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N.Y. ZODIAC MAY BE BORROWING METHODS FROM THE S.F. KILLER

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New York's so-called Zodiac gunman may be going by the book that details the San Francisco Zodiac killer's rampage, top city police officials said.

The book, "Zodiac," by Robert Graysmith, includes boastful letters sent by the San Francisco killer to newspapers during the late 1960s and early 1970s, claiming responsibility for a series of murders and taunting the police to catch him."We have looked at that book, yes," Police Commissioner Lee P. Brown told reporters. He added that the New York Zodiac killer probably has, too.

The recent shootings in the city have caused sales of the book, currently in paperback, to more than double.

The original "Zodiac" is believed to have killed as many as 40 people since the late 1960s. New York's Zodiac has shot four people since March, one of whom later died.

The letters from the San Francisco murderer began with the sentence "This is the Zodiac." The same phrase begins the six letters sent to the New York City police and two news organizations, claiming responsibility for the shootings here.

The San Francisco Zodiac was never caught, but neither Graysmith nor police believe he has somehow been transplanted to the East. The New York Zodiac, while borrowing some of the San Francisco killer's methods, has established a pattern all his own, authorities say.

"It's absolutely not the same man. The handwriting is wrong, the modus operandi is wrong," Graysmith declared. "Zodiac was attacking people by a body of water, on Saturday nights, during a full moon, usually young couples who were out having a good time, which is something that he didn't have."

In contrast, the New York gunman chose some of the city's most vulnerable citizens, in some of the most crime-prone areas, as his prey.

In his first note to police, dated Nov. 19, 1989, the New York gunman threatened to kill 12 people - one for each astrological sign.

"It's the astrology thing that seems to be the one link," between the New York and the San Franciscan gunmen, said Graysmith.

The author, who worked as a political cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle and saw the Zodiac gunman's frequent letters to the paper, spent 10 years researching his book, which was published in 1986.