History's Greatest Mysteries (2020) s04e02 Episode Script

Who is the Zodiac Killer?

Tonight, a spree
of horrifying murders
shocks Northern California
and the world.
Search goes on in San Francisco
for the man known
as the Zodiac Killer.
The maniacal killer goads police
leaving cryptic clues
to his identity.
The suspect's
very involved in this.
He seems to enjoy
taunting law enforcement.
And he's on a roll
of doing this.
It's almost something
out of a Hollywood movie.
Now, we uncover the top theories
about one of history's
most notorious serial killers.
He seemed obsessed with her,
to the point where
he followed her every move,
There's a chance
that Zodiac had more victims
and may have left behind
evidence that's gone unnoticed.
Grisly murders start happening
in Florence, Italy, and they fit
the Zodiac's M.O. to a T.
Can new evidence
finally crack his code?
After years and years of trying,
they finally crack the cipher.
And maybe that'll tell us who
the killer is once and for all.
Who is the Zodiac Killer?
Benicia, California,
December 20th, 1968.
At 11:00 p.m.,
local resident Stella Borges
drives along a darkened stretch
of Lake Herman Road.
Miss Borges
comes around the bend,
and then suddenly she sees
two bodies lying motionless
on the ground.
She's shocked, but she knows
well enough not to linger.
So, she keeps driving until
she can flag down a police car.
And when the police come,
they're able to identify
the two individuals
Betty Lou Jensen,
who's 16 years old,
and David Faraday,
who's 17 years old.
Just two high school students
on their first date.
Detectives examine
the bodies and see that David
was killed by a single gunshot
behind his left ear.
Betty Lou was shot
five times in the back.
Police are stumped
why anyone would commit
an execution-style murder on
an innocent high school couple.
There was
no evidence of any robbery
or sexual assault of any kind,
which led them to believe
that it might have been
a random attack by a stranger.
For seven months
police have no leads.
Then, on July 4th, 1969,
they receive a shocking
phone call.
The call is taken
by Vallejo police dispatcher
Nancy Slover, and the caller
speaks in a very low,
monotone voice,
and describes where
two bodies can be found.
He also states
that they've been shot
with a 9-millimeter Luger.
And before he ends
the phone call,
he also says, "I also killed
those kids last year."
Police rush
to Blue Rock Springs Park
in the city of Vallejo
four miles from the first
crime scene.
When they arrive,
they find another young couple
inside of the car suffering
from multiple gunshot wounds.
EMTs quickly transport
the victims to the hospital.
22-year-old Darlene Ferrin
is pronounced dead on arrival.
But 19-year-old
Michael Mageau survives.
Michael is badly injured,
but he's still able
to describe what happened.
He says that they were randomly
attacked by a stranger
who shined a flashlight
in their faces
right before
he fired five shots.
He describes the suspect
as a Caucasian,
about 30 years old, 5'8",
200 pounds,
with short curly hair.
The Bay Area now has
a serial killer on the loose.
He's claimed three victims
so far, nearly four.
Almost a month
after the Vallejo attacks,
the killer contacts local press.
He includes a strange three-part
coded message, or cipher.
On July 31st
three Bay Area newspapers
receive three virtually
identical handwritten letters
from someone who claims
to be the killer.
He demands that a cipher which
is included with the letters
be published on August 1st,
or he threatens to kill
more victims.
The cipher
and the accompanying letters
are published, as demanded.
Then, on August 4th,
another letter arrives.
This letter sent
to the San Francisco Examiner
says, "Dear Editor,
this is the Zodiac speaking."
And now, our killer has a name.
His name becomes front-page news
in the Bay Area.
That publicity quickly leads
to a breakthrough.
On August 8th, 1969, news broke
that the Zodiac's cipher
had been solved
by a couple
in Salinas, California.
The message read that,
"man is the most dangerous
animal of all."
The writer also states
that the victims he had killed
would serve as his slaves
in the afterlife.
But it doesn't reveal
his identity.
In fact, it specifically says
that he won't give his name
because he intends
to keep killing.
People are already scared
about these murders.
The victims on this are young,
they appear to be random,
and now we have all
these letters coming out,
and it shows that this
maniacal killer
that likes to play games,
likes to taunt law enforcement,
it's almost something
out of a Hollywood movie.
On September 27th,
the Zodiac keeps his word.
At 7:40 p.m.,
the police receive a phone call
from the Zodiac,
again in that low,
monotone voice.
He tells the dispatcher
that he wants to report
a double murder.
The bodies can be found
at Lake Berryessa
in Napa County.
When the police
arrive at Lake Berryessa,
they find the bodies
of two college students
Bryan Hartnell
and Cecelia Shepard.
Both victims had been stabbed
multiple times.
Shepard dies from her injuries,
but Hartnell's lucky.
None of his vital organs
were struck, so he survives.
Bryan Hartnell
tells police that the man
was over six feet tall,
was heavyset,
that he was wearing
a hooded costume
with a crossed circle
on the chest.
That same chilling
symbol appears
in Zodiac's letters,
causing widespread public fear.
At this point,
of the Zodiac Killer
are all over the media.
Search goes on in San Francisco
for the man known
as the Zodiac Killer.
He was a big guy,
six foot or better,
over 200 pounds.
And tips are just pouring in
to law enforcement.
Some witnesses reported
that they had seen a man
lurking in the area
just prior to the attack.
The man's name,
Arthur Leigh Allen.
When police dive
into Allen's background,
they find a ton of red flags.
In 1968, the same year
the killings start,
he's fired from his job
as a schoolteacher
for molesting a student.
Allen was apparently
seen at Lake Berryessa
on the day of the attack,
but he tells police
that he was scuba diving
at a totally different area
called Salt Point that day,
and he spent the night
out there.
There are no witnesses
to corroborate his alibi.
Even Allen's
own friends and family
are suspicious.
Don Cheney
is a close friend of Allen,
and he tells police that Allen
is in fact writing a book
about a character
that kills couples,
taunts police with letters,
and even calls himself
the Zodiac.
Police interviewed
Allen's brother Ron,
who said that their mother
had given Allen
a Zodiac brand wristwatch
for a Christmas gift in 1967.
This watch featured
the crossed circle symbol
used by the killer.
But not everything lines up.
There are certainly
some discrepancies
in the witness statements.
For one, Allen is 6'1"
and 240 pounds,
which is much bigger than
previous witness statements
have described.
He's also bald on top,
while the witnesses
mentioned short brown
curly hair.
And that's not the only issue.
Allen's writing
doesn't match Zodiac's.
Police dispatcher Nancy Slover
also doesn't think it's Allen.
When she's asked to listen
to a recording of Allen's voice,
Slover is confident
that is not the man
who called in to report
the first murders.
It's not Zodiac.
Allen dies in 1992
without being arrested
or charged in any Zodiac murder,
including one that takes place
in San Francisco
in October 1969.
Three teenagers are
sitting in their apartment
in San Francisco when they
believe they hear a gunshot.
They look out the window
and they see a man
hovering over a taxicab driver
in what appears to be a robbery.
One of them calls police
to report the crime in progress,
and reports that they saw
the killer
apparently wiping down the cab
with some sort of cloth.
When they arrive, they find
taxi driver Paul Stine
dead from a gunshot wound
to the head.
There are a few other
similar murders
that some suspect
could be connected,
but this is the last killing
that the Zodiac
explicitly takes credit for
in a letter sent
to the newspaper.
After the Stine murder
Zodiac keeps sending letters
intermittently for a few years,
and some even include
more cryptograms.
This psychopathic killer
seems to think of himself
as some uncatchable genius.
All told, Zodiac sends
more than 20 letters
and a total of four ciphers.
Then, in January 1974,
they suddenly stop.
Luckily, the Stine murder
has something
none of the others do
independent eyewitnesses.
Thanks to these witnesses,
police are able to make
a composite drawing,
which two days later,
they're released to the media.
We should mention
that this sketch
looks nothing like
Arthur Leigh Allen,
but it does open the floodgates
for a lot more tips,
and police are about
to have a lot more suspects
to investigate.
After the Zodiac Killer
goes on a 10-month killing spree
that claims five victims,
police get a break.
Eyewitnesses help them
create a composite sketch
with one vital clue.
This is the first sketch
that shows the suspect
wearing glasses.
Immediately, the police tip line
gets flooded with calls.
Everybody and their mother
thinks that they know somebody
who resembles the man
in the sketch.
Police estimate they've tracked
over 2,500 suspects
in the Zodiac case.
Most are very quick dead-ends,
people with alibis
or with no connections
to locations
or victims in the case.
Most, but not all.
There's a journalist
and amateur investigator
named Blaine Blaine,
who at the time
of the Zodiac killings
writes a column
named "Cop Watch"
for the Good Times newspaper.
He's fascinated by the case
and spends 10 years
looking for a suspect
who matches the sketch.
Blaine studies the ciphers.
He compiles a list
of the victims' friends,
neighbors, classmates,
you name it.
He looks at every
angle possible.
And eventually,
he finds his perfect match,
Army veteran Richard Gaikowski.
We should start off
by saying just because someone
looks like the sketch,
doesn't make that person guilty.
Doesn't even make 'em
the suspect.
That's kind of a long shot.
But the photos
are very striking,
and Gaikowski definitely
fits the description
of the Zodiac Killer.
But of course,
Blaine doesn't stop there.
He finds a lot more
circumstantial evidence.
Gaikowski is a journalist,
and he moved to Martinez,
California, in 1964,
four years before
the first known Zodiac murder.
Martinez is within one hour
of all the known murder sites.
He's in the right place
at the right time,
and with the right appearance.
But the really big red flag,
the most suspicious thing
about Gaikowski and his link
to the Zodiac killings
comes when Blaine looks
into the lives of the victims.
It appears Gaikowski
has a connection
to at least one victim
Darlene Ferrin.
In January of 1966,
Darlene Ferrin gets married,
and with her husband
move to Albany, New York.
The next thing you know,
Richard Gaikowski
uproots his life and then
moves to Albany as well.
When Darlene and her husband
move back
to Northern California,
Richard also moves back to
Northern California.
Blaine does not think
this is a coincidence at all.
When authorities
read Blaine's dossier,
they find it convincing enough
to open an investigation.
Police immediately confirm
several key details
from Blaine's report.
First, Gaikowski lived only
12 miles from Blue Rock Springs,
where Darlene was murdered.
And second,
he seemed obsessed with her,
to the point where he followed
her every move.
Detectives look
into other possible links
to the Zodiac's victims.
They look back at
the Lake Berryessa crime scene
where Cecelia Shepard and
Bryan Hartnell were attacked,
and they find a very specific
style of footprint.
They're from a special
wing walker model of a boot
worn by the Army.
You know who's a medic
in the U.S. Army?
Richard Gaikowski.
There's a possible
connection between Gaikowski
and victim Paul Stine as well.
When the police
interview Stine's sister,
she tells them that Gaikowski
attended Stine's funeral.
She found this very odd
because the two men
were not friends.
They weren't acquainted
Why would he be
at her brother's funeral?
So now, we have
connections between Gaikowski
and three of the four
known murders.
The next thing police look at
is the letters.
Zodiac writes letters regularly
starting in August of 1969.
Pretty much every
couple of months,
letters show up
until March of 1971.
Then, suddenly, he's silent
for almost three years.
The final letter
comes in January 1974.
This three-year gap
coincides with a time
when Gaikowski is committed
to a mental asylum.
We don't have a lot of details
on his involuntary commitment,
but we know he spent time
at Napa State Hospital
for quote, "going berserk."
And there's one more clue
hidden in the Zodiac's
first cryptogram.
Zodiac said
he was identifying himself
in that first set of cryptograms
from August 1st, 1969,
but there was no name listed
when the code was cracked.
But what if the name
was buried in the code itself?
In one part of the code
you can clearly see the letters
G-Y-K-E Gyke.
In articles written
by Gaikowski in 1969,
he frequently shortened his name
to four letters.
He used multiple spellings
such as G-I-K-E
or G-A-I-K.
Some theorists
have taken this even further.
The translation of those letters
once the code was solved
is A-U-S-E.
And again, once you look
at both the code
and the solution,
you see the letters K-E-Y.
"Gyke," "Ause," "Key."
The killer says his identity
was in the cipher.
Was he telling the truth?
By 1985, Blaine is ready
to take his investigation
to the next level.
Blaine wants more
definitive proof
that Gaikowski
is, in fact, Zodiac.
So, he calls him up
and tricks him
into talking about code,
and records the conversation.
Well, detectives get
this tape from Blaine.
Then they ask Nancy Slover,
the police dispatch
who actually talked
to the Zodiac,
to listen to Gaikowski's voice.
She says it's the same
as the Zodiac Killer's voice.
Detectives confront Gaikowski
and ask him
where he was at the time
of the Lake Herman Road murders.
And Gaikowski tells them
that he was overseas
covering the conflict
in Northern Ireland
for the Knickerbocker newspaper.
immediately check his alibi.
Detectives pull
Gaikowski's passport application
which is dated October 1968.
In the box where it says
approximate date of departure,
it says November 1st, 1968.
Now, this isn't proof
that he traveled on that day,
but it does show that
he intended to.
Now, this isn't
a foolproof alibi.
He could have applied
for a passport
and not traveled on it.
He could have written articles
about Northern Ireland
from any location, and just
pretended to be in Europe.
Is it possible?
Yes, but very unlikely.
police make one final effort
to gather proof.
Detectives have
a handwriting expert
look at Gaikowski's handwriting
and compare it
to the Zodiac Killer's.
The expert concluded that
those two samples did not match.
With no physical evidence
tying Gaikowski
to any of the Zodiac murders,
detectives determine
that there is not
enough probable cause
for either an arrest
or a search warrant.
At the time of his death
in 2004,
Gaikowski is officially
no longer a suspect.
Between 1969 and 1970,
the Zodiac Killer sends
four coded messages
to newspapers.
But after codebreakers
solve the first cipher
in less than a week,
the remaining three
stay unbroken for decades.
A couple in Salinas
solved the first cryptogram
by using what they call a crib.
That's where you guess
the words and phrases
that you think
might be in the cipher,
and then you go from there.
They believed that the cipher
would contain the word "kill,"
so they looked for pairings
of certain symbols
that could represent
two letter "L"s.
And they were successful.
The message read,
"I like killing people
because it's so much fun."
Once they verified
the corresponding symbols
for that phrase,
the rest of it
they solved pretty quickly.
Zodiac's following ciphers
are infinitely more complex,
and for 51 years
don't even come close
to solving the remaining
Investigators wonder if this
is one of Zodiac's tricks.
Then, in 2020,
an all-star group of decoders
takes on the challenge,
hoping to crack one of the three
unsolved Zodiac ciphers.
I got involved with
this case about 15 years ago.
We decided to try to decode
a 340-character cryptogram
by Zodiac
that he had mailed
on November 8th, 1969.
We planned to use a method
called homophonic substitution,
and that's where one letter
might be swapped
for multiple symbols.
The team creates
a powerful software program
that processes millions
of homophonic substitutions
per second.
They run this software program
for months and months,
and not much happens.
Then one day,
they run an updated version
of the software, and they
finally solve the cipher.
Over time we were able
to identify a few phrases
that ended up being part
of the right solution.
Phrases like
"trying to catch me"
and "gas chamber."
Once we saw those phrases,
we took a closer look
in our experiments, and after
a little bit of effort,
we were able
to unlock the entire message.
The newly decoded message
picks up
where the last
cryptogram left off.
It said, "I hope you are having
lots of fun trying to catch me."
"That wasn't me on the TV show,
"which brings up
a point about me.
"I am not afraid
of the gas chamber,
"because it will send me
to paradise all the sooner,
"because I now have
enough slaves to work for me
"where everyone else has nothing
when they reach paradise,
"so they are afraid of death.
"I am not afraid, because I know
that my new life will be
an easy one in paradise."
If this one can be solved,
then maybe the other two
can be solved as well,
and maybe that will tell us who
the killer is once and for all.
Among those eager to
solve the remaining cryptograms
is Parisian engineer
Faycal Ziraoui.
In 2020, Ziraoui zeroes in
on one in particular.
Ziraoui writes his own software
to tackle what is thought
to be the most difficult
cryptogram of them all.
On April 20th, 1970,
the Zodiac sends a short cipher
consisting of 13 symbols
known as the Z13.
Because it's so short,
it makes it
much more difficult to crack.
It begins with
"My name is"
followed by
a 13-character cryptogram.
So, solving the cipher
is actually supposed
to provide us with
the Zodiac's name.
Once again, modern technology
provides a breakthrough.
Ziraoui's software
translates the cipher
as the letters K-A-Y-R.
To many, the translation
sounds like gibberish.
But veteran Zodiac investigators
immediately recognize the name.
Detectives who study
the Zodiac's letters
know that he misspells
quite a few words.
We think that's often
and that "K-A-Y-R"
might just be "K-A-Y-E."
This potential
solution generates excitement
about a decades-old lead.
In 1973, Escalon Police
Detective Harvey Hines
is assigned to the case,
and keys in on an ex-convict
named Lawrence Kaye.
Hines begins looking into Kaye
after noticing
that Kaye's mugshot
bears a striking resemblance
to one of the Zodiac sketches.
The Zodiac is described
as a male
between 40 and 45 years old,
5'9", and 165 pounds
with dark-colored hair.
Lawrence Kaye is 45 years old,
5'9", dark hair, and 160 pounds.
Lawrence Kaye
is a convicted criminal
with a long history of arrests
for voyeurism as a peeping Tom,
prowling, burglary, and more.
This is important
because criminals
don't just jump
straight to murder.
Their crimes usually escalate.
Perhaps most surprisingly
in Kaye's background
is that in 1942
he's admitted to the Navy's
Radio Materiel School
in Chicago, where he's trained
in electronics,
but more importantly, in coding.
This may have also
given him access
to the military's
wing walker boots,
which would match the prints
at the Lake Berryessa
murder site.
Hines next tracks
Kaye's movements
on the days surrounding
the Zodiac killings.
Kaye lives at 217 Eddy Street
in San Francisco.
That's only
two and a half blocks away
from where the cab driver
Paul Stine
picked up the Zodiac
on the night he was murdered.
Hines also discovers
that Darlene Ferrin,
who was murdered
at Blue Rock Springs,
worked at her aunt's cafe
which was just two blocks
from Kaye's apartment.
When Hines interviews
Darlene's sister,
Pam Huckaby,
she recognizes a photo of Kaye.
Apparently, he often came
to the cafe
to pester her sister,
to the point that Darlene
was very afraid of him.
But Hines needs more
than circumstantial evidence
to make his case.
Detective Hines
contacts Bryan Hartnell,
who survived the Zodiac's
knife attack at Lake Berryessa,
and he's heard
the Zodiac's voice.
Hines secretly records
a conversation
with Lawrence Kaye,
and then plays it for Hartnell.
And without hesitation, he says,
"This is the voice
of the Zodiac."
Hines next pays a visit
to San Francisco police officer
Donald Fouke.
Fouke rushed to the crime scene
on the night that the cab driver
was murdered in San Francisco.
For years, Fouke has claimed
that he may have crossed paths
with the killer that night.
He saw someone suspicious
who matched later descriptions.
But those descriptions
weren't out yet,
and he was on his way
to a murder scene,
so he didn't stop.
But Fouke claims
he's never forgotten that face.
When Hines shows Fouke
a picture of Kaye,
he states that out
of the hundreds of mugshots
he's seen since the murder,
Kaye's picture
bears the most resemblance
to the man he saw that night.
With three witnesses
identifying Kaye
as the Zodiac Killer,
Hines takes his report
to Captain Roy Conway
and Lieutenant James Husted
of the Vallejo
Police Department.
Hines thinks he's solved
the case of the century,
and he is expecting
a huge pat on the back.
But after Conway
and Husted read his report,
they basically say,
"Thanks, we'll get back to you,"
and they never do.
Hines calls in one final favor.
Of course, cops know a lot
of other cops.
So, Hines sends his report
to two San Bernadino detectives
he knows
and begs them
to take a look at it.
The two detectives
read the report,
and they believe it.
They think it's good
police work.
These two detectives
fly up to Lake Tahoe,
they go to Kaye's home,
they ask him his whereabouts
on the night Paul Stine
was murdered,
Darlene Ferrin,
all kinds of stuff.
Kaye has an answer
for everything.
Kaye cooperates
with investigators,
supplying his fingerprints
and handwriting samples.
So, Hines is at home,
and he's waiting
with bated breath
to hear from the two detectives.
They eventually call him,
and they say
that based on Kaye's answers
and the handwriting sample,
they concluded
that he is not the Zodiac.
Kaye passes away in May of 2010.
By this time, he's changed
his name to Cane,
C-A-N-E, but he's never
arrested for the murders.
"Zodiac," a pseudonym
first published
in a 1969 letter
that strikes fear to this day.
For decades, that's all
we've known
to call this cryptic killer.
But in 2002
a witness comes forward
with a dark family secret
that may finally
reveal his true name.
For most of Gary Stewart's life,
the only parents he knows
are the ones that adopted him.
Stewart is born in 1963.
He's given up for adoption
rather quickly
and raised by
Loyd and Leona Stewart
of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
He wonders about
his birth parents,
but he has no idea
who they really are.
But in 2002,
when he's 39 years old,
his biological mother,
Judy Gilford, tracks him down.
She tells him how she had him
when she was just a teenager,
and his biological father
who is now deceased
is named Earl Van Best, Jr.
Back in 1963,
Van Best is 27 years old
when he impregnates Gilford,
who is only 14.
Van Best is sent to prison
for statutory rape,
but when he gets out on parole,
he and Gilford go on the run,
abandoning their baby
in New Orleans.
Stewart is stunned.
But the biggest shock comes
when he sees a photo
of his biological father.
When Stewart
looks at the picture,
he immediately feels like
he's seen this face before,
and not because
of the family resemblance,
but because it actually bears
a striking resemblance
to the wanted poster
for the Zodiac Killer.
This photo serves as a catalyst
for Stewart to find out
everything he can
about his biological father.
He starts digging
for information,
and quickly learns that Van Best
is a bad guy
with a long history
of criminal activity.
He's been convicted of fraud,
rape, drunk driving,
you name it.
But not murder.
So, he's a criminal,
but is he the Zodiac Killer?
Stewart looks closer
into his father's whereabouts
at the time of the murders.
Stewart learns that
his father was incarcerated
in San Quentin Prison,
and that he was paroled
right before
the first
Zodiac killings occurred.
And guess where
Earl Van Best ends up
when he's released?
He moves into San Francisco's
Presidio District,
the same neighborhood
where cab driver Paul Stine
is killed.
For Stewart, this is like
a bad dream.
Everything he learns
about his father
points to him
being the Zodiac Killer.
He reads all
the Zodiac's letters,
and one of them references
the musical "The Mikado."
Then, he finds out Earl Van Best
was a huge fan
of "The Mikado."
Detail after detail
is just piling up.
Stewart decides
that the best way
to unload
all of his personal baggage
is to write a book proving that
his father is the Zodiac Killer.
He really doesn't have
enough information
to take to a publisher
at this time.
But armed with a bunch
of circumstantial evidence,
he digs deeper.
Stewart hires an expert
to compare his dad's handwriting
to the Zodiac's.
This is a moment
of truth for Stewart.
This is where a lot
of the other Zodiac suspects
have fallen apart.
The handwriting expert
compares the handwriting
of Van Best's
marriage certificate
to the handwriting
of the letters
sent to the newspaper
by the Zodiac Killer.
And after hours
of detailed analysis,
he concludes they are a match.
Next, Stewart asks police
to compare his father's
to partial prints
from the Stine murder scene.
The fingerprints
found on the taxi cab
are partial latents which show
traces of blood.
So, they're incomplete
and they would be
inadmissible in court,
but it still might
tell them something.
Garrett provides
an enlarged side-by-side picture
of the best fingerprints
from Stewart's father
and the Zodiac crime scene.
When Stewart looks
at the visual comparison,
he sees a distinguishing
an identical scar
on both the Zodiac's
and his father's index fingers.
Armed with this evidence,
Stewart shares his story
with the public.
Stewart's book
is published in 2014,
and it's called "The Most
Dangerous Animal of All"
another reference
to Zodiac's letters
and it's a huge bestseller.
Stewart decides
to parlay his success
into a television series,
so he meets with some
TV producers,
and they tell him
they're interested
in optioning his book.
Before they put
their reputation on the line,
they decide to hire
a private investigator
in order to vet his research.
And that investigator
immediately finds flaws
in Stewart's research.
First, he discovers
that the handwriting sample
taken from Van Best's
marriage certificate
is not actually
Earl Van Best's handwriting.
It's the writing of the priest
who conducted the ceremony.
The investigator also checks
Van Best's credit card records.
Now, this is where
the case against Van Best
actually crumbles.
Through the credit card reports,
the investigator
is able to determine
that Van Best is actually
in Europe
during the heart
of the Zodiac's killing spree.
So, it's definitely not him.
Still, when you look
at the sketch,
the resemblance is uncanny.
It's easy to see
why Stewart believed,
but as we all know,
appearances can be deceiving.
In April 2004,
35 years after the first murder,
the San Francisco
Police Department
officially marks
the Zodiac Killer file inactive.
Caseloads are busy, and they
have active cases coming in.
There's really no leads going on
on this case.
The public learns that
this case has been shut down,
and they're upset about it.
They don't like the idea
that police have given up on it.
It's clear that there's
still not much to go on
after all this time.
So, as we've seen
in many cold cases before,
the public and amateur
decide to take up the mantle
and keep going
with the investigation.
Now, a lot of the
theories presented by the public
are quickly shot down
because the evidence
just doesn't add up.
Like Gary Stewart's claims
about his father, for instance.
But in 2021, a group
of researchers makes headlines
claiming they've identified
the Zodiac Killer,
and they are definitely
not amateurs.
The group calls themselves
the Case Breakers,
and they are comprised
of 40 different people
with impeccable credentials.
We're talking retired
FBI agents,
retired military,
forensic analysts,
and academics.
So, the fact that they believe
they solved this case
means a lot more
than hearing it
from your average Joe.
On October 6th, 2021,
the Case Breakers
announce that the Zodiac Killer
is a former military man
named Gary Francis Poste.
Gary Poste is quite different
than most of the other suspects
that they've looked at
in the past.
He's a very quiet guy,
he lives in a rural area.
He paints houses.
He flies under the radar.
There's really no red flags
to make him the suspect.
Poste is brought
to the attention
of the Case Breakers
by one of his neighbors,
a guy named Chris Avery.
When they hang out together,
Avery discovers that Poste
is quite a different man
than he appears.
It turns out that Avery
is one of several young men
that Poste has recruited
to mentor,
kind of in a paramilitary way,
and they call themselves
The Posse.
Poste takes these guys on trips
up to the mountains,
and they say he is obsessed
with torturing
and killing animals,
and building bombs which are
similar to the explosive devices
described by the Zodiac.
According to Avery,
on one of these trips
Poste makes a confession.
Poste implies to Avery
that he has committed
one of the Zodiac murders.
And for him,
that's the last straw.
He decides that he wants
to move away from Groveland,
and that it's also time
to report Poste.
one of Avery's friends
is actually part
of the Case Breakers.
After speaking with Avery,
the Case Breakers
agree to investigate.
Before they have
a chance to dive in,
Poste dies in 2018
at the age of 80.
The Case Breakers
decide to keep going regardless.
One of the first things
they learned about Poste
was that he's an Air Force
The Case Breakers
are able to gain access
to Poste's property
in Groveland.
In the photography darkroom,
they find an old photo of Poste,
and the photo
bears a striking resemblance
to the sketch of the Zodiac.
Soon, they find
even more chilling evidence.
The Case Breakers look into
other California murders,
unsolved ones that happened
around the same time
as the Zodiac crimes.
There's a chance that
the Zodiac had more victims
and maybe left behind
more evidence
that's gone unnoticed.
They zero in
on a top potential candidate
for another Zodiac murder.
In 1966, Riverside City College
student Cheri Jo Bates
is stabbed to death
near the campus.
This is just a couple of years
before the Zodiac appeared
in Northern California.
A stabbed young woman
certainly fits the mold,
but even more so, Bates' killer
sends a confession letter
to police a month
after the murder.
The letter is typed, so they
can't compare much handwriting,
but the address is handwritten
on the envelope,
and definitely bears resemblance
to the Zodiac's writing.
The letter itself
has the same tone and style
as the later Zodiac letters.
Naturally, they ask
where was Gary Poste
on the day of Bates' murder?
Turns out he was undergoing
a physical examination
at March Air Force Base,
15 minutes from the crime scene.
According to records
of Bates' murder,
police find size 10 1/2
military-style boot prints
next to the body.
Military boot prints
once again, just like Zodiac,
and in Poste's exact size
of 10 1/2.
If she's the first victim,
then he has to be
our first suspect.
Obviously, Poste can't be
arrested or tried at this point.
So, the Case Breaker
is met with some skepticism.
As with every Zodiac theory,
the public picks it apart.
First of all,
despite his resemblance
to the sketch,
Poste never wore glasses.
The same day as
the Case Breakers' announcement,
the Riverside Police Department
releases a statement
saying that the Zodiac
was not responsible
for the murder
of Cheri Jo Bates.
Are the cases connected?
Is Poste responsible
for the Bates murder?
Was that the first
Zodiac killing?
At this point, we're stuck with
more questions than answers.
As investigators
pursue the true identity
of the Zodiac Killer,
one vital question
could hold a clue.
Police think the murders
ended in 1969,
the letters in 1974.
But why did they stop?
The suspect's
very involved in this,
seems to enjoy taunting
law enforcement,
and he's on a roll doing this.
And then, as quick as he starts,
he stops.
What happened here?
Was the suspect arrested,
Were they institutionalized?
Were they killed?
There's a lot
of open-ended questions
as to why these murders
all of a sudden stopped.
According to Italian
journalist Francesco Amicone,
the explanation
is truly surprising.
Amicone believes that the reason
the Zodiac killings stop
is because the killer
moved from California to Italy,
and that in fact,
the killings didn't stop at all.
In September of 1974,
just months after
the Zodiac Killer
sends his last message
to newspapers,
a series of grisly killings
begins in Florence, Italy.
And these murders fit
the Zodiac's M.O. to a T.
Like the Zodiac Killer,
the Italian murderer
mostly targets young couples.
He attacks mostly
on the weekends
or public holidays.
He almost always
shoots the male victim first,
then the female.
And just like the Zodiac,
he uses a small-caliber handgun.
When the Italian press
realize a serial killer
is at large, they dub him
the Monster of Florence.
The Monster of Florence
has a much longer reign
of terror than the Zodiac.
From 1974 to 1985,
he murders 14 people.
But he is just as elusive
as the Zodiac.
Italian police
spend decades chasing leads,
interrogating ex-cons,
staking out
secluded lovers' lanes.
But nothing works, they cannot
identify this killer.
Then in May of 2018,
a bombshell.
On May 29th of 2018, the Italian
newspaper Il Giornale
publishes the theories
by Francesco Amicone.
He accuses a man
named Giuseppe "Joe" Bevilacqua.
According to Amicone,
an American Army veteran,
confessed to him
and agreed to turn himself in
eight months earlier.
As the news breaks, Bevilacqua
recants his confession.
But police in Italy and America
are already investigating
every facet of his life.
Bevilacqua was born
in New Jersey,
and from 1954 to 1974
he served in the U.S. Army.
You can see on his military ID
that he's 5'8", 200 pounds.
His physical description
certainly matches
some of the descriptions
given by witnesses
of the Zodiac Killer.
Detectives also learn
that in 1964
Bevilacqua becomes
an undercover agent
for the Army's
criminal investigation division.
One of his assignments
takes him to San Francisco
right around the time
taxi cab driver Paul Stine
is murdered.
In June of 1974
Bevilacqua retires from the Army
and moves to Florence, Italy.
Zodiac's letters suddenly stop
and dead bodies start
appearing in Florence.
In 2020 the Florence
Public Prosecutor's Office
decides they have enough
circumstantial evidence
that they better get
a DNA sample from Bevilacqua.
Everyone is sitting
on pins and needles
waiting for results
to come back,
because the findings could solve
two of the biggest
murder mysteries in history.
So far, Italian authorities
have been unable to match
Bevilacqua's DNA
to any of the Florence
crime scenes.
But investigators have hope
that DNA evidence
will one day solve
this long-running mystery.
With all of the advancements
we've made in forensic science
and investigation in general,
I am confident that there
is still an opportunity
for us to solve this case.
And there certainly remains
an entire community of people
who are dedicated
to seeing this case solved.
Recently, the Vallejo
Police Department
was able to isolate
a partial profile of DNA
from saliva on the back
of stamps
used on Zodiac's letters.
While this incomplete profile
can't identify a suspect,
it can be used
to rule out a few.
In the meantime,
an army of sleuths
continues to try to finally
solve this cold case.
I'm Laurence Fishburne.
Thank you for watching
"History's Greatest Mysteries."
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