October 20, 2021
In a press release a few weeks ago, an independent group of cold-case investigators called the “Case Breakers” have allegedly found the identity of the Zodiac Killer: a man who died three years ago living in the Sierra foothills named Gary Francis Poste.
The Zodiac Killer was linked directly to five murders in Northern California in the years 1968 and 1969, but his actual number of victims could be much more. From the years 1969 to 1974, he taunted police and sent threats to various newspapers.
One such letter, addressed to the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle and Vallejo Times-Herald with no return address, began with this statement: “Dear Editor: I am the killer of the 2 teenagers last Christmas at Lake Herman.” The letter went on to describe the murders in detail that only the killer would know, along with the threat of more killing if the crimes weren’t published on the newspapers’ front pages.
Each letter ended with the symbol of a circle with a cross through it. The letters were also each accompanied by one part of a three-part cipher that he claimed contained his identity. These ciphers were decoded and revealed to say, “I like killing people because it is so much fun. It is more fun than killing wild game in the forest because man is the most dangerous animal of all.”
In all, the serial killer claimed to have killed 37 people and even would send bloody bits of clothing to try and prove the crimes in his letters. He abruptly stopped sending threats in the mail in 1974, and the case has been cold ever since.
Until, on Wednesday, Oct. 6, the Case Breakers released their findings.
The group, a team of 40 former law enforcement investigators, claimed they identified the Zodiac Killer through pieces of forensic and physical evidence, as well as testimony from eyewitnesses. They also filed court affidavits and acquired decades of photos from their suspect’s former darkroom.
“He lived a double life,” said the alleged killer’s neighbor in an interview with the press. “As I’m an 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 until I got older. It hit me full-blown that Gary’s the Zodiac.”
Poste was arrested on suspicion of domestic abuse in 2016. The same neighbor told reporters that his spouse would only sleep on the couch and that she saw Poste take out his aggression on her.
Where the Case Breakers linked Poste to physical and forensic evidence, some Internet users linked him to more digital footprints. In a screenshotted 2018 Facebook post, shortly after Poste’s death, he posed with a man named Glynn Barnes, who wrote “My last visit with old man! Gary Poste! Zodiac?” in the caption.
“That Facebook post is the weirdest bit of evidence to me,” said Olivia Clark (‘24). “That’s what gives me hope that they found the right person.”
Despite the press release, the Case Breakers have not been able to link DNA evidence to Poste, and the FBI and the San Francisco Police Department have told the press that the case is still very much open.
“The Zodiac Killer case remains open,” said the FBI in a statement to CNN. “We have no new information to share at the moment.”
“I thought it was confirmed that they actually identified [The Zodiac Killer], so hearing the FBI say the case is still cold is disappointing,” said Clark. “This should be a priority for the FBI and the police, even if the killer is already dead or close to dead. In the end, many people were needlessly murdered and there needs to be justice for them and their loved ones.”