Randy Kraft, the Freeway Killer
California police were distracted in 1977 by the surrender of Patrick Kearney and his subsequent confessions to the "trash bag" murders of 28 young men. Kearney's victims were typically shot in the head, though, and he balked at claiming victims who were tortured. After a moratorium of sorts, the brutal highway murders resumed following Kearney's arrival at San Quentin prison, in early 1978.
The year's first known victim was Scott Michael Hughes, a 19-year-old Marine from Camp Pendleton, found beside the 91 Freeway in Orange, on April 16. Hughes was fully dressed, with the laces missing from his shoes. Beneath his bloodstained slacks, his genitals were mutilated, the left testicle removed. Known to fellow Marines as a "boisterous" doper, Hughes had Valium in his blood, but death resulted from ligature strangulation.
On the day of Young's funeral, the stalker claimed another Marine, 23-year-old Richard Keith. Keith hitchhiked from Camp Pendleton to Los Angeles to visit his girlfriend, but they quarreled over his thumbing rides and he left at 11 p.m. on June 19, hitching back to the base. An off-duty fireman found his corpse the next morning in southern Orange County. Again, police suspected two killers, one to drive and one to push Keith's body from their moving car.
Washington native Keith Klingbeil was still alive when a motorist found him on July 6, 1978, sprawled across a northbound lane of I-5 in Mission Viejo. Paramedics arrived on the scene at 3:30 a.m. but they were unable to save him from a massive overdose of liquor and Tylenol. At the autopsy, ligature marks were found on Klingbeil's ankles, burns from a cigarette lighter surrounding one nipple.
The next to die was Michael Joseph Inderbeiten, a 21-year-old Long Beach truck driver, found on Nov. 18, 1978. Emasculated and sodomized with a large foreign object, eyelids seared with an automobile cigarette lighter, Inderbeiten was dumped 20 feet from the spot where Edward Moore was found in December 1972.
Multiple witnesses observed the next body drop, when Donald Harold Crisel was pushed from a slow-moving vehicle along the 405 Freeway in Irvine, on June 16, 1979, but they could not agree on whether Crisel's last ride was a car or a van. The young Marine's corpse, marked by tire tracks, was still warm when police arrived, with ligature brands on the neck and wrists. Death did not come from strangulation or injuries from falling from the vehicle, but from an overdose of booze and painkillers.
More than a dozen male corpses were found along southern California freeways in 1979, the victims ranging in age from 13 to 24. Those police were able to identify included 13-year-old Thomas Lundgren, picked up in Reseda at 11 a.m. on May 28, and dumped in Agoura at 1:30 p.m. Lundgren had been bludgeoned and strangled, stabbed repeatedly, his throat slashed and genitals severed. Seventeen-year-old Marcus Grabbs thumbed his last ride out of Newport Beach, along Pacific Coast Highway, on Aug. 5, 1979; sodomized, stabbed and strangled, he was found at 6:30 the next morning, beside the Ventura Freeway, near the L.A. County line. Donald Hayden, 15, was last seen alive in Hollywood, at 1 a.m. on Aug. 27, 1979; construction workers found him in Liberty Canyon, sodomized and strangled, left in a dumpster at a new housing project. David Murillo, 17, vanished while hitchhiking along Highway 101 on Sept. 9; two days later, his nude corpse was found on the highway's shoulder, bludgeoned and strangled, anally raped, rope burns on his ankles.
Throughout Southern California, gay bars began to post warnings for their customers, along with photos seeking information to identify assorted "John Doe" victims. Randy Kraft was one bar-scene habitué who seemed to ignore the threat, unfazed by the ongoing slaughter.
In fact, he seemed to be having the time of his life.