THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL OF ALL
by GARY L. STEWART WITH SUSAN MUSTAFA C 2014
is published by HarperCollins
THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL OF ALL was unexpectedly interesting, a good novelesque read, and exceedingly convincing; worth the time to read it even if you aren't that interested in the Zodiac serial killer.
I've helped a few people who were searching for their birth parents using genealogy research methods, and so when I first heard about this book I imagined Gary L. Stewart being the person who initiated a search for his. While he was interested in finding his birth mother, it was she who contacted him.
It was she who had eloped at 14 with a much older man or who had been preyed upon and molested by this man. (I'm remembering that in many places and times in American history a 14 year old bride was not uncommon but in this case the law was after them.) As a Christian he attempted forgiveness and love of his mother, but then Gary decided he may as well find his father. Maybe he wasn't as bad as all that.
Like many adopted people Gary L. Stewart loved the parents who raised him and were good to him but he felt there was something of a mystery about his past that needed to be resolved or in this case solved. His search included getting adoption records, trying to get his original birth certificate (he still hasn't gotten it from the state of Louisiana but at this point he probably already knows all the information on it), and reading old newspapers on microfilm. Eventually he was in contact with the police and offering his DNA to be tested against crime scene DNA.
His birth mother claimed there was a lot she didn't remember, and maybe she didn't, but as some of you researchers know relatives who don't remember but start remembering more when you present them with the evidence are not uncommon. In this case it was the old newspaper articles that revealed his parent's runaway romance as well as his abandonment in a New Orleans stairwell had been reported on but not connected. Imagine seeing yourself as an infant in an old photo in an old newspaper in a story about being abandoned!
I can say that the people I assisted in finding their birth parents "prepared" themselves for the usual scenario of an unwed parent or maybe a parent who became ill or that someone went to jail but the abandoned in a stairwell type of story is maybe the worst.
Stewart wondered if his mother had not just forgotten aspects of what had become an abusive and strange relationship and the loss of her infant son but was lieing to him. He confronted her, she denied it, but my guess is that she withheld information afraid she would scare him off.
Strangely, perhaps in a perverse but fateful way, his mother had remarried and to a detective on the San Francisco police force! If that police force ever did or is now hiding information they long held or holding up or preventing DNA analysis, well, it certainly sounds like it. Stewart donated DNA to compare to a match from one of the crime scenes long ago. Did they loose the crime scene DNA?
Earl Van Best Jr., Stewart's birth father, was the son of a popular minister and a sex addict mother who couldn't stop cheating. His father finally divorced his mother which temporarily hurt his career until he switched denominations. Van Best Jr.'s childhood was miserable. Early on he was considered peculiar - a nerd - but he did have a few friends. He developed his skill as a musician and played the organ semi professionally. He became an Anglophile and talked in a fake British accent. While he might have had some unusual interests or hobbies probably no one thought of him as capable of murdering a series of innocent people. Many other people have had miserable childhoods and overcome them so I always wonder "What makes for a serial killer?"
Some of the people who the Zodiac Killer murdered looked a bit like Gary L. Stewart's mother, as if his father was fixated on revenge because she did leave him. He most likely also saw the newspaper when his mother remarried the San Francisco Police Officer who became a Detective. More importantly, Stewart has proven that in San Francisco his father encountered and had some involvement with the head of the Church of Satan as well as a man who would become one of Charlie Manson's murderers! His father's income came from buying and selling old manuscripts and books and documents and so he traveled a route through California and into Mexico, where he eventually died. His father also had experience in writing and breaking code as well as forging signatures and new analysis of the Zodiac's taunting coded messages that would reveal his name do reveal the name Earl Van Best Jr.
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