Serial Killer Randolph Kraft

Serial Killer Randolph Kraft

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Randolph Kraft, also known as the "Scorecard Killer," the Southern California Strangler, and the "Freeway Killer," is a serial rapist, torturer, and killer who was convicted for the mutilation and deaths of at least 16 young males from 1972 through 1983 throughout California, Oregon, and Michigan. A cryptic list found at the time of his arrest linking him to 40 additional unsolved murders became known as " Kraft's Scorecard."

Early Life

Born on March 19, 1945, in Long Beach, California, Randolph Kraft was the youngest child and only son of four children born to Opal and Harold Kraft. As the baby of the family and the only boy, Kraft was showered with attention from his mother and sisters. However, Kraft's father was distant, preferring to spend most of his non-working time with his mother and sister.

Kraft's childhood was mostly unremarkable. He was, however, prone to accidents. At the age of 1, he fell from a couch and broke his collarbone. A year later, he was knocked unconscious after falling down a flight of stairs but a trip to the hospital determined that there was no permanent damage.

Kraft's family moved to Midway City in Orange County, California when he was 3. His parents purchased a former Women's Army Corps dormitory located in a commercial zone within 10 miles of the Pacific Ocean and converted the structure into a three-bedroom home. Although the house was modest, both parents worked to pay the bills.

Early Education

At the age of 5, Kraft was enrolled in the Midway City Elementary school. Although a working mother, Opal was was a member of the PTA, baked cookies for Cub Scout meetings, and was active at church, making certain that her children received Bible lessons.

Kraft excelled at school where he was recognized as an above-average student. In junior high school, he was placed in the advanced curriculum program and continued to maintain excellent grades. It was during these years that his interest in conservative politics grew and he proudly declared himself a diehard Republican.

By the time Kraft entered high school, he was the only child still living at home. His sisters had married and moved into homes of their own. Since both his parents worked and were not often around, Kraft was fairly independent. He had his own room, his own car, and money he earned working part-time jobs.

Kraft seemed like a typical fun-loving kid. While he was academically gifted, Kraft got along well with his peers. He played the saxophone in the school band, enjoyed tennis, and was a founder and participant in a student club focused on conservative politics. Kraft graduated high school at the age of 18, ranking 10th in his class of 390 students.

College Years and Homosexual Awakening

During his final year of high school and unbeknownst to his family, Kraft began cruising gay bars. After graduating, Kraft enrolled at Claremont Men's College on a full scholarship where he majored in economics. His interest in conservative politics continued, and he often attended pro-Vietnam war demonstrations. Kraft joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps, and in 1964, was a staunch supporter of Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.

During his sophomore year of college, Kraft became involved in his first openly homosexual relationship. He also changed his political affiliation from conservative to left-wing liberal. (He would later explain his years as a conservative as merely an effort to be like his parents.)

Although Kraft's homosexuality was not a secret at Claremont, his family was still unaware of his orientation. In an effort to clue his parents in, Kraft often brought homosexual friends home to meet his family. Remarkably, they failed to make the connection and remained unaware of Kraft's sexual preferences.

While still in school, Kraft took a part-time job as a bartender at The Mug, a popular gay bar located in Garden Grove. During this time, Kraft's sexual appetites flourished. He began cruising for male prostitutes at known pickup spots around Huntington Beach. In 1963, he was arrested after propositioning an undercover police officer but the charges were dropped because Kraft had no previous arrest record.

Change in Lifestyle

In 1967, Kraft adopted more of a hippie look. He let his hair grow long and started sporting a mustache. He also became a registered Democrat and worked on the Robert Kennedy campaign. It was at about this time that Kraft also began suffering from recurring headaches and stomach pain. His family doctor prescribed tranquilizers and pain medicine-which he often mixed with beer.

Between his bartending job, his own drinking and drugging, his sexual experimentation, and heavy political campaigning efforts, Kraft's interest in academia declined. In his final college year, rather than studying, he spent his time getting high, gambling, and hustling. As a result, he didn't graduate on time. It took him eight additional months to earn a Bachelor of Arts in economics, which he received in February 1968.

U.S. Air Force and Coming Out

In June 1968, after scoring high marks on the Air Force aptitude tests, Kraft enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He threw himself into his work and quickly advanced to the rank of Airman First Class.

It was at this time that Kraft finally decided to come out to his family. His ultra-conservative father flew into a rage. While she did not approve of her son's lifestyle, Kraft's mother continued to show love and support for him. His family eventually came to terms with the news, however, the relationship between Kraft and his parents was never the same.

On July 26, 1969, Kraft received a general discharge from the Air Force on medical grounds. He later claimed the discharge came after he told his superiors that he was gay. Kraft briefly moved back home and took a job as a forklift operator and also worked part-time as a bartender-but not for long.

Relationships with Jeff Graves and Jeff Seelig

In 1971, after deciding to become a teacher, Kraft enrolled at Long Beach State University. While there, he met fellow student Jeff Graves. Kraft moved in with Graves and they stayed together until the end of 1975. It was Graves who introduced Kraft to bondage, drug-enhanced sex, and threesomes.

The open relationship between Kraft and Graves grew more volatile as time went on. They frequently argued. Kraft had grown less interested in cruising for one-night stands and was looking to settle down into a monogamous relationship. Graves wanted just the opposite.

Kraft met Jeff Seelig at a party in 1976, about a year after he and Graves split up. At 19, Seeling, who worked as an apprentice baker, was 10 years younger than Kraft. Kraft took on the mantle of a mentor in the relationship. He introduced Seelig to the gay bar scene and taught him about cruising a nearby U.S. Marine base for partners to engage in threesomes.

Kraft and Seelig advanced in their careers. Eventually, the couple decided to purchase a small home in Long Beach but after Kraft landed a computer job with Lear Siegler Industries, he began spending a lot of time away from home on business trips to Oregon and Michigan. Tensions between the pair grew. The age gap, as well as the disparity in their educational backgrounds, and general personalities differences began to take their toll. The couple split up in 1982.

The Tip of the Iceberg: Kraft's First Murder Charge

On May 14, 1983, two California highway patrol officers spotted a car weaving down the road. The driver was Kraft. The officers signaled for him to pull over but he continued driving for a short distance before coming to a stop. When Kraft finally pulled over, he quickly emerged from the car and walked toward the patrolmen. He smelled of alcohol and his fly was open.

After failing a standard field sobriety test, the patrolmen went to take a look at Kraft's car, where they found a young man, his pants pulled down and barefoot, slumped over in the passenger seat. The victim's genitals were exposed, his neck showed signs of strangulation marks, and his wrists were bound. After a brief examination, it was determined the young man was dead.

The victim was identified as a Marine stationed at the El Toro Marine Airbase, 25-year-old Terry Gambrel. Gambrel's friends later reported that the young Marine had been hitchhiking to a party on the night he was murdered. His autopsy revealed he'd been killed by ligature strangulation, and also indicated that his blood contained excessively high levels of alcohol and tranquilizers.

The Scorecard and Other Key Evidence

During the search of Kraft's vehicle, patrolman found 47 Polaroid photos of young men, all nude, and all appearing to be unconscious-or possibly dead. The photographs were likely viewed by Kraft as trophies he could use to revisit the murders. Perhaps even more alarming was evidence found inside a briefcase taken from the trunk of Kraft's car that contained a list of 61 cryptic messages. Investigators came to believe the messages-later dubbed Kraft's infamous "scorecard"-formed a list of Kraft's murder victims.

Further evidence gathered at Kraft's apartment-including clothing owned by victims, fibers from a rug matching fibers found at murder scenes, and Kraft's fingerprints were later linked to various unsolved murders. Police also found pictures next to Kraft's bed matching three cold-case murder victims.

Kraft's Modus Operandi

All of Kraft's known victims were Caucasian males with similar physical characteristics. Some were gay, some were straight. All were tortured and murdered but the severity of torture varied by degree from victim to victim. Most were drugged and bound; several were mutilated, emasculated, sodomized, and photographed postmortem. The severity of the violence his victims endured seemed to correspond with how Kraft and his lover were getting along at the time of the incident. When Kraft and his lover were on the outs, the victims would often pay the price.

Investigators learned that Kraft often traveled to Oregon and Michigan while employed at an aerospace firm from June 1980 through January 1983. Unsolved murders in both areas coincided with the dates that Kraft was there. This, along with decoding some of Kraft's cryptic scorecard messages, added to the growing list of Kraft's victims.

Possible Accomplice

Some of the investigators working the case believed Kraft must have had an accomplice. As damning as the evidence was, they couldn't ignore the fact that many of the victims had been pushed out of a car traveling at about 50 miles an hour-a feat that would be next to impossible to do achieve alone.

Jeff Graves became the main person of interest. He and Kraft had lived together during the time that 16 of the known murders took place. Graves backed up Kraft's statement to police about his whereabouts on March 30, 1975, the night that 19-year-old Keith Daven Crotwell disappeared. Crotwell and his friend Kent May had gone on a drive with Kraft that evening. Kraft supplied both the teens with drugs and alcohol. Kent passed out in the back seat. Kraft pushed Kent out of the car. Crotwell was never seen alive again.

Witnesses who saw May being thrown from the car helped police track Kraft down. When questioned, Kraft maintained that he and Crotwell went for a drive and that the car had gotten stuck in the mud. He said he called Graves to come help but Graves was 45 minutes away so he decided to walk and find help. When he returned to the car, Crotwell was gone. Graves corroborated Kraft's story.

After Kraft's arrest for murder, Graves, then in the advanced stages of AIDS, was questioned again. He told investigators, "I'm really not going to pay for it, you know." Graves succumbed to his illness before revealing anything incriminating.

The Trial

Kraft was initially arrested and charged with the murder of Terry Gambrel but as forensic evidence linking Kraft to other murders piled up, additional charges were filed. By the time Kraft went to trial, he was charged with 16 murders, nine counts of sexual mutilation, and three counts of sodomy.

Kraft went to trial on September 26, 1988, in what turned out to be one of the longest and most costly trials in the history of Orange County. After 11 days, a jury found him guilty and he was given the death sentence.

During the penalty phase of the trial, the state called Kraft's first known victim, Joseph Francher to testify about the abuse he'd suffered at Kraft's hands when he was just 13, and how it had impacted his life. Kraft is currently on death row in San Quentin. In 2000, the California Supreme Court upheld his death sentence.


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