Police released a sketch of what they believed the so-called Zodiac Killer to look like in the late 1960s. File Image courtesy of the San Francisco Police Department
Dec. 12 (UPI) -- A group of private citizens say they've broken an encoded message sent by the so-called "Zodiac Killer" to a San Francisco newspaper more than five decades ago.
The code-breakers said they translated the message after working on it for about 14 years.
The team included American software developer David Oranchak, Belgian computer programmer Jarl Van Eycke and Australian mathematician Sam Blake.
"It was incredible. It was a big shock. I never really thought we'd find anything because I had grown so used to failure," Oranchak told CNN.
Police believe the serial killer was responsible for at least five slayings in Northern California during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The crime spree, which remains unsolved, drew attention for the killer's cryptic and taunting notes sent to the San Francisco Chronicle.
One of those letters -- sent in November 1969 -- used a cipher detectives were unable to break. The FBI acknowledged it was aware of the code-breakers' apparent success in cracking the code.
"The Zodiac Killer case remains an ongoing investigation for the FBI San Francisco division and our local enforcement partners," the FBI said in a statement.
"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 those 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."
The code-breakers said they translated the message, with typos included, as follows:
"I hope you are having lots of fun trying to catch me.
"That wasn't 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 will be an easy one in paradice death."
Another encrypted letter was deciphered shortly after it was sent in July 1969. That letter threatened to kill lone people in the night if newspapers didn't run the killer's letter on their front pages.
Police believe the Zodiac Killer was responsible for the deaths of David Faraday in December 1968; Darlene Ferrin in July 1969; Cecelia Shepard in September 1969; and Paul Stine in October 1969.
Several other slayings and attacks may be attributed to the killer, but they've never been confirmed,