Cold Case Team Says They Have ‘Very Strong Suspect’ Who Could Be the Zodiac Killer
Despite the Zodiac Killer still being an open investigation by FBI and local law enforcement, a team of experts say they have identified the serial killer.
A team of experts have come forward to say they have a strong person of interest leading to identity of the infamous Zodiac Killer, who terrorized the San Francisco area in the late 1960s, USA Today reported.
The cold case specialists known as the Case Breakers, who are a team comprised of over 40 former detectives, journalists, and military intelligence personnel, said that the Zodiac was responsible for a slaying hundreds of miles away that was never linked to him, and identified the serial killer as Gary Francis Poste, who passed away in 2018, Fox News said.
The Case Breakers say that the Zodiac Killer was responsible for the slaying of Cheri Jo Bates, a teenager killed in Riverside, California, in 1966, Newsweek reported. They also cited that according to an FBI memorandum from 1975, a "victim known to be Zodiac's was a co-ed murdered in Riverside, California, in 1966."
In a 1971 letter, the FBI said "Zodiac acknowledged that he had indeed been responsible for the Riverside slaying."
Now, due to the information of the Bates case, the Case Breakers say that Poste is "a very strong suspect" to be Zodiac.
However, the Riverside Police Department are pushing back on the Case Breakers’ theory.
"Our Homicide Cold Case Unit has determined the murder of Cheri Jo Bates in 1966 is not related to the Zodiac Killer," Riverside Police Department's Homicide Cold Case Unit told Fox News in a statement. "We understand the public interest in these unsolved murders, but all inquiries regarding the Zodiac Killer should be referred to the FBI."
"The Cheri Jo Bates case remains an open investigation and we do not have any additional details to release at this time," the police added.
Ryan Railsbak, a spokesperson for the Riverside Police Department told Inside Edition Digital that "Bates case is not affiliated with Zodiac."
Railsbak said in 1967, the department got a handwritten letter in the mail that was suspicious to what the Zodiac was sending out. It was similar but that was the only connection. In 2016, the department got another handwritten letter in the mail for the 50th anniversary of Bates killing and worked with the FBI. They compared both anonymous letters and confirmed it was from the same person. In 2020, they were able to identify who sent the letters and contacted the person. He said he was not the Zodiac and sent the letters as a "troubled teen." The anniversary may have been the reason he came clean. He was not charged and is not a suspect.
The Case Breakers said that the police department has not been helpful in their research in the case in a statement.
“After a statewide examination, the renowned sleuths have recovered new physical and forensic evidence, signed up eyewitnesses, filed court affidavits, and secured decades of pictures from Poste’s former darkroom. That includes photographic proof, as a former FBI agent put it, of “irrefutable” scars on our Zodiac’s forehead – spotted by 3 witnesses and an observing cop, then later passed on to the 1969 SFPD sketch artist,” their statement said.
“The Case Breakers had hoped to share all these results with the RPD, including the secured DNA from their suspect who recently died. The department’s current police chief is the eighth in a row to refuse to consider the infamous killer – even though the FBI, in 1975, called Bates “the 6th victim,’” they added.
The Case Breakers also said that the Riverside Police would not allow them access to evidence like DNA picked up at the scene that the police had stored away and preserved.
“Fifty-five years ago this month, RPD chose to ignore the obvious. It would take just minutes to quickly and quietly compare Poste’s DNA. You’d think the pain Cheri Jo’s family and her old friends have been living with would be Priority #1. Here’s to hoping the next chief finds the courage to act,” Case Breakers Team Organizer Thomas J. Colbert said in a statement.
Riverside Police Department said of Case Breakers claims are "without merit."
"We are not aware of any formal request from Case Breakers. However, an attorney who does represent Case Breakers did contact us in September but never stated that he worked for Case Breakers," Railsbak said.
Why Poste became a key person of interest to the Case Breakers was through a series of coincidences that connect Bates and Poste, according to Fox News.
Poste, an Air Force veteran, received medical check-ups for a gun incident at a hospital located 15 minutes from where Bates was murdered. A wristwatch with paint splatter on it was collected at the murder scene and is thought to have been worn by the killer. Poste was a painter by trade.
Another piece of evidence was military-style boot footprints at the scene of the Bates murder and other Zodiac killings. The footprints matched the same style and size of those found in other Zodiac crime scenes and of Poste, Case Breakers said.
Case Breakers also linked Poste with Zodiac due to the forehead scars he sustained following surgery from a car accident he was involved in when he was 25. Police sketches released at the height of Zodiac slayings also showcased scars on the forehead.
Despite the new theory by Case Breakers, the Zodiac case remains open by the FBI.
In the past, the Case Breakers has tackled other mysteries such as the D.B. Cooper hijacking heist, the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, and the last missing child of the Atlanta Murders.
Who was Zodiac?
The Zodiac Killer murdered at least six people but claimed to have killed over 35 in the San Francisco area between 1969 and 1972. He was never caught.
The brutal Zodiac murders were portrayed in the 2007 movie “Zodiac” with Robert Downey Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal.
The killer even threatened to massacre children on school buses, forcing police to give kids armed escorts. He taunted investigators with letters, some containing bizarre coded messages, all signed with the symbol of a circle with two lines crossing in it.
Much like “Son of Sam,” the Zodiac Killer taunted police and media with his cryptic messages as he haunted a major metropolitan area.
During his reign of terror, Zodiac left two survivors who helped offer a description, USA Today reported.
In 2020, Australian mathematician Samuel Blake was one of the people who helped decrypt what's known as the “340 cipher.”
“The chances of solving this after 50 years was next to zero and so being able to play a role in this is fantastic,” Blake told CBS News.
Blake says earlier in 2020, he joined a group of scientists already working to decode the message and he was able to enlist the help of a supercomputer at the University of Melbourne.
The message reads in part: "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."
It did not identify Zodiac, as other messages had promised.
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