I read this article the other day and did a mental double take. In short, with the capture of the Golden State Killer, someone has decided to develop the profile of the Zodiac based on DNA from the flaps of a couple of envelopes to run through DNA databases like they did the Golden State Killer.
I’ll ignore my feelings on DNA privacy and jump into what I consider a slightly scarier bi-product of this DNA profile..
First, we have done it before. In the late 1990s or early 2000s, we developed DNA profiles from the stamps of a couple of the Zodiac’s letters. I don’t remember if it was one stamp or two… It doesn’t matter because unless the witnesses were absolutely wrong about a really important feature of Zodiac, it wasn’t his DNA.
The DNA came back as female. Well, that’s a serious problem because every witness identified Zodiac as male. If he had random women licking his stamps, I believe it is possible that he had random women licking his envelopes. Who knows, maybe some grad student he knew licked his envelopes and stamps and she had nothing to do with Zodiac.
In my head, this works out because I used to work as an assistant. I was paid like a secretary and treated like a research assistant most of the time by a boss that I found overbearing when I worked for him, but decided I really liked as a boss once we got through the initial year and a half or so. The reason this theory works for me, is because I can’t remember the number of times I gave my boss blank envelopes that I had either licked the stamp to put on (it was the 1990s) or that I actually licked the envelop flap on and then he put his own correspondence in it, addressed it himself, and usually mailed it himself.
So, if it hadn’t been the 1990s and my boss hadn’t been in his mid-40s, my boss could have been Zodiac and my DNA would be on the envelopes and stamps and I wouldn’t have known he was Zodiac. I couldn’t even tell you where the majority of those pre-licked stamps and envelopes ended up. I suspect Brazil because my boss was from Brazil and still had family there, but it really would be a guess. I would bet money, my former boss was not a serial killer, I remember once he got mugged in NYC twice in one day, so him being a serial killer would floor me… But weirder things have happened.
Since I know I’ve had family members give DNA to places to test for ancestry, if someone ever knocks on my door wanting a DNA sample or because my DNA was found on something a serial killer sent to someone, I am going to be aware that it was probably my boss, but I grew up in the era of DNA. In my life time, it has gone from not being something they can test for, to being something they can test if there is a large enough sample, to being something they can test using a person’s touch on any surface and then replicating it in a laboratory.
However, Zodiac was a 1960s -1970s killer… Long before DNA and long before we stopped calling secretaries secretaries, or stopped being able to demand our secretaries bring us coffee. Meaning that if we ever identify Zodiac, I will not be surprised to learn the DNA profile from the stamps that we developed belonged to his secretary and I don’t hold out much hope that the DNA on the envelopes will actually belong to Zodiac.