By Khaleda Rahman, 5/18/23; Newsweek
A volunteer group of investigators says the man it believes to be the Zodiac serial killer is listed as a suspect by the FBI, and that the bureau hasn’t sufficiently examined whether he may have committed the crimes.
The Case Breakers, run by investigative journalist Thomas J. Colbert, said a whistleblower on its team was told by an FBI agent that Gary Francis Poste, an Air Force veteran, is listed as a suspect in the Zodiac killings in the bureau’s database.
“The felon has been secretly listed as the Zodiac ‘suspect’ in Headquarters’ computers since 2016 – with his ‘partial DNA’ safely secured at the feds’ Quantico, Virginia lab,” the Case Breakers said in a press release on Thursday.
The Case Breakers in 2021 said it had identified Poste, who died in 2018, as the killer who referred to himself as Zodiac and taunted authorities with ciphers in letters sent to detectives and the media. The killer terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area and killed five people in the Bay Area in 1968 and 1969. But some team members believe the case involves a dozen deaths, stretching from San Diego to Lake Tahoe.
The slayings have inspired numerous books, movies and documentaries over the years, with amateur and expert sleuths working to identify the killer.
“The FBI’s investigation into the Zodiac Killer remains open and unsolved,” a spokesperson for the FBI’s San Francisco office told Newsweek. “Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, and out of respect for the victims and their families, we will not be providing further comment at this time.”
The team, however, claims the local and federal agencies haven’t been in touch with the remaining 10 murder-victim siblings for decades.
The Case Breakers said it found DNA on a hiking mat once owned by Poste and connected it to him after securing DNA from a relative of Poste’s. The group wants law enforcement to compare that DNA to mystery hairs found on Cheri Jo Bates, who it believes was a sixth victim of the Zodiac killer in 1966.
Police have previously said they don’t believe that case was linked to the Zodiac. “The Cheri Jo Bates investigation is not related to any of the Zodiac cases,” Riverside Police spokesman Ryan J. Railsback told Newsweek in 2021. But this 1975 FBI memo dug up by the team reads otherwise.
In the statement, Case Breakers said several law enforcement agencies connected to the case said breaking crime and staff shortages would prevent them from assisting the team. The group said several others chose not to cooperate or to lie about the evidence. “Blame that on apathy, egos and humiliation,” Case Breakers wrote.
The group accused the agencies involved of failing to investigate leads, mishandling DNA evidence and ignoring state law. They also said DNA from a murder scene in Riverside and Poste’s profile were never uploaded to the FBI’s CODIS crime database.
“Like cops, federal agents are dealing with huge caseloads, constant training, odd rules and bureaucracy,” the group’s whistleblower said. “But when someone wearing a badge or uniform works with others to avoid or hide materials, sidestep difficult procedures, or lie about evidence, they’re hurting our volunteers and the thousands of families waiting for answers. Sadly, the team has documented over two dozen examples of law enforcement unprofessionalism in the field.”
Case Breakers said the actions by of the San Francisco Police Department, Riverside Police Department and FBI “warrant a serious review.”