Zodiac Killer ID sketch croppedDespite an ID sketch of the Zodiac                                                                                                                 killer, he has never been arrested.


By Ian White

TWO OF the nation’s most notorious serial-killing sprees could be the work of one man now living in Galveston County, according to a retired detective who has spent several years examining clues to who carried out the murders.
Even if his suspect is not responsible for both homicide series, the detective is convinced that evidence proves the man is the killer of at least some of the victims of this county’s “Killing Fields” murders, which began in 1971.
The detective, whose own identity is known by The Post but whom we cannot name at present, has compiled a massive dossier of documents he believes could prove his suspect was both the “Zodiac” killer of the San Francisco Bay area in 1968 and 1969 and a perpetrator of some of the Killing Fields crimes.
The former policeman’s work on the cases first came to our attention last year but we agreed not to publicize it until he had completed enough lines of inquiry to satisfy himself that a full law-enforcement investigation of his evidence will either lead to charges against the suspect or eliminate him from the cases altogether.
The retired officer now believes his investigation has reached its point of no return and told The Post this week: “I do have a name for the suspect and it will surprise many people. He is not well known publicly but he does have influence in some establishment circles.
“If I’m right about him, several horrible murder cases – maybe dozens –could be cleared up in one go.”
The detective said he has sent a full briefing of his investigations to a cold-case unit in California and other law-enforcement agencies and that at least one is now working to convict or eliminate the suspect from its inquiries.
The detective said he had not set out to link the two murder series and had initially been interested only in solving the county’s Killing Fields murders. But the gradual formation of a chain of apparently linked events, places and people had led him to explore the possibility of a common culprit.
He said he identified his suspect after poring over letters and other documents that purport to be from whoever carried out the Zodiac and Killing Fields murders. The messages were sent to investigators, newspapers and victims’ family members, each apparently intended to taunt its recipient with clues to its sender’s identity.
However, no one has yet been shown conclusively to be responsible for any of the messages and there is no absolute proof that they or the two murder series are the work of one man.
In fact, the Killing Fields murders span a period of more than 30 years, begging the question whether one person could have been responsible for them all.
“I accept that,” the retired detective said, “but my inquiries have produced evidence that suggests my suspect is a person of particular interest in at least two murders here and one linked to the Zodiac series, plus maybe one or two unrelated suspicious deaths.”
The detective believes that, while, individually, the messages prove nothing, together they reveal patterns and coincidences that are so specific that they narrow down both killing-spree searches to just one person.
He also said he is not the only student of the California and Texas killings to believe that the so-called Zodiac and the Killing Field murderer are either one and the same or at least closely connected.
“At least a couple of respected experts on the killings have reached the same conclusion,” he said, but his own investigations have led him one step farther than most. “Not only are there many similarities in the way the messages are written and their codes but they also appear to contain physical clues that point to the man’s name, his line of work and even his address,” he said.
“The signs that the cases are connected are in Galveston County. You just have to know where to look. If my suspect is innocent, that’s fine – but we can’t know that without a thorough official examination of the evidence I have uncovered.”

Microsoft Word - 150510 News - Zodiac long.docx

State lawmakers quarrel on tax giveaways

By Ian White

HOMEOWNERS and businesses have become the pawns in a tax-cutting battle between the state’s senate and house of representatives.
In the wake of governor Greg Abbott’s call for a tax-cutting budget during his state-of-the-state address at the beginning of this year’s legislative session, the Republican-Party leaders of both chambers have proposed competing measures they each claim will save money for Texas taxpayers.
Both sides claim the other’s plan would fritter the state’s money in the wrong direction and they also disagree on the method of calculating individual taxpayer savings.
The senate’s president, lieutenant governor Dan Patrick, and finance-committee chairman, senator Jane Nelson, want to make the cuts by lifting the property-tax homestead exemption threshold in a proposal that could quadruple it next year for Galveston County homeowners.

Patrick, DanDan Patrick

But representative Dennis Bonnen, who heads the house’s ways and means committee, favors a deeper discount in the business franchise tax and is also proposing a cut in the state’s sales tax that, if passed, would become the first reduction in that tax’s rate since it was introduced in 1961.
Bonnen, a businessman who represents Brazoria County, says his proposals will save the “average family of four” $172 per year, with “substantial savings as well” for Texas’ employers. Patrick counters that the family saving is worth just $43 “per person per year” while the senate’s gift amounts to “an estimated $442 in two-year savings to Texas homeowners”, including at least $412 in property-tax cuts.
Bonnen introduced his tax-relief package on Wednesday, upping the stakes in the two chambers’ contest to see who can give away the greater share of the state’s $19.4 billion 2015-17 budget.

Bonnen, Dennis-headshotDennis Bonnen

The senate had already introduced a plan worth $4.454 billion in cuts over the two-year budget period, but Bonnen trumped them, at least for the time being, with proposals that would slash $4.87 billion from the total.
Of that, his plan would reduce the state’s revenue for the biennium by $2.31 billion by cutting its sales-tax rate from 6.25 per cent to 5.95 per cent. The senate’s plan has no sales-tax element.
Bonnen’s proposal would also collect $2.56 billion less in the business franchise, or margins, tax by cutting its rate by 25 per cent for all Texas businesses.
That measure is designed to appeal to big businesses, especially capital-intensive industrial concerns, which Bonnen said are likely to feel left out of the small-business-conscious senate alternative.
Under the senate’s proposals, a 15 per cent cut in the franchise tax would be accompanied by exemption from payment altogether for 61,000 of the state’s small and medium businesses.
At present, some 117,000 companies pay the tax, with 11,000 filing via the state’s EZ system. Any EZ filers not included in the 61,000 would see their rate cut by 42 per cent and the overall effect of all the senate franchise-tax proposals would be a $2.3 billion reduction in state revenue.

Nelson, Jane-Senator  nelson.senate.state.tx.usJane Nelson

The senate measures would also reduce the state’s tax take by $2.154 billion by changing the property-tax homestead exemption from $15,000 for school levies to 25 per cent of the median home value, a figure Patrick and Taylor say will increase year by year, saving homeowners even more than their estimated $206 average in the plan’s first year.
If passed, the proposal would have a dramatic effect in Galveston County, where property-sales website Zillow records the current median price of homes listed for sale as $246,000, enough to lift the homestead exemption threshold to $61,500.
However, for any tax cuts to become reality, the two chambers must agree the way forward before the legislative session ends. If they do not, they face being called back to Austin by Abbott for a special session until they do agree. The regular session is due to end on June 1.
• Coming Wednesday: Patrick and Bonnen tell Post readers why their proposals are best for Texas.