Gary Francis Poste, was identified by sleuths this week as the notorious murderer – but law enforcement officials countered on Thursday to say they believe he is not a suspect in the case.
The Case Breakers, a team of over 40 volunteers consisting of cold case specialists from law enforcement, military, academic and legal backgrounds, announced their find on Wednesday.
However, law enforcement is claiming Poste, a man who died in 2018, is not the serial killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay area and killed at least five people in the 1960s.
Police instead are saying they receive hundreds of tips a year regarding the decades-old cold case, but the Case Breakers believe Poste is “a very strong suspect” in the death of a teenage girl hundreds of miles away that has never been linked to the Zodiac.
The case of the Zodiac killer took another twist this week
after a team of investigators claimed they had unmasked the man who has fixated the public and amateur sleuths for decades.
But the apparent breakthrough was not so clearcut.
On Wednesday, a team of former law enforcement members, prosecutors and intelligence officers that calls itself the Case Breakers said they had determined the identity of the killer responsible for a series of murders in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960s.
However, police have said the investigation into the killings is still open. Law enforcement regularly receives tips about the case, including from people who believe they know the identity of the killer.
The Case Breakers said they had new physical and forensic evidence and eyewitnesses who supported their theory that an air force veteran who died in 2018 was behind the murders.
“I absolutely feel we solved this case,” Tom Colbert, a member of the Case Breakers, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
The FBI and San Francisco police department declined to directly comment on the announcement but said the investigation was still open.
“The FBI’s investigation into the Zodiac Killer remains open and unsolved. 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 FBI’s San Francisco office said in a statement.
No ordinary tipsters, the Case Breakers are a team of over 40 volunteers from law enforcement, military, legal and academic backgrounds.
They say new physical and forensic evidence all connect a man named Gary Francis Poste to the infamous slayings.
The group – whose website boasts fresh leads on several high-profile cases – says Poste is also “a very strong suspect” in the death of a teen girl hundreds of miles away, a case never linked to the Zodiac.
Among the new claims are similarities between Poste and a 1969 police sketch of the Zodiac, and in particular, the “irrefutable” likeness of scars on their foreheads.
The Case Breakers also say deciphered letters from the Zodiac contain anagrams of Poste’s name.
In its Wednesday press release, the unofficial task force said it had “signed up eyewitnesses, filed court affidavits, and secured decades of pictures from Poste’s former darkroom” over the course of a 10-year state-wide examination, to back up the allegations.
But law enforcement agencies have batted down their claims.
Local police in San Francisco and Riverside also dismissed the group’s “circumstantial evidence”.
The last major break in the Zodiac case came late last year, when the FBI confirmed independent code-breakers had cracked one of several taunting messages sent to newspapers during the killing spree.
The decrypted message, sent to the San Francisco Chronicle, provided no new evidence of the killer’s identity but contained the message: “I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me.”
David Oranchak, the Virginia web designer who helped crack the cipher, told the Chronicle on Wednesday that it was “unlikely” the killer included his name as an anagram in the letters.
The Zodiac Killer gained notoriety with his letters to the newspapers and to police, in which he claimed to have murdered as many as 37 people. Investigators have worked on the basis of seven victims in total, five of them homicides.
Zodiac killer, unidentified American
Zodiac killer, unidentified American serial killer who is believed to have murdered at least five people in northern California between 1968 and 1969. An earlier murder, the stabbing death of an 18-year-old college student in Riverside, California in 1966, is also sometimes attributed to the Zodiac killer. The case inspired the influential 1971 action film Dirty Harry, which starred Clint Eastwood, and it was the subject of the critically acclaimed David Fincher dramatic film Zodiac (2007).
In 1968 a teenage couple was shot to death near their car in a remote area north of San Francisco; one year later another couple was attacked in similar circumstances, though the male victim survived. After the 1969 attack, the killer phoned police to alert them to the crime and to take responsibility for the 1968 murders. Later that year the Zodiac killer attacked another young couple, though once again the male survived. The last known victim, a taxi driver, was shot in October 1969.
The murders were the subject of intense investigation and media coverage, particularly because of the killer’s taunting letters to newspapers and phone calls to police. His letters, sent from 1969 to 1974, were signed with a symbol resembling the crosshairs of a gunsight and typically began with the phrase, “this is the Zodiac speaking.” Included among the letters were four ciphers or cryptograms, the first of which was sent in three parts to three Bay Area newspapers in July 1969.
Known as the “408 cipher” for the number of characters it contained, it was soon decoded by a pair of private citizens. Its message stated in part that, “I like killing people because it is so much fun.” Another cipher, the “340 cipher,” mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle in November 1969, was finally decoded in 2020 by a team of three amateur code breakers; its message began, “I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me.”
A cold-case task force claims it has identified the notorious Zodiac Killer, who terrorized Northern California in the late 1960s and taunted authorities with cryptic notes.
Investigators with the Case Breakers told Fox News that the group — led by former FBI agents and retired law enforcement officials — has identified the infamous killer as Gary Francis Poste, who died in 2018.
They also tied the infamous serial killer to a sixth murder in Southern California.
The Zodiac Killer had already been linked to five murders in 1968 and 1969 in the San Francisco area by the FBI.
During his spree, the madman sent a series of letters to local newspapers, in which he coined his nickname and threatened more slayings if they weren’t printed. Some letters included ciphers — with some puzzles still unsolved decades later.