Have Investigators Finally Found the Zodiac Killer?

zodiac killer

Photo illustration by Katie Couric Media/Getty Images

A 50-year-old mystery might just have been solved.

A group of independent investigators believe they’ve finally uncovered the identity of the Zodiac Killer after more than 50 years of mystery (and countless leads, suspects, and dead-end investigations). But law enforcement agencies aren’t so sure. Here’s a look at the latest in the ultra-infamous cold case:

Who was the Zodiac Killer?

The killer was connected to five murders committed between December 1968 and October 1969 in the San Francisco Bay Area. (Though he claimed to have killed 37 victims in total.) Dubbed the Zodiac Killer, he became especially notorious for sending cryptic letters full of complicated homemade code to local newspapers, threatening to commit more violence if they weren’t printed. The Zodiac Killer captivated and terrified the American people, and has been the subject of books, TV shows, and even a 2007 David Fincher film.

A break in the case?

The Case Breakers, a volunteer team of former law enforcement investigators, say they used new physical and forensic evidence to pin down the serial killer who murdered five people in Northern California during the 1960’s. They identified him as Gary Francis Poste, who died in 2018. The group says photographs they discovered in Poste’s darkroom show he had scars on his forehead that match those of a sketch of the Zodiac Killer. The team also claims to have interviewed new sources close to Poste who claim he’s behind the killing spree.

A sixth victim?

The investigators also claim Poste was responsible for the murder of 18-year-old Cheri Jo Bates, who was killed in Riverside, Calif., in 1966. The group claims Poste was an Air Force veteran, who in the mid-1960’s was being treated at a nearby hospital. A year after the murder, police received a handwritten letter that initially led them to believe the Zodiac Killer was connected to the slaying, and the Case Breakers say they obtained a 1975 FBI memo that determined Bates was a Zodiac victim.

What do law enforcement agencies think?

Local police and the FBI have said that the case remains open. Riverside police Officer Ryan J. Railsback also said they’ve “ruled out any connection” between the Bates murder and the Zodiac Killer. He also said the handwritten letter Riverside police received after Bates’ death was discovered to be a hoax.