This has been out a while, but I hadn’t seen this docuseries until the other night, where AI may have helped show there never was a Zodiac killer.
The docuseries The Myth of the Zodiac Killer is streaming now on Peacock. It’s based on the book from Professor Thomas Henry Horan of the same name where he lays out his case that the five murders (over four attacks) attributed to the Zodiac killer were actually committed by different people. Among the inconsistencies he found in the attacks were:
- There was a spent shell located 20 feet away from the victims in the first attack which appears to line up with passenger side of a vehicle seen near the victim’s car just before the shooting, indicating two attackers.
- The first and second attacks were committed using different guns.
- The modus operandi of the third attack (stabbing in broad daylight) was completely different than the first two attacks (shooting at night).
- Also, there was no letter that followed the third attack, just a note written on the car door of the victims with the Zodiac symbol and the dates of the other attacks.
- The modus operandi of the fourth attack of cab driver Paul Stine was completely different than the first three attacks in that it was a shooting of a single man instead of a couple and Stine was robbed (there had been multiple cab driver robberies in the area at the time).
- Artist renderings of people who supposedly saw the suspect in the third and fourth attacks are radically different.
AI may have helped show there never was a Zodiac killer as well. Part of the evidence supporting Horan’s hypothesis are the letters purportedly written by the Zodiac. Horan believes that the letters were penned by multiple individuals, adding to the mystery around the Zodiac’s identity.
“The only so-called evidence that does link any of these murders together is these letters taking credit for the murders,” Horan says in the series.
In an effort to prove that the letters were written by multiple people, Horan and filmmaker Andrew Nock approached Florian Cafiero and Jean-Baptiste Camps, two Frenchmen who are experts in computational linguistics and asked them to analyze all 35 letters using artificial intelligence.
Cafiero and Camps worked with the writing samples for nearly a month, with Cafiero describing the task as “by far, the most challenging that we’ve had to work on because there is so much,” and adding that the writers seemingly tried to “deceive” the reader.
What did they find? The experts said that their analysis showed that there are “visible shifts in style throughout the letters,” particularly before and after the murder of Stine.
“What is striking is that what’s changing is not the vocabulary, it’s complexity and so on and so forth in the content words,” Cafiero explained. “It’s the complexity of the use of smaller words.”
So, for the letters before Stine’s murder, the use of the word “the” differs from that of the letters sent after his death, in which words like “her,” “them,” “like,” “you,” and “rather” are more commonly used. Cafiero explained, “There are so many more words that are being used after the Stine murder that it indicates a change in style.”
Cafiero added that an individual’s style of writing tends to remain the same throughout one’s life, especially as an adult.
“The phenomena that we observe here are clear enough to raise doubts but we, of course, have to be cautious and reasonable about the interpretation of all this. For now, it’s just a sketch but it’s a sketch that gives a lot of insight when they’re analyzed with other clues and in context of other people who know the case,” Cafiero said.
Interesting. As a true crime buff, the Zodiac killer mystery has fascinated me for decades (I saw the 2007 movie three times), but Horan and the filmmakers provide a compelling case that there may have never been a Zodiac serial killer after all – just individual killers, the latter two of which used the early Zodiac letters to pin them on a supposed serial killer.
So, what do you think? Are you surprised that AI may have helped show there never was a Zodiac killer? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
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