SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The recent case of the Stockton serial killer — where a suspect is now behind bars — brought back painful memories of serial killers with links to the Bay Area in the past. KRON4 News remembers five of the most brutal killers who left their mark on the region.
The Zodiac killer
The identity of the Zodiac Killer has never been conclusively determined. He killed at least five people in the late 1960s, including in San Francisco, Benicia, Vallejo and Napa County.
He wrote encoded messages to local news organizations, such as the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner, gloating of his crimes and taunting police. The Zodiac killer named himself, though why he picked that name isn’t known.
He stopped sending these letters in 1974, and though a man named Arthur Leigh Allen who died in 1992 is strongly suspected, charges were never brought.
A series of killings in New York City in the 1990s were believed to possibly be due to the Zodiac killer theoretically relocating to the East Coast. However, they were found to be the work of Heriberto Seda, who was a fan of the Zodiac killer and was convicted of three murders in 1998.
The Zebra murders
At least 15 people are confirmed to have been killed in the Zebra murders in San Francisco from the fall of 1973 to the spring of 1974.
Four men were convicted of the racially-motivated crimes, which targeted white people. Future San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos was almost killed in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, surviving two shots in the chest.
Anthony Walsh, a criminology professor at Boise State University, wrote in 2005 that the Zebra murderers, also called the Death Angels, “may have killed more people in the early- to mid-1970s than all the other serial killers operating during that period combined.” Their death toll could be as high as 73.
Each was sentenced to life imprisonment, and only one is currently still alive (at California State Prison, Solano).
San Francisco police are still looking for The Doodler, having upped the reward for his capture to $200,000 earlier this year.
He is believed to have been responsible for at least six murders stretching from January 1974 to June 1975. What made him unique — and the inspiration for his name — is he would sketch his victims, whom he met at gay bars and nightclubs, before having sexual relations with them and killing them.
Three men survived Doodler attacks leading police to a single suspect who didn’t confess. Warren Andrews, 52, whose body was discovered April 27, 1975 at Land’s End, was just announced earlier this year as the sixth victim, though some estimate he killed 16 people.
Golden State Killer
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. pled guilty in 2020 to multiple counts of murder and kidnapping stemming from his time as the Golden State Killer from 1974 to 1986. DeAngelo pled guilty to 13 murders and prosecutors said he was responsible for at least 51 rapes and over a hundred burglaries.
While the preponderance of DeAngelo’s crimes were in Sacramento County, he did venture into the Bay Area as well, including two alleged 1978 rapes in Concord, two alleged 1978 rapes in San Jose, and two alleged 1978 rapes in San Ramon, one alleged 1978 rape and two alleged 1979 rapes in Danville, and two alleged 1979 rapes in Walnut Creek.
DeAngelo was brought to justice after his relatives were discovered through the use of DNA technology.
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The Night Stalker
Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, committed most of his crimes in the Los Angeles area. But in August 1985 he went north after intense media coverage of his case, and killed Peter and Barbara Pan in San Francisco’s Ingleside neighborhood.
Ballistic and shoe print evidence from the brutal murders matched the Night Stalker’s Los Angeles crimes. But when then-San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein revealed this in a press conference, Ramirez discarded of his shoes in the Pacific Ocean. He is believed to have stayed in the area for a few more days before returning south, where he was identified and captured later that month.