Zodiac Killer identified, linked to sixth murder: cold-case squad

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Zodiac Killer identified, linked to sixth murder: cold-case squad

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 remaining unsolved decades later.

One cipher received by San Francisco Chronicle in 1969 was finally cracked in December, revealing a message that said he wasn’t scared of being executed if ever caught.

But years of digging led to new forensic evidence in the case, including photos from Poste’s darkroom that show scars on his forehead match scars on the sketch of the Zodiac, the team told Fox News.

Gary F. Poste
Poste claimed to have killed as many as 37 people.
TheCaseBreakers.org

Deciphering letters sent by the Zodiac also revealed Poste as the killer who had claimed to have slaughtered as many as 37 people.

In one note, the letters of Poste’s full name were removed to reveal an alternate message, a Case Breakers investigator told Fox News.

“So you’ve got to know Gary’s full name in order to decipher these anagrams,” former Army counterintelligence agent Jen Bucholtz said. “I just don’t think there’s any other way anybody would have figured it out.”

The team also believes Poste killed Cheri Jo Bates on Halloween in 1966, some 400 miles away from San Francisco and two years before the first slaying was linked to the Zodiac Killer.

"Zodiac" killer
During his killing spree, the madman sent a series of letters to local newspapers, in which he coined his nickname.
Bettmann Archive

Bates, 18, was found dead with more than 40 stab wounds in an alleyway on the campus of Riverside City College after her father reported her missing, according to Fox News.

Authorities got a handwritten letter the following year that led them to later believe Bates slaying may be tied to the Zodiac Killer — until investigators got another anonymous letter in 2016 claiming the earlier note was a “sick joke,” Fox News reported.

“The author admitted that he was not the Zodiac killer or the killer of Cheri Jo Bates and that he was just looking for attention,” Riverside police said.

The Zodiac Killer was ultimately never linked to Bates’ murder — and the case still remains open, Riverside police told Fox News.

However, the Case Breakers believe Poste is a “very strong suspect” in Bates’ murder and are urging investigators to compare her DNA to his.

Cheri Jo Bates
Bates was killed on Halloween in 1966, and the task force believes Poste could be connected.
Riverside Police Department

A wristwatch with paint splatter thought to have been worn by the killer was recovered at the scene of Bates’ murder — and Poste had painted homes for more than four decades, according to the cold-case squad.

In addition, a heel print from a military-style boot at the murder scene matched that of his and others found at the Zodiac crime scenes, Fox News reported.

FBI investigators had even identified Bates as the Zodiac Killer’s “sixth victim” in a 1975 memo obtained by the team.

But the first known slayings linked to the Zodiac Killer occurred in December 1968 when a couple were shot dead in a car in Benicia, California.

Another couple was then shot in Vallejo in July 1969, with the man surviving. Later that year, a couple was stabbed near a lake and the man survived while a cab driver was gunned down in San Francisco.

An FBI spokesperson told The Post Wednesday they would look into the Case Breakers’ claims regarding Poste.

Meanwhile, San Francisco police told Fox News they could not comment on potential suspects in the Zodiac investigation because it is ongoing.

Poste zodiac killer scar comp
Photos reveal that Poste’s forehard scares match the scars on the sketch of the Zodiac.
Courtesy of The Case Breakers

A $50,000 reward was offered earlier this year by the Riverside Police Department for a conviction in the unsolved Bates slaying.

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