All cold-blood killings are reprehensible acts, and we continue to struggle to come to terms with these seemingly motiveless murders. It is especially chilling to know that there are people for whom taking a human life is no big deal. While most individuals would recoil in horror at the thought of murder, natural-born killers seemingly do so without a second thought. To date, the field of psychology has yet to create an accurate model to explain the motivations of killers fully.
Copycat killers add even more confusion to the mix. These are slayings committed in a manner that was the established M.O of a previous murderer. It’s suggested that the first known copycat killing occurred in the early 20th century as widespread media coverage of Jack the Ripper led to a slew of similar crimes. In the modern era, everything from television to video games has been blamed for promoting criminal activity. Certainly, the explosion in popularity of crime dramas featuring blood and death is a disturbing trend. In this article, I will look at 5 cases where real-life and fictional killings acted as inspiration for similar misdeeds.
1 – Heriberto Seda – Copycat of the Zodiac Killer
Also known as Eddie Seda, this serial killer modeled his crimes on the actions of the Zodiac Killer. Unlike his inspiration, however, Seda was caught after murdering three people and injuring six others during his reign of terror which lasted from March 1990 to October 1993. Seda was born in New York in 1969, and the recluse was obsessed with guns and the Bible. He admired the Zodiac Killer, especially the fact that the infamous individual was never caught.
Seda attempted to mimic the Zodiac Killer and selected victims based on their astrological sign. He sent cryptic letters to the New York City Police in November 1989, just like his hero did in San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s. Seda wrote that he would murder people based on their star sign and planned to kill a dozen people, one for each sign. The police apparently thought it was a hoax and probably received scores of crank letters each year. There was nothing special or chilling about Seda’s threats; that is until he made good on his promise.
Seda’s first crime occurred on March 8, 1990, when he shot Mario Orosco in the back. Fortunately for Orosco, a Scorpio, Seda was less efficient than the Zodiac, so he survived. On March 29, 1990, the copycat shot German Montenegro, a Gemini, but again, his victim survived the attack. On March 31, 1990, he shot Joseph Proce, a Taurus, who died three weeks later. A note found near Proce contained the Zodiac signs of the first three victims with a message that said: “Zodiac – Time to Die!”
A homeless man named Larry Parham was the fourth victim, but again, he survived a shooting on June 21. He later told police that a stranger asked him his star sign a few days before the attack. Police found another note near the bench in Central Park where Parham was attacked. It showed Parham’s star sign but Seda made a crucial error; he left a fingerprint on the note which was later used to identify him.
Seda stayed under the radar for almost two years before he sprang into action again on August 10, 1992, when he stabbed Patricia Fonte to death. The victim was a Leo, and it was an especially brutal murder since the Zodiac wannabe stabbed her approximately 100 times. Once again, Seda remained quiet for an extended period until June 4, 1993, when he shot a Libra named James Weber in the leg. On July 20 he shot and killed a homeless man named John DiAcone, the victim’s sign was Virgo. Diane Ballard, a Taurus, was shot and partially paralyzed on October 2, 1993.
Police didn’t make the connection with the Zodiac Killer until Seda sent the New York Post a letter in August 1994. However, he remained at large until June 18, 1996, when he shot his half-sister Gladys in the buttocks during an altercation with her and her boyfriend. She called the police, but when they arrived, Seda greeted them with gunfire. He eventually surrendered, and the cops found bombs, weapons and a devil-worship book in his home. A member of the police worked on the Zodiac Copycat case and recognized the writing and symbols in Seda’s confession after the shootout. He ran a check of the fingerprint from the note in 1992 and the saliva in the letter from 1994 and discovered they were a match for Seda. The would-be Zodiac killer was found guilty of the murders and attacks, and on June 24, 1998, he was sentenced to 232 years imprisonment.