Can you imagine spending years researching your biological father, only to eventually discover he was a notorious serial killer? That's the story Gary L. Stewart is telling in his book, The Most Dangerous Animal Of All, which was released Tuesday by HarperCollins.
Stewart says he's uncovered evidence that proves his father was the Zodiac serial killer, linked to five deaths in Northern California in the late 1960s. The Zodiac killer's identity has remained unknown for decades, but if Stewart's 12-year search -- which reportedly involved interviews with handwriting specialists, forensic scientists, and over 500 people -- is in fact correct, the killer finally has a name: Earl Van Best Jr.
HarperCollins managed to keep the book under wraps for months, but they claim the contents have been vetted by their attorneys. Now that the memoir has been released, reports are surfacing about the contents of the book, which includes fingerprint analysis, cryptograms from the letters sent to Bay Area newspapers, evidence from handwriting experts, and a comparison of Van Best's mug shot to a sketch of the Zodiak killer:
Stewart says his birth mother was 14 when she ran away from home with 27-year-old Earl Van Best Jr., and that he was abandoned as an infant in 1963. Van Best was eventually arrested on charges of raping a minor, along with document and wire fraud, and spent several years in a maximum-security facility for the criminally insane and San Quentin.
Van Best was paroled in July 1965 and the first Zodiac murder occurred in December 1968. Stewart says all the Zodiac killer's victims resembled his birth mother, and he believes the motive was one of "revenge."
Earl Van Best died in 1984. A San Francisco police spokesperson said they weren't previously aware of the book or its claims:
It’s an open and active case, so we don’t comment. But [it’s] certainly something our homicide investigators will take a look at.
While Stewart seems convinced, there have been many reports over the years of people claiming to know the Zodiac killer's identity. It's hard to know if he's truly figured something out that the police couldn't, or if he's hoping to make a buck from attention-grabbing book sales. He says he's spent a decade unsuccessfully trying to get the San Francisco Police Department to compare his DNA with evidence they have on file for the Zodiac, but I assume getting them to do so won't be a problem now. It'll be interesting to see what comes of these claims … if anything.
What's your call -- do you think this guy really is the Zodiac killer?
Images via Harper Collins