Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Randy Kraft, the Freeway Killer

Changeling

 

Randy Kraft. age 9
Randy Kraft. age 9
Randy Kraft was born in Long Beach, California on March 19, 1945, the fourth child and only son of parents who had moved to the state from Wyoming four years earlier. As a child, Kraft was accident prone, breaking his collarbone at age one, tumbling down a flight of steps and knocking himself out a year later. In 1948 the family moved to Westminster, in ultraconservative Orange County. Randy seemed to fit right in, described by high school friends as falling "somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun" on political questions. He played saxophone in the band, graduated in June 1963, and moved on to conservative Claremont College in Pomona, California, that fall, along with a group of dependable friends.

Randy Kraft in 1963 yearbook
Randy Kraft in 1963
yearbook

At Claremont, Kraft joined the ROTC, demonstrated in favor of the Vietnam war, and campaigned energetically for right-wing presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964. But the following year he began a radical shift, drifting leftward politically and growing longer hair and a moustache. He found part-time employment bartending at a Garden Grove gay bar. By Kraft's junior year, rumors about his fondness for bondage had begun to circulate around the Claremont campus. Kraft's roommate recalls that he "would disappear with regularity, maybe two, three times a week," reappearing at strange hours. "What he did wasn't something he wanted you to know about." Between classes and disappearing acts, Kraft gobbled Valium in a vain attempt to ward off stomach pains and migraine headaches.

Kraft moved off-campus in 1966, sharing digs with a male friend in Huntington Beach, spending much of his free time in gay bars. He was arrested that year for lewd conduct, after propositioning an undercover policeman in Huntington Beach, but he got off with a first-time offender's warning. At school, Kraft's devotion to beer and late-night poker games kept him from graduating with the rest of his class in June 1967. Kraft had to repeat a class before he earned his bachelor's degree in economics, eight months later.

By that time, Kraft had immersed himself in another political campaign, working as hard for Robert Kennedy in 1968 as he had for Goldwater four years earlier. His zeal earned Kraft a personal letter from RFK, and he was crushed when an assassin slew his candidate in June. Days later, Kraft joined the U.S. Air Force, scoring high on aptitude tests and passing background checks to win a "secret" security clearance. Posted to Edwards Air Force Base, he supervised the painting of test planes.

Randy Kraft, 1969 military photo
Randy Kraft, 1969
military photo

Kraft's family was shocked when he "came out" as gay in 1969. So were his Air Force superiors, who discharged him on "medical" grounds that July. Back in civilian life, Kraft resumed his bartending career, shed weight on "a diet of speed and beer," and plunged full-time into the gay lifestyle. His old friends were amazed, trying to understand when Kraft cryptically told them, "There's a part of me that you will never know."

It took another 14 years for them to find out what he meant—and when they did, the truth would chill them to the bone.

 

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