By Reporter Snejana Farberov, London Daily Mail; October 7, 2021
A group of veteran investigators, calling themselves The Case Breakers, believe they have finally uncovered the true identity of the Zodiac Killer – one of America’s most notorious serial murderers – who they say died quietly in 2018 without ever being brought to justice for his grisly crimes.
The collective of 40 independent sleuths, including former federal agents, prosecutors, retired Army intelligence officers, investigative journalists and academics, released their bombshell findings on Wednesday, identifying the Zodiac Killer as Gary Francis Poste.
But a police agency holding the last known DNA from the decades-old case is oddly not cooperating with the renowned volunteers.
Poste passed away in Northern California on August 14, 2018. He was 80 years old. He was never charged with any offenses related to the Zodiac killer, who terrorized the Bay Area communities during the late 1960s.
Five people were fatally stabbed or shot to death in Northern California in 1968 and 1969, and their killer sent taunting letters and cryptograms to the police and newspapers.
The killer was dubbed ‘Zodiac’ because some of his cryptograms included astrological symbols and references.
The series of unsolved murders inspired many books, documentaries and movies.
Little is known about Poste’s life beyond the fact that he was married, had a stepson, and worked as a house painter after retiring from the US Air Force, according to information gathered by the Case Breakers.
In February 2016, The Union-Democrat reported that 78-year-old Poste, from Groveland, was arrested at his home on suspicion of inflicting “corporal injury” (domestic violence) on a spouse.
The team of investigators, who also claim to have “cracked” the identify of 1971 hijacker “D.B. Cooper,” used photographic evidence comparing a distinctive scar seen in sketches depicting the Zodiac killer to known pictures of Poste over past six decades to make the identification, as Fox News first reported.
They also relied on accounts of people who knew Poste, including a neighbor whom the alleged serial and his wife used to babysit as a child, a man who claimed to have been a part of Poste’s criminal ‘posse’ that roamed the High Sierra region, and the mother of Poste’s grandson.
According to new information released by the Case Breakers, the Zodiac killer was also responsible for the brutal killing of co-ed Cheri Jo Bates, 18, stabbed 42 times and nearly decapitated on October 31, 1966, in Riverside — more than 400 miles south of San Francisco and two years before the Zodiac’s first known killing.
Members of the investigative group claimed that around the time of Bates’ murder, Poste, an Air Force veteran, was getting check-ups at a March Air Force Base hospital. A hospital located just 15 minutes away from the crime scene.
A wristwatch splattered with paint and believed to have been worn by the killer was found near Bates’ body. Case Breakers noted that Poste spent 40 years working as a house painter.
Additionally, a heelprint found in the dirt at the stabbing scene was said to have been from a ‘military-style boot’ consistent with the style and size of footprints found at 3 known Zodiac crime scene, and also of Poste.
A month after Bates’ murder, the Riverside Police Department received an anonymous typed letter, whose author appeared to confess to murdering Bates for turning down his romantic advances. The team believes that line was a red herring to throw off investigators to his Northern California location.
A California woman who lived next door to Poste and his wife in Groveland, and who had been babysat by the couple as a child in the 1970s and 80s, told Fox News she now believes her neighbor was the Zodiac killer.
The woman, who gave her name only as Gwen, Poste taught her how to shoot, sometimes going into the woods for target practice five days a week.
‘In the last year of her childcare, [Gwen] witnessed his callousness and violence towards his wife – a wife that only slept on a couch,’ according to the Case Breakers.
In a recent a phone conversation between Gwen with Poste’s widow, who is now in her late 70s and residing in an assisted living facility, the elderly woman was said to have told her former neighbor: ‘I’m sorry that I didn’t tell the cops about his past.’
In 1975, an FBI memo sent to the Riverside Police Department linked the Bates murder to the Zodiac killings, describing the 18-year-old woman as the elusive murderer’s “sixth victim.”
But Officer Ryan Railsback, the spokesperson for the Riverside Police Department, told DailyMail.com on Wednesday that they had “ruled out” any links between the Bates murder and the Zodiac Killer.
The police spokesperson noted that last month, a lawyer he later learned was connected to the Case Breakers had quietly reached out to the department, saying that his anonymous “client” had information about the Bates case and was wondering if the agency would accept a suspect, dead or alive.
The Case Breakers revealed that in Railsback’s email response, he wrote: “Yes, I’m confident our department and investigators would be interested even if the suspect is deceased and can be proven to have been her killer.”
Railsback said he expressed interest in the information but never heard back from the attorney. ‘If we really had information that the Zodiac Killer was related to Cheri Jo Bates, we would not hide that,’ he stressed. ‘We’re not going to hide information, especially 55 years later.’
But the Case Breakers’ organizer, Thomas J. Colbert — the lawyer’s covert “client” — claims Railsback’s agency in fact would not allow an official DNA comparison between the 1966 forensic evidence recovered from Bates, and the sleuths’ “dead or alive” Zodiac suspect, Poste. The stand-off is in its sixth month.
Colbert said he is both stunned and frustrated by Riverside P.D.’s “double-talk — there’s no other word for it. How do you think this will sound to the family and friends of Cheri Jo Bates?”
In 2020, a ciphered letter mailed to a San Francisco newspaper by the Zodiac killer in 1969 was cracked by a team of amateur code-breakers from the United States, Australia and Belgium.
According to code-breaking expert David Oranchak, the cipher’s text includes: ‘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.’
A former Vietnam fighter pilot, Hans Smits, told the Case Breakers that over the past seven years, he had been shielding a ‘Zodiac whistleblower’ who had allegedly escaped from Poste’s criminal ‘posse’ that was said to have been active in the High Sierra area of California for several decades.
‘Now in his 50s and hiding in the Northwest, [the whistleblower] says he’s angry and ashamed, claiming the psychopath “groomed me into a killing machine,”’ according to the investigative group.
The whistleblower also claimed to have witnessed Poste burying murder weapons.
A woman named Michelle said she is the mother of Poste’s grandson, now in his 30s.
According to Michelle, when her 10-year relationship with Poste’s stepson ended, the housepainter sicced two members of his ‘posse’ on her, ordering them to break her windows, harass and assault her, ultimately driving her out of state.
The FBI stated in 2020 that the Zodiac Killer case remains an ongoing investigation for its San Francisco division and the local police.