It took 51 years to crack, but one of the satirical messages written in code attributed to the Zodiac Killer has been resolved, according to the FBI.
The mysterious 340-character code, mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle in November 1969, does not reveal the identity of the killer. But he builds on his image as a killer seeking attention and rejoiced in terrorizing the Gulf region in the late 1960s.
“I hope you have a lot of fun trying to catch me” and “I’m not afraid of the gas chamber” are two dark boasts in the letter, according to David Oranchak, a software developer in Virginia who said it was decoding with the help of Sam Blake, an applied mathematician in Melbourne. , Australia, and Yarl Van Eyck, a warehouse operator and computer programmer in Belgium.
Mr. Oranchak who runs Prof. website And the YouTube series About the Zodiac Killer blades, he said he’s excited to solve the code after 14 years of trying to crack it. But he said he was also concerned about the impact this would have on the families of the victims.
“The message is in this encoder – I don’t think it’s useful to them,” he said. “It’s more than the same scrap that the killer liked to write about. He just aims to hurt people and make them afraid.”
The FBI, which employs a team of cipher decoders in its Cryptographic and Records Tampering Unit, said it verified Mr. Oranchak’s claim that he broke the code, known as cipher 340. The agency said the code was one of four codes attributed to the killer, and it was first introduced. Returned to the FBI Lab on November 13, 1969.
The office said it received the solution on December 5th from a cryptologist.
“Over the past 51 years, CRRU has reviewed several solutions proposed from the public – none of them had an advantage,” the FBI said in a statement. “The code was recently resolved by a team of three ordinary citizens.”
The FBI Field Office in San Francisco also released a statement about the breach, which was reported by San Francisco Chronicle on Friday. The statement said the field office was aware that the code attributed to the Zodiac Killer was “recently resolved by ordinary citizens.”
“The Zodiac Killer case is still under investigation by the FBI San Francisco department and our local law enforcement partners,” the office said. “The Zodiac Killer has terrorized multiple communities across Northern California, and although decades have passed, we continue to seek justice for the victims of these brutal crimes.”
The San Francisco office said it would not comment further due to the “ongoing nature of the investigation, and out of respect for the victims and their families.”
Cryptography experts, law enforcement agents, and armchair investigators have long baffled the mysterious killer-nerd, who was blamed for five murders in the late 1960s. Only one code attributed to the zodiac was solved, and it was decoded by a California couple shortly after it was sent in the 1960s.
Mr. Uranchak said this was considered more complicated, indicating that the killer was disappointed that the first one was so easily decoded.
Mr. Blake said that the team that solved this problem met earlier this year, after he reached out to Mr. Uranczak with some ideas on how to unravel the mixture of symbols and characters.
“It’s considered one of the holy grail of coding,” said Mr. Blake. “At the time, crypto had resisted attacks for 50 years, so any attempts to find a solution were really a shootout.”
For months, Mr. Blake said, he and Mr. Uranchak tested, by trial and error, some 650,000 possible solutions, running them through a code-breaking program written by Mr. Van Eyck.
But the program showed nothing until suddenly it resulted in a surprising mix of words on December 3, including “gas chamber” and “trying to catch me.”
Mr. Oranchak, who explains the decoding process that the team carried out in a. “This is what caught our attention.” YouTube video. “That was the key.”
Mr. Uranchak said he was astonished when the decrypted message revealed the phrase “I wasn’t on the TV show,” because the message was sent about two weeks after a man claiming to be a zodiac rose Invited to a Bay Area TV Show I spoke to attorney Melvin Bailey. That means that the solution the team found fits the timeline of that era, Mr. Uranchak said.
The full letter, which was sent to the FBI on December 5, included a misspelling of the word Heaven, no punctuation and some muddled phrases.
It reads: “I hope you enjoyed trying to catch me and I wasn’t on the TV show that raises a point about me, I am not afraid of the gas chamber because it will send me to heaven sooner because I now have enough slaves to work for me where no one else has Anything when they reach Heaven, so they are afraid of death, and I am not afraid because I know that my new life is that life will be easy in the death of Paradise. “
Mr Uranchak said he was not optimistic about decoding the remaining two codes attributed to the Zodiac Killer, in part due to their shortcomings, which makes verifying a solution difficult. But if there is evidence in the blades the team just unscrewed, he said, the chances might improve a little.
Mr Blake said the 340th code had been compromised “with extensive search by multiple candidates, using sophisticated software that could efficiently resolve homogeneous replacement codes.”
“We were not only fortunate to find the needle in the haystack, but we were lucky enough to choose the right haystack to start looking for the needle,” he said.