Zodiac Killer: Independent investigators say they've cracked the case, named him as Gary Francis Poste

A sketch of the killer and a photo of Gary Poste.
A sketch of the killer and a photo of Gary Poste. Photo credit: Supplied/The Case Breakers

A group of former FBI agents, police, intelligence officers and journalists say they've uncovered the identity of the mysterious Zodiac Killer - and found a sixth victim.

The Zodiac Killer operated in northern California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He's known to have killed at least five people, but once claimed to have killed at least three dozen. The case, which is still open, was the subject of a 2007 thriller by Hollywood director David Fincher, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as cartoonist Robert Graysmith, who investigated the case and went on to write two books about it. 

The Case Breakers - a non-profit investigative group which has previously looked into a number of other unsolved cases - says the Zodiac Killer was Gary Francis Poste, who died in 2018.

Fox News reports the team had access to Poste's photographic darkroom, where they uncovered photos linking him to the killings. They also claim a photograph of Poste shows he had scars and/or wrinkles on his forehead which match a famous sketch of the killer, as well as forensic evidence dug up in a remote location they were tipped off to by an "outlaw-turned-whistleblower" who was once part of Poste's alleged criminal "posse".

The killer infamously sent a string bizarre ciphers to the media. Of the four, one was solved in 1969, and a second just last year. The other two remain unsolved.  

The Case Breakers say their investigation found one of the ciphers contained a hidden message which was only revealed when the letters in Poste's name were removed. They didn't reveal what it said. 

"You've got to know Gary's full name in order to decipher these anagrams," Jen Bucholtz, a former Army counterintelligence agent, told Fox News.

"I just don't think there's any other way anybody would have figured it out."

Poste has never previously been linked to the Zodiac killings, at least publicly. Some people who knew him told Fox News once they were alerted to the possibility, it made sense.

"Thinking back, it all kind of makes sense now," a woman who used to live next door to him in the 1970s and '80s said "At the time when I was a teenager, I didn't put two and two together until I got older. It hit me full-blown that Gary's the Zodiac."

The Case Breakers also said Cheri Jo Bates, who was killed in 1966 - two years before the Zodiac's first confirmed killing - was also one of his victims. They cite a matching footprint found at the scene, a paint-splashed watch - Bates painted houses for decades - and the fact he used to get medical check-ups at a hospital located near the murder scene.

Police wouldn't comment on the Bates case, nor the group's allegations about Poste, saying the Zodiac murders remained an ongoing investigation. Fox was unable to reach members of Poste's family.

Local police have offered a US$50,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the case, which has stumped law enforcement for more than five decades.