A team of cold case investigators believe they have unmasked the Zodiac killer after finding a ‘goldmine of evidence’ linked to a deceased suspect.
The Case Breakers had identified Gary Francis Poste, who died in 2018, as the alleged serial killer in early October who was responsible for multiple murders in Northern California in the late 1960’s.
The group – which is compiled of about 40 independent sleuths – announced that Poste had given away weapons and bullets before his death, which could finally lead to the true identity of the killer.
The Case Breakers, an investigative group of about 40 sleuths, believes they have newfound evidence identifying Air Force veteran Gary Francis Poste, 80, as the Zodiac Killer
New evidence, which included weapons and bullets, were believed to have quietly been given from Poste prior to his death to his ‘favorite locals’
‘When The Case Breakers approached officials about a new Zodiac suspect last spring, five police and state agencies would not cooperate,’ the group said in a statement on Saturday.
‘But last week, the man who runs the 10-year cold case team, Thomas J. Colbert, received a tip from his long-time sources in the remote town of deceased Gary Francis Poste: They had verified the existence of an evidentiary goldmine.’
The statement revealed that Poste had given away his weapons and bullets, with most of them still remaining untouched and hidden away.
‘Old associates of the housepainter/alleged serial killer claim that, a few years prior to Poste’s 2018 death at 80, he had quietly given away his weapons, pistol parts, gunpowder, bullets and shell casings – more than a thousand, involving 25 different calibers – to his favorite locals,’ they added.
‘And most of these peculiar ‘gifts’ have remained in basements and closets, untouched, ever since.’
Thomas Colbert, one of the investigators, had sent the evidence to be tested at labs in three different states
Investigators with the group believe a scar on the Zodiac killer’s forehead is similar to the one seen on 25-year-old Poste
Thomas Colbert, one of the group’s members, boxed up the haul and sent it to team members to have the items investigated in labs in three different states.
Colbert strongly believes they have nailed the identification of the Zodiac killer more than five decades later.
‘My FBI guys say it’s irrefutable. It’s a match,’ Colbert told Fox News.
‘We also have six people that he’s confessed to that he was the Zodiac. Three of them on our court affidavits. So we strongly feel that.
‘And then of course the murder scenes in Riverside, we have counted six similarities at the murder scene.’
The team of investigators had also used photographic evidence to compare a distinctive scar seen on the Zodiac Killer and compared it to photos of Poste.
They have even requested the FBI to test their findings for DNA.
‘The FBI’s investigation into the Zodiac Killer remains open and unsolved,’ the FBI said in a statement to the network.
‘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 Case Breakers have also relied on accounts of people who knew Poste, including a neighbor whom the alleged serial and his wife used to babysit as a child, a man who claimed to have been a part of Poste’s criminal ‘posse’ that roamed the High Sierra region, and an ex-girlfriend of Poste’s son.
The members of The Case Breakers believe that the Zodiac Killer was linked to the murder of Cheri Jo Bates in 1966, two years before the killing spree had began
Bates was found stabbed 42 times and nearly beheaded in a California alley in October 1966
Police had recovered a watch, which they believed to have belonged to the Zodiac killer
The watch had been found splattered with paint which investigators believe was linked to Poste as he had been a house painter at the time
Five people were fatally stabbed or shot to death in Northern California in 1968 and 1969, and their killer sent taunting letters and cryptograms to the police and newspapers.
The killer was dubbed ‘Zodiac’ because some of his cryptograms included astrological symbols and references.
The series of unsolved murders inspired many books, documentaries and movies.
According to information released by the Case Breakers, the Zodiac killer was also responsible for the brutal killing of co-ed Cheri Jo Bates, 18, who was found stabbed 42 times and nearly decapitated on October 31, 1966, in Riverside, more than 400 miles south of San Francisco and two years before the Zodiac’s first known killing.
Members of the investigative group claimed that around the time of Bates’ murder, Poste, an Air Force veteran, was getting a check-up at a hospital located just 15 minutes away from the crime scene.
A person had claimed they were responsible for Bates’s murder in 1967 but was found to be a disturbed youth seeking attention in 2016
Despite the FBI claiming that Bates was the sixth victim of the Zodiac killer, it was later refuted claiming that there was no connection between Bates’s murder and the others
A wristwatch splattered with paint and believed to have been worn by the killer was found near Bates’ body. Case Breakers noted that Poste spent 40 years working as a house painter.
Additionally, a heelprint found in the dirt at the scene of the stabbing was said to have been been from a ‘military-style boot’ consistent with the style and size of footprints found at three known Zodiac crime scene, and also of Poste.
A year after Bates’ murder, the Riverside Police Department received an anonymous letter, whose author appeared to confess to murdering Bates for turning down his romantic advances.
In 1975, an FBI memo sent to the Riverside Police Department linked the Bates murder to the Zodiac killings, describing the 18-year-old woman as the elusive murderer’s sixth victim.
Officer Ryan Railsback, the spokesperson for the Riverside Police Department, told DailyMail.com on Wednesday that their homicide unit, working with FBI genealogists, has ruled out any links between the Bates murder and the Zodiac killer, or anyone being potentially identified as the Zodiac killer.
Betti Lou Jensen (left), David Faraday (center), and Darlene Ferrin (right) are said to be three of the Zodiac killer’s victims
Cold case detectives previously believed Ross Sullivan (left) or Lawrence Kane (right) to be the Zodiac killer
THE ZODIAC KILLER’S VICTIMS
Although the Zodiac Killer claimed to have killed as many as 37 people in his letters to local newspapers, police have only linked five murders – and two other injuries – to him.
On December 20, 1968, David Arthur Faraday, 17, and Betty Lou Jensen, 16, were on their first date when they pulled over into a lovers’ lane on Lake Herman Road in Benicia. There, they were forced from the car by a killer and Faraday was shot in the head. Jensen began to run away but was shot multiple times in the back.
On July 4, 1969, Michael Renault Mageau, 19, and Darlene Elizabeth Ferrin, 22, were in the parking lot of Blue Rock Springs Park in Vallejo – 4 miles from the first crime scene – when they were shot ‘to pieces’, according to the investigator. But while Ferrin was pronounced dead on arrival, Mageau survived being shot in the face, neck and chest.
On September 27, 1969, Bryan Calvin Hartnell, 20, and Cecelia Ann Shepard, 22, were having a picnic at Lake Berryessa in Napa County when they were approached by a hooded man who bound and stabbed them. Hartnell survived eight stab wounds to his back, but Shepard died two days later.
On October 11, 1969, cab driver Paul Lee Stine, 29, picked up a passenger and drove him to Presidio Heights – where he was shot in the back of the head and robbed. The killer also ripped part of Stine’s shirt, which he later sent with a letter to a local newspaper.
Four other victims and one other escapee have been connected to the Zodiac Killer, but none have been confirmed.
Railsback said the FBI memo tying Bates’ slaying to the Zodiac killing was based on the confession letter, which in 2016 was revealed to be a fake.
That year, someone sent an unsigned, typed-up note to the police, revealing that they had sent the bogus confession, which was in fact a cry for attention from ‘a troubled youth.’
Railsback stressed that the Bates case remains open, and there is still an active $50,000 reward being offered for information leading to an arrest.
The police spokesperson noted that last month, an entertainment lawyer with alleged ties to the Case Breakers reached out to the department, saying that his client had information about the Bates case, and asking if the tipster would be eligible to receive the reward money, even if the alleged killer was already dead.
Railsback said he expressed interest in the information but never heard back from the attorney.
‘If we really had information that the Zodiac killer was related to Cheri Jo Bates, we would not hide that,’ he stressed. ‘We’re not going to hide information, especially 55 years later.’
In 2020, an international code-breaking team cracked Zodiac’s notorious ‘340 cipher’ (pictured) sent to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969
In 2020, a ciphered letter mailed to a San Francisco newspaper by the Zodiac killer in 1969 was cracked by a team of amateur code-breakers from the United States, Australia and Belgium.
A woman named Gwen who lived next door to Poste and his wife, and who had been babysat by the couple as a child, now believes her neighbor was the Zodiac killer
Full text of ‘340 Cipher’
‘I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me.
That wasn’t me on the TV show, which brings up a point about me.
I’m 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.
Where everyone else has nothing when they reach paradise so they are afraid of death.
I am not afraid because I know that my new life will be an easy one in paradise.’
According to code-breaking expert David Oranchak, the cipher’s text includes: ‘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.’
Little is known about Poste’s life beyond the fact that he was married, had a son, and worked as a house painter after retiring from the US Air Force, according to information gathered by the Case Breakers.
In February 2016, The Union-Democrat reported that 78-year-old Gary Francis Poste, from Groveland, was arrested at his home on Merrell Road on suspicion of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse.
A California woman who lived next door to Poste and his wife, and who had been babysat by the couple as a child in the 1970s and 80s, told Fox News she now believes her neighbor was the Zodiac killer.
The woman, who gave her name only as Gwen, Poste taught her how to shoot, sometimes going into the woods for target practice five days a week.
‘In the last year of her childcare, [Gwen] witnessed his callousness and violence towards his wife – a wife that only slept on a couch,’ according to the Case Breakers.
In a recent a phone conversation between Gwen with Poste’s widow, who is now in her late 70s and residing in an assisted living facility, the elderly woman was said to have told her former neighbor: ‘I’m sorry that I didn’t tell the cops about his past.’
A man named Hans Smits told the Case Breakers that over the past 10 years, he had been shielding a ‘Zodiac whistleblower,’ who had allegedly escaped from Poste’s criminal ‘posse’ that was said to have been active in the High Sierra area of California for several decades.
A woman named Michelle said she was the common-law wife of Poste’s son, and that Poste had sicced members of his criminal ‘posse’ to harass and intimidate her
‘Now in his 50s and hiding in the Northwest, [the whistleblower] says he’s angry and ashamed, claiming the psychopath ‘groomed me into a killing machine,” according to the investigative group.
The whistleblower also claimed to have witnessed Poste burying murder weapons.
A woman named Michelle said she was the common-law wife of Poste’s son, and the mother of his grandson, who is now in his 30s.
According to Michelle, when her 10-year relationship with Poste’s son ended, the house painter sicced two members of his ‘posse’ on her, ordering them to break her windows, harass and assault her, ultimately driving her out of state.