Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Randy Kraft, the Freeway Killer

The Traveler

 

Randy Kraft was doing well enough as a freelance data-processing consultant in July 1979 that he was able to afford a house in Long Beach, sharing quarters with Jeff Seelig. They also traveled widely—to Mexico in August 1978, Lake Tahoe in May 1979, plus an extended East Coast tour from New York City to Key West. Friends recall that both men kept "bizarre hours," Seelig operating a bakery while Kraft continued his tradition of aimless late-night drives. By August 1980 Kraft was consulting for Lear Sigler Industries (LSI), with regional offices in Michigan, Oregon and San Diego. Between his normal salary and weekend freelance work, he earned at least $50,000 yearly in 1980 and 1981.

Kraft's employers described him as a "self-starter," an "excellent problem-solver," and "an exceptional employee...[who] deserves exceptional treatment," but the hard work came at a price. Kraft often subsisted on junk food, aggravating his hypoglycemia and causing attendant chest pains. In June 1982 he sought counseling with Seelig, their therapist describing Jeff as "defensive and anxious," with an "insatiable" sex drive, while Randy resented Seelig's efforts to dominate the relationship. They planned a European vacation to patch up their problems, but neither ever seemed to have the time. Therapy sessions were frequently interrupted by Kraft's travels for LSI—to Oregon, the San Francisco Bay area, and Michigan.

And wherever Kraft traveled, the murders continued.

Michael Sean O'Fallon, a 17-year-old Colorado native, hoped to "see the world" after high school. He hitchhiked to British Columbia in June 1980 and made it back to Oregon before his luck ran out. His naked corpse was found along I-5, 10 miles from Salem, on July 17, 1980. O'Fallon was hog-tied with shoelaces, a cord knotted around his scrotum. Despite near-fatal levels of alcohol and Valium in his blood, death had been caused by strangulation.

Robert Wyatt Loggins Jr.
Robert Wyatt Loggins Jr.

On Sept. 3, 1980, children playing near El Toro Marine Airbase found the corpse of Robert Wyatt Loggins Jr. swaddled in a plastic garbage bag. A 19-year-old Marine who was last seen alive on Aug. 22, Loggins had been dead for two or three days when he was found. Recently confined to barracks for drinking, he had disappeared on his first night of freedom, found with deadly levels of alcohol and antihistamines in his blood. Despite the plastic shroud, police considered his death "accidental" until 1983, when evidence seized from Randy Kraft's home and car changed their minds.

Michael Duane Cluck, 17, was the first known victim of 1981. Hitchhiking from Seattle to California in April, he made it into Oregon before he accepted a ride with a killer. Dumped along I-5 near Goshen, Cluck had been violently sodomized, then kicked and beaten to death, his thighs and groin marked by fingernail scratches. On the same day his body was found, Randy Kraft visited a nearby hospital for treatment of an injured foot—bruised accidentally, he said, while walking barefoot in his hotel room.

Residents of Echo Park, in Los Angeles, complained to police on July 29 of foul odors emanating from the nearby Hollywood Freeway. Officers investigated and retrieved two corpses from a gully there. One victim, 13-year-old Raymond Davis, had disappeared several weeks earlier while searching for a lost dog. The other, 16-year-old Robert Avila, had been reported missing from Hollywood, sought in vain by psychics his parents employed. Three weeks later, on Aug. 20, 1981, 17-year-old Christopher Williams was found dead beside a road in the San Bernardino Mountains. Known as a Hollywood hustler, Williams had been doped with two different sedatives before someone stuffed his nostrils with paper, causing him to suffocate.

Kraft's busy schedule kept him—and police—hopping in 1982. A third Oregon victim, 26-year-old Brian Whitcher, turned up along I-5 near Portland on Nov. 26, drugged with alcohol and Valium, killed by asphyxiation. Dec. 7, Kraft was in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for an LSI computer conference. Cousins Dennis Alt and Chris Schoenborn vanished that night from the bar in Kraft's hotel, their corpses found together in Plainfield Township two days later. Both were doped with alcohol and Valium, then strangled. Schoenborn was nude, a ballpoint pen from Kraft's hotel thrust into his bladder through the penis; Alt was fully clothed except for shoes, his shirt pushed up and slacks unzipped to bare his genitals.

By the time Alt and Schoenborn were found, Kraft was back in Oregon and another teenager was dead. On Dec. 9, while Kraft was checking out of his Wilsonville hotel, a motorist found 19-year-old Lance Trenton Taggs beside a nearby road, not far from the site where Brian Whitcher was dumped in November. A former resident of Hawaii, Taggs had come to live with his grandparents in September 1982. Now he was dead, drugged with alcohol and Valium, choked to death on a sock his killer had forced down his throat. Nine days later, a man collecting cans outside Hubbard, Oregon found the body of 29-year-old Anthony Jose Silveira. Last seen alive on Dec. 3, hitchhiking home from his job, Silveira had consumed liquor and Valium before he was strangled and sodomized with a large foreign object, left with a red plastic toothbrush protruding from his anus.

Oregon police recognized a pattern in the murders and secured information from Southern California, where other victims had been drugged and strangled over the past decade. A computer search of airline records, hotel ledgers and rental car companies was initiated, seeking frequent visitors from California. Randy Kraft's name would appear 18 times on the final list, but not before he was arrested in Orange County, driving drunk with a corpse in the passenger's seat.

Eric Church, victim
Eric Church, victim

The California death toll continued to mount in 1983. Eric Church, 21, was found sodomized, bludgeoned and strangled along the 605 Freeway on January 28, semen from his body later matched to Kraft's blood-type. Mikeal Laine, 24, vanished while hitchhiking through Orange County; Kraft was already in jail before Laine's skeleton surfaced near Ramona, in 1984. Eighteen-year-old Geoffrey Nelson and 20-year-old Rodger DeVaul Jr. disappeared together, while bar-hopping on Feb. 11; they were found together near Claremont College, drugged, sodomized and strangled, two days later. Three months and one day later, authorities got their break by accident, with Kraft's Orange County arrest for killing Terry Gambrel.

The predator was caged, but prosecutors still had years of work ahead before they could be certain he would kill no more.

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