David Toschi, 86, Detective Who Pursued the Zodiac Killer, Dies

With his natty wardrobe, Mr. Toschi was for many people the public face of the investigation as the case took twists and turns over the years.

In 1978 he became one of those twists himself: He was removed from the case after revelations that in 1976 he had sent several letters praising his own work to a San Francisco newspaper writer under fake names.

“It was a foolish thing to do,” he acknowledged at the time.

In the years since, Mr. Toschi’s name would still be invoked whenever the case resurfaced in the news, as it did in 2001, when an effort was made to apply DNA testing to some of the evidence. The results of that testing did not match any suspects.

“Looking back, I feel mostly frustration,” he told The Los Angeles Times. “That case took so much out of me.”

David Ramon Toschi was born on July 11, 1931, in San Francisco. The son of Sam Toschi, he was raised largely by his mother and stepfather, Millie and Mario Peri.

After graduating from Galileo High School in San Francisco in 1951, Mr. Toschi went into the Army. He spent about a year in Korea during the war there, his daughter said. He entered the police academy after his military service and joined the San Francisco Police Department in July 1953.

In an age of somber suits, Mr. Toschi cut a distinctive figure with his clothing choices.

“He had his own sense of style — lot of bow ties, lot of loud sports coats,” his daughter said in a telephone interview. “Never wore a white shirt. Always a colored shirt.”


Mark Ruffalo portrayed Mr. Toschi in the 2007 film “Zodiac,” directed by David Fincher.

Merrick Morton/Paramount Pictures

Mark Ruffalo portrayed Mr. Toschi in David Fincher’s 2007 movie about the case, “Zodiac,” for which Mr. Toschi was an adviser.

When she first viewed the film, Ms. Toschi-Chambers recalled, “I saw Mark…

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