When Gary L. Stewart set off to find his real biological father, he had no idea what was coming. Gary discovered that his real father was in fact the Zodiac Killer. The Zodiac Killer was a mad gunman that killed 4-6 innocent people in the late 60′s. It was difficult for Gary to understand and comprehend all this.
Nearly 45 years later, Gary wrote his book, The Most Dangerous Animal of All: Searching for My Father. In the book, Gary describes how he tracked down his father and how he finally found out the truth.
Narrator: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show with Jason Hartman. The economic storm brewing around the world is set to spill into all aspects of our lives. Are you prepared? Where are you going to turn for the critical life skills necessary for you to survive and prosper? The Holistic Survival Show is your family’s insurance for a better life. Jason will teach you to think independently, to understand threats and how to create the ultimate action plan. Sudden change or worst case scenario, you’ll be ready. Welcome to Holistic Survival, your key resource for protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Ladies and gentlemen, your host, Jason Hartman.
Jason Hartman: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show. This is your host Jason Hartman, where we talk about protecting the people places and profits you care about in these uncertain times. We have a great interview for you today. And we will be back with that in less than 60 seconds on the Holistic Survival Show. And by the way, be sure to visit our website at HolisticSurvival.com. You can subscribe to our blog, which is totally free, has loads of great information, and there’s just a lot of good content for you on the site, so make sure you take advantage of that at HolisticSurvival.com. We’ll be right back.
It’s my pleasure to welcome Gary L. Stuart to the show. He has got a very, very interesting story. He’s author of a top notch book that is getting a lot of attention lately entitled The Most Dangerous Animal of All: Searching for my Father and Finding the Zodiac Killer. An amazing, amazing story. Gary welcome. How are you?
Gary L. Stewart: Jason, thank you for inviting me. I’m fine.
Jason Hartman: Good. Well, so wow. What an amazing story. So you were looking for your biological father who I take it you obviously didn’t grow up with and didn’t know. And then you found that he was actually the zodiac killer.
Gary L. Stewart: Right. It’s quite a story…
Jason Hartman: Before you dive in, I want to tell people… depending on how old they are, they may or may not have heard of the zodiac killer. So first I want you to tell us about who is that? What was the crime? Was it San Francisco I think?
Gary L. Stewart: Yes.
Jason Hartman: And what did he do, how did he kill and how many victims?
Gary L. Stewart: So, the zodiac killer terrorized the residents of California, particularly Northern California, San Francisco Bay area in the mid to late 60s all the way through the middle to late 70s. He was a copycat actually, if you look closely of Jack the Ripper. And to this day Jack the Ripper is the world’s most notorious still unsolved serial killer case, second to that being the zodiac killer, America’s version of Jack the Ripper.
Jason Hartman: Amazing. And so, how many victims?
Gary L. Stewart: 5.
Jason Hartman: Okay, 5. But 5 isn’t as serial killers go, the most prolific necessarily. Granted a lot of times with these guys they don’t know all the victims – they discover more victims years later even.
Gary L. Stewart: He certainly claimed many more. He claimed 37, but I believe it was all just a claim; there have never been any other ties to it. One unique thing about him is the motive, and you’ll see that in very great detail in the book. Why he did what he did, why he selected lovers and lovers lanes for the most part, with one exception. And that one exception was because he was an acquaintance of my father. So it’s very different, and there’s actually a reason for why he stopped doing what he’s doing. And everyone says the zodiac hasn’t spoken in 40 years because part of his signature was after he committed his crimes, he would write taunting letters to the authorities as well as the newspapers as a kind of catch me if you can. I’m way more clever than you – you’ll never find out who I am.
And he would send these cryptic messages, these coded letters to the newspapers and basically say hey, if you crack this cypher you will have my identity. And unfortunately the first three cyphers that were sent to the San Francisco Bay area newspapers, they were decoded and he had a hidden message there and the message went something like, “I love killing man because it’s more fun than killing wild game in the forest. After all, man is the most dangerous animal of all.”
Jason Hartman: Wow, and thus the title for the book. Wow, yeah.
Gary L. Stewart: Right. But the thing is, a couple weeks went by and a couple high school teachers in the bay area solved that hidden message and they published it. He wrote another letter saying by the way, have you cracked my cypher? Meaning you may have cracked the decoded message, but my identity is in that cypher. He said that over and over. And I’ve discovered my father’s complete name in all three ways he ever wrote his name in three of those cyphers. It’s like he wanted to get caught. He knew he had them then. They were always going from here forward be looking for a hidden message and not for his name.
Jason Hartman: Wow, amazing. So tell us about how you… at what age did you start looking for your father and what prompted you to do that, for example?
Gary L. Stewart: So, I was raised in an adoptive home where my other sister was adopted as well. And my adoptive parents weren’t able to have children, or so they thought until they had one three years after they adopted me, a natural child. But all my life my parents were very honest with me about being adopted. And they loved me unconditionally just as if I were their own. But I always wondered. I always wanted to know where I came from. And fortunately I didn’t have to go searching on my own. When I was 39 years old, just 12 years ago, a lady from San Francisco called my adoptive mother and said I am your son Gary’s birth mother. That began the process. I immediately met her, flew out to San Francisco to meet her, and asked her who my father was. Her answer was, you know the question she’s been dreading for years, well honey it’s been a long time and I’ve been forced to forget these memories of my past with you and your father, but I think his name was Van. I was very young and he was twice my age and we were on the run from the law.
Jason Hartman: So she knew he was the zodiac killer.
Gary L. Stewart: No she didn’t. She had no idea at the time.
Jason Hartman: Oh, what did she think he was? Why were they on the run then? For another reason?
Gary L. Stewart: Well he was wanted for statutory rape of my mother, and…
Jason Hartman: Oh when you say twice the age, I don’t know what age she was…
Gary L. Stewart: Okay, so I should go back. This was in 1962, a few years before the zodiac killings. So she was 13 when they met, 14 when they married, 15 when they had me. They had made it all the way from San Francisco to New Orleans.
I was born in New Orleans, and my father got my mother to go out and get a job as a bar made at 15 years old because he was a wanted fugitive from San Francisco. And so he couldn’t use his ID to get a job, so he just let my mother go to work as a bar made. She would come home from her shift and find that my father had me locked up in a foot locker in an old trunk with the lid shut because he said he couldn’t stand to hear it cry anymore, and that’s when she started getting scared. So at four weeks old my father took me by train from New Orleans to Baton Rouge and he got off the train and walked 7 blocks up the main street in Baton Rouge and abandoned me in a stairway landing in an apartment building. Fortunately, the building was occupied.
No one was home, but at 4:30 that afternoon a young lady came home and heard this baby crying and called the authorities, so for a few months I was Baton Rouge’s baby John Doe. So here I am making the headlines in Baton Rouge, and who are the parents of this abandoned infant? And they’re making the headlines all across the nation, The Romance – where are they? The ice cream Romance because they actually met at an ice cream parlor.
So I told my mother when she told me this story, you know I really don’t want to find this character. I’ve got a great family and a great home here in Baton Rouge. So I didn’t decide to search for a few months and when I did, and a twist of fate my mother had remarried a homicide inspector and the San Francisco Police Department, of all things, right?
Jason Hartman: What a strange turn of events, you know?
Gary L. Stewart: It’s just getting good. The whole book is like that, so… So he passed away in ’98 and my mother came looking for me and found me in 2002. So when I asked my mother to help me find my father she went to her husband, her former husband’s friends in the SF PD who found his file and said Gary’s father’s name was Earl Van Best Jr. He was born in Willmar, Kentucky. His social security number was this, but that’s all we’re going to share with you because there’s information in the file that we’re not going to share.
Maybe I should have been warned, I don’t know, but my mom says think about it, I was a 14 year old kid and he was 27 years old. Are we to be concerned? If he was that way, something was wrong anyway. That didn’t deter me. I set out on a search to find this man and to thank him for abandoning me in Baton Rouge where I could be adopted by the Stuard family.
My reunion with my mother was so fulfilling, I wanted to extend that same forgiveness and welcome him into my family. Over the course of the next year and a half I found out that he was deceased and buried in an unmarked grave in New York City, that he drowned in his own vomit. And I still continue to run into road blocks. I found out that he had had three other children and had abandoned them in Austria.
And I reached out to contact them but they insisted on me having some kind of proof that I was his son, the older son. So I needed that information from the FS PD and they wouldn’t get off of it. My mother went to them one last time and she said Gary just needs to know. And they told my mother that what was in that file was so heinous that it would destroy me. And they also said what was in my father’s file would make what he did to me and my mother, rape and abuse, seem inconsequential.
Jason Hartman: Wow. Amazing. So I’ve got to ask you before we get to some practical tips that we’re actually going to share with the audience here. I am very impressed that you would come out with this story. Of course mature people understand that every individual is different. The parents of Jeff Dahmer are not Jeff Dahmer. But do you get hate mail? Do people threaten you? Of course this stuff happened a long time ago, but it seems like most people in your position would want to just kind of hide out.
Gary L. Stewart: You’re right. And there’s a reason I came forward. Right now, because it’s been just a little over 2 weeks since the book came out and we had a lot of international publicity still going on. The book’s been released in the UK now. What I’m getting the most of are negative comments from people who have been working…the amateur sleuths. The young guys that sit at home on message boards, and have their own person of interest and want to name that person and if anybody comes up with a relevant suspect that’s not theirs, they’re going to attack them.
As far as personal hate mail, I’m not getting any of that. And I’ll tell you why, because my story is a story of nature versus nurture. I had to share my story because of who I became. Of course I think when I first found this out I think I’ve got a serial killers DNA running through my blood…
Jason Hartman: Is that DNA? I don’t think that’s hereditary fortunately.
Gary L. Stewart: Exactly. But you know, everyone wants to know. Everyone I’ve talked to for the past two weeks wants to know do I ever get these crazy thoughts? And what I can say for a fact is that my father… I don’t know, and I’m not a forensic psychiatrist but I don’t believe my father was born a natural born killer. I believe he lost his father in a divorce to his mother when he was a very young child. And his father was his hero. His mother had some terrible morals. She had more men suitors in and out of her… my father would describe it to his cousins as a turnstile at a movie theater. He learned his respect or hate or rage for women from his mother. So my father is a victim of his nurturer.
And me on the other hand, exactly the same case. Don’t care what kind of evil we’ve all come from if any, I can speak for myself. I was raised in a home where love, forgiveness, honesty, acceptance are tenants with the way to live your life. And I have no concerns whatsoever.
Jason Hartman: Amazing. Just an amazing story. Well, tell us what we can learn from this. It always amazes me whenever they catch a serial killer. I’ll use Jeff Dahmer as an example again because I remember seeing the interviews and all the neighbors saying he was such a nice neighbor, always quiet and polite and everybody says they had no idea. It’s always that way with all these stories. The neighbors are in shock. All the people around this person are just amazed and they can’t believe it.
Gary L. Stewart: Exactly. So even today, when we have some of these shootings at schools and at public places there’s always somebody that comes in after the fact and says I could have suspected that. I knew there was something wrong. The problem is, I really believe that some of these people want to be stopped. That’s why they’re sharing, that’s why they’re communicating.
Jason Hartman: Well it’s an ego thing. They want to brag about this – these are their accomplishments, right?
Gary L. Stewart: Absolutely. And even in my own case with my father. His first cousin, who is my second cousin has been wonderful to me and shared story after story but what she tells me is Gary, we sometimes blamed ourselves as kids that he ended up the way he ended up because we picked on him so much. We went swimming down in Myrtle Beach and he didn’t want to go. He wanted to sit in the beach house and read all this English Literature. He was just that way. And we feel bad because we picked on him so much. People knew. Everybody knew. And it can be stopped. My advice is… a friend of my wife’s read the story in one night and she told me today that she has not slept with her porch light off since. That it scared her to death. I guess I don’t read it that way because I’m more into the story of hope in the nature versus nurture. But I think there are signs. I would encourage people if you see something, if it just doesn’t add up… speak up. We see it every day now unfortunately.
Jason Hartman: We do see that but we just don’t know. How do you know?
Gary L. Stewart: Yeah. That’s a great question, and looking back I know friends of my father and my family, including my biological mother, she says now, granted she was 14-15 that there were signs. So I think it behooves all of us just to be aware. I don’t think a perfectly normal, perfectly mentally healthy normal person is going to appear as a perfect sheep or a wolf that’s got sheep’s clothing. I think a sheep is a sheep and you’re going to know a wolf in sheep’s clothing if you just pay attention.
Jason Hartman: So, what else can we learn from these people? A lot of people don’t realize there were signs until after the fact. Maybe a lot of us are living next door to a serial killer. You just really don’t know. Any other tell-tale signs we can learn or just anything we can do to protect ourselves?
Gary L. Stewart: I think so. I think that the BTK in Wichita, I guess Kansas, was operating about the same time that I discovered who my father was. And he also was a zodiac killer copycat. The one thing that he had in common with my father is that he was like the guy given a little bit of authority, as a neighborhood patrol guy making sure the grass height in your lawn wasn’t too high…
Jason Hartman: All those super important things for power hungry people, right?
Gary L. Stewart: Right. Power hungry people and people who wanted attention. Arrogant, wanting to stand out and be set apart for some reason. And I guess maybe when they figure that being the neighborhood cop isn’t all that, then there are other ways I’ll get attention.
Jason Hartman: I always found that these people on home owners association boards, presidents of home owners association boards, some of them are just power hungry nut jobs. They really are.
Gary L. Stewart: We had elections on our home owners association committee just a couple years ago, and I told my wife I am staying away from that. But we had somebody volunteer. They wanted to have it, right? The power thing.
Jason Hartman: Well who knows what they’ve got in their basement.
Gary L. Stewart: Exactly. That’s right. But there are so many things we can learn every time one of these cases is solved and every time unfortunately we see this play out in the morning news that there are lessons to be learned. And they all come down to mental health issues.
Jason Hartman: Wow, something else. Well, tell people where they can get the book. Of course it’s on Amazon.com with 4 star reviews – you’ve got 87 reviews already. That’s pretty quick.
Gary L. Stewart: That’s not really bad. It is available on Amazon, it’s available at Barns and Noble, Books a Million, all your local book stores and even Walmart. A friend of mine asked me where to get one today and my wife and I ran to Walmart and got one. But the book website is called www.themostdangerousanimalofall.com.
Jason Hartman: So that’s themostdangerousanimalofall.com, and Gary L. Stuart what an incredible story and thank you for sharing it with us.
Gary L. Stewart: Thank you so much Jason for having me on the show. It was a pleasure.
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Narrator: Thank you for joining us today for the Holistic Survival Show. Protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Be sure to listen to our Creating Wealth Show, which focuses on exploiting the financial and wealth creation opportunities in today’s economy. Learn more at www.JasonHartman.com or search “Jason Hartman” on iTunes. This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company, offering very general guidelines and information. Opinions of guests are their own, and none of the content should be considered individual advice. If you require personalized advice, please consult an appropriate professional. Information deemed reliable, but not guaranteed.
Transcribed by Ralph
The Holistic Survival Show
Guest: Gary L. Stewart
iTunes: Stream Episode