On July 30, 2002, a 70-year-old man called Joseph Newton Chandler III killed himself in Eastlake, Ohio. I bet you think I'm going to say this was actually an assassination disguised as a suicide, but this one appears to be a genuine suicide. The novel aspect in this case is that when authorities attempted to contact the next of kin, they determined that there was no record of the man calling himself Joseph Newton Chandler III before he applied for his first Social Security Card in Rapid City, S.D. in September 1978 (at the age of 41). He arrived in Eastlake in 1979. Investigators discovered he had taken the identity from a young boy killed in a car crash in 1945. They think that he switched identities sometime between 1968 and 1978. There is evidence that he had been in California, worked around or was in the U.S. Navy, and had some electrical engineering experience.
I remember this made the news, but it is not that uncommon for people to run away from their old lives. What is very interesting is the suggestion, made by Steve Huff, that Joseph Newton Chandler III is actually the Zodiac Killer, a famous serial killer from the San Francisco area who seems to have stopped killing in the late 1960's or early 1970's, and stopped writing taunting letters by the mid-1970's (recently mentioned by me here).
Chandler showed up with his new identity around the same time that the Zodiac Killer stopped operating in the San Francisco area. He would have been quite close in appearance in the 1970's to the police composite of the Zodiac. The Zodiac is thought to have had Navy connections and knowledge of electrical engineering. He was obviously inspired by Jack the Ripper, particularly in his use of misspelled letters taunting the police, and an investigator in the Ripper case was called Joseph Chandler. The Zodiac was the kind of guy who would be attracted to such a name.
Chandler's body was cremated before these issues arose, so no comparison with the DNA thought to be from the Zodiac is possible. The police claim that no usable fingerprints could be found in Chandler's apartment (?!), so no comparison can be made with fingerprint evidence taken from the Zodiac murder of taxi driver Paul Stine. We may never know who Joe Chandler really was. What is chilling is that there was a series of murders in northern Ohio from 1979, when Chandler arrived in northern Ohio, to 1982. These murders were of young couples killed in various violent ways. The Zodiac killer killed, or attempted to kill, young couples in various violent ways.