Australian Broadcasting Corp, Wednesday, 10/6/21
A large task force of volunteer investigators believe they have identified the notorious Zodiac, a psychopath who taunted California officials by sending coded letters and bloodied evidence in the 1960s-70s.
The killer has been definitively linked to at least five murders through the 1960s, but this group says their perp was connected to another victim in 1966: Her name was Cheri Jo Bates, a coed from Riverside, California.
The team said they wanted to share their evidence about Bates with the Riverside Police, but the agency said they were “100 percent sure” the Zodiac Killer wasn’t responsible for her death. Nevertheless, the group claims DNA from Bates’s attacker could be quickly tested against their suspect to confirm their theory.
Who do they think the killer is?
The 40 cold-case sleuths, dubbed the Case Breakers, say a former USAF veteran and 40-year house painter named Gary F. Poste was the man responsible. He died of natural causes in 2018 at the age of 80, leaving behind a wife, stepson and a surrogate son who love him to the end.
Why do they think it’s him?
Some of the evidence they say points to Poste includes:
— A paint-splattered watch bought at a military base found by police after Bates’s murder
— A military heelprint of the same style and shoe size was found at three other Zodiac crime scenes; it is also Poste’s style and size, verified by family photos and witnesses
— Brown hairs found in Bates hand match the hair color of Poste at the time; DNA comparisons are TBA
— Links between his name and coded messages sent to police by someone claiming to be the killer
— Bullet shell casings allegedly from Poste’s former 9-mm and .22 handguns have been brought to the Case Breakers for comparison to those collected by various agencies
— Forehead scars from Poste’s 1959 car crash (above) are similar to the markings in SFPD’s sketch of the Zodiac Killer
Have any relatives spoken out?
The mother of Poste’s grandson, Michelle Wynn, told the San Francisco Chronicle she believes the Case Breakers had nailed the killer. Wynn said he was the Zodiac Killer “without a doubt” and the police sketch from 1969 was “like a bell-ringer for me. Being around him, knowing his demeanor and his shadiness and twistedness — I have an intuition, I can read people,” she told the Chronicle. “It’s my birthday today, and this all coming out is a great present for me.”
Who are The Case Breakers?
The team’s website says they include former FBI agents, federal prosecutors, NSA codebreakers, detectives, US Marshals, military counterintelligence officers, DNA experts, CSI professors, cops and anthropologists.
While the official 1968-69 death count in the San Francisco Bay Area was five, the team now suspects it was double that. The unpaid professionals believe he was active between 1962 and 1970, with the same MO and signature, in a target-rich environment stretching from San Diego County to Lake Tahoe.
The killer, however, claimed in one of his notes to have killed 37 people.
What about those coded messages?
Nineteen letters and cards, often starting with “This is the Zodiac speaking,” were sent to local newspapers in Northern California until the 1970s. But what gets the most attention is the four ciphers — handwritten codes sent with the letters that claimed, among many things, to reveal the identity of the killer.
One member of the Case Breakers Team, former Army counterintelligence agent Jen Bucholtz, told Fox News that one of these notes could now be deciphered to reveal another message.
“You’ve got to know Gary’s full name in order to decipher these anagrams,” Bucholtz said. “I just don’t think there’s any other way anybody would have figured it out.”
The San Francisco office of the FBI said in a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle that the case remained open and they had “no new information to share at the moment.”