Another upheaval came this week in the case of the serial killer "Zodiac", fifty years after the end of his action.
This time it was a group of researchers who claimed to have uncovered the man who for half a century has been an obsession of Americans, but also of amateur detectives around the world.
Despite the team's enthusiasm, however, it is by no means certain that his identity was actually revealed.
On Wednesday, a group of former police officers, prosecutors and intelligence agents calling themselves "Case Breakers" announced that they had discovered the identity of the killer responsible for the multiple deaths in the San Francisco area in the late 1960s. .
Um so the people who 'solved' the Zodiac case seem like a bunch of random internet boomers and their evidence is laughably bad.https://t.co/NgdrOzqSgd pic.twitter.com/fJfNTutNl6
- Michael Hobbes (@RottenInDenmark) October 7, 2021
What is officially known about the Zodiac
If this is the first time you have heard the name of the legendary killer - and you have not watched the movie of the same name - here is what information is known about the enigmatic serial killer and his action.
The Zodiac was a serial killer who operated in the greater Northern California area from about 1965 to 1975, and whose identity was never revealed, as he was never arrested.
His nickname came from him, who used it to sign his strange letters to the media.
His letters included four encrypted messages, only two of which are considered permanently resolved - with the other two employing thousands of people around the world.
He has certainly committed five murders, but he boasted that he had a total of 37 victims.
Authorities have occasionally investigated and questioned multiple suspects, but there has never been enough evidence to arrest them.
To this day, there are states that consider his case "open" (that is, they are still actively looking for him), while whole books have been written about him and films and documentaries have been made.
Among the suspects is Arthur Lee Allen, who was interrogated several times and died of a heart attack in 1992. However, his DNA does not match that found in various crime scenes, and his graphic character did not resemble that of his killer. At the same time, its features did not correspond to the unique Zodiac sketch in the hands of the authorities.
However, as many testimonies accused him in one way or another, both Robert Graysmith, one of the most important writers on the subject, and David Fitzgerald, director of the excellent film "Zodiac" saw the serial killer in his face. .
Among the victims of the Zodiac are two young couples who were found dead in their cars, a year apart (1968 and 1969), in isolated locations where they had gone to flirt. From the second couple, the man, Michael Mezzo, survived and gave the first description of the Zodiac that led to the creation of his sketch.
According to Mezos, he is a white man, of normal height and weighing 90 to 100 kilos, with short, light-colored and curly hair.
Zodiac claimed responsibility for the killings in letters he sent to San Francisco newspapers.
In October 1969, he killed his fourth victim, taxi driver Paul Stein, with two boys as witnesses who completed Mezo's description.
Two days later, the San Francisco Chronicle received a letter from the Zodiac containing a piece of Stein's bloody shirt.
About 2.500 suspects were questioned within a year, but there was insufficient evidence of any arrests.
The encrypted messages
What made Zodiac so famous was no doubt his choice to create encrypted messages. The first of these, consisting of 408 characters, was divided into three sections, each of which was sent to a different newspaper, demanding that it be published on its front page, threatening that otherwise "it would spend the whole weekend killing lonely people at night, then he would continue to kill until he ended up with a dozen people. "
In addition, he claimed that if the police managed to "break" the code, they could locate it.
On August 8, 1969, Donald and Betty Harden in Salinas, California, managed to break part of the 408 encryption. No names appear in the decoded text, and the killer said he would not give his identity because he would slow down or stop collecting.
On November 8, 1969, he sent a card with a new 340-character encryption. On November 9, he sent a lengthy letter, mocking the police, who, he claimed, had spoken to two police officers three minutes after Stein's assassination, but they were unable to "understand" him.
The Zodiac continued to communicate with the police through the press in 1970. In fact, on April 20, 1970, he posted a greeting card that read: "My name is _____," followed by a 13-character puzzle. From this letter onwards, each of his written communications with the Police included his "score" between them.
It was April 24, 1974, when the Zodiac sent his last letter to the newspapers. Specifically, Zodiac wrote: Dear publisher, “Zodiac is speaking to you, I am here with you. Tell Herb Caen that I'm here, I've always been here. This pig Tosky is good, but I am smarter and better, he will get tired so leave me alone. I'm waiting for a good movie for me. Who will play me. "I have control over everything now."
Recent developments in the case
Police insist that the case remains open, and to this day they often receive information about it, including from people who believe they know the identity of the killer.
The Case Breakers claim to have new evidence and witnesses to support their theory that an aviation veteran who died in 2018 is behind the killings.
The zodiac killer really said “Bundy fell off + L + ratio” https://t.co/d3iBlZHYjl
- Cosmonaut Marcus (@CosmonautMarcus) October 7, 2021
"I'm absolutely sure we have solved the case," said Tom Colbert, a member of the team, in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The FBI and the San Francisco Police Department declined to comment directly on the announcement, but said the case remained open.
"The FBI investigation into the Zodiac killer remains open and unresolved. "Because of the ongoing nature of the investigation, and because of our respect for the victims and their families, we will not comment further at this time," the FBI's San Francisco office said in a statement.
The Case Breakers, for their part, said in a press conference that they relied in part on photos of the suspect showing visible scars on their foreheads that matched those shown in a police sketch. The team also said the suspect's name could be traced to anonymizations sent by the Zodiac.
They also claimed that the killer was responsible for the murder of Cherry Joe Bates in Riverside in 1966, a belief that had been expressed in the past by the FBI, according to a memo provided by the group. The local police, for their part, claim that it is certain that Bates' murder is not connected to the Zodiac.
In 2020, a team of experts "broke" the message code sent by the Zodiac in 1969 to the San Francisco Chronicle, although the Police stated that this did not bring them closer to the real identity of the killer.
"I hope you have a lot of fun trying to catch me," the message said. "I'm not afraid of the gas chambers because they will send me to heaven faster, because now I have enough slaves to work for me."
The arrest of the Golden State Killer, identified in 2018 by investigators who used genealogy search sites to link a retired police officer to murders and murders that took place decades earlier, could also rekindle hopes that to be located.
But unlike his own case, there is no confirmed DNA of the Zodiac. Police managed to create a partial genetic profile by examining the saliva of a stamp in a letter from the killer, but it can only be used to exclude suspects.
With information from the Guardian