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Cops: NY's 'Zodiac' killer in custody

By OWEN MOOGAN

NEW YORK, June 19 -- A tense standoff with a gunman and a detective with a good memory has put New York City's so-called Zodiac serial killer behind bars, authorities said Wednesday. Police Commissioner Howard Safir said Brooklyn sniper Heriberto Seda, arrested Tuesday after allegedly shooting his younger sister, is the man responsible for eight attacks, four of them fatal, between 1990 and 1993. Seda, 28, tipped off cops to his identity by giving police a written statement after negotiators convinced him to leave his mother's apartment, where he was barricaded for several hours Tuesday afternoon. An investigator who worked on the Police Department's Zodiac Task Force recognized the handwriting and one of the Zodiac's symbols, an inverted cross topped by the number 7 in three spots. 'I recognized what I believed to be handwriting similar to handwriting that I'd been studying for the last two years,' said detective Sgt. Joseph Herbert. 'I thought there was a strong possibility this handwriting could be one and the same as the writing in some of the communications the Zodiac had sent.' Subsequently, police matched a fingerprint on the note from Seda to prints left on a taunting letter from the Zodiac to a newspaper and to prints left at the scene of one of the Zodiac shootings. 'We're confident that we have the individual involved in these crimes,' Safir said. 'The investigation is continuing and we're not ruling out anything.' The attacks attributed to the Zodiac began March 8, 1990, when Mario Orosco was shot in the back in Brooklyn, near the Queens border.

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Twenty- one days later, Jermaine Montenesdro was shot dead in Brooklyn. The third victim, on May 31, 1990, was Joseph Proce who was also killed, in Queens. On June 21, a homeless man, Larry Parham, was shot in Manhattan's Central Park. There was a two-year break in the shootings. But on Aug 10, 1992, Patricia Fonti was killed in Queens. Then there was a June 4, 1993, shooting of James Weber in Queens, and the July 21, 1993, fatal shooting of John Diacone, in the same place. The final attack was Oct. 2, 1993, when Diane Ballard was shot in Brooklyn. Nearly all the attacks took place in the area that spans the Brooklyn-Queens border. The earlier attacks came at 21-day intervals, and the killer left notes at the scene that gave each an astrological designation matching the victim's birthday. In letters to news agencies, he had promised to kill one victim for each of the 12 astrological signs and boasted that he was the same Zodiac who claimed dozens of killings more than 20 years ago in San Francisco, which police dismissed. Officials would not confirm reports that Seda had confessed. They said he would be charged Thursday with just the Tuesday shooting of his sister, Gladys Reyes, 17, and attempted murder of the police officers who responded to the apartment, where he allegedly had a stockpile of pipe bombs and homemade zip guns. New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said it was astounding that the Zodiac arrest was the third serial crime case cracked in the last week -- coming on the heels of the arrest of an alleged rapist charged with attacking 11 women, and the arrest of a drifter accused of brutally beating four women. 'This is the most extraordinary week they've had as far as I can remember,' the mayor said. But Herbert said he had no time for celebration after his big break -- recognizing the handwriting on the note. 'I was excited a little, but I'll be honest with you. I knew it was just the beginning of a lot of work. Suspicions are one thing, proof positive is quite another. And I'm still here in same clothes, you know, 24 hours later.'

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