Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Randy Kraft, the Freeway Killer

Death Trip

Nearly 15 months elapsed before the next confirmed victim in southern California's latest murder series was found beside the 405 Freeway in Seal Beach, on the day after Christmas 1972. Edward Daniel Moore was a 20-year-old Marine, last seen alive in his Camp Pendleton barracks on Christmas Eve. A motorist found him at 1:45 a.m., apparently dumped from a moving car. Moore had been strangled and bludgeoned; there were bite marks on his genitals and one of his own socks was jammed in his rectum.

Six weeks later, on Feb. 6, 1973, a nude "John Doe" was found beside the Terminal Island Freeway, in the Wilmington district of Los Angeles. He was strangled a day or two before he was found, and was about 18 years old. The victim, who has never been identified, had a brown sock stuffed into his anus.

Easter Sunday brought another grim discovery, with another "John Doe" corpse discarded in Huntington Beach. This one was fully dressed except for shoes and socks, but underneath the bloody slacks his genitals were missing. Ligature marks scarred his wrists. Cause of death was a toss-up: blood loss or asphyxiation.

The year's next victim, another "John Doe," was dismembered and scattered across two counties: the head in Long Beach; the torso, right leg and both arms in San Pedro; the left leg in Sunset Beach. Bondage marks were evident, and the remains had been refrigerated prior to dumping. The victim's hands were never found.

Ron Wiebe, a 20-year-old from Fullerton, vanished while bar-hopping on July 28, 1973. His corpse, fully clothed but barefoot, was found two days later, beside the 405 Freeway in Seal Beach. Beaten and strangled, Wiebe had been bound and apparently hung upside-down before he was killed, for torture that included bites on his stomach and penis. One of his own missing socks was found in his rectum.

The body of the year's last victim, 23-year-old art student Vincent Cruz Mestas, was pulled from a ravine in the San Bernardino Mountains on Dec. 29, 1973. Like Ron Wiebe, he was clothed but barefoot, one of his own socks jammed into his anus. Cruz's face and head were freshly shaved, and his hands were missing, plastic sandwich bags covered the bloody stumps. A pencil-sized object, never identified, had been forced into his penis prior to death.

The killer apparently took a six-month break before claiming 20-year-old Malcolm Eugene Little on June 1, 1974, leaving his nude body propped against a mesquite tree beside Highway 86, west of the Salton Sea in Imperial County. Little was an unemployed truck driver who had arrived from Alabama to look for work a week before he died. His slayer left the body with its legs spread to emphasize the severed genitals, a mesquite branch rammed six inches into his rectum.

Another U.S. Marine fell prey to the hunter three weeks later. Roger Dickerson, 18, was last seen alive at a bar in San Clemente, when he told friends he had found a ride to Los Angeles for the weekend. He didn't give them the name of the driver, who apparently sodomized and strangled him, leaving bite marks on Dickerson's penis and left nipple before he dumped the nude corpse near a Laguna Beach golf course.

Oil field workers in Long Beach found the next victim, on Aug. 3, 1974. Manually strangled and left fully clothed, he was identified as 25-year-old Thomas Paxton Lee, a local waiter and sometime gay hustler last seen alive at a Wilmington bar the previous night. Nine days later, 23-year-old Gary Wayne Cordova was found, fully clothed but barefoot, beside a highway in southern Orange County. Death was caused by an overdose of alcohol and Valium. Lacking any of the killer's trademark mutilations, neither victim was initially connected to the murder series.

There were no doubts about James Dale Reeves, though, when Irvine police found his body on Nov. 29, 1974. Nude except for a bloody T-shirt, the gay 19-year-old had gone out cruising on Thanksgiving Day and never returned. His killer left the body with the legs spread, a tree limb four feet long and three inches in diameter protruding from his anus.

Two killers were apparently involved in the December 1974 murder of John Leras, a 17-year-old high school student. The youngest victim so far, Leras had vanished en route to a Long Beach skating rink, anxious to try out the roller skates he had received for Christmas. Some strollers found him floating in the surf off Sunset Beach, with a wooden surveyor's stake hammered into his rectum. Leras had been strangled while bound, and had alcohol in his system. Two sets of footprints marked the sand where he was carried from a car park to the water.

Shortly after noon on Jan. 17, 1975, construction workers found 21-year-old Craig Victor Jonaites strangled to death near a Long Beach motel on the Pacific Coast Highway. Jonaites was barefoot, but otherwise fully dressed—in fact, he wore two pairs of pants, one over the other.

His killer left nothing else behind.

 

Categories
Advertisement