The Case Breakers, an online group made up of former law enforcement and forensic specialists dedicated to solving cold cases, claim to have uncovered the identity of the notorious Zodiac Killer on Wednesday.
The Case Breakers identified Gary Poste, a US Air Force Veteran and house painter who died in 2018, as the Zodiac Killer.
Although the claim has inspired buzz on social media, local law enforcement officials remain skeptical, and insist that the case is still open.
The Zodiac Killer
The Zodiac Killer terrorized Northern California in the late 1960s when he brutally murdered five people — although he could have killed many more. The killer himself claimed to have murdered over 30 people.
The mystery surrounding the case grew after the killer sent cryptic, encoded messages and threats of violence to regional newspapers.
The serial killer created a total of four puzzling cyphers to write his messages, and two have been decoded — the first in 1969, and the second just last year, in 2020.
The story of the Zodiac Killer was even made into a 2007 film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey, Jr.
The Case Breakers claim to have uncovered the true killer, whose identity has remained a mystery for decades, with many investigators and internet sleuths providing suspects, through “physical and forensic evidence,” as stated in a press release.
A sixth murder?
They linked Poste to an unsolved murder of a young student named Cheri Jo Bates in 1966, who they claim was also a victim of the Zodiac, although police did not previously consider her murder to be connected to the serial killer.
The Case Breakers and some other independent investigative groups consider her murder to be the Zodiac Killer’s first.
Bates was brutally murdered at the age of just 18 in Riverside, California, on the Riverside City College campus.
The victim ripped hairs from the head of her attacker, which were found on her body, along with his blood skin cells under her fingernails. Thankfully, this forensic evidence was preserved, but the Case Breakers say that they are being prevented from testing this evidence against Poste by local law enforcement.
Law enforcement agencies deny that the Bates murder is linked to the Zodiac Killer, even though, as the Case Breakers argue, the FBI connected the crime to the serial killer in 1975.
The group would like to prove their theory by testing the DNA evidence found at the site of Bates’ murder.
Throughout their investigation of the infamous Zodiac Killer, the Case Breakers have “recovered new physical and forensic evidence, signed up eyewitnesses, filed court affidavits, and secured decades of pictures from Poste’s former darkroom,” all of which, they claim, connect the man to the case.
Is Case Breaker suspect Gary Poste the Zodiac Killer?
This includes an evaluation of distinctive scars Poste had on his forehead from a car accident in 1959. The group found that they match descriptions and eyewitness accounts of the Zodiac Killer’s own facial scars.
Although local police claim that the evidence is not strong enough to firmly link the man to the string of brutal killings, the Case Breakers argue that there are various clues linking Poste to the murder of Bates.
These include a Timex wristwatch found at the scene of the student’s murder, which was thought to have been dropped by the killer and likely bought at a military base post exchange.
At the time of the murder, Poste was a US Air Force veteran regularly being treated for a gun-related injury at a military hospital that was just 15 minutes away from the murder scene.
A forensic lab determined that spray paint residue was found on the face of the wristwatch. At the time, Poste was a house painter.
Police also found prints from a size ten “military-style” boot at the scene of the crime. Similar prints have been found at other crime scenes linked to the Zodiac Killer. According to the Case Breakers, this was the size and style of Poste’s preferred shoe.
In addition to these clues, the Case Breakers have included witness testimony from a number of Poste’s former friends and family members who argue that the man had a dark, violent side.
A woman who was babysat by Poste and his wife as a child even claimed that Poste’s widow told her she regretted not informing the police that her husband was the Zodiac killer.
Another man claimed that he witnessed Poste burying murder weapons in the wilderness.