Gary Francis Poste was a California man who has been named in a press release as the notorious “Zodiac Killer” by a team of 40 investigators and experts who call themselves the Case Breakers. However, a Zodiac expert has already pushed back on the theory, saying he doesn’t believe Poste was Zodiac.
The Case Breakers are made up of journalists, former cops, and military investigators who have volunteered their time. According to the Hill, Poste died in 2018. Online records show he had an address in Groveland, California, died at age 80, and was affiliated with a painting business. He was married.
The Zodiac is one of the nation’s most feared and mysterious serial killers, stalking the San Francisco area in the 1960s, sending codes that many have tried to break. The serial killer is tied to five slayings in the late 1960s in San Francisco, and the Case Breakers team thinks he committed a sixth. The Zodiac claimed to have killed many more. Many people have tried to crack the Zodiac’s ciphers and identity over the years. Authorities have not publicly confirmed Poste as the “Zodiac Killer.”
Many other suspect names have been floated for the “Zodiac Killer” over the years. You can see a list of other names at History.com.
The theory that Poste was Zodiac is already getting push back from other Zodiac experts. Tom Voigt, who runs ZodiacKiller.com and wrote the book Zodiac Killer: Just the Facts, told Rolling Stone that the idea Poste was Zodiac is “completely bogus” and “hot garbage.” He points to another suspect as the person he considers more likely.
In 2020, one of Zodiac’s cryptic messages was cracked by another team, according to The New York Times. “I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me,” and, “I am not afraid of the gas chamber,” the coded message said, The Times reported, citing the work of David Oranchak, Sam Blake and Jarl Van Eycke, who broke that cipher.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Case Breakers Team Believes Poste Also Killed a Woman Named Cheri Jo Bates, But Riverside Police Say Otherwise
The Case Breakers team is convinced that Poste also killed a woman in Riverside, California, named Cheri Jo Bates, and they want DNA evidence matched to him. But Riverside police don’t think he’s Bates’ killer.
According to the Case Breakers press release, “an elite CSI team from two Maryland universities has been barred from studying hairs found in the clenched fist of a teen student, murdered more than a half-century ago. The experts strongly believe they belong to a newly-uncovered ‘Zodiac Killer’ suspect – a psychopath who shot, stabbed or choked to death as many as ten Californians between 1962 and 1970.”
They say that, after the body of Cheri Jo Bates was discovered on October 30, 1966, the Riverside Police Department (RPD) “dutifully refrigerated the hairs, skin and blood found under her fingernails. The chief at the time, L.T. Kinkead, said the night attack outside of the town’s college library left her with 42 stab wounds and ‘almost decapitated.'”
On September 29, according to the release, RPD Public Information Officer Ryan J. Railsback said the department is “100% sure” Bates “was killed by someone other than the Zodiac.”
“But his agency has refused to allow a simple comparison of her computer-coded DNA to the sequence of GARY F. POSTE, whom forensic experts now think is ‘a very strong suspect.’ Poste’s DNA is being stored at Vallejo PD, 7 hours to the north,” the release says.
The Case Breakers “had hoped to share all these results with the RPD, including the secured DNA from their suspect who recently died. The department’s current police chief is the eighth in a row to refuse to consider the infamous killer – even though the FBI, in 1975, called Bates ‘the 6th victim,'” says the release.
Team Organizer Thomas J. Colbert said in the news release: “Fifty-five years ago this month, RPD chose to ignore the obvious. It would take just minutes to quickly and quietly compare Poste’s DNA. You’d think the pain Cheri Jo’s family and her old friends have been living with would be Priority #1. Here’s to hoping the next chief finds the courage to act.”
The Zodiac was known to strike in San Francisco; Bates died in 1966 in Riverside, California. According to Fox News, the 18-year-old Bates “was found dead in an alleyway on the Riverside City College campus.”
“Our Homicide Cold Case Unit has determined the murder of Cheri Jo Bates in 1966 is not related to the Zodiac killer,” the Riverside Police Department’s Homicide Cold Case Unit told Fox News. “We understand the public interest in these unsolved murders, but all inquiries regarding the Zodiac Killer should be referred to the FBI. The Cheri Jo Bates case remains an open investigation and we do not have any additional details to release at this time.”
Voigt, though, told Rolling Stone that he believes Zodiac did kill Bates.
2. The Case Breakers Say They Have Matched Poste’s Scars to Scars on Zodiac’s Forehead
A key piece of Case Breakers’ evidence that Poste was Zodiac: scars on his forehead.
The Case Breakers’ press release contains a copy of a news article about a car crash in Clinton, Indiana. It killed an airman from the Rocksville radar station and severely injured another. The Case Breakers believe that’s how Poste got his distinctive forehead scar — it was “car-crash wounds” from 1959. They included a San Francisco Police Department artist’s sketch of the Zodiac, who some believe also had a unique forehead scar.
“The renowned sleuths have recovered new physical and forensic evidence, signed up eyewitnesses, filed court affidavits, and secured decades of pictures from Poste’s former darkroom,” says the press release. “That includes photographic proof, as a former FBI agent put it, of ‘irrefutable’ scars on our Zodiac’s forehead — spotted by 3 witnesses and an observing cop, then later passed on to the 1969 SFPD sketch artist.”
However, Voigt told Rolling Stone, “No witness ever described lines on Zodiac’s forehead. Those lines were simply added by the sketch artist to fill in the sketch.” He pointed out that an amended sketch doesn’t have the same line.
“I wouldn’t even call him a suspect. I don’t think he checks any boxes whatsoever. In fact, if he does have scars on his forehead, that’s a really f****** good reason to rule him out,” Voigt told Rolling Stone.
3. The Case Breakers Outline Other Clues at the Bates Murder Scene That Point to Poste & Believe There’s Evidence in the Zodiac’s Riddles
Jen Bucholtz, a former Army counterintelligence agent, told Fox News that there are clues in the Zodiac’s ciphers that point to Poste.
“So you’ve got to know Gary’s full name in order to decipher these anagrams,” Bucholtz said to Fox News. “I just don’t think there’s any other way anybody would have figured it out.”
Voigt told Rolling Stone about this claim, “A lot of what they’re typing and talking about is nonsense. These people, what I’ve seen, they don’t really have any kind of a command of the basics of the Zodiac case.”
The press release says other clues at the Bates murder scene pointed to with Poste:
1) On 10/30/66, Riverside PD detectives collected a wristwatch with a broken band, thought to have come off the killer during his assault. Investigators believe this Timex was purchased at a military base PX. (In the mid-1960s, Poste was a USAF veteran receiving medical check-ups for a gun accident injury at the March Air Force Base hospital – just a 15-minute drive from Bates’ college murder scene).
2) Forensic lab also noted paint spattered on the wristwatch’s face. (In 1963, veteran Poste became a housepainter for over 40 years; was the watch strap checked for DNA?).
3) Also found: a heelprint in the dirt, later confirmed to be from “a military-style boot,” size 10. (The same style and shoe size found at three other Zodiac crime scenes – and style/size of Poste).
4) Finally, Riverside County Coroner’s Office spotted four of the attacker’s brown hairs in Bates’ clenched fist. (Poste’s hair color. If you count sketch-matching head scars, that’s 5 coincidences).
They also cited specific words used in a confession to the Bates murder that was anonymously sent to the Riverside Daily Enterprise a month after that slaying; some of the same phrases appear in Zodiac communications, such as the misspelled word “twich.”
Note the similarity to the Bates confession letter:
4. One Witness Described Poste as a Man Who ‘Could Kill Indiscriminately’
The Case Breakers team also highlights what it calls Zodiac “sources.” They include:
A man named Wil, described in the press release as an “Outlaw-Turned-Zodiac Whistleblower” who “escaped from Poste’s Zodiac’s criminal ‘posse’ which roamed for decades in the High Sierra. Now in his 50s and hiding in the Northwest, Wil says he’s angry and ashamed, claiming the psychopath ‘groomed me into a killing machine.'”
He told the Case Breakers of Poste: “He had a great side. He just didn’t have a conscience. He could kill indiscriminately. And I mean, you know, he’s pretty much proven that over the years, he couldn’t even stop after he moved up here. Uh, he still had to continue to kill, even if it was small animals just to make himself feel better. I’ve seen him kill bears, deer, Otter, um, ferrets. Marmots, just anything that lived, he liked to shoot them, watch [them] fall down. He liked to mess with the carcasses when he was done. He just got bloody.”
Case Breakers noted: “Wil says he witnessed Poste burying the murder weapons and has given team the dig site.”
Another witness cited in the release is Michelle, Poste’s daughter-in-law. “…when her 10-year marriage ended, Michelle says Poste ordered two of his criminal ‘posse’ to go after her – breaking her windows, then threatening, harassing and assaulting her until she moved out of state,” the release claims.
A woman named Gwennie was babysat by Poste and his wife in the 1970s. The release claims, “he taught her how to use guns, sometimes going into the woods five days a week. In the last year of her childcare, she witnessed Poste’s callousness and violence towards his wife – a wife that only slept on a couch. Recently, Gwennie caught up with the 75-year-old wife, now in assisted living. And the phone call stunned her, one line in particular: ‘I’m sorry that I didn’t tell the cops about his [Zodiac] past.’”
5. The Volunteer Task Force Is Made Up of 40 People, Including a Retired FBI Agent
Who are the Case Breakers?
According to the press release, it’s a “volunteer task force of 40, led by retired FBI, known as The Case Breakers. For ten years, the former law enforcement members, prosecutors, intelligence officers, PIs and others have quietly assisted public safety agencies, at no cost, with their unsolved caseloads. Thus, the cordial approach to RPD.”
Among Case Breakers profiled in the release:
Tom Mauriello (Laurel, MD), with team since 2011, spent 30 years at DOD in many capacities, such as a PD Officer, Special Agent, Polygraph Examiner and Police Chief. He now teaches criminal investigation/forensic sciences courses while managing the Crime Laboratory for the Uni of Maryland. Declared as one the top 15 CSI experts in the country, he was appointed to assemble the 3-person forensic team to approach the Riverside Police Department. …
Bill Proctor (Bloomfield Hills, MI) was first a police officer, then a 40-year journalist, investigative reporter and anchorman that was recently inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame. But in the last 20 years, he’s become a PI that’s focused on finding wrongly-jailed individuals and the corrupt officials that put them there. His nose for malfeasance has earned him another fanbase – and that’s why he’s on the Zodiac investigation.
Jen Bucholtz (Peyton, CO), a former Army Counterintelligence Agent who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a published author that holds Master degrees in both Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences …
Linton A. Mohammed, Ph.D. (San Francisco, CA), is a Past-President of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners [ASQDE] and a member of similar organizations in Canada and England. He’s testified in over 100 trials in the U.S., the Caribbean & UK. Linton worked with team on the handwriting in the D.B. Cooper Case. He’s now been recruited to compare the handwriting of our Zodiac suspect to the serial killer’s 19 coded letters. …
Former Army Intelligence Officer Erik A. Kleinsmith (Chantilly, VA) is the team’s Board Vice Chairman. He was critical in link/network analysis during the ‘D.B. Cooper’ hunt (Left; 2011-18), organizing 40 years of forensic evidence, maps and materials in TJC’s 100-page crime report. Kleinsmith is also the author of the acclaimed 2020 investigative bible, Intelligence Operations: Understanding Data, Tools, People, and Processes.