HarperCollins has published a new book with a pretty hefty claim. The author, Gary L. Stewart, of Louisiana, believes that his biological father was the infamous Zodiac Killer. Having never been apprehended, no one really knows the true identity of the man who murdered five people, possibly seven, in Northern California in 1968 and 1969. In his boastful notes to police, the killer said he had actually killed 37 people. In his letters, the Zodiac Killer included bloody piece of clothes that were taken from the victims.
As vice president at Delta Tech Services, a cleaning company, in Baton Rouge, Stewart decided that his ten year search for his father, Earl Van Best, had resulted in finally identifying the still sought out Zodiac Killer. The case has never been closed. However, a spokesman for the San Francisco police department, Albie Esparza, said on Tuesday that they were unaware of the book, but since the case is active, homicide investigators will look into the claim.
Stewart is not the first person to believe that he is the offspring of the mysterious killer who terrorized northern California. Primarily, these claims have been discounted. Steve Hodel said that his father, a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, was the elusive murderer. Dennis Kaufman claimed that because his step-father’s handwriting was similar, that he must have been the Zodiac Killer. One of the more interesting claims is from Deborah Perez. She says that when she was only seven years old, she actually wrote some of the now infamous letters for her father, Guy Ward Hendrickson. Perez’s half-sister has said that this is a lie.
Stewart was abandoned as a newborn in a stairwell in Baton Rouge, adopted and by his account had an ideal childhood. When he was 39 years old, his biological mother got in touch with him for the very first time. She had not had any contact with Stewart’s father since the baby was abandoned. Stewart then began his search for his biological father, never suspecting what he would find.
Over the course of the ten year search, Stewart kept a journal, carefully documenting all of his discoveries. The journal is what became the book The Most Dangerous Animal of All: Searching for My Father … and Finding the Zodiac Killer. Best, who is now deceased, had a police record. In San Francisco, Stewart’s father wrote bad checks and engaged in criminal forgeries. One thing that stood out to Stewart when looking at a mug shoot of his father, was the striking resemblance to a sketch of the Zodiac Killer. To him, they looked alike.
Stewart, with his co-writer, a journalist named, Susan Mustafa, pieced together Best’s childhood. The resultant psychological profile is alarming when keeping in mind the man’s possible future behavior. Best had troubling fixations as a child. He was very intelligent, but was frustrated by his inability to break into what he presumed to be his rightful place in society. Best was unable to cope with rejection, both by lovers and society, and his rage was unmanageable.
That would seem to fit with what is known about the Zodiac Killer. The man desired people’s attentions, which is likely why he wrote so many letters to the police and newspapers. The serial-killer may have been an intellectual person, having also supplied the police with hints to his identity in the form of ciphers and cryptograms. He also seemed to target men and women who were together, presumably in romantic relationships.
There may be no way to either prove or disprove Stewart’s claim. However, the likelihood that the serial killer procreated is real. Until proven otherwise, there is a good chance that Stewart, now a father himself, could be the son of the Zodiac Killer.
Opinion by Stacy Lamy