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Zodiac Killer Identified? Cold Case Team Says They’ve Linked Elusive Serial Killer to 6th Slaying

A team of more than 40 former law enforcement investigators,  military intelligence officers, and journalists said on Wednesday that they have identified the Zodiac Killer, who was behind at least five slayings in California in the late 1960s.

The group, called The Case Breakers, told Fox News that the unidentified serial killer was Gary Francis Poste, who died in 2018. The Case Breakers also believe Poste killed Cheri Jo Bates, 18, on October 31, 1966, in Riverside — which is hundreds of miles from the San Francisco area where the infamous murders occurred.

Bates’ murder occurred years before the five slayings likely carried out by the Zodiac Killer, who boasted about his actions in coded notes that were sent to police and the media.

The Case Breakers publicized a picture of Poste, which apparently shows him with a forehead scar that is also shown in sketches of the elusive killer.

Ex-Army counterintelligence agent Jen Bucholtz told Fox that the group decoded messages that heavily suggest Poste is the Zodiac Killer — including one in which Poste’s entire name was removed to express a completely different message.

“So you’ve got to know Gary’s full name in order to decipher these anagrams. I just don’t think there’s any other way anybody would have figured it out,” she told the news outlet.

According to Fox, Bates was found dead in an alleyway on Riverside City College campus after her father reported her missing. A year after her murder, police received a letter that led them to look into the Zodiac Killer. In 2016, detectives reportedly got a typed letter from someone who claimed he wrote the prior note and it was a “sick joke.”

Riverside Police’s cold case unit told Fox that do not believe the Zodiac Killer murdered Bates in 1966. However, The Case Breakers believe Poste is responsible for Bates’ death, and they have urged law enforcement to compare DNA from her crime scene to that of Poste.

Despite Riverside police’s claims to Fox, The Case Breakers reportedly acquired a 1975 FBI memo to Riverside police which states that Bates was one of the Zodiac’s victims.

The group noted several other similarities between Poste and the killer. In Bates’ case, detectives reportedly discovered a heel from a military-style boot that matched the size and type of shoes Poste wore. Additionally, Poste was an Air Force veteran when he received medical treatment for a gun-related incident at a hospital located 15 minutes from where Bates was killed.

In a statement, The Case Breakers said an “outlaw-turned-whistleblower” tipped off the team about the latest developments — which involve a volunteer team’s finding additional crime scenes that may be linked to the Zodiac Killer.

“The turncoat claims to have escaped from the Zodiac’s criminal ‘posse,’ roaming in the mountains for decades. Now in his 50s, he says he is both ashamed and angry. ‘He groomed me into a killing machine,’ the statement reads.

The Case Breakers identified the whistleblower to Fox as someone named Wil, who allegedly claimed he witnessed Poste burying the murder weapons in the woods.

The Case Breakers said they were given a remote location to dig up guns in hopes of solving this decades-long mystery.

The group also said the whereabouts of one of the Zodiac’s possible victims remains unclear. Nurse Donna Lass, 25, worked at the first-aid station at Sahara Hotel-Casino’ in Nevada, and she was last seen in South Lake Tahoe, California, in 1970. The Charley Project said a day after she vanished, an unidentified man called her job and landlord and claimed she was not there due to a family emergency. That was not the case, and the caller was never identified.

Lass’ car was found near her apartment in Stateline, Nevada. A postcard possibly written by the Zodiac Killer suggested he killed Lass. However, The Charley Project said that Lass’ unsolved disappearance does not appear to fit the Zodiac’s profile, and it was found to have been doctored by a police investigator.

Seven people are generally agreed to have victims of the Zodiac Killer, two of whom survived. They were: David Arthur Faraday, 17, and Betty Lou Jensen, 16, shot and killed on December 20, 1968; Michael Renault Mageau, 19, and Darlene Elizabeth Ferrin, 22, shot on July 4, 1969; Bryan Calvin Hartnell, 20, and Cecelia Ann Shepard, 22: stabbed on September 27, 1969; and Paul Lee Stine, 29: shot and killed on October 11, 1969. Mageau and Hartnell survived.

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[Featured image: Sketch/San Francisco Police Department; Gary Francis Poste/Handout]