Arguably one of the most notorious cold cases of the latter half of the 20th century has been the identity of the Zodiac Killer— the serial killer that terrorized Northern California throughout the late 1960s, and tormented the police with cryptic messages. For over half a decade, the Zodiac Killer has been able to hide in anonymity, seemingly being able to continue living out his life, with absolutely no retribution for his wrong doings. However, in recent weeks, it seems as though the infamous killer’s identity has finally been discovered— however this discovery may have come a bit too late.
Back in early October, a group of independent cold case investigators— a group called The Case Breakers and made up of 40 former law enforcement investigators— have claimed that they have solved the mystery that has vexed several generations. According to the group, it was through new physical evidence, new forensic evidence, and information from eye witnesses, that they were finally able to crack the case. The man they identified: Gary Francis Poste— an Air Force veteran who apparently passed away back in 2018.
So who was the Zodiac Killer? The Zodiac Killer that the general public knew was the man who is believed to be responsible for at least five murders in Northern California from 1968 to 1969. He evaded capture and continued to vex authorities, taunting them with cryptic messages during his crime spree. The killer sent a series of letters to local newspapers, in which he coined his own nickname and would threaten to kill again if his demands were not met. Oftentimes, a letter was supplemented with bloody pieces of clothing to prove that he was responsible for the violence. Many of the letters contained cryptic puzzles, the first of which was deciphered by the San Francisco Chronicle back in 1969, but many remain unsolved even to this day— over five decades later.
While the Zodiac Killer continued sending taunting letters to newspapers well into the 1970s, the killing spree seemed to have ended after 1969. For the next five decades, the killer was able to evade justice. If Gary Francis Poste is indeed the killer, then he spent this time painting homes and living a relatively quiet life. According to one of his neighbors, he had a wife who he was a bit abusive to. Apart from receiving regular medical check-ups for a firearms crisis, Poste seemed to live relatively (and infuriatingly) normally following his killing spree.
However, in an odd sense, it seems as though Poste almost wanted to be caught eventually. One of the main clues that The Case Breakers used to tie Poste to the killings was plugging his name into the Zodiac messages. When the letters of Poste’s full name had been plugged into one of the Zodiac letters, an alternative message was revealed. Investigators have also used bootprints and a wrist-watch to tie Poste to the murders.
With all of that being said, due to Poste’s passing back in 2018 it is likely that we will never know for sure if he was the killer or not. But while Poste may never be confronted for his alleged wrongdoings, at least the families of his victims may finally be able to breathe a bit easier again— after over fifty years of holding their breath.