Three amateur code breakers decode Zodiac Killer’s ‘340 Cipher’ 51 years after it was written

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The FBI’s San Francisco Branch recently confirmed the news that the Zodiac Killer’s “340 Cipher” was decoded – 51 years after the cryptic note was sent to the San Francisco Chronicle

The Zodiac Killer is the pseudonym of a serial killer that terrorized portions of Northern California throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

A calling card that the Zodiac Killer would often employ were letters containing cryptograms that he’d send to local news papers – namely the Vallejo Times Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The San Francisco Examiner.

Among these taunting letters containing cryptograms, the Zodiac Killer had even alleged that once these various codes have been cracked then “they will have me”.

Back on August 8th of 1969, a couple named Donald and Bettye Harden from Salinas, California, had managed to crack one of the cryptograms sent by the Zodiac Killer, known as the “408 Cipher“.

However, instead of the 1969 decoding offering any insight into the identity of the Zodiac Killer, it was instead laced with references to an old short story called “The Most Dangerous Game” and spoke of how the killer was intent on collecting what he referred to as “slaves” for the afterlife. 

To date, there’s at least five known victims to be murdered by the Zodiac Killer – however, the killer claims to have slain 37 people. 

Despite decades after the murders, investigators have never been able to identifying the man behind all the killings – hence why there’s been efforts to try to decode all of the cryptograms he sent to various news outlets. 

Which brings us to the “340 Cipher” sent to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969, one of the codes yet to have been cracked up until recently. A group of three international code breakers were said to have finally revealed what was contained in the “340 Cipher”. 

American cryptographer David Oranchak, Australian software engineer Sam Blake, and Belgian software engineer Jarl Van are said to be the three that were able to decode the collection of symbols, letters, and numbers. 

The following is the contents of the decoded message, which misspellings of the word “paradise”, lack of punctuation and capitalized letters are intentional as that was how the decoded message was published : 

“I HOPE YOU ARE HAVING LOTS OF FUN IN TRYING TO CATCH ME THAT WASNT ME ON THE TV SHOW WHICH BRINGS UP A POINT ABOUT ME I AM NOT AFRAID OF THE GAS CHAMBER BECAUSE IT WILL SEND ME TO PARADICE”

“ALL THE SOONER BECAUSE I NOW HAVE ENOUGH SLAVES TO WORK FOR ME WHERE EVERYONE ELSE HAS NOTHING WHEN THEY REACH PARADICE SO THEY ARE AFRAID OF DEATH I AM NOT AFRAID BECAUSE I KNOW THAT MY NEW LIFE IS LIFE WILL BE AN EASY ONE IN PARADICE DEATH”

Same as the decoded “408 Cipher”, no indication of the killer’s name was revealed in the message.

Officials are unclear what the reference to the Zodiac Killer not being “on the TV show”, but the reference to collecting “slaves” appears again in the “340 Cipher” as it did in the “408 Cipher”. 

In a statement from the FBI’s San Francisco office, the agency confirmed that the message was decoded and that the investigation continues in an effort to “seek justice”: 

“The FBI is aware that a cipher attributed to the Zodiac Killer was recently solved by private citizens. The Zodiac Killer case remains an ongoing investigation for the FBI San Francisco division and our local law enforcement partners.”

“The Zodiac Killer terrorized multiple communities across Northern California and even though decades have gone by, we continue to seek justice for the victims of these brutal crimes.”

“Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, and out of respect for the victims and their families, we will not be providing further comment at this time.”

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In other investigations, a police officer in Mount Holly, North Carolina was recently killed during a shootout with a suspect. 

Here’s our previous report on that case. 

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MOUNT HOLLY, NC – A North Carolina police officer was reportedly shot and killed during a shootout with a suspect that took place during the early morning hours of December 11th. 

Officials say that Mount Holly Police Officer Tyler Herndon was one of many officers who responded to a breaking and entering call at the Mount Holly Car Wash and Arcade at around 3:30 a.m. on December 11th. 

At some point during the exchanged gunfire, Officer Herndon was struck. Officials say that the officer was rushed to CaroMont Regional Medical Center for then-noted critical injuries.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police revealed in an update that the Officer Herndon passed away at approximately 10:30 a.m. on December 1st while being treated at the medical center. 

Officer Herndon was said to have passed away just two days before his 26th birthday. 

In a Facebook post from the Mount Holly Police Department, the following was written regarding the officer’s passing: 

“It is with heavy hearts that we share that our brother Officer Tyler Herndon passed away as a result of injuries sustained from this morning’s shooting. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Flags for the MHPD were reportedly flown at half-staff on December 11th after the news of the officer’s death was confirmed. 

A local woman who happened to be dropping off some breakfast for the officer’s at the MHPD building commented on the sad news regarding Officer Herndon’s death: 

“It’s just a terrible thing to come to such a small town and to lose an officer and to lose a loved one so close to the holidays. Anytime that happens, it’s terrible.”

The suspect police say that opened fire on officers during the response was 24-year-old Joshua Tyler Funk. He was reportedly also shot during the exchanged gunfire, but was reportedly not seriously injured. 

Officials say that Funk was treated briefly for the gunshot wound sustained and released into police custody shortly thereafter.

Joshua Tyler Funk mugshot
Joshua Tyler Funk – Gaston County Jail

A third person was also injured during the shootout between the suspect and police, but officials haven’t detailed anything on who that person is. 

Reportedly two other MHPD officers and one Gaston County police officer were involved in the shootout with the suspect, and all three have been placed on administrative leave in line with standard protocols. 

In a statement related to the shooting and the fallen officer, Senator Thom Tillis shared the following: 

“Susan and I send our deepest condolences to the Mount Holly Police Department and the family of Officer Tyler Herndon. This is a heartbreaking reminder of the dangers our men and women in blue face each day they go to work to protect our communities. Violent criminals who target law enforcement must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Funk is currently being held on a charge of first-degree murder. 

This is a developing investigation. 

Please follow Law Enforcement Today to receive updates as this investigation furthers. 

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