In 'The Truth About Jim,' One Woman Believes Her Grandfather Could Have Been the Zodiac Killer

A Zodiac expert told this woman that an obsession like this could ruin a person's life.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Feb. 15 2024, Published 3:01 a.m. ET

'The Truth About Jim' and a Zodiac Wanted poster
Source: Warner Media (video still); Getty Images

Was Jim Mordecai the Zodiac?

There is no story that looms greater over the true crime community than that of the Zodiac Killer. Countless documentaries and films have been about a killer some have referred to as the boogeyman. He terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area from December 1968 through October 1969 and, in that brief time, took the lives of five people.

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Theories about who he really was come and go like the tides. In Max's The Truth About Jim, Sierra Barter adds one more to the pile. Barter believes her late step-grandfather, Jim Mordecai, could be the infamous serial killer. Mordecai terrorized all he came in contact with, and was definitely in the right place at the right time. Is Jim Mordecai the Zodiac killer? Let's get into it.

Jim Mordecai, Zodiac cipher
Source: Warner Media (video still); Getty Images

Jim Mordecai with one of his daughters (left); a Zodiac cipher (right)

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Could Jim Mordecai be the Zodiac killer? He is certainly suspicious.

While looking into reports of women being abducted in Northern California in the early 1970s, Barter came across the story of Kathleen Johns. It chilled Barter to her bones because she recalled her mother once having a similarly frightening experience with Mordecai while he was driving. The difference is, when Johns escaped and reached police she told them the person who tried to hold her hostage was the same person whose illustrated face was staring at her from a Wanted poster. That person was the Zodiac.

Authorities suspected the Zodiac was responsible for more than the five confirmed deaths. During this time Mordecai was going to school at UC Davis, which is about an hour from San Francisco. Traveling that distance wouldn't have been a problem for Mordecai. One thing everyone did know about him is, he loved taking long drives and would often disappear for hours. Could these drives have led Mordecai to murder?

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Sierra Barter reached out to a Zodiac expert to discuss Jim Mordecai with him.

It was Barter's intention to eliminate Mordecai as a possible Zodiac suspect, but she kept running up against little coincidences. Based on the one illustration, they were physically similar and even had the same shoe size. "All of that is nothing really if you're a person with a fairly normal life," said Sierra. However, Mordecai had a history of violence.

Armed with circumstantial evidence, Barter reached out to Zodiac expert Mike Butterfield. He'd first heard about the crimes from a homicide detective who lived across the street from his childhood home. He was both fascinated and frightened by the Zodiac, so much so that he became enthralled. Butterfield is now considered a leading expert on the Zodiac.

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Michael Butterfield - Zodiac killer expert - as seen in Max's documentary The Truth About Jim
Source: Warner Media (video still)

Michael Butterfield

Ultimately, Butterfield and Barter decided Mordecai wasn't a viable Zodiac suspect based on the fact that Mordecai was a serial rapist and the Zodiac's crimes were not sexual in nature. It was a relief for Barter who at one point was told by Butterfield that people "ruin their lives" with this obsession.

When Distractify spoke with Barter about this moment, she shared that what she felt was frantic. Faced with questions like whether she should keep going or, if she didn't, was she pursuing the truth, Barter was comforted by Butterfield's words. Not only did it release some of the stress she was feeling, but Barter said it was a very "poignant thing to even end up in a true-crime documentary." So many people do find themselves trapped by this obsession, and it's her hope that hearing what Butterfield said could help.

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