Former cop says he knows Zodiac Killer's identity -- but he's not saying 0
If he was the murderer.
If he was perhaps the most famous serial killer to ever escape justice in America.
If he was Zodiac.
Then he was true to his words and deeds and got away with it all.
More than four decades after the Zodiac Killer terrorized Northern California -- murdering at random and taunting police with letters and puzzles that bragged he would never be caught -- his shadowy presence continues to poke at America's exposed psyche.
And over the many years since he hunted during the late 60s and into the 1970s, various authors and amateur sleuths have come up with theories on who the killer was.
None have led police to make an arrest.
The latest is former California Highway Patrol officer Lyndon Lafferty, who says after years of working on the case, he's sure he knows the identity.
He recalls first seeing the man at a roadside truck stop on Interstate 80, just outside Vallejo, Calif.
Lafferty was sitting in his patrol car, marking time at the end of his shift, when a white sedan slowly pulled up beside him.
The officer could suddenly sense someone watching him.
As the highway patrolman looked over, he was staring in the eyes of a man who set him off balance.
"My God almighty "¦ I looked into the eyes of death," the now 79-year-old Lafferty recalls during a phone interview from his California home.
"His face was twitching. He was snarling."
On instinct, the retired officer says, he quickly put his car in reverse, and steered out into traffic. But a short time later, he pulled down his sun-visor, to look at a composite of the Zodiac Killer suspect.
The face was slightly wrong, but he says everything else -- from the glasses to the red in the hair -- was right.
By the time he turned his car around, the white sedan and driver were gone.
But Lafferty says over the years, he investigated the man. In fact, he and his wife became friendly with the suspect and his wife. This after the two women formed a work-related relationship. And while lines from the Zodiac Killer seemed to tighten around Lafferty's suspect, he says a cover-up and screw-ups allowed him to escape capture.
Lafferty believes the killings were motivated by an affair the killer's wife was having with a judge. The deaths were his way of striking back.
The investigator says he never told the man he suspected him of being one of America's most infamous killers.
"He pretended I wasn't who I was and I pretended he wasn't who he was," says an aging Lafferty, who sometimes rambles on, but is exact in his memory of dates and places.
He last saw the man at least seven years ago, when the suspect was living as a senior in Solano County, not far from Lafferty's own home.
The former highway officer has now published a book, spelling out his investigation of a murderer who killed at least five people, including two students on a first date, but may have been responsible for more than 30 more.
This, after all, was a stranger in the night that has inspired countless movies, including the first Dirty Harry
Despite this, what Lafferty is not willing to do though, is name his suspect.
Citing worries of vigilante justice on a 91-year-old man and secrecy oaths the officer once took, Lafferty says he was hoping the unnamed suspect would finally feel the pangs of guilt and step forward.
But this week, he found out that will never happen.
Because Lafferty has discovered the man died three months ago.
He apparently tripped and fell and broke his neck.
The ex-cop says he has problems stomaching that end -- an almost anti-climatic end.
But he still won't utter the name -- though he says he had hoped the book alone would have inspired a police indictment.
But his book, Zodiac Killer Cover Up, doesn't seem to have opened any new doors in the homicide detail of the San Francisco Police Department.
An official in that department tells QMI Agency: "Our inspector looks at these claims to determine if the information has been reported previously.
"In most cases, the information has been reported prior by the same person. New reports have proven to be assertions based on coincidence and without corroboration."
Claims like this latest one, the source says, have come with no physical evidence or corroboration.
But the dogged cop is sure, after all these years he's made his case against the Zodiac Killer.
"I have absolutely no doubt in my mind," Lafferty says. "The evidence is overwhelming."
But whether he's right or not, there's one conclusion that's sure.
The Zodiac Killer was true to his words and deeds.
And has out-lasted everyone who's tried to hunt him down.