One of the four mysterious ciphers created by the notorious Zodiac Killer to taunt investigators and terrorize the public was finally cracked by an international code-breaking team last week.
Code-breakers from the United States, Australia, and Belgium solved the cipher, which was dubbed the "340 Cipher" as it contains 340 characters. It was sent in a letter to The San Francisco Chronicle 51 years ago.
The Zodiac Killer terrorized Northern California by committing five brutal murders between 1968 and 1969 while taunting the public about his crimes. The unidentified killer infamously sent the media four ciphers, or cryptograms, which are a type of puzzle. He alleged that the cipher reveals his identity. Until last week, only one has been solved, meaning that now, half his ciphers have been solved.
David Oranchak, part of the international code-breaking team, told the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday that this particular 1969 cipher has been “kicking” his “ass” for years.
“Until now,” the Virginia web designer said, adding that it was solved on Saturday. He’s been working on trying to crack the killer’s ciphers since 2006.
"Last weekend, we solved the 340 and it is confirmed by the FBI," he tweeted, along with a video that reveals the thought process behind the major solve. "Authorities have spent time since then making notifications to the victims’ families. Now that the notification process is complete, we are announcing the solution!"
Oranchak explained that part of the cipher reads: “I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me. ... I am not afraid of the gas chamber because it will send me to paradice (sic) all the sooner because I now have enough slaves to work for me.”
The FBI confirmed that they were informed of the news.
“The FBI is aware that a cipher attributed to the Zodiac Killer was recently solved by private citizens,” the San Francisco office tweeted on Friday.
The first cipher was cracked by private citizens in 1969. High school teacher Donald Harden and his wife Bettye were able to decode the message, which read in part “I like killing people because it is so much fun."
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.