Despite his identity remaining a mystery even now, decades after the murders occurred, the elusive Zodiac Killer is one of the most infamous killers in American history. While his real name may never be known, people have speculated about who the serial killer could possibly be since his first murder — and the subject of a new docu-series is putting forth his theory on who committed the Zodiac Killer attacks.
And the man author Chris Stewart believes is the Zodiac Killer isn't just any suspect: He also allegedly had links to another group of infamous criminals — Charles Manson and his Family — as well as the Church of Satan.
"The Most Dangerous Animal of All" is a new docu-series dedicated to Stewart's quest to prove his father, Earl Van Best Jr. ,was the serial murderer who terrorized California throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The show recounts his father's early sordid history as Van Best was accused of essentially kidnapping Stewart's mother, Jude Gilford, who was only 14 at the time, and assaulting her — resulting in Stewart's birth and his abandonment as an infant in Louisiana.
But the second episode follows Van Best's return to San Francisco in the late 1960s, where he became linked to Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil, who was sentenced to death for murdering musician Gary Hinman in July 1969. Hinman's killing took place less than a month before the Manson Family's infamous murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six other people over a two-day period.
"I met Van when he tried out for a band I was putting together called The Orkustra. We really enjoyed playing with him and he seemed to be enjoying playing with us. But the band wasn't making any money at that point because we hadn't started gigging yet. He left because he needed to make some money ... that was his interest in the first place," Beausoleil told the filmmakers in a phone interview from prison.
The band's music was described as a "rock/jazz/folk hybrid" in a review from Pitchfork in 2010. The band was only together for slightly more than a year before they broke up in 1967, and only played shows in the Bay Area, according to independent record label Mexican Summer.
A PDF of Stewart's book reviewed by Oxygen.com indicates that Van Best wasn't an official member of the band and would just stop by to play music with them on occasion in 1967.
A review board had recommended Beausoleil for parole last year, but Gov. Gavin Newsom rejected the recommendation, according to Rolling Stone.
“Mr. Beausoleil helped perpetrate the first of the Manson family’s atrocious, high-profile murders in an attempt to start a civilization-ending race war. Mr. Beausoleil and other Manson family members kept Mr. Hinman hostage and tortured him over several days in an attempt to finance their apocalyptic scheme. When Mr. Hinman refused to cooperate, Mr. Manson sliced Mr. Hinman’s throat and severed his ear, before Mr. Beausoleil stabbed him to death,” Newsom said in a statement explaining why he rejected Beausoleil's parole.
"I made a terrible decision to commit a horrible act. There’s no changing that. Reprehensible. But according to the law, I have done my time," Beausoleil told Rolling Stone after his parole was denied.
Beausoleil remains in custody in a California prison.
The documentary also noted Van Best was an associate of Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey: "My father was fascinated with the occult," Stewart said in the documentary.
"Van [Best] met Anton LaVey at San Francisco City College, where they both studied criminology. They bonded over their love of playing the organ and when Van got out of prison he became more and more enamored of Anton LaVey's Satanic principles," Stewart's co-author Susan Mustafa said in the documentary.
Stewart alleges LaVey and Van Best spoke at length about the Satanic Principles that are the foundation of the Church of Satan's belief.
"Van and LaVey had been discussing these principles for years, in one form or another, principles that were diametrically opposed to the Ten Commandments with which Van had been raised," Stewart wrote in his book about Van Best, "The Most Dangerous Animal Of All: Searching For My Father... And Finding The Zodiac Killer," which inspired the series.
The Church of Satan itself would likely take exception with Stewart asserting his father's links to LaVey as part of his proof that his father was an infamous serial murderer. The Church asserts it is an atheistic organization with no ties to the occult and that adherents do not worship the Devil.
The Church of Satan did not immediately respond to Oxygen.com's request for comment, but previously told our website that the religion doesn't have an agenda beyond individualism.
“The reason there is no Satanic political agenda is there is no unified Satanic political position because you couldn’t get two Satanists to agree on a political issue ever," David Harris, Magister for the Church of Satan, previously told Oxygen.com. "Satanism is a religion of the radical individual. What may be politically motivating and/or Satanic to one Satanist may stand in complete opposition to another.”
Van Best died in 1984, according to CNN. The identity of the Zodiac Killer, despite Stewart and others' attempts, remains unconfirmed.
All four episodes of "The Most Dangerous Animal of All" premiere on FX, Friday, March 6, and will be available to stream on Hulu the following day.
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