A man calling himself The Chinese Zodiac Killer has been sentenced to 16 months in prison for sending threatening letters to various establishments for over a year.
46-year-old Jesse Bartlett of LaFargeville in Jefferson County was arrested in Jefferson County on May 19 2022 for sending letters to media outlets, government offices including the White House, and other organisations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington D.C. In the letters, he claimed that he killed people, ate their flesh and plans to kill more, including an unidentified bus driver. Bartlett was arrested by the FBI and charged with Mailing Threatening Letters.
Bartlett, a school bus driver who, according to prosecutors, owned multiple firearms, was arrested after he was allegedly caught on surveillance cameras placing brown envelopes into U.S. Postal Service collection boxes. On May 12, the FBI filmed Bartlett dropping 21 envelopes into U.S. Postal Service boxes in Watertown and Clayton, and another 21 in the same Watertown bin on May 15.
Further investigation found that the letters were consistent with those written by the so-called “Chinese Zodiac Killer.” Authorities said the letters were signed “Aleister Crowley,” a name that was also referenced in earlier Chinese Zodiac Killer letters, and presumably refers to the late English occultist and artist.
The letters said in part:
EVERY MONTH SINCE NOVEMBER I HAVE KILLED BOTH MALE AND FEMALES. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT I AM KILLING INDIVIDUALS WHOSE IDENTITIES ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO TRACK (I.E., HOMELESS, RUNAWAYS, ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS), AND DESTROYING ALL EVIDENCE SO EFFICIENTLY.
In August 2021, a letter was received by a retail company in Syracuse. In the letter, Bartlett allegedly stated:
“EACH MONTHLY LETTER CONTAINS MY CURRENT KILL COUNT – AND WHETHER OR NOT I FEASTED ON THE FLESH OF MY VICTIMS.”
Another letter sent to The Day newsroom pledged to enslave people in a “macabre paradice”, using the same misspellings as the original Zodiac. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, along with New York State Police, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
The original Zodiac Killer stabbed or shot to death five people in Northern California in 1968 and 1969. He had sent taunting letters and cryptograms to police and newspapers that included astrological symbols. As far as we know, he did not eat anyone (human).
That original Zodiac Killer was never caught. Bartlett copied the original Zodiac by inserting cryptic codes into his letters, which have not been interpreted (if, in fact, they are not simply gibberish.)
Bartlett pleaded guilty to mailing a threatening communication in December 2022. District Judge Brenda Sannes also imposed a three-year term of supervised release once Bartlett completes his sentence. He also faces local counts of third- and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon brought on March 21 by state police. He was allegedly found to be in possession of two illegally owned long guns and expandable magazines, in violation of the state’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, or “SAFE Act”. According to troopers, the charges are a result of the investigation and execution of a search warrant in May 2022 at Mr. Bartlett’s residence in the town of Alexandria.
Bartlett is clearly not Chinese, the Zodiac Killer or, it seems, a cannibal killer, but simply a copycat who added cannibalism to his modus operandi because it’s so fashionable. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Barnett, there’s no evidence that Bartlett ever tried to carry out any of the things he described in his letters. Bartlett was not charged with any homicide offences, although he was acquitted of killing a friend in 2010 after pleading self-defence. His main motivation seems to be recognition and celebrity, warning “I WILL MAKE AN EXAMPLE OF ANYONE WHO REFUSES TO EDUCATE THE PUBLIC OF MY EXISTENCE”:
I HAVE ALREADY KILLED SOMEONE IN THE NEW YORK AREA. HEAR MY PROPHECY: I WILL KILL AGAIN. HELL WANTS MORE SOULS. I AM A SEXUAL PREDATOR AND A KILLER AMONG THE LIVING. I AM NOT HIDING. I AM VERY EASY TO FIND …BECAUSE I NEED TO BE FOUND. BUT I MUST TEST YOU.
Prosecutors also said that Bartlett had stated that he is “a sexual predator” and is “on the hunt for your women at all times.” Although prosecutors have not pursued any leads to do with murder or cannibalism, we may never know for sure what Jesse Bartlett got up to. Could it be the case, as he wrote, that he is killing people whose identities are impossible to track (i.e. homeless, runaways, illegal immigrants), “AND DESTROYING ALL EVIDENCE SO EFFICIENTLY”?
Assistant U.S. Attorney Barnett said that Bartlett’s sentence includes the time he has already served behind bars. So, he’ll be out pretty soon. There are a range of hilarious comments on social media already, many of them ingeniously weaving partisan politics into the story.