Randolph Steven Kraft (or Randy Kraft, as he was later known) was born on 19th March 1945 in Long Beach, California, to Harold and Opal Kraft. He was the youngest of their children and the only male; he received plenty of attention from his sisters and mother because of this. He reportedly received little attention from his father.
He was reportedly prone to accidents, as, at just the age of one, he broke his collarbone after falling from a couch. Then when he was two, he fell down a flight of stairs and got knocked out. Upon getting professional advice at the hospital, they deemed that there was no permanent damage.
The Kraft family moved to Orange County when he was three years old. With both parents working to make ends meet, the Kraft’s were able to build a three-bedroom home on a site that was once the dormitory for the Women’s Army Corps.
Randy’s Life as a Child
Kraft started school when he was five. His mother played a significant role in his early education by being a part of the parents-teachers association. She baked cookies for Cub Scout meetings, was an active member of a church and also worked a job. She also ensured that all her children were devoted to religion and attended bible studies.
Kraft was known as an outstanding student in school. With his grades that were above average, he was promoted to a more challenging course in junior high. He managed to maintain his good grades and even developed a passion for conservative politics.
By the time Kraft went to high school, his sisters were all married and left home. His parents were both busy with their jobs and often left Kraft alone at home. Randy ended up being a very independent teenager with his car and various jobs.
He was also very social and had a great childhood. He was a joyful child who played well with his friends. He could play the saxophone, tennis and was even the organiser of a conservative politics club. He fit right in with the ultra-conservative view of the area and was later described as being extremely right-wing. He graduated high school in 1963 and was 10th in his class out of 390 students.
Claremont Men’s College
Right before Kraft graduated from high school, he started visiting gay bars without his parents’ knowledge. Since he did so well, he got a full scholarship for the economics course at the all-male Claremont Men’s College.
For a while, he continued to remain conservative, demonstrating in favour of the Vietnam War. He eventually enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corps and was a loyal supporter of Barry Goldwater, the Republican candidate for President in 1964.
For some unknown reason, two years later, his political beliefs changed, and he became left-wing. He later explained that he was only a conservative to please his parents.
He also publicly had a relationship with another male during that time, although his parents were still unaware of his homosexuality. On multiple occasions, Kraft even brought peers who were gay home to hint at his parents, who failed to get the clue about his orientation.
At this point, his life began to take a turn for the worse.
While he worked part-time at a well-known gay bar in Garden Grove, he started developing more prominent sexual urges. He would go about Huntington Beach looking for male prostitutes. In 1963, he made sexual advances towards a male policeman in disguise, causing him to get arrested. However, Kraft was released, and the charges dropped as this was his first offence.
During his final year, there were rumours that he enjoyed bondage. According to a roommate, Kraft would disappear a few times a week and then return at strange hours.
Randy Kraft Took a Turn for the Worst
Four years after his first arrest, Randy Kraft had a change in style. He began growing out his moustache and hair.
When another presidential election started approaching, Kraft supported the Democratic candidate, Robert F. Kennedy, and was devastated when he was later assassinated.
Around 1967 he began to suffer from stomach pains and migraines and frequently took painkillers and tranquillizers to treat them. He often downed the medicine with beer.
He became more open about his homosexuality, spending most of his free time in gay bars. He also fell behind with his academic work due to his late-night habits, and it took him an additional eight months, and he had to retake one of his courses to earn his bachelor’s degree in economics.
After scoring highly on the aptitude test, he was briefly stationed at Edwards Air Force Base and quickly rose the ranks to become Airman First Class.
At the peak of his career, he decided to come out of the closet to his family. Naturally, his traditional father got extremely upset. His mother also found it difficult to understand but still showed him affection regardless. Although the Kraft family eventually accepted his new status, their relationship with their youngest had changed forever.
In July 1969, Kraft was discharged on “medical” grounds, although he later said that he was released because he had come out to the higher-ranking officers. He moved back home, returned to his part-time job at the bar, and also got hired as a forklift operator.
After two years in 1971, Kraft decided to study at Long Beach State University for a teaching license.
That was where he met and moved in with Jeff Graves for the next four years. Their relationship was very sexually driven, and it came as no surprise when they eventually split in 1975 due to varying goals for their relationship. Randy claimed that it was Jeff who introduced him to bondage, drugs and threesomes.
In 1976, he met Jeff Seeling, a 19-year-old baker. Because he was ten years older, Kraft led the relationship and influenced Seeling to perform more reckless sexual behaviour. They later moved in together around Long Beach, California and dated for around a year.
Kraft had frequent business trips around the country as part of his most recent job as a computer technician, which, coupled with the age gap and academic background, took a toll on the couple, and they split in 1982.
Scorecard Killer Murders
The discovery of Kraft’s crimes happened on the 14th May 1983.
He was pulled over for drunk driving by some patrolling cops after the car was seen weaving on the road. Kraft emerged from his vehicle with his pants unzipped, looking dishevelled and looking and smelling very intoxicated. He failed a sobriety test, was handcuffed and placed in the back of the police car.
The patrol cops approached his vehicle and found a man lying in the front seat with his private parts exposed, barefoot with his wrists tied together, and signs of suffocation around the neck. They first thought that he was sleeping but soon found him dead, with apparent signs of foul play.
The man was Terry Gambrel, a 25-year-old U.S. Marine officer last seen by friends who said that he was hitching a ride home from a party. Upon conducting an autopsy on the corpse, the cause of death was deemed to be strangulation with his own belt. The examination also revealed soaring levels of blood alcohol and sedatives.
When a search warrant for the car was obtained and carried out, the Police found tranquillizers and prescription drugs inside as well as an envelope containing 47 polaroid photographs of young men, most of them either dead or seemingly asleep, in pornographic poses. These were speculated to be memorabilia that Randy Kraft had collected from each of his murders as a prize.
There was also a lot of blood on the passenger seat, even though Gambrel didn’t have any incisions on his body.
Secondly, the cops found a mysterious list with some 61 messages inside a briefcase in the back of his car, understood to be a list of victims. Later known as the “scorecard,” this list of messages gave Randy Kraft his title as the “Scorecard Killer”.
This scorecard noted his victims with strange nicknames related to their locations or personal habits, such as “Deodorant”, “New Year’s Eve”, and “Iowa”.
Kraft claimed the terms on the list related to sexual encounters he’d had and other mundane things.
Prosecutors eventually cracked the code in Kraft’s notebook.
- “2 in 1 Hitch” referred to the murders of Nelson and De Vaul.
- “Stable” referred to Wayne Joseph Dukette, who was found nude in Orange County on the bottom of a ravine off Ortega Highway.
- “EDM” stood for Edward Daniel Moore, a Marine based at Camp Pendleton. He was found on the off-ramp of 405 and 605 freeways in Seal Beach in 1974.
- “Twiggie” was James Dale Reeves, whose partially nude body was found in Irvine, off the San Diego Freeway.
- “Pier 2” was linked to Thomas Paxton Lee, found in a barrier under the Long Beach Harbor.
- “Skates” was John Williams Leras, found in the water at Sunset Beach in 1975.
- “Parking Lot” was linked to Keith Daven Crotwell, whose severed head was found in Long Beach in May 1975.
- “Marine Carson” referred to Richard Keith, a Marine last seen in Carson, California, and whose body was discovered in Laguna Hills in 1978.
- “Jail Out” referred to a murder he committed hours after being released from jail on 11th June 1978.
- “Deodorant” was later found to be Robert Avila, located off the Hollywood Freeway in Echo Park in July 1982.
- “Dog” is believed to be Raymond David; he was found next to another victim in Echo Park. Davis was looking for a lost dog at the time.
When Police searched Kraft’s home, they uncovered more evidence. Items of clothing that belonged to the victims were present. The fibre of the rug in his apartment also matched those identified at the crime scenes. That’s not all.
More evidence linked Randy Kraft to many separate murders that had since gone cold. For example, his fingerprints were tied with several other murder cases that were currently unsolved. Pictures by the side of his bed also matched the identity of victims from three more unsolved cases.
The Scale of Victims
During the 1970s and 1980s, the victims of Kraft were among the many dead bodies discovered near highways in California. He is also known as The Freeway Killer, Southern California Strangler or The Scorecard Killer.
Kraft targeted young Caucasian men and teenage boys in their late teens to mid-20s, usually hitchhikers, runaways, or men he picked up in gay bars. The majority of his victims all had very similar physical features. Randy Kraft committed most of his crimes in California. However, a few individuals were killed in Oregon and Michigan due to his job as a computer tech that allowed him to travel.
The sexual orientation of his victims differed, but they all suffered great pain before their deaths.
After picking them up in his car, he would drug them and/or get them drunk. Kraft would then bind them, torture them by burning a car cigarette lighter against their face, chest, and genitals, sexually abuse them, and kill them in various ways, including strangulation, asphyxiation, bludgeoning, or from a combination of torture and drugs. Kraft also bit his victims, usually on or around the genitals or the nipples, or sometimes burn victims’ nipples with the car cigarette lighter.
He would also castrate them, either as another form of torture or post-mortem, or mutilate and dismember them.
Some of his victims were found with an object inserted into their rectums, often a sock – which Randy claimed as a “signature”.
With the number of murders associated with Kraft, it was clear that he had been committing these murders since he began dating. The further investigation exposed that the status of his relationships determined the scale of violence towards his victims. This means that when Kraft and his partner were going through a rough patch, his victims at that time would have endured a more painful death.
Partners in Crime?
Many of Kraft’s victims were pushed out of a car travelling at high speed, something difficult for Kraft to have accomplished alone. This suspicion led investigators to conclude that Kraft could not have acted alone.
The main suspect for his partner in crime is none other than his ex Jeff Graves. Not only was he in a relationship with Kraft during the time that 16 of the murders occurred, but he was also implicated in the case of Crotwell and Kent, two of Kraft’s victims.
One night in 1975, Crotwell and Kent had gone on a car ride with Randy Kraft. Kraft had given them alcohol and drugs, causing Kent to lose consciousness in the backseat.
Graves was implicated in this case because he was Kraft’s alibi on that fateful night in 1975. The following was what was told to authorities when Kraft was arrested after witnesses saw Kent being thrown out of the vehicle.
Crotwell and Kraft had gone for a drive, but their car later got caught in some mud. Kraft then called Graves for help but ultimately walked to get help themselves because Graves was too far away. Later, when Kraft returned to the vehicle, Crotwell had already gone missing.
Randy Kraft was first arrested on suspicion of murder when the severed head of Keith Crotwell was found near the Long Beach Marina. Since Crotwell had been seen getting into a car revealed to be Kraft’s, Police questioned him as a suspect, but Kraft claimed he let him ride along with him and then let him off at an all-night café.
Kraft was released due to a lack of evidence.
He was caught for the last time, just after 1:00 a.m. on 14th May 1983, when the California Highway Patrol pulled him over for driving under the influence.
In late September 1988, Police had gathered enough evidence to charge him in court for 12 counts of sexual crimes on top of 16 murders. Among them was a John Doe nicknamed “Airplane Hill” on the “scorecard”, who wasn’t identified until 1995, his real name being Kevin Clark Bailey. He was found guilty on all counts and some other related charges of sodomy and torture.
He once pursued a lawsuit against a true-crime writer who had written a book about his case, titled Angel of Darkness, as well as its publisher. Kraft filed for $62 million in damages, claiming that the way he was portrayed in the book had smeared his “good name” and hurt his “prospects for future employment”.
Needless to say, judges dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous.
He was initially sentenced to death after a 13-month trial that became the most expensive trial in Orange County history. Before sentencing, Kraft firmly maintained his innocence. “I have not murdered anyone, and I believe a reasonable review of the record will show that,” he told the judge. His attorneys claimed that a sheet of paper bearing 61 cryptic entries that prosecutors called a “scorecard” of victims inappropriately prejudiced the jury against him. But the Supreme Court disagreed, saying the list was connected to the case.
The sentence was upheld again in 2000. The Justices collectively discarded Kraft’s claims that he received an unfair trial. Kraft continues to serve his sentence at the San Quentin death row to this day.
Unlike many serial killers, Kraft has disputed his involvement to this day and has neglected the spotlight his crimes placed on him. He has never given any explanation or exhibited any interest in clearing any unsolved murders.
As a result of his stubbornness, authorities may never know for sure just how many men Kraft has murdered. However, there is a theory that he worked in conjunction with William Bonin, who was convicted as the “Freeway Killer”.
Although we know about 16 murders and attacks, it is believed he had over 67 victims and was operating as a serial killer for 12 years.
- Bailey Sarian’s video on Randy Kraft.
Listen along and find out more about Randy Kraft on the All Gay Long podcast: