A group of “cold case” investigators say they have identified the infamous Zodiac Killer and have linked him to another unsolved murder. 

The “Case Breakers,” a team of more than 40 former law enforcement investigators, journalists, and military intelligence officers, has tackled other “unsolved” mysteries such as the D.B. Cooper hijacking heist and the disappearance of former labor union boss Jimmy Hoffa. The group believes it has not only ID’d the Zodiac but that the killer is responsible for a slaying hundreds of miles away that was never linked to him.

The Zodiac Killer has been connected to five murders that occurred in 1968 and 1969 in the San Francisco area. Unlike most serial killers, the Zodiac taunted authorities with complex ciphers in letters sent to newspapers and law enforcement. The slayings have spawned books, movies, and documentaries in the years since, and amateur and untold numbers of professional sleuths have pored over the case in an effort to unmask the killer.

In the decades since the first murder, many potential suspects have been investigated.

The Case Breakers is now saying it has identified the Zodiac Killer as Gary Francis Poste, who passed away in 2018. The team’s years of digging uncovered new forensic evidence and photos from Poste’s darkroom. One image features scars on the forehead of Poste that match scars on a sketch of the Zodiac, the team said. 

Other clues include deciphering letters sent by the Zodiac that revealed him as the killer, said Jen Bucholtz, a former Army counterintelligence agent who works on cold cases. In one note, the letters of Poste’s full name were removed to reveal an alternate message, she told the press.

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

The team believes Poste also killed Cheri Jo Bates on Oct. 31, 1966, in Riverside, Calif., hundreds of miles south from the San Francisco area and two years before the first killing linked to the Zodiac occurred. Bates, 18, was found dead in an alleyway on the Riverside City College campus after her father phoned police to report her missing.

The following year, authorities received a handwritten letter that led investigators to believe the killing may be linked to the Zodiac Killer. In 2016, investigators received an anonymous typed letter from someone who admitted to writing the earlier note and said it was a “sick joke.”

“The author admitted that he was not the Zodiac killer or the killer of Cheri Jo Bates and that he was just looking for attention,” the police department said. 

Investigators later confirmed the author was not involved in the Bates murder, and the Zodiac was never linked to the crime. 

“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,” the police added. 

But the Case Breakers do not agree. They believe Bates was Zodiac’s sixth victim and have tried getting investigators to compare her DNA to that of Poste, to no avail, the team said. According to a 1975 FBI memo to Riverside police obtained by the team, the agency said Bates was a Zodiac victim.

“The real portion here has everything to do with ego and arrogance,” Case Breakers team member Bill Proctor, a former police officer who spent 40 years in television news, told Fox News of the Riverside Police Department. “They’re not talking about what they have, which means that anybody else who comes to the table might have a reasonable argument that an outside organization’s information is as valuable, if not more valuable, than what the police department has already done.”

A California woman who lived next door to Poste and his wife told Fox News she believes he’s the Zodiac Killer after seeing the evidence collected so far. Gwen, who declined to give her last name, said Poste and his wife babysat her as a child in the 1970s and ’80s. He would teach her how to shoot firearms several times a week but was also controlling and abusive toward his wife, she said. 

She declined to elaborate further. Poste also became somewhat of a father figure to his son’s friends, she said.

“He lived a double life,” she said. “As I’m adult thinking back, it all kind of makes sense now. 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.”

FBI Says Zodiac Case Remains Open and Unsolved

According to reporting by the NY Post, in the days since the story by the Case Breakers broke, the FBI has released a statement that they do not share their conclusions and that the Zodiac case remains “open and unsolved.” 

On Thursday, Oct. 7, FBI officials in San Francisco released a statement that they were still investigating the Zodiac Killer in response to the ID provided by Case Breakers.

“The FBI’s investigation into the Zodiac Killer remains open and unsolved,” FBI’s San Francisco field office said in a statement. “Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, and out of respect for the victims and their families, we will not be providing further comment at this time.”

The update came just one day after the Case Breakers told Fox News they identified the Zodiac as Poste. Sources at both the FBI and San Francisco police told the San Francisco Chronicle that the evidence put forth by the Case Breakers team didn’t “appear to be conclusive.”