totally false - bit of information concerning Allen and a nosy neighbor.

    In 1971, Allen told police that he may have spoken with his neighbor, an elderly man named William White, upon his return home on the day of the Zodiac attack at Lake Berryessa. White had died weeks later of heart failure, and his death was attributed to natural causes. When Vallejo investigator John Lynch questioned him on October 6, 1969, Allen did not mention his brief conversation with the neighbor. In 1971, Allen told police that he had “bloody knives” on his car seat on the day of the stabbing, but he further explained that he had used the knife to kill some chickens he had cooked and eaten while on his overnight trip to Salt Point Flats to go scuba diving. In Robert Graysmith’s book, ZODIAC, the sighting of the knives was attributed to “Starr’s sister-in-law Sheila,” or Karen Allen. {In a conversation with this author, Mrs. Allen denied that she had seen any knives.}

    Amateur sleuths eager to link Allen to the Zodiac crimes theorized on Internet message boards that William White may have seen the knives and that Allen had killed his elderly neighbor to prevent him from contacting police. This theory eventually surfaced in Graysmith’s sequel, ZODIAC UNMASKED. Graysmith’s repeated references to the timing of White’s death implied that Allen was somehow responsible for the failure of his neighbor’s heart, and the theory gained prominence in the Zodiac lore. In the director’s cut of the film ZODIAC, San Francisco Police Inspector William Armstrong (Edwards) erroneously stated that a neighbor had seen bloody knives in Allen’s car. The notion that White had seen the knives was simply wishful thinking on the part of Allen accusers, but the story was presented in Fincher’s film during a scene in which San Francisco police are listing the “real” evidence against Allen.

    The director’s cut of the film did more to falsely implicate Allen and perpetuate the author’s revisionist account than the theatrical version.

    The film’s fictional liberties are not confined to Allen, yet the most glaring and demonstrably false examples of dramatic license pertain to the prime suspect. Some viewers may be surprised by the fictional excesses given the claims of the filmmakers, who promised that the film would confine its scope to facts in police reports and remain fair in its presentation of Allen. Throughout the DVD documentaries and commentaries, Fincher and others repeatedly attempt to distance themselves from the source material by stating that the story was told through the eyes of the characters and was not an attempt at “truth.” The explanation is oddly contradictory from the outset. The comments by Fincher and others seem to reveal that they, themselves, are often unaware of, or worse, not interested in facts. Fincher often says, “I don’t know whether or not this really happened,” or, “I know this didn’t happen this way, but we thought it worked better.” Such explanations are offered during the Belli scenes, the scene in which Avery opened the Zodiac’s Halloween card, and other fictionalized scenes. Nowhere during his commentary does Fincher make any effort to correct the historical record on any matters of real importance, and he only vaguely refers to problems with Graysmith’s revisionist account of the case. At one point, Fincher refers to the Belli Birthday Call as Graysmith’s “December 18 obsession,” but the director does not inform his viewers that he and the filmmakers knew that the obsession had no basis in fact.

    In one segment of the DVD documentary, an interviewer remarks to Fincher that his film was a commercial failure. An honest assessment of ZODIAC would also characterize the director’s work as a factual failure.

    Melvin Belli, the "Birthday" Call and The Zodiac