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New book claims to solve Zodiac Killer cold case

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One of America’s most famous and challenging cold cases, that of the Zodiac Killer, may be solved in a new book, according to CNN on May 14. In a new book due out on May 22, a Louisiana man claims that his biological father was the Zodiac Killer who terrorized Northern California with five murders and countless threats in 1968 – 1969.

The Zodiac Killer claimed up to 37 murders and has never been caught. But now, Gary L. Stewart from Baton Rouge, La. has written a book that details his search for his biological father, Earl Van Best Jr. Through his research, he has come to the conclusion that Earl Van Best Jr. was, in fact, the Zodiac Killer.

Stewart was born in New Orleans and abandoned in a stairwell of a Baton Rouge apartment building. He claims an “idyllic childhood” after he was adopted. But at the age of 39, Stewart’s birth mother contacted him for the first time. Whatever she told him set off his quest for his biological father. His journal of that search became the new book “The Most Dangerous Animal of All: Searching for My Father…and Finding the Zodiac Killer.” The book is co-written with journalist Susan Mustafa.

There is some hard evidence in the case due to the fact that there were two survivors. One of them, Bryan Hartnell, was a college kid at the time of the murders. Bryan and his girlfriend were attacked while having a picnic. The attacker wore a black hood and shirt with a white symbol on the front that looked like crosshairs on a gun sight. That symbol became the Zodiac Killer’s trademark. Hartnell was stabbed eight times; his girlfriend was stabbed between 10 and 20 times and died from her wounds.

Bryan Hartnell has seen the claims in the new book, but is somewhat skeptical. He’s not the only one. Police in Northern California aren’t buying it either, or so they say.

“It’s an open and active case, so we don’t comment,” San Francisco police spokesman Albie Esparza told CNN. “But (it’s) certainly something our homicide investigators will take a look at.” Capt. Steve Blower of the Napa County Sheriff’s Office added, “We have talked to many people over the years. We’ve gotten reports over the years from people who don’t pan out. This case is still open, and we still do accept tips or leads that may have bearing on the case.”

In an interview with New York Magazine, Tina Andreadis, a publicist for Harper Collins, commented on the new book.

"Stewart and Mustafa construct a chilling psychological profile of Stewart's father: as a boy with disturbing fixations, as a frustrated intellectual with pretensions to high culture, and as an inappropriate suitor and then jilted lover unable to process his rage. Stewart's father had a criminal record in San Francisco ('forgeries, bad checks'), and there was a strong resemblance between his father's mug shot and the police sketch.

"If you look at Gary's photo next to the sketch of the Zodiac (killer) next to his father's mug shot, you can see that there is very clearly more than just a passing resemblance," Andreadis told the magazine. "They look alike."

The Zodiac Killer loved getting attention by contacting the newspapers of the time. He sent them cryptograms and ciphers that he claimed would be clues to his identity. He was never caught. The case was the basis for the 1007 film “Zodiac,” which starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo.

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