Police in California say they hope to identify the infamous Zodiac Killer by processing newly-obtained DNA samples in the same way that led to the recent arrest of the suspected Golden State Killer.
Vallejo Police Department’s Detective Terry Poyser has announced the plan in the hopes of positively identifying the culprit of at least five murders in the San Francisco region between 1968 and 1969.
Poyser said new developments in DNA extraction technology mean the department will be able to extract DNA markers from several letters and envelopes the Zodiac Killer sent as taunts while he was active.
Those samples are expected to return in a matter of weeks. They will then be run through an open-source databases created by amateur genealogists and matched against DNA submitted by, well, regular people.
Investigators hope they will be able to find a match on the databases, based on DNA the suspect or members of their family may have submitted.
The same method lead Sacramento Police to arrest Joseph James DeAngelo, the suspected Golden State Killer, for his alleged involvement in a string of murders and sexual assaults in the 1970s and 80s.
While the prospect of closing one of the more notorious murder cases in modern history is tantalising, there are already some hiccups. Poyser said their main suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen, had a habit of asking other people to lick his envelopes before he died in 1992.
If that’s the case, the DNA may point to folks totally unconnected to the murders; still, Poyser said police could just ask people who said they were asked to lick Allen’s envelopes to submit their own DNA samples for testing.
“People need to know that the agencies involved in this… have been cooperating with each other for quite some time, and everybody is committed to closing it out,” Poyser said.
Correction: an earlier version of this article stated Ancestry.com was an open-source genealogy data base. It is not open-source. Ancestry.com is not currently believed to be involved in the Zodiac Killer investigation.