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Author Topic: David Toschi, RIP; hunted "Zodiac Killer," inspiration for Dirty Harry's Scorpio  (Read 713 times)
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« on: January 14, 2018, 06:37:22 PM »

David Toschi, a colorful San Francisco police detective who spent nine futile years as one of the principal investigators chasing the so-called Zodiac killer, died on Jan. 6 at his home in San Francisco. He was 86.

The Zodiac case, which remains unsolved and continues to fascinate crime buffs, involved a string of murders in Northern California in 1968 and 1969.

The killer sent taunting letters to newspapers, wrote messages in intricate code and otherwise tormented investigators. Officially, he is thought to have killed five people and wounded two others, although in one communication he put the number of victims at 37. That figure was discounted by the authorities, although some other crimes are thought to be linked to Zodiac.

Clint Eastwood also drew on Mr. Toschi for his portrayal of the title character in “Dirty Harry,” Don Siegel’s influential 1971 movie about a San Francisco police inspector, Harry Callahan, who hunts a psychopathic killer. Mr. Toschi, though, was bothered by Callahan’s penchant for administering his own brand of justice. He is said to have walked out of a screening of the movie, which was released when the Zodiac investigation was in full swing.

“He couldn’t take it,” [Mark] Ruffalo, who spent time with Mr. Toschi preparing for his “Zodiac” role, said in a 2007 interview with the website Collider. “It was so simplified.” [Ruffalo starred in Zodiac, David Fincher's 2007 movie about the case.]

Mr. Toschi’s daughter said he always thought that a suspect named Arthur Leigh Allen, who died in 1992, was Zodiac. But, unlike Harry Callahan, he and his fellow officers were bound by the evidence.

“If you get into who these cops were,” Mr. Ruffalo said in another 2007 interview, “you realize how they have to take their hunches, their personal beliefs, out of it. Dave Toschi said to me, ‘As soon as that guy walked in the door, I knew it was him.’ He was sure he had him, but he never had a solid piece of evidence. So he had to keep investigating every other lead.”

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