A group of volunteer sleuths made up of former investigative specialists claim to have identified the Zodiac Killer, one of the most notorious serial killers in the world, who terrorised San Francisco in the late 1960s.
The team, known as the Case Breakers, consisting of more than 40 former law enforcement officers, private investigators, federal agents, and forensic experts, also claims that a 1966 murder in Southern California was also the work of Zodiac.
Zodiac taunted authorities with coded messages, or ciphers, sent to newspapers, and his identity has never been revealed, but several potential suspects have been investigated over the years.
The Case Breakers allege that Gary Francis Poste, who passed away in 2018, was the Zodiac Killer, pointing to clues they uncovered over several years.
These variously include photos found in his darkroom, a pattern of scars or wrinkles on his forehead that match a police sketch of the Zodiac, and forensic evidence including DNA.
A further claim is that if you remove the letters of Mr Poste’s full name from one of the ciphers, it reveals an alternate message.
The group is also convinced that Mr Poste is responsible for the unsolved murder of Cheri Jo Bates in Riverside, California, on 31 October 1966 — two years before the first killing was linked to Zodiac in the Bay Area hundreds of miles to the north.
Ms Bates was reported missing by her father and was found brutally stabbed to death in an alleyway by the town college’s library with 42 wounds to her body.
The Case Breakers are pressuring local police to compare a DNA sample from Mr Poste with those stored since being gathered from the 1966 crime scene.
A confession sent to local police a month after the murder includes phrases similar to those used by the Zodiac, but this was later discounted by authorities after an anonymous typed message was received in 2016 calling the earlier letter a “sick joke”.
The Riverside Police Department’s Homicide Cold Case Unit told Fox News: “Our Homicide Cold Case Unit has determined the murder of Cheri Jo Bates in 1966 is not related to the Zodiac Killer.”
“We understand the public interest in these unsolved murders, but all inquiries regarding the Zodiac Killer should be referred to the FBI.”
The Case Breakers insist that other evidence links Mr Poste to the Bates murder including a past connection to the local area; a wristwatch with a spatter of paint on it found at the crime scene — he painted houses for decades — and a heel print from a boot in the size and style of those worn by Mr Poste and the Zodiac.
Five known victims were attributed to Zodiac between December 1968 and October 1969 in the San Francisco Bay Area. He targeted young couples, with two of the men surviving, and killed a lone male cab driver.
In his letters and ciphers sent to the San Francisco Chronicle, Zodiac once claimed to have murdered 37 victims, and he has been linked to several other cold cases, some in Southern California or outside the state.
Of the four ciphers he produced, two remain unsolved to this day – the first was cracked in 1969, the second in 2020 by private citizens. The FBI said in 2020 that the investigation was ongoing.
Decades later, the killings and investigation have spawned multiple books, documentaries, TV shows, and movies.