Zodiac Killer 'finally unmasked' by group of sleuths – 54 years after the brutal murders of five innocent young people | The Sun

IT’S one of the most infamous unsolved crimes in US history – the brutal murders by the Zodiac Killer, who terrorised California, executing a succession of innocent young people.

But now, a group of sleuths believe they’ve found the killer…

Reading the manuscript in front of her, Professor Jen Bucholtz became convinced it held the key to a string of grisly murders, still unsolved after 54 years.

A few days previously, Jen had been approached by a stranger with a remarkable proposition.

He was convinced he knew the identity of the mysterious “Zodiac”, a serial killer who claimed at least five lives in California in the ’60s. 

Mainly targeting young couples in remote spots, the Zodiac shot or stabbed his victims between December 1968 and October 1969.


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His notoriety grew when he sent a series of letters signed “the Zodiac” to newspapers, several of which contained coded messages that he challenged the authorities to crack. 

The longer he remained at large, the more infamous he became, and he continued taunting the authorities with letters and postcards after his last confirmed kill.

Now, a group of amateur sleuths who have been investigating the case for several years have revealed the discovery of a new clue which, they say, reinforces their belief that they know who the Zodiac was.

In June this year, Thomas Colbert, founder of The Case Breakers, an elite unit with backgrounds in investigation and the military, announced a symbol synonymous with the killer – a cross with a circle round it – had been discovered on a wooden post near a property once owned by the man who they believe to be the Zodiac Killer, Gary Francis Poste.

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He said the symbol was revealed when a landowner was clearing vegetation from an area in Groveland, California, half a mile from Poste’s property.

The revelation comes after The Case Breakers spent three years investigating the Zodiac, following disclosures in the manuscript received by Jen, one of its members, from Dale Julin back in 2020.

It was early that year when Dale, a retired news presenter, approached Jen, 48, a US Army veteran, after his theory was dismissed by the police and FBI.

“Dale told me that in 2014, a homeless man, Chris Avery, turned up at the TV station he worked at wanting to speak to him.

“Chris claimed that his stepfather, Gary Francis Poste, was the Zodiac and that when he confronted him about it, Poste tried to kill him, so he went on the run.”

The Zodiac’s letters and postcards contained codes where letters were substituted for a series of symbols.

In order to break the code, the reader had to correctly link the symbol with a letter of the alphabet.

At the time, newspapers that had received the letters published them.

The first was cracked in one week, the second took 51 years, and two remain unsolved.

In the letters, which also contained details about the murders and methods used to kill the victims, the Zodiac indicated that the codes also included his or her name, but codebreakers never found it.

Following his encounter with Chris Avery, Dale decided to turn code-cracker and see if using Poste’s name was the key that would unlock the Zodiac’s identity.

It took him five years, during which time Poste, a former Air Force veteran living in California, died, aged 80. 

Poste’s only brush with the law had been in 2016, when he’d been arrested for allegedly pushing his wife down the stairs.

He was found mentally incapable of being tried, so was referred to a state hospital.

“Dale emailed me in January 2020, saying he knew who the Zodiac was,” Jen explains.

“He asked if I would read his manuscript.

“About a third of the way through, I realised he’d got it.

“This must be it. 

“Dale unusually reverse-engineered the case.

“Typically, you work from the beginning, forwards.

“But, in order to decode the letters, one must have the cipher key, which is Poste’s full name.

“There’s no other way to solve them.

“Using Poste’s name helped to find key information.

“Poste had the experience through his military years to create complicated ciphers.

“He lived in close proximity to the murders, wore size-10 military boots, prints of which were found at three crime scenes, and was an avid outdoorsman.

“There is nothing we know about Poste that eliminates him as a suspect.”

The Zodiac’s killing career was shockingly brutal, but short.

Though he claimed in letters to have committed more murders, investigators agree on seven victims – five who were killed and two who survived. 

He struck first on December 20, 1968, taking the lives of high-school sweethearts David Faraday, 17, and Betty Lou Jensen, 16.

The couple were parked in a secluded lane in Benicia, California, when they were ambushed and shot. 

Then, on July 4, 1969, the Zodiac attacked again, this time at Lake Herman Road near Benicia.

Darlene Ferrin, 22, and Michael Mageau, 19, were sitting in a parked car when the killer approached and opened fire.

Darlene died instantly, while Michael survived. 

The next victims were Cecelia Ann Shepard, 22, and Bryan Hartnell, 20.

They were relaxing by Lake Berryessa in Napa County, California, on September 27, 1969, when they were approached by a man.

Cecelia was stabbed 10 times, while Bryan was stabbed six times in the back.

Bryan survived the attack, but Cecelia died two days later. 

The Zodiac’s last-known victim was taxi-driver Paul Stine, 29.

Paul picked up the killer as a passenger on October 11, 1969, in a suburb of San Francisco and was shot in the head.

Zodiac cut a portion of Paul’s shirt, which he mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle two days later.

The Case Breakers believe the Zodiac was responsible for the murder of Cheri Jo Bates, 18, who was found stabbed 42 times on October 31, 1966, in Riverside, California, though this has never been proved.

After reading Dale’s work, Jen and her Case Breaker colleagues began to collect evidence and strengthen the case against Poste.

In December 2021, the team managed to harvest a viable DNA sample from a camping mat once owned by Poste.

Poste had given the mat to neighbours, who heard about the investigation and offered it up to The Case Breakers.

Police already had a DNA sample taken from hairs clenched in the hand of Cheri Jo Bates.

The Case Breakers requested that their mat sample be compared with that, but their request was denied.

This May, The Case Breakers’ founder Thomas issued a statement saying his group had been told by an FBI whistleblower that Poste was listed as a suspect on the FBI database, but that the case remained “open and unsolved”.

Recently, one of the few people to have seen the Zodiac after being stalked by him before one of his attacks spoke for the first time in the docu-series Myth Of The Zodiac Killer.

Linda Jensen was sunbathing at the lake just before Cecelia and Bryan were attacked.

She told the programme she’d been too scared to speak publicly for decades, but now believes the callous killer is dead.

Jen is certain Poste is the killer.

“In 1959, he was a passenger in a horrific car wreck, in which he sustained a massive head injury and was in hospital for weeks.

All of his fellow airmen we located have said he became a totally different person after that wreck,” she says. 

“Afterwards, he was sent to a radar station in Greenland, where he would have had to send encrypted messages all the time.

“He had training in cryptology and had the background to make anagrams.

“One of my theories about him is that he created some of these anagrams and messages before he killed the victims.

“I think he created them ahead of time and challenged himself to use the method of murder he’d included in the anagram.” 

British true-crime expert and founder of Crime Viral, which tours the UK next year, Cheish Merryweather, believes the answers will eventually be found.

“It is frustrating that The Case Breakers have done the work, found the evidence, looked at the background of the suspect and got the DNA evidence, and have then hit a brick wall with the investigation as the authorities simply refuse to consider what they have.”

Cheish, however, isn’t convinced Poste is the Zodiac.

“I think the Zodiac was relatively young and a loner type,” she says.

“He was reclusive and used the puzzles as a way of getting one over on the authorities.

“I don’t think it was Poste, because he was married.

“It could be that whoever it was died, and no one found out.

“Or, there could be an 85-year-old serial killer in an old people’s home in California telling people he was the Zodiac, and no one believes him because they think he’s just a delusional elderly man.”

For Jen and The Case Breakers, the hope is public pressure will force the authorities to test their evidence.

But until the Zodiac’s unmasked, he’ll be one of the world’s most enduring bogeymen.

“It is unlike any other case in the world,” concludes Jen.


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“I don’t like giving compliments to killers, but he was unique and very smart.”

If Jen is right, and Poste was indeed the Zodiac, he went to his grave without facing justice, having outsmarted the authorities for over half a century. 

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