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Zodiac killer terrorized, then stopped

From Rusty Dornin
CNN San Francisco Bureau

Paul Stine, the Zodiac killer's last victim, was shot in his cab in 1969.
Paul Stine, the Zodiac killer's last victim, was shot in his cab in 1969.

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SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- The man who called himself the Zodiac killer struck fear into Northern California residents with a string of murders that began in the late 1960s.

The killer, who was never caught, killed five people beginning in 1968 and claimed to have murdered many more.

Like the Washington, D.C.-area sniper, the killer had no apparent motive and chose his victims at random. He also threatened to shoot children, but never did.

Unlike the sniper, the Zodiac killer stalked with knives and guns, and once even dressed as an executioner.

The Zodiac killer craved publicity, taunting police in letter after letter to the newspapers -- letters often written in code.

"If you read these letters, he was getting a tremendous thrill out of terrifying the public," said Susan Morton, a forensic scientist who has studied the letters.

The Zodiac's last known victim, San Francisco cab driver Paul Stine was shot to death in his cab in 1969.

The killer cut out a piece of Stine's blood-stained shirt and mailed it to a newspaper along with a letter.

Police believe the killings stopped, but the letters kept coming until 1974.

In the 1970s, Arthur Allen was a prime suspect in the case. He was never charged and denied being the Zodiac killer until his death in 1992.

San Francisco homicide inspector Kelly Carroll continues to investigate the 33-year-old case. The original investigators have all retired.

He said that a test completed just last week on a partial DNA sample recovered from under the stamp on the Stine letter cleared Allen.

"It does not match the DNA profile that we developed from a piece of brain tissue from Arthur Allen's autopsy," Carroll said.

To this day, no one knows if the Zodiac is still alive.

More than 2,500 other people have been considered suspects in the case, and Carroll said he continues to get tips every day in the long-cold case.

"If you hear the phone ringing, it's probably mine, and it's probably somebody calling with a clue or some lead on this," Carroll said.

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