Randy Steven Kraft
|Randy Steven Kraft|
Randy Kraft, pictured during his trial in 1989
March 19, 1945 |
Long Beach, California, United States
|Other names||The Freeway Killer,
The Scorecard Killer
Span of killings
|September 20, 1971–May 13, 1983|
|May 14, 1983|
|Imprisoned at||San Quentin State Prison|
Randy Steven Kraft (born March 19, 1945) is an American serial killer known as the "Scorecard Killer" and the "Freeway Killer" who committed the rape, torture, mutilation and murder of a minimum of 16 young men in a series of killings spanning between 1972 and 1983, the majority of which had been committed in California. Kraft is also believed to have committed the rape and murder of up to 51 further boys and young men. He was convicted in May 1989 of murdering 16 victims and is currently incarcerated upon death row at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County, California.
Kraft became known as the "Scorecard Killer", because upon his arrest investigators discovered a coded list depicting cryptic references to his victims; and the "Freeway Killer", because many of his victims' bodies were discovered beside or near freeways. He shares the latter epithet with two separate and unrelated serial killers, William Bonin and Patrick Kearney.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Claremont Men's College
- 3 U.S. Air Force
- 4 Murders
- 5 Relationship with Jeff Seelig
- 6 Later murders
- 7 1983
- 8 Scorecard
- 9 Trial
- 10 Missing accomplice
- 11 Other "Freeway Killers"
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 Bibliography
- 15 Cited works and further reading
- 16 External links
Randy Steven Kraft was born in Long Beach, California, on March 19, 1945, the fourth child and only son born to Opal Lee (née Beal) and Harold Herbert Kraft. Kraft's parents had moved to California from Wyoming at the outbreak of World War II; his father worked as a production worker, and his mother worked as a sewing machine operator.
The Kraft family lived modestly, and Kraft's mother undertook a succession of jobs to supplement her husband's salary. Nonetheless, Opal Kraft always found time for her children, whereas in contrast, Kraft's father seldom attended any social gatherings with his wife and children, and was later described as being "distanced" from his family. As a child, Randy was doted on by his three older sisters and mother, although he was known to be accident prone.
In 1948, the Kraft family moved from Long Beach to Midway City, California, in neighboring Orange County. The Kraft's new family home was a small, wood-frame Women's Army Corps dormitory on Beach Boulevard that Kraft's father, Harold, renovated into a three-bedroom house.
In Midway City, Kraft attended Midway City Elementary school, where his mother served on the PTA. As a scholar, Kraft was noted for his intelligence by classmates and teachers. By 1957, Kraft was deemed intelligent enough to attend accelerated classes at 17th Street Junior High School.
Adolescence and graduation
By adolescence, Kraft had taken a keen interest in politics, becoming a staunch Republican with aspirations of becoming a U.S. senator. Shortly after his enrollment at Westminster High School, he and two close friends founded a Westminster World Affairs Club. At Westminster High School, Kraft was again regarded as a pleasant, bright student who regularly achieved A grades. He was also known to occasionally date girls, although some classmates and teachers later stated they suspected Kraft was homosexual.
Kraft later stated he had known from his high school days that he was homosexual, although he initially kept his sexuality a secret. On June 13, 1963, he graduated tenth out of a class of 390 pupils. That fall, he enrolled at Claremont Men's College in Claremont, California, where he pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics.
Claremont Men's College
Shortly after his enrollment as a freshman at Claremont Men's College, Kraft enrolled in the Claremont Reserve Officers Training Corps and regularly attended demonstrations in favor of the Vietnam War and—in 1964—for the election of conservative presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Kraft later declared these actions were merely a mimic of his parents' political views and not his own, describing his second year at Claremont as being when he abandoned the "last gasp" of his conservative ideology. The same year, Kraft entered his first known homosexual relationship.
In 1964, Kraft began working as a bartender at a local Garden Grove cocktail lounge that catered to gay clientele; he was also known to regularly travel to Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach to have casual sex with hustlers. In an apparent tentative effort to announce his sexuality to his parents, Kraft took a succession of male "friends" to meet his family in the years he was enrolled at Claremont, although he was also known to occasionally date girls. Initially, however, Kraft's parents and sisters were oblivious to his homosexuality.
In 1966, Kraft was arrested and charged with lewd conduct after propositioning an undercover policeman in Huntington Beach; as he had no previous criminal record, no charges were filed. The following year, he developed a radical shift in his political beliefs, becoming an ardent supporter of left-wing politics, and eventually registered as a Democrat in 1967.
The same year he registered as a Democrat, Kraft became a party organizer, campaigning tirelessly for the election of Robert Kennedy and receiving a personal letter from the senator, thanking him for his efforts. By his senior year, Kraft had become a lackadaisical student, drinking, taking drugs, and regularly attending all-night gambling and poker sessions with other students. The lack of commitment to his studies in his final year resulted in Kraft's failing to graduate from Claremont in June 1967. Kraft had to repeat his econometrics class, resulting in deferment of his graduation by eight months. In February 1968, Kraft graduated from Claremont Men's College with a Bachelor of Arts in economics.
U.S. Air Force
Four months after his graduating from college, Kraft joined the U.S. Air Force. He was sent to a boot camp in Texas before being stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California, where he supervised the painting of test planes. In his service within the U.S. Air Force, Kraft rose to the rank of Airman First Class and supervisor-manager.
The same year Kraft became an Airman First Class, he disclosed to his family that he was homosexual. In a letter Kraft wrote to a friend, he described his father as having flown "into a rage", whereas he described his mother as being more understanding, if somewhat disapproving. Kraft's family ultimately accepted his sexuality, and he remained in close contact with his parents and siblings, although his siblings noted he began to "distance himself" from his family after he announced his sexuality to them.
On July 26, 1969, Kraft received a general discharge from the Air Force after announcing his sexuality to his superiors. The discharge was officially listed as being on "medical" grounds. In response, Kraft sought legal advice from an attorney in attempt to challenge the grounds regarding his discharge from the Air Force. The Air Force, however, refused to change the status of his discharge.
Following his military discharge, Kraft moved back into his parents' home and worked as a bartender.
First known sexual assault
In March 1970, Kraft encountered a 13-year-old Westminster youth named Joey Fancher at Huntington Beach. Fancher explained to Kraft that he had run away from home that day. In response, Kraft invited the youth to accompany him to his apartment on the promise that Fancher could live with him. Fancher agreed and accompanied Kraft to his Belmont Shore apartment, where he was drugged and assaulted. Hours later, Fancher escaped from Kraft's apartment after Kraft left the youth unattended in the apartment to go to work. A member of the public summoned an ambulance, having observed Fancher's drugged and disheveled condition; Fancher required having his stomach pumped as a result of the drugs he had ingested.
At the hospital, Fancher informed police Kraft had given him drugs and beaten him. He did not disclose to either his parents or the police that he had been sexually assaulted. A search of Kraft's apartment was conducted, with the cooperation of Kraft's roommate. However, as Fancher had confessed to police he had taken the pills offered to him voluntarily and the officers had conducted the search without a warrant, no charges were filed.
Enrollment at Long Beach State University
In 1971, Kraft found new employment as a forklift truck driver in Huntington Beach. In an effort to further his career prospects following his military discharge two years earlier, he enrolled at Long Beach State University, undertaking teaching courses. At Long Beach State University, Kraft became acquainted with a fellow teaching student named Jeff Graves—a Minnesota youth four years younger than himself and with whom Kraft began a relationship.
Between 1971 and 1983, Kraft is believed to have killed a total of 67 victims. All of Kraft's suspected victims were males between the ages of 13 and 35, the majority of whom were in their late teens to mid-twenties. Kraft was charged with—and convicted of—16 of these homicides, all of which had occurred between 1972 and 1983. Many of Kraft's victims had been enlisted in the Marines, and most of his victims' bodies bore evidence of high levels of both alcohol and tranquilizers in their blood systems, indicating they had been rendered insensate before they had been abused and killed.
Kraft's victims were typically lured into his vehicle with an offer of a lift or alcohol. Inside Kraft's vehicle, the victims would be plied with alcohol and/or other drugs. They then were bound, tortured, and sexually abused before they were usually killed by either strangulation, asphyxiation, or bludgeoning, although some victims had also ingested fatal doses of pharmaceuticals and at least one victim was stabbed to death. The victims would then be discarded, usually—though not exclusively—alongside or close to various freeways in southern California. (Photographic evidence found at Kraft's home indicates several of his victims were driven to his house before their murder.)
Many of Kraft's victims were burned with a car cigarette lighter, usually around the genitals, chest, and face, and several victims were found with extensive blunt force trauma to the face and head. In several instances, foreign objects were found inserted into the victims' anus while other victims had suffered emasculation, or mutilation and dismemberment.
The majority of Kraft's murders were committed in California, although some victims had been killed in the neighboring state of Oregon, with two further known victims murdered in the midwestern state of Michigan in December 1982.
First suspected victim
On October 5, 1971, police found the nude body of a 30-year-old Long Beach resident named Wayne Dukette discarded close to the Ortega Highway. Dukette, a bartender at a gay bar named "The Stables", had last been seen alive on September 20, 1971. Putrefaction had erased any signs of foul play upon the body, and the cause of death was listed as acute alcohol poisoning due to a high blood alcohol level.
Fifteen months after the murder of Dukette, Kraft killed a 20-year-old Marine named Edward Moore. Moore was seen alive leaving the barracks at Camp Pendleton on December 24, 1972. His body was found beside the 405 Freeway in Seal Beach during the early hours of December 26. Abrasions on Moore's body indicated he had been discarded from a moving vehicle. An autopsy revealed Moore had been bound about the wrists and ankles, then beaten with a blunt instrument about the face before being garrotted. His body also bore evidence of numerous bite marks, and a sock had been forced into his rectum.
Six weeks after the murder of Edward Moore, the body of an unidentified youth estimated to be around 17 to 25 years old was found alongside the Terminal Island Freeway in Los Angeles. This victim had been strangled by a ligature and had also had a sock placed in his rectum. Two months later, on April 9, the body of 17-year-old Kevin Bailey was found beside a road in Huntington Beach. Bailey had been emasculated and sodomized prior to his murder. By July 28, a further two victims had been murdered: an unidentified youth whose dismembered body was found on April 22 and a 20-year-old named Ronnie Wiebe, whose strangled body was discarded beside an onramp to the 405 Freeway on July 30 – two days after he had disappeared. Welt marks on Wiebe's wrists and ankles suggested he had been bound and suspended from a device before his murder.
Kraft is only known to have killed once more in 1973. The victim was a 23-year-old bisexual art student named Vincent Cruz Mestas, whose body was found in the San Bernardino Mountains on December 29. As had been the case with several previous victims, one of the victim's socks had been forced into his rectum. Mestas's hands had also been severed from his body, and were never found.
By November 1974, a further five victims had been found beside or close to mass transportation in southern California; three of which had been conclusively linked to the same killer. Two of these victims—20-year-old Malcolm Little and 19-year-old James Reeves—had each been found beside a freeway with foreign objects inserted into their bodies, whereas the body of the third victim, 18-year-old Marine Roger Dickerson, bore evidence of bite marks much as several earlier victims had been.
On January 3, 1975, Kraft abducted and murdered a 17-year-old high school student named John Leras. The youth was last seen boarding a bus in Long Beach; his strangled body was found the following day, discarded at Sunset Beach with a foreign object protruding from his anus. Drag marks along the beach close to where his body had been discarded indicate two individuals had carried Leras's body into the water. Two weeks after Leras's murder, on January 17, the body of a 21-year-old named Craig Jonaitis was found discarded in the parking lot of the Golden Sails Hotel near the Pacific Coast Highway and Loynes Drive in Long Beach. Jonaitis had been strangled to death with a length of string, possibly a shoelace.
By January 1975, a total of 14 victims, whose bodies had been found discarded across four separate counties within the previous three years, had been linked to the same killer. All the victims had been Caucasian males with similar physical characteristics. On January 24, homicide investigators from several jurisdictions in southern California convened in Orange County to discuss progress in the hunt for the unknown killer. An FBI profile of the killer was read to investigators, describing the individual as a methodical, organized lust killer of above average intelligence who exhibited an indifference to the "interests and welfare of society". Some investigators believed the murders to be the work of more than one individual, one or more of whom had a military background: two victims' bodies had tissue paper residue on their noses, conforming to a known military procedure to prevent bodies from purging after death. The placing of socks inside the victims' rectums was also theorized to be a method used by the killer to prevent purging as the body was driven to the disposal location.
At this stage, investigators had no solid suspects.
Murder of Keith Crotwell
On the evening of March 29, 1975, Kraft lured two youths named Keith Crotwell and Kent May from a Long Beach parking lot into his Ford Mustang. The youths were plied with beer and Valium as Kraft drove in an apparently random, directionless manner around Belmont Shore and Seal Beach. May later recalled feeling catatonic as a result of the Valium and alcohol he had ingested before he passed out.
In the Long Beach parking lot where Crotwell and May had last been seen, two friends of the youths observed a distinctive black and white Ford Mustang rapidly enter and draw to a halt before the driver leaned across towards the back seat, opened the rear door, and pushed the unconscious (but otherwise unharmed) Kent May onto the ground. The driver then sped away from the parking lot. As he did so, the friends of Crotwell and May noted Crotwell slumped against the unknown driver's shoulder.
On May 8, the skull of Keith Crotwell was found in a jetty close to the Long Beach Marina; the remainder of his body was found six months later. Upon hearing the news, the two youths who had observed the Ford Mustang entering the parking lot and discarding May onto the ground, suspecting Crotwell's murderer to have been a patron of a Belmont Shore gay bar, scoured their neighborhood for the distinctive Ford Mustang they had observed. Upon locating the vehicle less than one mile (1.6 km) from their home, the youths noted the license plate number and relayed the information to police. The registration of the vehicle was traced to Randy Steven Kraft.
Interrogation and release
The Long Beach Police questioned Kraft about Crotwell's abduction and murder on May 19, 1975. Initially, Kraft denied having ever met either Crotwell or May and the police, initially skeptical of Kraft's denial, summoned him to the police station for further questioning.
At the Long Beach police station, Kraft admitted that on or around March 29, he had encountered two youths in the Long Beach parking lot in question and had persuaded them to drink alcohol and consume Valium with him as he drove. He claimed to have returned May to the parking lot and then to have driven with Crotwell to a side road close to the El Toro offramp, where his car subsequently became embedded upon an embankment. He claimed to have walked alone to a gas station to call a tow truck to winch his vehicle from the embankment as Crotwell remained with his vehicle. Upon returning to his vehicle, Kraft claimed, Crotwell had disappeared.
Although Kraft's roommate was able to verify to detectives that Kraft had phoned him on the date of Crotwell's disappearance, claiming his vehicle was stuck upon an embankment, detectives remained unconvinced with Kraft's overall version of events. The following week, two detectives attempted to file homicide charges against Kraft. However, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office dismissed the detectives' request, citing the coroner's conclusion from his autopsy of the remains thus far found (solely the youth's skull) that the youth had died of accidental drowning.
Perhaps because Kraft had been questioned as a suspect in Crotwell's murder and because of the additional turmoil in his personal life in the summer of 1975, Kraft is not known to have killed again until December 31, when he abducted 22-year-old Mark Hall in San Juan Capistrano. In this murder, later described by prosecutors as "the worst" of all of the known murders committed by Kraft, the man was driven to a remote canyon, where he was bound to a tree. The autopsy report listed the cause of death as being asphyxiation caused by leaves and earth found lodged deep into the youth's trachea. The autopsy also revealed Hall had been sodomized and emasculated, with his severed genitals then inserted into his rectum. The youth's chest, scrotum, nose and cheeks had been burned with an automobile cigarette lighter, with his eyes being destroyed by the same object. In addition, Hall's legs bore numerous incisions which had been inflicted with a broken bottle. Forensic experts were able to deduce that Hall had been alive throughout much of the ordeal.
Relationship with Jeff Seelig
By 1976, Kraft had ended his relationship with Jeff Graves. Shortly thereafter, he began a relationship with a 19-year-old apprentice baker named Jeff Seelig, and the couple moved to Laguna Hills. Although neither man was inclined towards monogamy, the couple considered their relationship permanent. Seelig later informed investigators that he and Kraft regularly picked up and propositioned hitchhikers who, if willing, would accompany them to their apartment for a sexual threesome. However, Seelig was adamant that Kraft had never been violent towards him and that he had never seen him display violent tendencies.
Kraft's relationship with Seelig is believed to be a contributory factor in the sudden lull in murders he is known to have committed. He is not known to have killed again until December 10, 1976. The body of the victim, 19-year-old Paul Fuchs, has never been found. Nonetheless, Fuchs' name is clearly listed upon Kraft's scorecard.
Resurfacing of the Freeway Killer
Following the December 1976 murder of Paul Fuchs, Kraft is not known to have killed any further victims for sixteen months. On January 3, 1978, homicide investigators again convened to discuss progress in relation to the manhunt for the perpetrator of the freeway murders. By this stage, investigators knew there was more than one murderer at large: the previous July, police had arrested Patrick Kearney, who subsequently confessed to the murders of 28 boys and young men, many of whom he had dissected and discarded in trash bags beside freeways in southern California. Although Kraft had himself dismembered some of his victims' bodies, he never killed his victims by shooting them in the temple, as Kearney had. Additionally, Kearney had never tortured any of his victims: Kearney's modus operandi significantly differed from that of Kraft, and investigators were certain that an altogether separate killer was still at large.
On April 16, 1978, Kraft abducted an 18-year-old Marine named Scott Michael Hughes. Hughes was plied with Valium before Kraft slit open his scrotum and removed one of his testicles, then strangled him to death with a ligature before discarding Hughes' fully clothed body—missing only his shoelaces—beside a freeway onramp in Anaheim. Two months later, on June 11, the body of 23-year-old Roland Young was found near a San Diego freeway. Young had been emasculated before he was stabbed to death. Abrasions to his body indicated that Young had been thrown from vehicle traveling at high speed. Eight days later, the body of a 20-year-old Camp Pendleton Marine named Richard Keith was found discarded beside a road in Moulton Parkway. Welts on Keith's wrists indicated he had been bound before he was strangled with a ligature. Froth in Keith's throat indicated the youth was also drowning as a result of Flurazepam and alcohol he had consumed before being strangled.
Three weeks after the murder of Richard Keith, on July 6, Kraft killed a 23-year-old hitchhiker named Keith Klingbeil. The youth had ingested large doses of paracetamol and alcohol before he was strangled with his own shoelace and his body discarded beside the Interstate 5 freeway. Although Klingbeil was still alive when discovered, he would die shortly after his admission to the Mission Community Hospital. A subsequent autopsy revealed that, prior to Klingbeil's strangulation, his left nipple had been seared with an automobile cigarette lighter.
Two months later, on September 29, the body of 20-year-old Richard Crosby was found discarded 200 yards north of Highway 71 in San Bernardino County. Crosby had disappeared the previous day as he hitchhiked home from a theater in Torrance. The youth had died of suffocation, and his left nipple had been mutilated with an automobile cigarette lighter.
The last known victim claimed by Kraft in 1978 was a 21-year-old Long Beach truck driver named Michael Inderbieten, whose castrated body was found beside the San Diego freeway on November 18, 1978. In addition to having been castrated, Inderbieten had been violated with a foreign object and had suffered burn wounds similar to those inflicted upon victim Mark Hall two years previously. The cause of death was listed as suffocation.
Kraft is not known to have killed again until June 16, 1979, when he abducted a 20-year-old Marine named Donald Crisel. His body was thrown from a moving vehicle onto the 405 Freeway. The cause of death was listed as acute alcohol poisoning, although rope and burn marks indicated the Arkansas-born man had been bound and tortured prior to his body being discarded.
Two months later, on August 29, the dismembered body of an unidentified youth estimated to be aged between 18 and 30 was found placed in two trash bags behind a Union 76 gas station in Long Beach. The entry upon Kraft's scorecard simply reading "76" is believed to refer to this victim. Although only the head, torso and left leg of this victim were ever found, this victim, like several others, had had a sock placed inside his rectum. Two weeks later, on September 14, the body of 20-year-old Gregory Wallace Jolley was found in Lake Arrowhead. Jolley had been emasculated and his head and legs had been severed after death. His personal possessions were later found at Kraft's home.
On November 24, 1979, a 15-year-old Santa Ana youth named Jeffrey Sayre is believed to have been abducted and murdered by Kraft. Sayre was last seen at a bus stop in the city of Westminster as he traveled home from a date with his girlfriend. The entry "Westminster Date" on Kraft's scorecard is believed to refer to Sayre.
On February 18, 1980, the decapitated body of a 19-year-old Marine named Mark Alan Marsh was found near the Templin Highway. Marsh was last seen hitchhiking towards Buena Park. His hands had also been severed from his body after death.
In the summer of 1980, Kraft traveled to the neighboring state of Oregon as part of a contractual assignment delegated to him by his employers. Throughout the duration of his deployment, Kraft resided in a town close to Portland. Before he returned to California in August, he is believed to have claimed a further two victims—both of whom were listed upon his scorecard with cryptic references including the word "Portland". The first victim, a 17-year-old Denver youth named Michael O'Fallon, was killed on July 17. O'Fallon had been on a solo hitchhiking trip across America and Canada prior to his enrollment at college at the time of his murder. He was plied with both alcohol and Valium before he was strangled to death and his nude, hogtied body discarded ten miles south of the city of Salem. O'Fallon was listed upon Kraft's scorecard as "Portland Denver". The following day, Kraft is believed to have killed a man estimated to be aged between 35 and 45 years old whose body was found beside a freeway in the city of Woodburn. This victim—listed as "Portland Elk" on Kraft's scorecard—had ingested a toxic level of Valium and Tylenol before he was strangled to death with a ligature.
On September 3, 1980, one month after his return to California from Oregon, the bound body of a 19-year-old Marine named Robert Loggins was found discarded in a trash bag located close to the El Toro Marine Air base. Loggins had last been seen alive by two fellow Marines close to the Pacific Coast Highway on August 23. Photographs—and the negatives—subsequently found in Kraft's possession depict Loggins in Kraft's living room slumped fully clothed on his sofa, apparently intoxicated, and in various nude, pornographic postures. All these pictures depict Loggins with his eyes closed and it is unknown whether the victim is alive or dead at the time they were taken.
On April 10, 1981, the body of a 17-year-old youth named Michael Cluck was found beside the Interstate 5 freeway close to the community of Goshen, Oregon. Cluck had been abducted as he hitchhiked from Kent, Washington, to Bakersfield, California, the day prior to his body being discovered. The youth had been killed by 31 blows to the head, each inflicted by a blunt instrument which had destroyed the rear of his cranium. In addition, Cluck had been sodomized and his body savagely beaten, kicked and scoured. Cluck is believed to have been recorded upon Kraft's scorecard as "Portland Blood", due to the extensive blood and debris found at the murder scene.
At the time of Cluck's murder, Kraft is known to have again been deployed by his employers to Oregon. In addition, the day Cluck's body was discovered, Kraft is also known to have visited a Lane County hospital to receive treatment for a bruised foot.
Four months after the murder of Michael Cluck, on August 20, 1981, the partially clothed body of a 17-year-old male prostitute named Christopher Allen Williams was found in the San Bernardino Mountains. Williams had been plied with both phenobarbital and benzodiazepine and was found with tissue paper lodged deep in his nostrils, causing the youth to choke to death on his own mucus.
Echo Park murders
By early 1982, the relationship between Kraft and Seelig had become marred by frequent quarreling and episodes of temporary separation. In an effort to resolve their personal differences and maintain their relationship, the couple began attending weekly counseling sessions in Huntington Beach. These sessions began on June 22, 1982.
Following complaints from residents of Echo Park regarding a foul odor emanating from the direction of the Hollywood Freeway on July 29, 1982, a Cal Trans employee found the decaying body of a 14-year-old Pittsburg youth named Raymond Davis discarded alongside the Rampart Boulevard offramp. Rudimentary efforts had been made to conceal Davis's body beneath leaves and soil. Davis had last been seen alive in Echo Park on June 17, searching for his missing dog. The youth's wrists had been knotted behind his back in much the same manner as victim Michael O'Fallon had been two years previously, and he had been strangled to death with his own shoelace. The entry upon Kraft's scorecard reading "Dog" is believed to refer to Davis.
Just 40 feet from the body of Davis, the same Cal Trans crew also found the body of 16-year-old Robert Avila. Avila had been missing since July 21, although his body was also markedly decomposed. He had been strangled to death with a length of stereo speaker wire.
Kraft is not known to have killed again until November 1, 1982, when he abducted and murdered a 24-year-old Modesto man named Arne Mikeal Laine. Laine was last seen hitchhiking towards Orange County in search of work. His body was not found until January, 1984, discarded on a hillside close to the town of Ramona. Four weeks after the murder of Arne Mikeal Laine, the semi-nude body of 26-year-old Brian Whitcher was dumped from a moving vehicle alongside the Interstate 5 freeway, close to the city of Wilsonville, Oregon. Whitcher had ingested high levels of both alcohol and Valium, but he died of asphyxiation.
On December 3, 1982, a 29-year-old carpenter named Anthony Jose Silveira disappeared while hitchhiking towards Medford. His body was found two weeks later: strangled, sodomized and bearing evidence of having been violated with foreign objects prior to his murder. At the time of the murders of both Whitcher and Silveira, Kraft was again known to have been in Oregon on a business trip. The business trip concluded the day of Silveira's murder. On December 4, Kraft is known to have driven from Portland to Seattle to visit friends. Throughout this brief visit, he was observed wearing a military jacket inscribed with the name "Silveira". On December 5, Kraft flew from Seattle to the Michigan city of Grand Rapids—again on business.
Grand Rapids and return to Portland
Two days after his arrival in Grand Rapids, Kraft encountered two cousins named Dennis Alt and Christopher Schoenborn as the trio attended a seminar in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. Kraft was observed conversing with the pair in the reception of the hotel shortly before midnight. The bodies of the two men were discovered on December 9 in an open field close to the Amway hotel. Both victims had been plied with alcohol and Valium prior to their sodomy and murder and the bodies had been arranged in sexually suggestive positions. Alt, aged 24, had died of asphyxiation, whereas Schoenborn, aged 20, had been strangled to death with his own belt. In addition to strangulation, a ballpoint pen had been inserted into Schoenborn's urethra prior to his murder. Both youths were recorded upon Kraft's scorecard in a single entry reading "GR2".
A set of keys belonging to Schoenborn, plus the military jacket belonging to Silveira, were left by Kraft in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. (Kraft had resided in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel throughout his business trip to Grand Rapids.)
On December 8, Kraft traveled from Michigan to Portland. Within 24 hours of his arrival in Oregon, he had killed a 19-year-old hitchhiker named Lance Taggs. Taggs had last been seen hitchhiking from the city of Tigard to the home of a relative in Los Angeles on December 8. His body was discovered the following day; discarded alongside a rural road in Clackamas County, close to where the body of Brian Whitcher had been found just two weeks earlier. As had been the case with Alt and Schoenborn, Taggs had been plied with alcohol and Valium prior to his murder, although Taggs had died of suffocation caused by a sock thrust into his trachea.
Connection of Oregon murders to manhunt
Noting the passage of time between periods of activity when bodies of young males had been found discarded near mass transportation with alcohol and/or pharmaceuticals in their blood stream in Oregon, investigators in that state theorized that their killer resided in another state and struck in Oregon only when there on business. Following the murders of Silveira, Whitcher and Taggs, Oregon investigators relayed details of the murders to police in other states, describing the modus operandi of the killer they were seeking and requesting feedback from any police force who had unsolved murders of young males on their files with similarities to those in Oregon. A response from southern California counties was swift: the pattern of killings was identical to victims linked to the unknown killer in California. The 6 Oregon murders committed by Kraft were linked to the murders he had committed in California.
Kraft did not kill again until January 27, 1983, when he abducted a 21-year-old hitchhiker named Eric Church. The victim was last seen alive hitchhiking from Orange County to Sacramento the day prior to his murder. His body was found discarded alongside I-605. An autopsy concluded the Connecticut native had ingested high levels of alcohol and Valium and had been sodomized. Rope marks on Church's wrists indicated he had struggled against his restraints before he died of a combination of ligature strangulation and numerous blows to the side of his skull inflicted by a blunt instrument.
On February 12, Kraft killed two Buena Park men: 18-year-old Geoffrey Nelson and 20-year-old Rodger DeVaul. The two youths were last seen outside the house of a friend named Bryce Wilson shortly after midnight, informing Wilson they intended to purchase something to eat. Nelson's nude body was found alongside an offramp close to the Garden Grove Freeway several hours after he and DeVaul were last seen. He had been emasculated, strangled and thrown from a moving vehicle. DeVaul's body was found the following day; discarded down a mountainside close to Mount Baldy in San Bernardino County. DeVaul had been bound, sodomized and strangled with a cord. As had been the case with Nelson, DeVaul had ingested both alcohol and propranolol prior to his murder. In addition, both victims had ingested both potato skins and grapes shortly before their murder.
Final murder and arrest
At 1:10 a.m. on May 14, 1983, two California Highway Patrol officers observed a Toyota Celica driving erratically on the Interstate 5 Freeway in the Orange County community of Mission Viejo. Observing the vehicle perform an illegal lane change, the officers—suspecting the driver was drunk—signaled for the vehicle to stop.
The driver slowed the vehicle to a halt and exited the car, discarding the contents of a beer bottle onto the pavement as he did so. Officer Michael Sterling met the individual, who identified himself as Randy Kraft, at the front of his patrol car and observed that his jeans were unbuttoned. Sterling had Kraft perform a sobriety test, which he failed. Sterling arrested Kraft for driving while intoxicated.
Sterling's partner, Sgt. Michael Howard approached the Celica and observed a young man slumped with his eyes closed in the vehicle passenger seat, partially covered by a jacket and with empty beer bottles strewn around his feet. Howard attempted to wake the man. Receiving no response to his verbal efforts, Howard attempted to rouse the man by shaking his arm, only to note the individual had a low body temperature. Upon feeling for a pulse, Howard noted the man was dead: a ligature mark visibly encircled the youth's neck. Lifting the jacket from the deceased youth's lap, Howard noted the victim's jeans had been opened to expose the genitalia. In addition, the youth's hands had been bound with shoelace and his wrists bore evidence of welt marks. Later identified as Terry Lee Gambrel, a 25-year-old Marine stationed at El Toro Air Base, the victim had been strangled to death.
Kraft was initially charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and held in custody as detectives conducted a thorough search of his vehicle. Upon the rear seat of the car, investigators found a belt, the width of which matched the bruising around Gambrel's neck. Other incriminating evidence found included alcohol, tranquilizers, various prescription drugs and stimulants. The passenger seat and carpet of the vehicle was heavily bloodstained; however, Gambrel had no open wounds. The upholstery was removed for forensic analysis. The results of the analysis confirmed the blood was human. Beneath the carpet, investigators discovered an envelope containing over 50 pictures of young men in pornographic poses. Many of the subjects in the pictures appeared either asleep or dead. Inside the trunk of Kraft's vehicle, investigators found a ring binder containing a hand-written list of coded notations.
A search of Kraft's home revealed further incriminating evidence, including clothes and personal possessions of numerous young men who had been murdered over the last decade. Fibers taken from a rug matched those found upon victim Scott Hughes. In addition, the couch in Kraft's living room was identified as being the one in the photographs found in Kraft's car.
The coded list of 61 neatly printed terms and phrases found in Kraft's car is believed to refer to each of Kraft's victims. Many entries appear innocuous, but each is believed to refer to a specific murder victim or double murder. Several entries clearly refer to victims' names (for example, the entry reading "EDM" refers to the initials of victim Edward Daniel Moore, whereas "Vince M" refers to victim Vincent Mestas). In other instances, entries indicate torture or mutilation inflicted upon victims' bodies and/or places they were last seen. The entry "Marine Head BP", for example, is believed to refer to victim Mark Marsh; a Marine found decapitated having last been seen hitchhiking towards Buena Park. Other entries simply hark towards body dump locations; the entry "Golden Sails", for example, refers to the fact the body of Craig Jonaitis was found in the parking lot of the Golden Sails Hotel.
The list also contains entries indicating a minimum of four double murders: "GR2" (victims Dennis Alt and Christopher Schoenborn, last seen in Grand Rapids); "2 in 1 Beach" (victims Geoffrey Nelson and Rodger DeVaul); "2 in 1 Hitch" and "2 in 1 MV to PL" (neither entry of which has been linked to any double murder or disappearance).
Investigators contend that two victims of whose murders Kraft was convicted (Eric Church and Terry Gambrel) are not listed on Kraft's scorecard. However, since the list is in code, the possibility exists that victim Eric Church in particular is actually included on the scorecard as an entry which investigators cannot recognize as referring to him. Terry Gambrel may also be included on the list, although as Kraft was arrested while he attempted to dispose of the body, he may not have recorded an entry referring to Gambrel on his scorecard. These possibilities indicate the scorecard lists a minimum of 65 and possibly a total of 67 victims.
The entry upon Kraft's scorecard reading "Navy White" is believed by investigators to refer to a 17-year-old named James Sean Cox; a Marine stationed at Mather Air Force Base who was last seen on September 29, 1974, hitchhiking near Interstate 5 and whose body was found several weeks later in Rancho Santa Fe. At the time of his disappearance, Cox was dressed in his white navy uniform. In addition to the color of his uniform, Cox was a blond youth.
A further entry on Kraft's scorecard simply reading "Iowa" is believed to refer to an 18-year-old U.S. Marine named Oral Alfred Stuart, Jr. Stuart had been born in Iowa; his body was found discarded close to a Long Beach condominium in November 1974. The man had died as a result of blunt force trauma; his body remained unidentified until March, 2012.
Investigators note a similar modus operandi in the murder and body disposal of Oral Stuart to that of the victims Kraft is known to have killed.
Twenty-two of Kraft's estimated 67 victims remain unrecovered and unidentified. This is due in part to the killings having occurred throughout several states, and with bodies being discarded in varying locations.
On May 16, 1983, Kraft was formally charged with the murder of Terry Lee Gambrel. By September 8, investigators had interviewed over 700 witnesses and had gathered more than 250 physical exhibits which pointed towards Kraft's guilt in a further 15 homicides committed between December 1972 and February 1983 and Kraft was charged with these further 15 homicides—in addition to two counts of sodomy and one of emasculation—on this date.
Kraft's trial began on September 26, 1988 in Orange County before Judge Donald A. McCartin.
At the trial, almost 160 witnesses were called to testify on behalf of the prosecution and over 1,000 exhibits were introduced as evidence. This evidence pointing towards Kraft's guilt included physical evidence such as bloodstains and hair and fiber evidence found at Kraft's Long Beach residence and in his vehicle, fingerprints found upon glass shards recovered from the scene of the murder of Mark Hall, the negatives and photographs of young men identified as murder victims found hidden inside Kraft's vehicle, which depicted the youths either dead, drugged or asleep and which background imagery revealed had been taken at Kraft's home or as the victims were sat inside Kraft's Toyota, in addition to the belt used to strangle Terry Gambrel and the prescription drugs and buck knife found in the vehicle. Other evidence introduced included work and travel records and gasoline receipts which placed Kraft in particular locations where victims had been abducted and/or discarded and the numerous personal possessions of various murder victims found in Kraft's possession following his arrest.
Kraft's defense was one of alibis and alternate suspects: his attorneys dismissed much of the evidence produced as being circumstantial and attempted to portray Kraft as an articulate, hardworking and upstanding member of the community; they did not refute that the 16 youths for whose murder their client was tried were murder victims, yet argued that they were "victims of someone, but not Randy Kraft." The defense also stated that several of the 16 victims had initially been believed by investigators to have been killed by one of two other serial killers: William Bonin and Patrick Kearney and argued there was "no concrete evidence" Kraft had killed any of the victims.
On April 29, 1989, each side opened their closing arguments, which lasted a total of three days: the prosecution again listing all the physical and circumstantial evidence pointing to Kraft's guilt; the defense arguing as to the circumstantial case put forward by the prosecution that all the murders were linked and accusing the prosecution of "glossing over" the truth. Following the closing arguments, the jury deliberated for a total of eleven days before reaching their verdict: on May 12, 1989, the jury found Kraft guilty of sixteen counts of murder; one count of sodomy and one count of emasculation. (On one additional count of sodomy in relation to victim Rodger DeVaul, Kraft was found not guilty.)
Penalty phase and sentencing
On June 5, 1989, the same jury reconvened to hear further testimony from the prosecution and defense as to the penalty for Kraft. This phase of Kraft's trial would last until August and it was at this point at which the prosecution introduced evidence of several additional homicides committed in both Oregon and Michigan which they were certain Kraft had also committed and for which he had not been tried in Orange County. The defense dismissed the prosecution's assertions as being "highly speculative" and introduced testimony relating to a PET scan conducted on Kraft which, they asserted, revealed abnormalities in the frontal lobes of Kraft's brain, therefore reducing his ability to control both his emotions and impulse. The prosecution rebuffed this testimony by stating to the jury: "There is nothing wrong with Mr. Kraft's mind other than that he likes killing for sexual satisfaction", adding the fact his family and friends had found it difficult to believe he had committed any murders simply showed "what a good salesman he is."
On August 11, 1989, the jury recommended the death penalty. Three months later, on November 29, Judge McCartin formally sentenced Kraft to death. The sentence was upheld by the California Supreme Court on August 11, 2000. Kraft remains on death row at the San Quentin State Prison. He continues to deny guilt in any of the homicides, both convicted and suspected.
Both circumstantial and DNA evidence relating to some of Kraft's murders have caused many to strongly suspect that not all of the murders attributed to Kraft were committed by one person. The prosecution believed these inconsistencies could only be explained by the fact Kraft did not act alone in several murders. It is contended that Kraft would have had difficulty moving around 200-pound (90 kg) corpses; dumping them from moving vehicles while alone would also be difficult to do unnoticed. Abrasions and debris found at the crime scenes of some of Kraft's victims whose bodies had been discarded upon or alongside freeways indicated the bodies had been discarded from vehicles traveling at more than 50 miles per hour and for one individual to perform this act without compromising his driving would be very difficult. Moreover, footprints in the sand close to where the body of John Leras was found at Sunset Beach in 1975 unequivocally indicate two people had carried the youth's body to where it was discarded. In the case of Eric Church, semen samples found on the youth's body were inconsistent with Kraft's blood type and the photographs of the victims found in Kraft's car had to have been processed somewhere, but no photo developer ever reported Kraft's morbid images to the police. (Kraft himself had no darkroom expertise or darkroom equipment.)
During the trial, members of the prosecution admitted privately that they did not charge Kraft in several murders that they were certain he had committed because of facts relating to the cases which had indicated more than one perpetrator. Although DNA evidence found upon the body of Eric Church was incompatible with Kraft, investigators had found photographs depicting Church in Kraft's car and his distinctive Norelco electric razor was also found in Kraft's house.
The prosecution believed Kraft's former lover, Jeff Graves, may have assisted Kraft in several murders. Graves, who had lived with Kraft between 1971 and 1976 (when 16 known murders attributed to Kraft occurred) had been questioned in relation to the Crotwell abduction and murder in 1975, when he verified part of Kraft's statement to police. When questioned further about the incident following Kraft's arrest in 1983, Graves had informed investigators: "I'm really not going to pay for it, you know."
In January 2000 journalist Dennis McDougal (author of the 1991 book Angel of Darkness, focusing on Kraft's life and crimes) published an article focusing upon Randy Kraft. McDougal recounted interviews with a small-time criminal named Bob Jackson, who reportedly confessed to murdering two hitchhikers with Kraft: one in Wyoming in 1975 and another in Colorado in 1976. Authorities in both Colorado and Wyoming were unable to corroborate his claims.
Jackson also told McDougal that the scorecard found in Kraft's car included only Kraft's "more memorable" murders; in his opinion, Kraft's total body count stood closer to 100. McDougal reported these allegations to the police and provided tape recordings of the interviews. Detectives interrogated Jackson and eventually persuaded him to enter a mental institution; no murder charges were filed against him due to an absence of direct incriminating evidence.
Kraft sued author McDougal and the publisher of Angel of Darkness in 1993, seeking $62 million in damages. The suit contended that the book smeared his "good name", unjustly portrayed him as a "sick, twisted man", and destroyed his prospects for future employment by ruining his chances of overturning his conviction on appeal. The lawsuit was dismissed by the California Supreme Court in June 1994.
Other "Freeway Killers"
Patrick Kearney, a suspect in a series of killings of young men known as the Trash Bag Murders, surrendered to Riverside Police in July 1977. Kearney subsequently confessed to the murders of 28 boys and young men; many of whom he had also discarded alongside freeways in southern California. Although Kraft is also known to have dismembered some of his victims, Kearney invariably killed his victims by shooting them in the temple. In addition, Kearney discarded the majority of his victims' bodies in trash bags. Although primarily known as the Trash Bag Murderer, Kearney is also known as the Freeway Killer.
In 1980, William Bonin and four known accomplices were arrested for a series of killings known as the Freeway Murders. The murders committed by Bonin and his accomplices display a markedly similar disposal method as that of Kraft. Bonin is also known to have tortured his victims, although he never plied his victims with alcohol or drugs. In addition, although he is known to have stabbed some victims' genitalia with a knife and to have stabbed one victim to death, Bonin never mutilated his victims' bodies and almost all of his victims were strangled to death with their own T-shirt. Moreover, Bonin's victims were younger than those of Kraft, with the age range of his victims being 12 to 19 years.
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Cited works and further reading
- McDougal, Dennis (1991). Angel of Darkness: The True Story of Randy Kraft and the Most Heinous Murder Spree. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-0-446-51538-2.
- Lane, Brian; Gregg, Wilfred (1995) . The Encyclopedia Of Serial Killers. New York City: Berkley Book. pp. 241–43. ISBN 978-0-425-15213-3.
- "Randy Kraft: The Southern California Strangler", Crime
- Randy Kraft, CCADP
- Details of each case noted upon Randy Kraft's 'scorecard'
- Roberts, Jay (2013-09-23), "Center of the Universe", Orange Coast Magazine: suspected intended victim's 1980 encounter with Randy Kraft