Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Killer Prophet

The Voice of God

Judge Charles Franich presided over the trial, which began in October 1971, with a four-man and eight-woman jury.   Due to the gag order, and the lack of newspaper documentation during this time, the records are sporadic.  What follows are the highlights, as described in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

The prosecutors made their case with witnesses who knew Frazier, with documentation about the Ohtas.   For example, Frazier had told someone that he'd been inside the Ohta home and had taken some binoculars.  One of the Ohta daughters testified that a pair of binoculars was missing from the home.  There was also physical evidence that tied Frazier to the crime scene.   Besides the fingerprints in the stolen car and on a beer can, they had an expert testify that a metallic substance found on Frazier's knife was consistent with the wire cords that had been cut inside the Ohta home. 

Frazier & jurors at crime scene
Frazier & jurors at crime scene

Four weeks into the trial, jurors were taken by bus to visit the partially reconstructed Ohta residence (where bloodstains were still present), the place where the train had hit the abandoned car, and the drawbridge and shack where Frazier had been apprehended.   He followed the jury under heavy armed guard, and at one point near his former home, he stopped to play with a puppy.  Then he suddenly kicked at a rusty car.

During the last days of November, the jury convicted Frazier of the five murders.   Then came a second phase, in which Frazier's sanity became an issue.   Dr. David Marlowe offered testimony for the defense.  He had spoken with Frazier 35 to 40 times over the past year, and had heard three different versions of what Frazier claimed he had been doing on October 19.  In late November 1970, Frazier apparently told Marlowe how the murders had been done.  It was all right to state this in court, since they were attempting to show that Frazier had been psychotic at the time of the offense.

Apparently, "voices from God" had commanded him to "seek vengeance on those who rape the environment."   That afternoon, he went to the Ohta residence and found only Virginia Ohta at home.  He had a .38 revolver, which he held on her as he used scarves that he found in the home to tie her hands together at the wrists.  He told her she was evil.  Looking around, he found a .22 pistol.  As Mrs. Ohta remained bound, Frazier waited for the rest of the family to return.  He was quite upset to see animal skins inside the home—a terrible violation of nature.  He planned to kill each person who arrived.

Then Dorothy Cadwallader drove up, bringing home Taggert.   They walked right into a trap, and Frazier soon had them tied up as well.  It wasn't long before Victor Ohta brought home his other son, Derrick, from school.  They, too, fell victim.  (Had they all arrived at once, Frazier probably could not have carried out his plan.)

Frazier took them outside to the edge of the pool (or he took Ohta outside and then later brought the others), where he said he lectured Ohta about materialism and how it had a negative effect on the environment.   He accused Ohta of ruining the Santa Cruz Mountains.  He reported that Ohta began to argue with him and to bribe him with material goods.  Annoyed, Frazier suggested they burn down the house together with everything inside.  Ohta grew angry and began to argue, so to shut him up, Frazier shoved him, still bound, into the pool.  As the man tried to get out of the water, Frazier shot him three times.

The others were horrified.   He asked each one of they believed in God and they said yes, so he told them they had nothing to be afraid of.  He walked behind each of his helpless victims and shot them at the base of the neck, killing the two women first, and then the two boys.  (In another version, he brought the women out separately and killed them outside.  Then he went inside to kill the boys and carried them out to the pool.  He also said that he'd arrived that day with three other people, and also that he'd met up with two other people later.  It's difficult to know the full truth about the events that evening.) 

No matter how he ended up shooting them, Frazier pushed or dropped each victim into the pool.   Then he went into the house to type the note that he left on Ohta's car.  Afterward, he went about setting fires around the mansion and fled in the green Oldsmobile.

Marlowe ended his account by saying that Frazier's stories were mostly disjointed and that he was insane and dangerous.   He had gross disturbances in his thoughts and feelings.  He also had visual and auditory hallucinations, with excessive religiosity, as seen by his underlining in a Bible he carried.  Frazier considered himself John from the Bible, to whom the Book of Revelations was addressed, and he had developed a complex system of beliefs based in occult number systems, astrology, reincarnation, and themes of immortality.

On cross-examination, Chang suggested that Frazier had hoodwinked Marlowe with his delusions, indicating that it was all a lie.   Marlowe said that evasion was more his style than outright lying.  He did not budge from his diagnosis.

Donald T. Lunde was one of three forensic psychiatrists who testified (referred to in the newspaper as alienists).   He had visited Frazier on November 17, 1970, and then had interviewed Frazier's wife, relatives and friends.  He contended that Frazier was a paranoid schizophrenic who at the time of the murders was incapable of knowing that what he was doing was wrong.  Frazier had told him, Lunde testified, that he was a special agent sent from God to save the earth.  His wife had heard these delusions as well during the summers of 1969 and 1970.  Apparently he had grown increasingly more paranoid until he finally broke away from her and their child to go live in the woods.  He trusted no one.  Under his delusional system, Lunde said, the killing of certain people was necessary and thus not wrong.

"He's crazy," Lunde had stated in court.   He then amended that to, "He is unable to appreciate society's standards."

John Linley Frazier, head half shaved
John Linley Frazier, head half shaved

On December 3, Frazier arrived with half of his head and face shaved, including one eyebrow.   Marlowe explained that Frazier did this so the jury would think he was faking insanity and would find him sane and send him to the gas chamber.  He did not want to end up at a mental institution—a "fascist head factory."  Marlowe said this was another indication of how distorted his thinking was.

Chang had his own expert testify as well, who had interviewed Frazier for two hours.   During the second week of December, psychiatrist John Peschau from Agnews State Hospital said that Frazier suffered from a personality disorder, not psychosis.  He was a sociopath, not schizophrenic, and he did appreciate what he had done and that it was wrong.  Thus, he was not legally insane.  Not only that, he would not learn from what he had done and was therefore a danger to society.

"I considered him intolerant, crafty, and arrogant," Dr. Peschau said.   "He sets his own rules - he disregards the feelings of others."

On December 16, as the final phase of the trial was underway, Frazier showed up completely bald—no eyebrows, hair, mustache or beard.   Then as the judge instructed the jury, he sat reading George Orwell's novel, 1984.  Earlier he had been reading a book on mental disorders.

Ultimately, the jury found Frazier guilty and sentenced him to death.  However, when the Supreme Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional in 1976, Frazier's sentence was commuted to life in prison at San Quentin.


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