Søren Roest Korsgaard

Statement Analysis Exposes the Zodiac and San Francisco Police Department

Søren Korsgaard, Editor@CRIMEANDPOWER.com
Reviewers: Mark McClish, Supervisory Deputy United States Marshal; Caroline Cheruiyot, MSc
Clinical Linguistics


Statement analysis® is a linguistic method that has emerged as a powerful technique to detect deception and extract veiled information. The foundation of statement analysis is the concept that people mean exactly what they say or write.
A statement analyst will scrutinize, deconstruct and examine sentences word for word according to each respective definition as well as pay heed to omissions and grammar among other objective aspects. A statement reflects the subject’s beliefs and view of reality. A statement can be truthful, but may not reflect actual reality. This can be defined as “that which exists objectively and in fact [1].”

Starting in 1968 and continuing until 1974, the Zodiac menaced California with a campaign of murder, extortion, and terrorism. Ostensibly driven by attention and excitement, the Zodiac would author almost 20 letters and cards about his crimes and other matters primarily mailed to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle (SF Chronicle henceforth).
Decades after his letters stopped, new crime solving techniques came to light as major breakthroughs were made in a number of scientific branches, such as physics, chemistry, and biology. Unfortunately, modern forensic science applied to the Zodiac letters and other materials has not furnished the victims’ relatives with an arrest or postmortem identification of the killer. Today, the case is far from being a top priority when resources are allocated to cases in the police departments that worked on the case in the 1960’s and 1970s. Nonetheless, authenticated letters were sent off in 2018 for additional DNA analysis using state of the art technology [2]. On the Internet, the case is richly debated and discussed and new books typically revolving around the Zodiac’s identity are published regularly.
Statement analysis had not formally been invented when Zodiac actively taunted the editor of the SF Chronicle, but it would have been of assistance to the Zodiac task force as an analyst could have taken a deep look at his statements and threats. The Zodiac case attracts a wide audience which is partly due to a variety of intriguing and unanswered questions related to the evidence of the case, the Zodiac’s motivations, his actual victim count, and persisting theories related to his identity. In this article, statements from Zodiac and police officers who worked on the case are subjected to analysis in an effort to cast light on several debated issues. Some statements are given an in-depth look while others are given relatively brief examinations.

The Evidence

In a letter to the editor of the SF Chronicle dated November 9, 1969, the Zodiac made a number of important statements regarding evidence that had been compiled against him. Journalist Paul Avery of the SF Chronicle described the evidence in an article published on October 18, 1969, titled, “Zodiac Portrait of a Killer [3].” The evidence among others mentioned in the article and elsewhere, included fingerprints and a composite drawing based on three witnesses who had seen him immediately after killing cab driver Paul Stine in San Francisco. On October 11, 1969, the Zodiac pulled the trigger of his 9mm pistol ending Paul Stine’s life. Formally, this concluded the Zodiac’s streak of murders, but his letters continued until 1974 with breaks along the way, notably from 1971 to 1974.  He may also have sent a final taunting message in 1990 to the SF Chronicle, but there is not enough evidence to prove that he authored it.

Zodiac’s Disguise

“1 I look like the description passed out only when I do my thing, the rest of the time I look entirle different. I shall not tell you what my descise consists of when I kill[.]”


Contrary to general belief, Zodiac did not deny that the composite drawing looked like him. He specifically stated the description. The description was very simple and did not specify facial structures: white male adult, 35-45 years old, about 5’8”, heavily built, short brown hair, and possibly with a reddish shade. Zodiac likely wanted the reader to infer that he meant the composite drawing, but in statement analysis, we do not assume anything. We cannot believe that he perceived himself as different from the drawing as he did not state it. Zodiac goes on to write, “only when I do my thing ….” Zodiac conveys that the description is only valid when he does “his thing,” a vague and unspecified term. Most likely, he wanted the reader to assume that “his thing” is synonymous with “killing,” but at the end of the paragraph he uses the word “kill,” indicating that he was trying to deceive the reader. Zodiac did not write that he disguised himself during the Stine crime which was the basis for the composite drawing and description. It follows that we have no reason to believe he did.
The shortest sentence is the best and any extra words provide us with additional information. Zodiac wanted us to believe that “the rest of the time I look entirle different.”
First, the sentence is unnecessary as it could have been ended after “thing.” There is an obvious need to persuade the reader by emphasizing that he does not look like the description. Frequently, when a deceptive person issues a denial, it will be followed by an additional denial because the initial one is weak.
Second, the word “entirely” means “wholly or fully; completely [4]” according to www.dictionary.com. The use of the word is disingenuous. For example, he certainly did not disguise that he was a white male adult, hence he did not look “entirle” different “the rest of the time.”

Much has been written about the misspellings and linguistic idiosyncrasies frequently observable in the Zodiac’s communiqués, but a consensus has not been reached as to whether or not some or all of them are fake or the result of dyslexia, a disorder that typically affects reading and spelling. Assuming the misspellings are spurious or at least a majority of them are, we can perceive the spelling of “entirle” as an indication of deception. He could not bring himself to state that he looked entirely different as that would be a lie, so he unconsciously made a misspelling. However, further complicating matters is that misspellings also show up in provably factual statements.  A future statistical analysis may cast light on this matter. 

The missing period after “kill” in the last sentence, indicates conflict. Although, the Zodiac stopped his sentence, the missing period suggests that he may have had more information he purposely withheld. The sentence falls short of affirming that he wore a disguise during the Stine crime. Furthermore, the disguise could consist of nothing, perhaps that is the reason why he refrained from specifying its components. There is no reason to assume that he wore a disguise.


“2 As of yet I have left no fingerprints behind me contrary to what the police say in my killings I wear transparent finger tip guards. All it is is 2 coats of airplane cement coated on my finger tips – quite unnoticible + very efective.”


First, the paragraph is disjointed and confusing. An assertion containing these properties is weak. By writing “as of yet,” Zodiac conveys that until this point in time, but not necessarily from this point on, he has “left no fingerprints.” This can be seen as an attempt to portray honesty and openness. People who speak the truth rarely have a need to assert their integrity, but liars often do.  
Zodiac did not deny that he left fingerprints on Stine’s cab. The police had stated they were confident that these prints had been left by the killer. His assertion is actually in the positive, “I have left ….” We can compare his statement to Richard Beasley’s, the Craigslist killer, claim of innocence and notice the similarities. Beasley said, “I state here today officially and for the record: I have killed nobody, and that’s a fact [5].” Similarly, Zodiac furthermore expressed himself in general terms which facilitates lying. People who tell direct lies are in the absolute minority.
Zodiac’s claim is also weakened by the need to explain why he “left no fingerprints.” The initial part of the sentence was not strong enough and he went on to try to persuade the reader into thinking why he could not have left prints. We must note, however, that a subordinating conjunction e.g. “because” or a semicolon is missing between “say” and “in.” Zodiac could not linguistically establish the very concise rationale between leaving “no prints” and wearing fingertip guards.
The first part of the sentence, “I have left,” is in the present perfect tense which can be used to indicate a link between the present and the past. The present perfect tense is used when the time of the action in question is not specified. Zodiac then switches to the present tense when writing “in my killings I wear….” By switching to the present tense, he avoids writing that he actually wore the guards during the Stine crime. The present tense is sometimes used when stating a universal truth. This means the Zodiac may have attempted to give the appearance that he always wears these guards even though we know he did not wear guards during the murder of Cecelia Shepard on September 27, 1969 at Lake Berryessa. For this, he wore gloves.                        

Zodiac then proceeds to explain the mechanics of the transparent fingertip guards. The introductory part, “all it is” is unnecessary and is used to underline the simplicity of the guards. He has a need to persuade. He continues by making an em dash separating the description of the guards from “quite unnoticible + very efective.”
The Zodiac demonstrates a persistent need to persuade the reader about his fingerprint claim. Here, he forwards the notion that the guards are simple (all it is) and very effective and quite unnoticeable. If we look closely, the Zodiac did not state that the guards are effective against leaving fingerprints, he probably wanted us to make this assumption. Regardless, in the context of fingerprint protection equipment, it is redundant to speak of effectiveness as the gear either protects or does not. On a related note, given that Zodiac limits his focus to fingerprints it is likely that he did not know that most of one’s hands can leave an identifying print.
The need to qualify “unnoticeable” weakens the assertion because exactly what “quite unnoticeable” corresponds to in the Zodiac’s personal dictionary we cannot tell. When a person deceives, he or she will commonly use qualifiers as the word or sentence does not have the strength to stand alone. In conclusion, Zodiac’s statement about fingerprints is likely deceptive.

Killing Tools

 “3 my killing tools have been boughten through the mail order outfits before the ban went into efect. except one + it was bought out of the state.”


In statement analysis, we do not assume anything. In the above sentence, the Zodiac wants us to make the connection between killing tools and the firearms he used during his murders even though he also used a knife to kill. He claims possession of these tools by using the pronoun “my,” which is not capitalized, but he then switches to passive language and does not state that he bought the tools using the specified methods. Passive language is used to conceal identities. Based upon the passive language, we have to question who actually obtained the firearms and whether or not he is being truthful. A period is not needed after “efect” which is misspelled, and “except” is not capitalized. These are indications that the information is not coming from episodic memory. Episodic memory is “person’s unique memory of a specific event, so it will be different from someone else’s recollection of the same experience [6].” 

The Fouke-Zodiac Incident


The next part of this article will pay special heed to the Fouke-Zodiac incident in an attempt to answer the long debated issue: Did Officers Donald Fouke and Eric Zelms stop and question the Zodiac after the murder of Paul Stine or did they simply drive by him?
After exiting Stine’s cab which was parked adjacent to 3898 Washington Street, San Francisco, Zodiac walked north on Cherry Street and then proceeded down Jackson Street. The Zodiac in his letter postmarked November 9, 1969, claimed that a police car with two officers questioned him. He gave them a ruse and the officers drove away while he disappeared.  
Contrarily, Fouke, a patrol officer and later sergeant, would explain in an interdepartmental memorandum, a so-called scratch, that when they had responded to the Stine crime, the broadcast description of the suspect was an error (a black man instead of a white man). When Fouke and his colleague, Eric Zelms (1947-1970), went down Jackson Street, the individual, walking in an easterly direction, “ was not stopped ” as they were looking for a black man. There is no doubt that the individual was the Zodiac. We will now take a closer look at the issue by first considering the account offered by the Zodiac.

Zodiac’s Claim: I Spoke to the Police

“p.s. 2 cops pulled a goof abot 3 min after I left the cab. I was walking down the hill to the park when this cop car pulled up + one of them called me over + asked if I saw any one acting supicisous or strange in the last 5 to 10 min + I said yes there was this man who was runnig by waveing a gun + the cops peeled rubber + went around the corner as I directed them + I dissapeared into the park a block + a half away never to be seen again.”


What we first notice is that the Zodiac wrote “abot 3 min.” The number three is known as a “liar’s number [7].” Statistically, it is often used in fictitious settings (The Three Little Pigs, The Story of Three Wonderful Beggars, The Three Enchanted Princes, etc.) or if the subject is unsure of which number to use [7]. Whenever it is used, we pay close attention. The word “about,” which is misspelled, is not an exact measurement of time indicating that Zodiac was unsure of the actual number of minutes. Inclusion of the word “left” to link two places together (from cab to location of interaction with the officers) is most of the time found in statements that are related to time pressure. Research has shown that “70% of the time, the word ‘left’ is used because the person was pressed for time [8].”

An analyst can sometimes infer a subject’s priorities by noting where information is mentioned in a statement. In this statement, it appears that the Zodiac’s priority is that the police officers “pulled a goof ,” that is, they made a mistake. His second priority is that it happened in close proximity to leaving the cab. Similarly, in the sentence, “… any one acting supicisous or strange …” the priority is on suspicious rather than strange behavior. If this had been a concoction, the priority might not have followed this logical sequence.

Unlike in some of the previous statements, he does not use passive language inappropriately. This shows personal commitment to the statement.
If a statement revolves around an incident, it will contain a before-, during- and after-segment. The last segment which describes what happened after the incident is frequently very short or missing in deceptive statements as the deceiver’s attention is directed towards delivering the incident and fabricating an ending is not important. The three segments in this statement are consistent with a truthful statement. As a general rule, for a truthful statement before ≈ after ≈ 25%, and the during segment ≈ 50%.

Zodiac writes “this cop car,” but “a cop car” would have been appropriate. The determiner “this” indicates closeness and specificity. Why would the Zodiac want to associate himself with the car? He similarly indicates closeness and specificity when writing “this man.”

He goes on to state that the police car “pulled up” which means it stopped. He states that one of them asked him to approach the police car, but he does not write that he actually walked to the car, and thus we should not believe that he did.

Verbs can either be in soft tone (e.g. said) or strong tone (e.g. demanded). Whether or not these verbs are used consistently and appropriately, can be a sign of truthfulness or deception. The paragraph contains “asked” and “said” which are both soft tone verbs. The phrasal verb, “called over,” is also soft tone language as opposed to being told to come over to the police car. If the incident took place as described, the soft tone language is justified considering that the Zodiac would not have been considered a suspect. The consistency indicates it is a truthful statement.

The Zodiac uses the “+” sign as a synonym for “and” throughout the sentence and without any exceptions in the letter that it was a part of. In authenticated Zodiac letters, he rarely uses “and.” The adherence to his internal dictionary is an indication of veracity as a change in language indicates a change in reality.

The “as” in “went around the corner as I directed them” is important because the Zodiac felt the need to explain why the officers went around the corner indicating a need to persuade us that he “directed them.” The need to explain is a slight indication of deception.

For the most part, Zodiac uses first person singular and simple past tense in the paragraph except in a couple of instances, such as when he writes, “I was walking ….” Here he uses past continuous tense which is formed by was/were + present participle and is used “to show that an ongoing past action was happening at a specific moment of interruption [9].” The Zodiac’s use is appropriate as the interruption is the police car that came by. Zodiac uses “saw” as opposed to “had seen,” which is correct as the use of simple past indicates that “the action that takes place is over and done with [10].” “Had seen” would have been appropriate if the action had happened “at an unspecified time before now or one where the action extends to the present [10].”
The sentence, “I said yes there was this man who was runnig by waveing a gun” is accurate grammatically as the use of past progressive tense, which is formed by subject + was/were + present participle, can be used to indicate “events that lasted for a duration of time in the past [11].” The use of the present tense “acting” after “saw” is appropriate since it also follows the past progressive tense. An inappropriate slip into present tense suggests that a sentence or a part of it, is not retrieved from episodic memory; thus, based on the verb tenses and the other aspects that have been mentioned, the statement appears truthful.

Denial by SFPD Captain Lee

In the article, “Another Grim Message: ‘I’ve killed Seven’ The Zodiac Claims,” Paul Avery quotes Martin Lee, the Captain of San Francisco Police Department. Lee addressed the Zodiac’s claim that he had talked to the officers. He said: “[I]t is preposterous that he was stopped and questioned by the officers. That just didn’t happen.”


The word preposterous means “contrary to nature, reason, or common sense [12].” It does not mean “not true” which would have constituted a good denial. When Captain Lee stated that “it is preposterous that he was stopped and questioned by the officers,” it suggests that he was convinced that Zodiac “was stopped and questioned.” The sentence is not a denial, but a positive affirmation. If he had added “to believe” after preposterous it would have been a denial. Captain Lee then says, “[t]hat just didn’t happen.” The use of “that” instead of “it” indicates that he is distancing himself from his statement or the event.
The shortest sentence is the best. The word “just” is commonly used to minimize events or actions undertaken. It is an indication that more things transpired than what Captain Lee stated. It is a weak and possibly deceptive denial. Here are two examples that show how the word “just” can be used to deceive. The Golden State killer told a female victim that “I just want your money [13].” It was a lie and he subsequently raped her. Serial killer Richard Ramirez was once asked: “Who are you?” He replied, “just a guy. Just a guy [14].”  

Donald Fouke’s Interdepartmental Memorandum

Donald Fouke, in the previously mentioned scratch, described what transpired after they had received a broadcast about the murder of Paul Stine. The scratch read:

“I respectfully wish to report the following, that while responding to the area of Cherry and Washington Streets a suspect fitting the description of the Zodiac killer was observed by officer Fouke walking in an easterly direction on Jackson street and then turn north on Maple street. This subject was not stopped as the description received from communications was that of a [N]egro male. When the right description was broadcast reporting officer informed communications that a possible suspect had been seen going north on Maple Street into the Presidio, The area of Julius Kahn playground and a search was started which had negative results.

The suspect that was observed by officer Fouke was a WMA 35-45 Yrs about 5’10”, 180-200 lbs. Medium heavy build – Barrel chested – Medium complexion – Light-colored hair possibly greying in rear (May have been lighting that caused this effect.) Crew cut – Wearing glasses – Dressed in dark blue waist length zipper type jacket (Navy or royal blue) Elastic cuffs and waist band zipped part way up. Brown wool pants pleeted type baggy in rear (Rust brown) May have been wearing low cut shoes.

Subject at no time appeared to be in a hurry walking with a shuffling lope, Slightly bent forward head down. The subjects general appearance to classifiy him as a group would be that he might be of Welsh ancestry.

My partner that night was officer E. Zelms # 1348 of Richmond station. I do not know if he observed this subject or not.”


Fouke began his statement by affirming that he wished “to report the following” so it may be that there are matters he did not want to report. There are no synonyms in statement analysis and sometimes parts of a personal dictionary show up in a statement. However, it must be kept in mind that some people will purposely change their language so they do not sound redundant. Law enforcement is one of those groups of people that might do this. In this statement, it can be seen that when Fouke initially noticed the man, he was a “suspect” which is an interesting terminology as he did not fit the description of being a black male – if it is true that they were given a wrong description. If he did not fit the description, he would not be a suspect. It may be that when Fouke got a good look at him and realized the man was not black, the man was no longer a suspect and became a “subject.” When the corrected description was sent out, he realized the man he saw may have been the perpetrator. This might have caused him to go back to calling him a “suspect.” Those changes would be justified. The problem is, he should now constantly refer to him as a “suspect” since towards the end of his statement he calls him a “subject” three times.

Moving on, Fouke writes that he observed the subject walking on Jackson Street “and then” he went north on Maple Street. “Then” can mean “immediately” or “soon thereafter.” In lieu of immediately providing a description of the Zodiac, Fouke goes on to state that the “subject was not stopped as the description received from communications was that of a [N]egro male.” Fouke does not state that he did not stop the subject, but the passivity of the sentence (removal of “I”, “we,” “reporting officer,” or “Officer Fouke”) may indicate deception as passive language conceals identity and limits commitment. Although many police officers fill out their reports in passive language for objectivity, much like scientists and scholars, Fouke switches between first and third person throughout the statement, an indication of deception.

If we consider that order of information indicates priority, it is apparent that Fouke considered it more important to state that Zodiac was not stopped rather than providing a description of him which he does afterward. Negatives are important in statement analysis especially if they are issued when it is expected that the subject should tell us what happened. Fouke told us what did not transpire between him and the Zodiac. This negative indicates that the topic is important and sensitive to Fouke as an infinite number of things did not happen, but only a finite number of things took place. Fouke also provides a reason as to why he did not stop the subject (he did not fit the broadcast description). Why would he do that? It establishes a rationale or alibi and makes the scenario proposed by Fouke more likely. This is a strong indication of deception.
We must also pay close attention to the exact wording of Fouke’s denial: “The subject was not stopped ….” The statement does not preclude that the subject stopped on his own accord. Fouke is stating that someone (he has removed himself from the sentence) did not stop the subject. This is probably literally true as the subject might have stopped by himself if the police car pulled up. We cannot believe that Fouke did not stop and speak with the Zodiac as his exact words means something quite differently. Lying through misrepresentation is common.

Chronologically, Foukes states that he observed the subject walking on Jackson Street and then make a turn onto Maple Street. Hereafter Fouke breaks off from the chronological order and states what did not happen. More importantly is of course to detail what happened, but Fouke does not do it; instead, he writes “when the right description….” The word “when” spans time and thus the essential seconds and minutes between observing the subject to receiving the broadcast were intentionally left out. Fouke then describes other matters before returning to the original narrative, “subject at no time appeared to be in a hurry walking ….” Deception and withholding information create tension and sometime result in a nonlinear narrative.

The memorandum contains an important contradiction in Fouke’s last assertion that he “do not know if [Zelms] observed” the subject. Incongruously, Fouke had at this point already affirmed that he had “informed communications” about the “possible suspect.” As Zelms, a rookie officer, accompanied Fouke in the police car during the encounter with the man, while Fouke informed communications, and while they searched for the man, it is inconceivable that they did not discuss everything related to the issue in great detail.

Fouke and Zelms had had an encounter with the culprit of a brutal murder, they had him in a vulnerable position and through misfortune they let him walk away. Unquestionably, as soon as they allegedly had “received the right description” it would have produced a psychological and biological response mimicking that of stress and trauma characterized by increased heart rate, pupil dilation, heightened senses, and increased strength and performance due to a carefully orchestrated sequence of hormones being released. They likely feared getting fired or reprimanded or that it would result in a major scandal. The situation is incompatible with the apathy of Fouke’s statement that he did not know if Zelms had seen him or not. Inconsistencies and misplaced emotions and commonly found in deceptive statements.
Likewise it is highly suspect and inconsistent with the content of the memorandum that Fouke first made the report over a month after the encounter. His report characterizes the man as a “suspect” and describes how a search had been initiated after he had contacted the police central. Thereby, he knew the significance of the ordeal, yet waited until November 1969.
The description of the subject is exceedingly detailed, specifying his possible ancestry, clothes, hair color. Although police officers are trained to be observing, the description by Fouke is overly detailed. Fouke even went as far as describing that the subject’s hair might have been greying in the rear. Exactly how he was able to perceive this feature, and the turn from Jackson Street to Maple Street he did not explain.

In conclusion, the account offered by Fouke is unreliable and deceptive. The topic is very important and sensitive to him. 

Denials by Donald Fouke

Years later during an interview for a documentary, Fouke made additional comments about the event in question and reemphasized his denials. We have selected three statements for analysis [15]:

1) “We never stopped the man. We never talked to him. That is an emphatic statement by me. I wouldn’t make the denial.”

2) “We did not stop the Zodiac. We didn’t stop anyone. I wish Eric Zelms were alive today to tell you so.”

3) Question: “Can you guess how fast you were driving on the street when you saw him?”

Fouke: “Well, until I saw him, probably about 35 or 40 miles an hour on a 25-mile-an-hour street. Slowed down as we passed him. I don’t know, we are still rolling. Saw that it is a white male, step on the gas. Five, ten, fifteen seconds tops from first spotting him till passing him.”


The word “never” means “not ever,” but not “no.” “Never” is also not time-specific and thus its usage facilitates deception. It is frequently used in deceptive statements. A good example is when Michael Swango, an American serial killer, said that “I could never do any of the things that have been alleged that I have done [16].” Similarly, cyclist Lance Armstrong made numerous deceptive statements about having “never” used doping in his career, but in 2012 the USADA concluded that he had run the “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen [17].” A year later, he finally admitted that he had used doping. 
Fouke states “we never stopped” or “talked to him.” His use of “we” limits responsibility as it has less impact than putting himself into the statement via the personal pronoun “I.” Fouke goes on to state, “[t]hat is an emphatic statement by me.” Fouke’s repeated denials indicate that they are weak and need support. We must, on the other hand, also consider that he may have believed that many doubted him so he had to reiterate his denials. There is a contrast to be noted here since “that” is used when we distance ourselves from a topic or subject. Thus, Fouke states that it is a statement by him “expressed or performed with emphasis [18],” which is the definition of emphatic, yet he is distancing himself from this emphasis via the word “that.”     

The sentence, “I wouldn’t make the denial” falls short of saying that he would not make the denial if it had happened. It is a contradictory statement because he made a denial de facto yet says he would not make “the denial.”  

We must pay attention to the vocabulary of Donald Fouke as there are no synonyms in statement analysis. In the first statement, he issued a weak denial in addressing whether or not they stopped and talked to “the man.” In the second statement, his proclamation that “[w]e did not stop the Zodiac” is a better denial. We should recall that a change in language indicates a change in reality. In this context, the subject was first a “man” and only later Fouke discovered that the “man” was the “Zodiac.” Fouke can truthfully say that “we” did not stop the Zodiac, but his statement that “we never” stopped and talked to “the man” is unreliable. Fouke continues by using the general term “anyone.” His repetitions indicate a need to persuade the listener.
If the event transpired, surely Fouke would wish that Eric Zelms would support his denial. Fouke does not say that Zelms would tell the truth that they did not stop and talk to him.

In statement number three, Fouke goes beyond answering the question. It is significant that he first says that they passed him after which he states, “I don’t know, we are still rolling.” In statement analysis, we believe what people tell us. Therefore, after they had passed him, Fouke is unsure of whether or not they stopped. It is either the car rolls or it is stopped. There is no in-between. Fouke also switches inappropriately to the present tense, “we are,” which indicates that the statement may not have been retrieved from episodic memory.
If we look closely at the sentence, Fouke used the unnecessary word “still.”  Words that are not essential for a sentence are very important. In this context “still” means that the police car was rolling “up to and including the present.” Usage of this word in this context would only be logical if they did stop as the word “still” implies a comparison between stopping and not stopping. It is very powerful linguistic evidence that they did stop. Specifically, Fouke states that they passed him and then he “don’t know” if they were still rolling. Furthermore, there is present tense and a missing pronoun in the next sentence: “Saw that it is a white male, step on the gas.” It suggests that more things may have transpired between seeing it was a “white male” and the conclusion “step on the gas.” 

In conclusion, Fouke’s denials are deceptive. It is also worth noting that Fouke has not stated that he did not speak with the Zodiac/man, and he has not stated that they, Fouke and Zelms, did not stop after spotting the Zodiac. If we extrapolate from the linguistic evidence, the scenario that is emerging is that they initially passed him, they stopped, and at this time Fouke may have observed his hair in the rear. After they had talked to him (Zodiac may not have walked to the police car as indicated by his statement), it would have been easy due to their vantage point to see which way he walked after their conversation.

The Bus Bomb

In a letter from October 1969, the Zodiac threatened to kill schoolchildren. When the threat was published, it sparked massive panic in San Francisco and elsewhere. The public demanded safety initiatives and consequently officers started to board school buses with loaded shotguns or they tailed buses in police cars. Zodiac wrote: 

“School children make nice targets, I think I shall wipe out a school bus some morning. Just shoot out the frunt tire + then pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out.”


Zodiac’s threat directed toward schoolchildren is a weak one as history also would have it. He writes “I think,” which means to “form or have in the mind,” that he “shall,” which means “will have to” wipe out a school bus. The composition of “think” and “shall” is weak. In addition, “some morning” is unspecific which further weakens the threat. Zodiac leaves himself out of the last sentence. The use of the word “just” suggests that he is trying to persuade us into believing how easy it would be to accomplish the act. Thus, Zodiac might not have had intentions of targeting schoolchildren in the specified manner.

Did the Zodiac Murder Cheri Jo Bates?

In the 1970s, the police embraced the notion that the Zodiac had killed Cheri Jo Bates in Riverside, California, and the connection was widely reported. In March 1971, Zodiac in a letter to the Los Angeles Times made a statement about Riverside. He wrote:

“I do have to give them credit for stumbling across my riverside activity, but they are only finding the easy ones, there are a hell of a lot more down there.”


Contrary to popular perception, the statement is not about Cheri Jo Bates or victims, but about unspecified “activity.” Pronouns are instinctive and show ownership. Via the pronoun “my,” Zodiac takes possession of “riverside activity.” Given his choice of words, there is no reason to believe he killed Bates or that activity signifies murder (as it would be an interpretation). Instead, Zodiac tells us he was involved in some kind of unspecified activity in Riverside. Zodiac then writes “but,” which negates or minimizes what came before it, “they are only finding the easy ones.” It is very likely that Zodiac wanted the reader to make a deceptive inference between “activity” and murder. His inability to state explicitly that he had killed in Riverside is an indication that he did not kill Bates or anyone else there. Lying via misrepresentation is a common form of deception.


This analysis has concluded the following:

1. Zodiac’s statements about the evidence (description, disguise, and fingerprints) are characterized by deceptive language. His statement related to acquiring his weapons by mail order may or may not be true. The sentence about acquiring one out of state is likely deceptive.
2. The language employed by the Zodiac to describe his encounter with Officers Fouke and Zelms is consistent with language coming from episodic memory.
3. The statement from Captain Lee indicates that he believed the officers stopped and talked to the Zodiac and that he attempted to downplay the incident.
4. Donald Fouke’s denials are deceptive.
5. The analysis indicates that Zodiac did not plan to follow through on his threat.
6. Zodiac’s statement about Riverside is deceptive.

About the writer: Søren Korsgaard, author of America’s Jack the Ripper: The Crimes and Psychology of the Zodiac Killer, is the editor of www.crimeandpower.com and webmaster of www.paulcraigroberts.org. Support Søren’s work by donating Bitcoin: 19Z22vsdaKJX4gy8GDy6J8QU1ZZ9EvSoEo   


  1. https://www.thefreedictionary.com/reality.
  2. “Police hunting Zodiac Killer deploy DNA technique used to identify suspected Golden State Killer” https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/zodiac-killer-golden-state-investigation-dna-tests-california-vallejo-sacramento-a8343086.html.
  3. “Zodiac Portrait of a Killer,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 18, 1969.
  4. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/entirely.
  5. “Daughter of serial killer who hunted victims in woods speaks out” https://truecrimedaily.com/2016/04/14/daughter-of-one-of-ohios-most-ruthless-killers-speaks-out/.
  6. “Episodic Memory: Definition and Examples” https://www.livescience.com/43682-episodic-memory.html.
  7. “The Use of the Number Three” www.statementanalysis.com/research/three/.
  8. “Understanding the Word, “Left” In Analysis” statement-analysis.blogspot.com/2014/03/understanding-word-left-in-analysis.html.
  9. “Past Continuous “https://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/pastcontinuous.html.
  10. “Seen vs. Saw: What’s the Difference?” https://writingexplained.org/seen-vs-saw-difference.
  11. “What is the Past Progressive Tense? Definition, Examples of English Tenses” https://writingexplained.org/grammar-dictionary/past-progressive-tense.
  12. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/preposterous.
  13. “Golden State Killer: hope for unsolved serial murder case as ex-cop arrested” https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/apr/25/golden-state-serial-killer-california-arrest-east-area-rapist.
  14. “A Conversation with Richard Ramirez–The Night Stalker–Reported by Mike Watkiss” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MC5huwZoPZA.
  15. David Fincher, Director, Zodiac 2-Disc Director’s Cut, 2008.
  16. “MOST EVIL – S03E03 – Schemers” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-uLQ359RxY.
  17. “U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team Investigation” cyclinginvestigation.usada.org.
  18. https://www.thefreedictionary.com/emphatic.
  19. https://www.encyclopedia.com/science-and-technology/technology/technology-terms-and-concepts/still
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Author Since: Apr 09, 2019

  1. Hi,

    Interesting. What about analyzing the fact that Z mentions three times in various ways in the 11-9 letter that he ” went into the park?” I think he doth protest too much and that he never intended to go into the park. He just tried to convince us that he did. Rather, I believe that his destination that night was a home on the north side of Jackson Street between Maple and Spruce. I discuss this, as well as the possible significance of his choice of Washington and Maple Streets for the cab destination, in my ebook, “The Hunt for Zodiac.”

    I also found it interesting that you feel Z was lying about the bus bomb. I believe that these diagrams were not “bombs” but “bombshells.” I believe they are both ingenious clues to the killer’s identity. (Also discussed in my book.)

    I had written a long reply about several topics but I got up for a minute and it disappeared. Maybe I’ll address those other issues later.

    Mike Rodelli

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