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Retired law enforcement maintain chase for infamous Zodiac

Retired CHP officer Lyndon E. Lafferty meets with his group of unofficial Zodiac hunters at his home in Vallejo recently. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

Retired CHP officer Lyndon E. Lafferty meets with his group of unofficial Zodiac hunters at his home in Vallejo recently. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | August 29, 2011 |

VALLEJO — Zodiac. The name alone strikes fear in the hearts of Solano County residents old enough to remember the horrific killings, public taunting of police and cryptograms sent to newspapers.

It was Solano County, after all, where the elusive killer struck first, beginning his reign of terror in the Bay Area during the late 1960s and ’70s.

And according to a team of Zodiac hunters, Solano County has been the serial killer’s home. It still is today, they say. The team’s suspect is a 91-year-old alcoholic living in Fairfield. They won’t give out his name or address.

“He’s going to be undoubtedly reading this,” Lyndon Lafferty said recently at his Vallejo home.

Though the Zodiac has claimed as many as 37 victims, investigators have only agreed on seven of them, including five deaths. Zodiac was never caught.

There have been plenty of suspects and plenty of unofficial Zodiac hunters. But Lafferty’s team is different. It includes a retired Vallejo police detective, a Naval Investigative Service retiree and Lafferty, a retired CHP officer from Vallejo.

Lafferty and Jerry Johnson, who is retired from the Naval Investigative Service, began working on the case unofficially in the 1970s, interviewing witnesses after work and tailing their suspect on occasion. The others joined along the way, including James Dean, who investigated the case as a Vallejo detective.

The group doesn’t do as much sleuthing these days, but Lafferty has put it all down in a book he says is near publication. The book is called “Zodiac Killer Cover-Up (AKA The Silenced Badge).”

Lafferty, in some people’s eyes, grew up with the Zodiac. Lafferty went to high school in Vallejo with Arthur Leigh Allen, the prime suspect for many, including Robert Graysmith, who wrote a book about the Zodiac that was later turned into a movie.

To Lafferty, Allen, who died in 1992, was nothing more than a loner. Allen was a diver in high school, studious and popular, Lafferty said.

“Everybody liked him,” Lafferty said.

Lafferty’s hunt began in 1970. Lafferty, who has graying, thinning hair, tells the story of his first encounter with his suspect like a man who has relived it many times.

The 91-year-old living in Fairfield is called “Andrew Todd Walker” in Graysmith’s book. Lafferty calls him that, too, though it is a phony name.

Walker for several days had parked his car near a rest stop in Vallejo, catching Lafferty’s attention because he sat there watching people. On one occasion, Walker sped toward Lafferty — who was in his patrol car — and parked within inches of him.

“I looked into a quivering, snarling face like I was looking to the face of death,” Lafferty said. “It scared the hell out of me.”

At that time, most police officers in the area were carrying a sketch of the Zodiac. The similarities jarred Lafferty. His hunt began.

Lafferty has spent 40 years amassing evidence he says points to Walker. Walker was a regular at Terry’s Restaurant in Vallejo, where victim Darlen Ferrin worked, strange graffiti markings were found outside his Cordelia home and Lafferty claims to have found his name spelled in one of the cryptograms.

Some of Zodiac’s letters also hint at Walker. Walker was a member of the Sierra Club, which was mentioned in one letter. His home was covered by pine trees, which is perhaps another clue. Zodiac wrote “Peek through the pines” in one letter.

Johnson, who is retired from the Naval Investigative Service, interviewed Ferrin’s baby sitter. The baby sitter said she saw a man in a car matching Walker’s outside Ferrin’s home in the weeks before her death.

Johnson, too, is convinced Walker is the famed killer.

Lafferty said Walker was motivated to kill because his wife was having an affair with a Solano County Superior Court judge.

“It is my opinion that all of Zodiac’s murders . . . was to prove just like his letters and the use of his codes that he is better, brighter, smarter, more clever than all the judges and all the police put together and he will never be caught,” Lafferty said.

For a time Walker was investigated by Vallejo police. But Dean, a retired Vallejo detective working with Lafferty, said police were suddenly told to drop the case.

“Tear up your s—,” Dean remembers being told.

Reach David DeBolt at 427-6935 or ddebolt@dailyrepublic.net.

David DeBolt

David DeBolt

A native of Vacaville, DeBolt was a newspaperman in Palo Alto before coming home to work at the DR in June 2011. He covers education, county government and politics. His friends call him "Scoop."
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 14 comments

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  • Danny BuntinAugust 29, 2011 - 11:47 pm

    This is wild and fascinating stuff. I read the Zodiac book about twenty years ago, and have never stopped being interested with this story.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • T.JAugust 30, 2011 - 2:00 pm

    All right all you old timers out there. They dropped a quite a few clues as to who they think this Walker fellow is. Any guesses?

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  • FairfielderAugust 30, 2011 - 3:03 pm

    A simple Google search yields “Andrew Todd Walker's” real name and a little more digging reveals where he lives in Fairfield. Gotta love the internet. As much as I appreciate these fellows keeping the investigation alive, what bothers me is that ALL of the information in this story has been out on the internet for years. Where's some new info, sirs? Just do a Google search for "Lafferty and Zodiac" and you'll find this same stuff from way back in 2002!

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  • Heward MillerOctober 19, 2011 - 1:50 pm

    I agree. Alot of my situation can be explained if you go to my previous comment above. I ask these old slueths to come to Baton Rouge Louisiana to do thier thing (pull strings investigating) but have yet to get a response. The document I found does match the writting of the Zodiac Killer. Because I have not recieved any help from any law enforcement agency from any level ( and I tried all) I having faith in what I see and know I see have continued to look for evidence that the man I found the paper at his curb as i described previously has definite been connected to the taunts. I posted a video showing a mans name spelled out at the bottom of the dripping pen, it the same mans name. That aside I have also continued to gain many insights into the secreting of hidden images many of which I have posted on youtube over the past year and a half. Many of the videos I have posted have been removed and replaced as the method I discovered to extract them improves and they are replaced with those better images. I am not anything more than a civillian who believes in what I have found to be the Zodiac Killer here in Louisiana but have lost faith in detectives from any backround as none really seem to care. As it turns out thier is a good reason the Zodiac was never caught. I could continue but am now so tired of reaching out I can`t. These detectives that are tasked with responding to Zodiac Killer clues are just suits to make it look like they are still trying. To bad they quit. News agencies investigating this probably won`t do any justice to the legal case against my suspect(s) but that appears to be the only avenue left. In closing my comment I wish these gentlemen luck with thier book and hope they have as much success as Robert Graysmith but that book as well as thier book will always be a fiction. That is not a good outcome to me. I always have felt that "Zodiac" the movie and Robert Graysmith`s book are missing substance. I don`t intent to make that mistake. P.S. Just today I solved the 340 cipher and have to decide how to go about making it public. It shows his face prominently. I can be contacted by looking for me at: (twitter) IguZodiacKiller or ExposingZodiac (youtube) IgotyouZodiacKiller

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  • PseudocognitiveAugust 30, 2011 - 5:43 pm

    Suspending judgment on this pending release of the book, but it does capture my interest. If nothing else, it'll be entertaining.

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  • Crack AceAugust 31, 2011 - 4:28 pm

    Witnesses put Zodiac's age at 25 to 30. Lafferty's suspect would have been 50 at the time of the kilings. Sorry Lafferty, you struck out. But thanks for the laff.

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  • Heward MillerSeptember 01, 2011 - 1:53 pm

    Gentlemen: A I have stated my name is Heward Miller. I live in Baton Rouge Louisiana. In late 2005 I was gathering some items for an apartment I had recently moved into and because I had left most of my belongings in another state. Side of the road stuff would suffice. On my way home one day after hurricane Katrina traffic was causing my car to overheat and I saw a stack of some curbside throwaways and decided that my car needed a break. I gathered some items including the lamp I am using as I write this. A handfull of cray paper however was put in a closet with some other item and forgotten until March/April of 2010 when it was placed on my desk for my little nephews to scribble on when they would come visit. One day I nudged to stack sideways and that exposed two papers with writing on them from the center of the stack. Nothing strange about that except the way the word "something" was written as if the person writting it all of a sudden got paulsey when it came to the word "something". I knew I had seen that word written in that same strange fashion before and soon I found myself reminded of the way the Zodiac Killer had written in his many taunts. Always being a bit of a crime buff it was far from my thinking that this would really turn out to be the writting of the Zodiac Killer. I`m consider myself fairly intelligent and have been unable to detect any noticeable differences between this document and that of the Zodiac Killer and I have intently examined it. I have several times contacted law enforcement agency from DOJ, FBI, Riverside, Napa, ..... but to no avail. I know what I have here and am baffled at LE agencies dismissing my information la de da. It seems to me that everyone law wise has no stomach for anymore Kaufman like rabbit holes. Gentlemen, I assure you I am because of the refusals of the somany levels of law enforcement and my commitment to let them know how much they have underestimated my credibility I have recommitted to gathering more and more upon each of thier refusals to help and that has lead to me breaking this case wide open. I`ve recently developed unrefutable proof the person(s) responsible are here in Baton Rouge Louisiana, some if not all may still be alive. I am asking you, to help me, help you and your California towns to help us bring some closure to the remaining families that have paid with thier lives from the insane deeds that man (these men) committed so long ago. First I know the address where I found the written documents (I didn`t look for the name of any person(s) living at that home), and progressively after each law agency refused to help I would return to my investigation to gather further proof and began to uncover all the hidden images that left no doubt that the Zodiac Killer was outright showing images of Baton Rouge. But the images I am speaking about are not visible to the naked eye and can only be seen when I use a specific method to take those images. With a connection to Baton Rouge being satisfied without endangering the credibility in my own mind I still refused to look for a persons name to attach to the home where I found the documents. In closing this mail I hope this finds you in the confidentiality of this newspapers connection to you, for my safety and your annonimoty, if you decide to help here by surrounding this still actively working man in his eighties who I feel is the main Zodiac (if you will) in search of all his connections to the Zodiac Killer connections. I think its important to make sure whether this man acted alone of if he had a connection to anyone else who could have also been part of the murders. I myself believe although he was the main persons my investigation of some of his colleagues have lead me to believe thier were others following his lead. Your consideration to reach out would be greatly appriciated. I would also be nice to include Dave Toschi if you decide to take on my request. zciphersolver@gmail.com

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  • CD BrooksSeptember 01, 2011 - 3:06 pm

    Oh Boy... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzlG28B-R8Y

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  • MtbSeptember 02, 2011 - 4:55 pm

    Show me the evidence. Speculation will sell books

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  • Mr PseuymDecember 19, 2011 - 2:19 pm

    I am the author of a new Zodiac book that tells who he is! with a twist The Police Shall Never Catch Me this book has launched a LE investigation here . It also proves he was who killed Cheri Bates (p52)

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  • RikMay 05, 2012 - 9:24 am

    There are more coincidences and facts here than with anyone else. I believe it is Tucker. Makes sense why everyone thought he would never be caught. Some stuff in the book seems a bit out there but overall it makes a LOT of sense but the amateur sleuths obviously want it to go on because everyone loves a good mystery and do not want the legend to die. As a zodiac buff for forever this is one of the better theories or well more than that. Gaikowski is fascinating also.

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  • New Book Claims Zodiac Killer is Alive and Still Living in Solano County | NewsFeed | TIME.comMay 16, 2012 - 3:02 am

    [...] into a quivering, snarling face like I was looking to the face of death,” Lafferty recalled in a profile in the Chronicle last year, noting the similarities the man bore to sketches of the Zodiac Killer. “It scared the [...]

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  • Conscious World con-w.com - The Zodiac Killer ‘Identified’: Infamous Sixties Murderer Is A 91-Year-Old Man Still Living In California, Claims Author After 40-Year InvestigationMay 16, 2012 - 8:43 pm

    [...] Daily Republic: Retired law enforcement maintain chase for infamous Zodiac [...]

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  • Victoria BorkJune 23, 2012 - 3:05 pm

    After reading "This is the Zodiac Speaking" and as a school psychologist, I feel that the authors did a thorough job in their analysis, but believe there are still many unturned stones i.e., unanswered questions. I would like to be able to send my thoughts to someone specifically who may be able to put my ideas to use.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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