Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Killer Prophet

Why?

John Frazier in 1961
John Frazier in 1961

In Human Monsters, David Everitt writes that Frazier's life was fairly normal. He dropped out of high school to work as an auto mechanic and he appeared to be a steady worker. He married and fathered a child, but when he began to take drugs in early 1970, the marriage broke up. He soon became a zealot about ecology, and adopting the attitudes of the "drop out" counterculture, he quit his job to avoid "contributing to the death cycle of the planet." He left his wife on July 4, 1970.

Human Monsters
Human Monsters

He then became fascinated with tarot cards and their mystical meaning. He grew increasingly paranoid and even his hippie friends, with all their emphasis on peace, love and tolerance began to avoid him. He went off by himself and became something of a hermit. He lived on his mother's property in the Soquel hills in a small shack in the woods (Lunde refers to it as a ramshackle cow shed). She herself sometimes occupied a house trailer there, according to reports in the Sentinel, although she had a residence elsewhere.

Santa Cruz map showing Soquel & area
Santa Cruz map showing Soquel & area

Frazier thought nothing of breaking into the homes of neighbors and taking what he wanted. He'd even gone into the Ohta home at one point and walked out with a pair of binoculars, which he claimed he used to watch for enemies. (People did see him in the hills, using them.) He talked about the Ohta residence with friends, claiming that family was "too materialistic." For that sin, he had decided they should be "snuffed out."

In Murder and Madness, which Lunde wrote after examining Frazier and then being involved with assessments of the next two multiple murderers from Santa Cruz (Herbert Mullin and Edward Kemper), he provides a slightly more comprehensive account of Frazier's early life history and his developing psychosis.

Frazier's parents had separated when he was 2 years old. His mother could not afford to care for him, so when he was 5, she placed him in foster care. He ran away, got into trouble in school, was arrested for theft, and ended up in a series of juvenile detention facilities. He had a history of bedwetting, sleepwalking, and terrible nightmares. Eventually he was reunited with his mother, got married, and worked at a steady job.

After his automobile accident in 1970, he told his wife that he'd received a message from God to stop driving or he would die. Then he decided he had been reincarnated with a mission to save the earth from materialism and to interpret the Book of Revelations for the rest of humanity. He believed the end of the world was at hand and there would be a revolution (much like Charles Manson). To him, the Ohta home represented all that was evil. It had to be destroyed and its occupants murdered. That was the only way to restore the natural beauty of the hillside.

Lunde points out that while the juvenile facility records make no indication that Frazier had needed treatment, the symptoms of schizophrenia often set in during the late teens or early adulthood. Frazier's evolving obsessions and attempt to convert people into disciples was consistent with this. On the day he left his wife to go to the Ohta estate, he talked about the approaching revolution and the need for some materialists to die. (Lunde points out that it's typical for paranoid schizophrenics to adopt current controversial issues as part of their delusional system.) Dolores had tried over the past few months, without success, to get him into treatment, so she had watched helplessly once again as he left on his "mission." He went about it with a single-minded intent, taking a weapon and using it without hesitation to kill five complete strangers.

Despite the jury's verdict, Lunde insists that the case of John Linley Frazier presents a clear example of a murder committed within a state of psychosis. Had people not been so frightened about Mansonesque cults during that time, they might have been able to better appreciate the influence on Frazier of his untreated mental illness.

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The Ohta mansion, with its surrounding 10 acres, was finally restored, as reported on August 24, 1972, and put on the market by the Wells Fargo Bank for $185,000 -- not its full worth. There was no account in the Santa Cruz Public Library records as to when it sold or to whom.

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John Linley Frazier
John Linley Frazier
According to a publication for Santa Cruz County that reviewed events there over the span of the twentieth century, Frazier has sought hearings to persuade the authorities that he is fit to go back into society. On August 13, 2009, Frazier hanged himself in prison.

 

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