Zodiac Killer case breakers matched Gary Poste’s scars to killer's forehead on police sketch to 'crack' murder mystery
THE Zodiac Killer who terrorized the San Francisco area during the 1960s was apparently unmasked after a group of investigators matched the murderer's scars to a police sketch from the time, reports say.
The Case Breakers, a team of specialists who have worked to crack a number of America's most high-profile unsolved cases, claimed to have uncovered the Zodiac Killer's identity on Wednesday.
The man they say is responsible for the string of five murders in 1968 and 1969 is Gary Francis Poste, who died in 2018.
They also claim to have linked Poste to a sixth killing hundreds of miles away that has never before been connected to the Zodiac.
The team reportedly unveiled Poste's identity after years of digging through new forensic evidence and his darkroom.
One image uncovered from the darkroom purportedly featured scars on Poste's forehead which match a sketch of the Zodiac.
As part of a press release, The Case Breakers shared also a copy of a news article about a car crash in Clinton, Indiana, in 1959.
An airman from the Rocksville radar station was killed in the crash and a second man was seriously injured.
The team believes the second man was Poste and the crash is how he got his distinctive forehead scars.
“The renowned sleuths have recovered new physical and forensic evidence, signed up eyewitnesses, filed court affidavits, and secured decades of pictures from Poste’s former darkroom,” the release states.
“That includes photographic proof, as a former FBI agent put it, of ‘irrefutable’ scars on our Zodiac’s forehead – spotted by 3 witnesses and an observing cop, then later passed on to the 1969 SFPD sketch artist.”
Jen Bucholtz, a former Army counterintelligence agent who works on cold cases, said the team also found deciphered letters sent by the Zodiac that revealed Poste as the killer.
"So you've got to know Gary's full name in order to decipher these anagrams," she said. "I just don't think there's any other way anybody would have figured it out."
The killer earned his nickname by signing his fourth letter to the press with "Zodiac" on August 7, 1969.
In it, he wrote: "Dear Editor This is the Zodiac speaking."
He also signed his letters with a circle and a cross over it, resembling a target or a coordinate symbol.
REIGN OF TERROR
Authorities believe the Zodiac claimed his first two victims on December 20, 1968, when 17-year-old David Arthur Faraday and 16-year-old Betty Lou Jensen were shot and killed in Benicia.
The second two victims – Michael Renault Mageau, 19; and Darlene Elizabeth Ferrin, 22 – were found shot in a parking lot in Vallejo on July 4, 1969. Ferrin was killed and Mageau survived.
Nearly three months later, 20-year-old Bryan Calvin Harnell and 22-year-old Cecelia Ann Shepard were found stabbed at Lake Berryessa in Napa County on September 27, 1969. Shepard was killed and Hartnell survived.
Taxi driver Paul Lee Stine, 29, was shot and killed in his car in San Francisco's Presidio Heights neighborhood on October 11, 1969.
The same killer has been linked to as many as 28 murders – and even claimed to have killed 37 people in taunting letters sent to newspapers and the police.
The Case Breakers have asserted that the Zodiac is also responsible for a sixth killing in Riverside, California, on October 31, 1966.
Cheri Jo Bates was 18 years old when she was found dead in an alley on the Riverside City College campus.
In 1967, police received a handwritten letter which later led them to believe Bates' killing may have been committed by the Zodiac.
That theory was quashed in 2016 when investigators received an anonymous note from someone who claimed they'd written the earlier note as a "sick joke."
However, the Case Breakers have maintained that the Zodiac did kill Bates and claim investigators have blocked them from comparing her DNA to Poste's.
Over the years, many independent sleuths have claimed to have decoded the Zodiac's true identity.
One of the most convincing names to emerge was an alleged pedophile named Arthur Leigh Allen.
He had been discharged without honor from the US Navy and was fired as a primary school teacher after allegations of sexual misconduct.
Allen was first interviewed as a suspect in 1969 after he was seen near the scene of one attack.
He came to police attention again in 1971 when his friend told officers he had spoken of his desire to kill people and used the name Zodiac.
San Francisco police searched his home the following year but found no evidence linking him to the murders.
340 CIPHER CRACKED
The case was revived in December 2020 when the San Francisco Chronicle revealed it had solved the 340 cipher it received back in November 1969.
"I am not afraid of the gas chamber," the killer wrote, according to a Chronicle journalist, noting the serial killer gave no name when he penned it a whopping 51 years ago.
The coded letter – full of letters, numbers and symbols – read: “I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me.
“I am not afraid of the gas chamber because it will send me to paradise all the sooner because I now have enough slaves to work for me.”
The Chronicle credited a group of citizen coding experts who submitted their findings to the FBI.
“Last weekend, a team I’m on solved the 340 and submitted it to the FBI,” coding expert David Oranchak said. “They have confirmed the solution. No joke! This is the real deal.”
The FBI acknowledged the achievement in a statement, writing: "The FBI is aware that a cipher attributed to the Zodiac killer was recently solved by private citizens.
"The Zodiac Killer remains an ongoing investigation for the FBI San Francisco Division and our local law enforcement partners."
Poste died aged 80 in 2018. Online records show he had an address in Groveland, California, and was affiliated with a painting business.
He was also an Air Force Veteran and was married at the time of his death.
A California woman who lived next door to Poste and his wife told Fox News she believes he's the Zodiac Killer after seeing the evidence collected so far.
The woman, identified only as Gwen, said Poste and his wife babysat her as a child in the 1970s and 1980s.
He would teach her how to shoot firearms several times a week but was also controlling and abusive toward his wife, she said.
"He lived a double life," she said. "As I'm adult thinking back, it all kind of makes sense now. At the time when I was a teenager, I didn't put two and two together until I got older. It hit me full-blown that Gary's the Zodiac."
Hans Smits also told the network that he spent 10 years hiding a whistleblower who said he escaped a criminal gang led by Poste.
The man told Smits the gang roamed across California's High Sierra region and that he was "groomed into a killing machine."
While The Case Breakers are certain Poste was the Zodiac, team member Bill Procter said the Riverside Police Department are not revealing all the evidence they have on the killer.
"They're not talking about what they have, which means that anybody else who comes to the table might have a reasonable argument that an outside organization's information is as valuable, if not more valuable, than what the police department has already done," he said.
Earlier this year, the department offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the infamous murder case.
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