Was a US Air Force veteran and house painter the Zodiac Killer?
By Oliver O’Connell in NY; The Independent, October 7, 2021; UK
Gary Francis Poste was identified by a volunteer investigative group, The Case Breakers, as a potential new suspect in the hunt for the Zodiac Killer, the serial killer who terrorized San Francisco in the late 1960s.
Because of the cryptic, handmade letters and ciphers the killer sent to officials and The San Francisco Chronicle at the time, the mystery has long fascinated true crime aficionados. It has been the subject of numerous books, documentaries, TV shows and movies, especially the David Fincher-directed dramatization starring Robert Downey Jr.
The Case Breakers reportedly identified Mr. Poste, who died in 2018, through a series of photographs that they uncovered, dating back to 1963, supposedly from his “darkroom,” according to a press release issued by the group.
Photos show Poste with forehead scars that the team thinks match marks on a PD sketch of the Zodiac (left). A news clipping sourced by the group indicates that they believe the scars were the result of a 1959 car crash in which an airman was killed and Poste, also with the 782nd Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, was seriously injured.
The independent group, which focuses on cold cases and consists of former law enforcement and forensics specialists, also claims to have forensic evidence including DNA. They also say, if you remove the letters of Mr. Poste’s full name from one of the ciphers left by Zodiac, it reveals an alternate message, Fox News reports.
Much of the Case Breakers’ alleged evidence centers on linking Mr. Poste to a murder in Riverside, California, that was connected to the Zodiac Killer in the mid-70s.
The brutal slaying of Cheri Jo Bates on 31 October 1966 (She’s noted in this FBI memo as the madman’s 6th victim) occurred two years before the Zodiac is known to have been active, 100s of miles to the north. However, in one of Zodiac’s letters, he claims to have killed 37 people — far more than the five officially attributed to him.
Mr. Poste received medical check-ups following a gun accident injury, the Case Breakers say. And as a US Air Force veteran being treated at March Air Force Base hospital, he was just 15 minutes from the 1966 Bates crime scene. The team believes the dates of the two incidents overlap.
Among the evidence that the sleuths suspect links the cases and Mr. Poste is a Timex wristwatch, with a broken band, found at the crime scene — purchased at a military base in the mid-sixties.
The sleuths believe that paint spattered on this wristwatch’s face is because, at the time of the murder, Mr. Poste had been a housepainter for three years and continued for decades afterward.
A size 10 heelprint from a military-style boot is also believed to be in the style of those allegedly worn by Mr. Poste, and the same print was found at three other Zodiac crime scenes. In addition, brown hair was also found in the victim’s hand — a match to Mr. Poste’s hair color at the time.
Fox News spoke with a Vietnam veteran, Hams Smits (far left), who says he spent 7 years hiding a Zodiac whistleblower named Wil (red hat). Sources say he had escaped a “criminal posse,” headed by Mr. Poste, that roamed in the High Sierra region — backed up in photos and video. Wil, now living in the Northwest, alleges Mr. Poste “groomed me into a killing machine” and that he witnessed him burying several murder weapons.
In an extract from a longer interview with the Case Breakers, Wil claims that Mr. Poste killed animals of all sizes “indiscriminately” and would “mess with the carcasses”.
Other witnesses brought forward by the Case Breakers include the mother of Poste’s grandson, a woman named Michelle. She claims that when her relationship ended with Poste’s stepson, Michelle was harassed, threatened, and assaulted by Mr. Poste’s posse until she left the state.
Gwennie, a California woman who lived next door to Mr. Poste and his wife, told Fox News she believes he’s the Zodiac killer, based on the evidence collected. She said the couple babysat her as a child in the 1970s and 1980s, and he would teach her how to shoot firearms several times a week. She also said that she witnessed his callousness and violence towards his wife, who only slept on the couch.
Recently, Gwennie said she caught up with his wife who is now in assisted living and was told over the phone: “I’m sorry that I didn’t tell the cops about his [Zodiac] past,” The Case Breakers report in their press release.
“He lived a double life,” she told Fox News. “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. It later hit me full-blown that Gary’s the Zodiac.”
To date, no DNA has been matched to any of the Zodiac crime scenes, nor to evidence retained from the death of Cheri Jo Bates.
In 2020, after private citizens cracked one of the ciphers, the FBI said the Zodiac case was still ongoing.