MISSION VIEJO, CA — On May 14, 1983, Randy Kraft got pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving. That suspicion proved right on the money. Upon exiting his Toyota Celica, Kraft dumped the contents of a beer bottle onto the pavement and promptly failed a sobriety test.
California Highway Patrol Officers Michael Sterling and Sergeant Michael Howard noticed that Kraft’s pants were unbuttoned. Howard also observed somebody slumped over in the passenger seat. Upon trying to rouse the young man, Howard realized he was dealing with a corpse. The passenger turned out to be Terry Lee Gambriel, a 25-year-old Marine that Kraft had strangled to death.
Gambriel was also the last of Kraft’s murder victims, one of an unknown number of men the outwardly successfully computer programmer had slaughtered since 1972 and kept track of with a coded list, hence prompting his nickname, “The Scorecard Killer.”In April 1989, a jury convicted Kraft for 16 of those homicides. Judge Donald A. McCartin, upon sentencing Kraft to be executed, said, “If anyone ever deserved the death penalty, he’s got it coming.”
Over his horribly prolific run, Randy Kraft did more than merely murder the men he typically lured into his vehicle with the offer of a ride (many victims were hitchhikers) or a wild night out (many victims were also young gay men looking for a place to party).
The killer’s modus operandi involved plying his prey with alcohol and drugs, then binding them, raping them, and committing unspeakable agonies upon their bodies.
Kraft burned many victims’ genitals with his car’s cigarette lighter. He shoved foreign objects up their rectums. One man had a swizzle stick inserted deep inside his urethra. Still others had their penises and testicles cut off. Dismemberment, in general, was common.
After hours of such horror, Kraft usually strangled his victims, but he also beat some to death, and stabbed at least one. Afterward, Kraft would ditch their bodies alongside or near freeways, usually in California, but also in Oregon and, at least twice, in Michigan.
Due to this disposal method, Kraft initially came to be called “The Freeway Killer.”
That moniker changed, however, upon his arrest, when police discovered his neatly handwritten, fastidiously kept record of criminal activities. The list goes up to 61, but suggests 76 total murders. After that, Kraft became, and remains, “The Scorecard Killer.”
The original entry on Kraft’s scorecard reads “Stable.” It’s a reference to a Long Beach gay bar called The Stables, where 30-year-old Wayne Dukette served drinks. He also became Kraft’s first known victim. Once investigators figured out that cryptic note, cracking the code became possible, but still loaded with challenges.
Some items proved easy to connect to crimes, such as “EDM,” the initials of victim Edward Daniel Moore, or “Marine Head BP,” a reference to military recruit Mark Marsh, who Kraft decapitated near Buena Park.
Police have linked Kraft’s scorecard to 45 murders and disappearances. Twenty-two coded bits remain mysteries, and Kraft has proven resolute in not assisting officers with unraveling those puzzles.
Among the other unanswered questions surrounding Kraft is whether or not he always worked alone. Many in law enforcement believe he had at least one accomplice with him for more than one killing, usually lovers with whom he was in a relationship.In 1991, journalist Dennis McDougal authored Angel of Darkness, a true-crime book about Kraft. Two years later, Kraft sued the writer, claiming he’d sullied his “good name” by maliciously painting him as a “sick, twisted man.” A California court dismissed the suit shortly thereafter.
McDougal stuck with covering the case, though. In 2000, he interviewed Bob Jackson, a petty crook who claimed to have assisted Kraft with two killings. Jackson also talked to the police, and said that the scorecard only tallied Kraft’s “memorable” atrocities. The real death toll, according to Jackson, is closer to 100.
Thirty-four years after his arrest, and 28 years since being shipped to death row, Randy Kraft remains alive in San Quentin State Prison. He continues to file appeals for his release, frequently changing attorneys, many of whom describe dealing with Kraft as “extremely difficult.”
As noted in 2013 by Kraft trial jury foreman James Lytle, “He’s lived longer in prison than the whole lives of most of the kids that he killed. I mean, come on now.”
Main photo: Randy Kraft, 2007 mug shot [California Department of Corrections]