Will a new book cause the case for the Zodiac killer to be reopened…or even solved?
Louisiana author Gary L. Stewart claims that the Zodiac killer, infamous for sending taunting letters and cryptograms to the Bay Area press, was his father, late rare book dealer Earl Van Best Jr.
The serial Zodiac killer operated in northern California in the late 1960s and early 70s. In letters, he claimed to have killed 37 people, but only five have been confirmed as his victims.
Though he was never identified, the horrifying story has fascinated people for decades. In 2007, the film “Zodiac,’’ based on the murders and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr., was released and grossed an estimated $65 million at the box office.
Stewart, an electrical engineer, was abandoned by his birth parents early in life.
According to The Washington Post:
Adopted as an infant by a loving family, Stewart never knew the identity of his birth parents until his birth mother – Judith Gilford – reached out to him in 2002. He soon learned that she was 14 when she ran away from home with a 27-year-old rare book dealer named Earl Van Best Jr., later giving birth to his child in New Orleans in February 1963 when the two were on the run from the authorities searching for Gilford, a minor. Against the wishes of Gary’s frightened, confused teenage mom, Best abandoned their month-old son in a Baton Rouge apartment building.
Armed with this new information, Stewart embarked on a mission to better understand his father. He sifted through government records, news reports, and tracked down numerous friends and relatives of his birth parents. As Stewart learned more about his father, he eventually became convinced that Earl Van Best Jr. was, in fact, the Zodiac killer.
Stewart then teamed up with journalist Susan Mustafa to document his decade-long hunt for the truth about his father’s identity.
His book describes Van Best as a “troubled boy with disturbing fixations,’’ “a frustrated intellectual with high culture pretensions,’’ and “a jilted lover’’ with an inability to quell his rage.
HarperCollins told New York Magazine that Van Best, who had a criminal record in San Francisco involving forgeries and bad checks, had a mugshot that bore an uncanny resemblance to the police sketches of the Zodiac killer.
The book, “The Most Dangerous Animal Of All,’’ hit bookstores in the U.S. on May 13. If you can’t get your hands on a copy, you can always rent the movie.