New York’s own “Zodiac Killer” was caught on this day (March 8) in 1993 after killing three and injuring many more.
Heriberto Seda modelled his dastardly crimes on San Francisco's more famous Zodiac Killer, using similar techniques to evade being caught.
From 1990 to 1993, he ran riot through the Big Apple – he brutally took three lives and injured a further six people, with four critically.
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After each of his attacks, he would leave cryptic messages to both the media and the police, taunting them for not being able to identify him.
In his letters he disclosed that the use of an improvised firearm would mean no bullets would be left with marks that would help authorities track him down.
But the tormenting came to end when reporter Kieran Crowley cracked the killer’s code with the help of his father-in-law, a WWII signals intelligence and cryptography veteran.
The messages, which included maritime flags, claimed that victims were selected based on their zodiac signs.
He said that particular stars in the sky would be the sign he would strike.
An astronomer helped police with predicting when killings would take place, with positive results.
But, in the end, the capture of Seda came somewhat through luck.
Living with his mother and half-sister, Gladys Reyes, he was often abusive.
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In one row with Gladys and her boyfriend, Seda pulled out one of his guns – when she tried to run away he shot her in the bum, wounding her.
But the shot didn’t do enough and Gladys made it around to a neighbour’s house.
When the police showed up a standoff ensued. After an hour and a half, he was eventually arrested.
Initially, police made no connection between him and New York Zodiac until he signed a statement for the case with a symbol similar to one used in one of the letters left in the killer’s breadcrumb trail.
Evidence began to mount up when looking at the guns and letters, the nail in his coffin coming when his DNA was found to match that of saliva used to lick a stamp on one of the letters.
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In a near miss, he had previously been arrested when an officer noticed a strange bulge in his jacket pocket and arrested him on a firearms charge – but a skilled lawyer and the discovery that the homemade weapon didn’t function meant he walked away.
Police said that Seda had two major obsessions: astrology and death.
He was convicted for his crimes in 1998 and was sentenced to 232 years in the slammer – a punishment he is still serving today.
So convincing were his copycat clues and impersonations that at one point police even considered whether the Zodiac Killer himself had relocated to the east coast of the USA.
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