In 1969, I was a Cub Scout living in the South Bay of Los Angeles when I first met Kenneth Buchanan. Kenneth was one of my fellow Cub Scouts waiting for our meeting to start after school. We were milling around when I heard him crying, I looked over my shoulder and saw that one of my fellow Cub Scouts had gone behind him and knelt down on all fours while another Scout pushed him backwards as he fell over crying.
This is what fourth graders do. It is normal school ground mischief but Kenneth was a special case, he was severely mentally retarded and just couldn't understand. I went over to Kenneth and explained to him that they were just playing around and they weren't being mean. I told him he could do the same thing to me so he could see that it was just all in fun. I asked one of my Cub Scout buddies to get down on all fours behind me and said to Kenneth "now give me a slight push." I proceeded to fall over backwards and threw in a few exaggerated back rolls which made us all laugh, including Kenneth. I met privately with my fellow Cub Scouts afterwards and explained to them that we needed to go easy with Kenneth because he really couldn't understand harmless roughhousing.
The last time I saw Kenneth before high school was in the sixth grade when I went to his house and bought a wetsuit and two 12 foot long surfboards from his older brother for $10. We went to different junior high schools in the 7th and 8th grade and so I fell out of touch with him.
On the first day of high school, my friends warned me that the senior high school students were going around and hazing the freshmen. I did not know what hazing was so they explained it to me. In my book, this was completely unacceptable behavior. I recalled my first day of first grade when a 5th grade bully had come over to us and started picking on us. I reached up, grabbed him by the lapels, threw my weight backwards, spun him around and sent him tumbling. He got up and ran off crying. So, I said to myself "Fine, I guess I have to show the seniors that I am not somebody who is going to be picked on." I went over to what was called the "Senior Circle" where the seniors sat around smoking cigarettes and proceeded to walk through the circle hoping a senior would make the mistake of picking on me, none took the bait. Yes, in those days, there was a designated smoking area for students and, as an aside, when I was a Cub Scout we were required to bring our pocket knives to school. As part of our inspection, we were required to demonstrate proper handling of the knife. Smoking and carrying knives to school pretty much guarantees expulsion these days, but that is a topic for another article.
After my third pass through the senior circle, I stood facing the door to the boy's locker room wondering what my next course of action should be when the door flew open and I saw a couple of sets of arms throw Kenneth out the door. He was covered in paint and glue from head to toe and had the most forlorn look on his face. I flew into a rage and ran into the locker room intending to inflict some serious damage but his tormentors had already run off and Kenneth was either unwilling or unable to point them out to me.
I realized later that I was never in any danger of being hazed, part of it was a consequence of my having matured early and the two hours a day of working out with weights I had begun in the 8th grade. I was pretty much full grown, weighed 173 pounds and was all muscle. Couple that with the reputation I had already earned as a brawler and I was never in any danger but what did I know, I still had the mind of a 14 year old. Kenneth on the other hand, was slightly built and would always have the mind of a five year old.
I tried to keep an eye on Kenneth but it was impossible. We traveled in different circles and I was intent on graduating in three years so I took seven courses every semester; sports after school and during my junior (and final) year was working afternoons and going to college at night.
Looking back, I should have made more of an effort to watch out for him. At the end of our Sophomore year of high school Kenneth was raped, tortured, mutilated and murdered by Randy Kraft. His body was found stuffed in a trash bag and dumped in Inglewood California, just a few miles from where we grew up together.
Seven years later, on May 14th, 1983 Randy Kraft was pulled over by two California Highway Patrolmen for drunken driving. In the passenger seat next to him was the corpse of a 25 year old male whose genitals were exposed and who had ligature marks around his neck (official cause of death, strangulation).
Fortunately, the two highway patrolmen were professional enough to obtain a search warrant before searching Randy Kraft's automobile and found concealed beneath the floor mat Polaroid photographs of 47 nude young men who appeared to either be dead or unconscious. Randy Kraft would be connected to the rape, torture and mutilation of 67 young boys and men. He would be tried and convicted for the murders of 18 of them. The actual number of his victims will never be known.
Many of his victims were found in dumpsters or only parts of their bodies were found as was the case for 19 year old Keith Crotwell whose head was found by three boys near the Long Beach Marina. How many of his victims went undiscovered and now reside under tons of garbage at the various landfills around Southern California is anyone's guess.
Randy Kraft could have been stopped in his tracks back in March of 1970, when he drugged and raped a 13 year old runaway boy who managed to escape. Unfortunately, as is far too often the case even now, police run around with this idea in their head that because they carry a badge and gun, they don't need to get a warrant. So the victims shoes and the 76 photographs found in Kraft's apartment were not admissible in court and Kraft was never prosecuted for this crime.
Randy Kraft was sentenced to death and his conviction was affirmed, after numerous appeals, by the California Supreme Court in 2000, which is nearly a decade ago. It is now almost 30 years since his conviction. I won't go into the details of the torture he inflicted on his victims, there are plenty of websites which describe all of the gory details ad nauseum.
I will repeat the question - "Why hasn't California Executed Randy Kraft?" There is no question of his guilt. There were no mitigating circumstances, certainly not for the murder of Kenneth Buchanan, a frail teen age boy with the mind of a child whose only crime was being born here in the land of fruits and nuts.
The following are a list of the men that are believed to have been murdered by Kraft:
1970Joseph Alwyn Fancher - first known victim
1971Wayne Joseph Dukette - 30 years old, he was the oldest possible victim. He was found on the Highway. According to the California Death Index he was born May 12, 1941 and died September 24, 1971 in Orange County.
1972Edward Daniel Moore - 20 years old. He was a marine at Camp Pendleton and believed to be bi-sexual - he frequented several gay bars in Long Beach, San Clemente and Oceanside. Some men in Long Beach described him as a "hustler" type which suggests he may have been a part time prostitute. His body was found, fully clothed, near the 7th Street exit of the 605 Freeway. He had no belt or shoes and only one sock, the other sock was inserted into his anus. He was last seen at 11:30 pm December 22, 1972 on the streets of Oceanside - but the coroner put his time of death at Christmas Eve. According to the California Death Index - he was born April 14, 1952 in Kentucky and died December 23, 1972 in Orange County.
1973Unidentified #1: This young man, age about 18 or 20, was found on the Terminal Island Freeway on February 6, 1973. He was nude and had been strangled. Pictures of the boy were found in the brush near the body. They were shown to various people around Long Beach and he was recognized as frequenting various gay hangouts, primarily bluff area along Ocean Boulevard. No one knew his name.
Unidentified #2: He was found in Huntington Beach and had been redressed in "biker-style clothing". He was found in early April of 1973 and may have been killed on Easter Sunday.
Unidentified #3: This young man was found just two weeks after the previously unidentified victim, on April 22, 1973. Sadly, only parts were found at first, carefully placed in green plastic bags strewn along the Terminal Island Freeway. Another part was behind a gay bar in Sunset Beach and another was found in Gardena. He was also identified as having frequented gay bars in Long Beach, but no one knew his name. Since his remains were refrigerated prior to being dumped, he may have also passed on Easter Sunday.
Wiebe, Ronnie Gene: Born June 14, 1953 in Madera County, California. He was found on July 30, 1973 in an iceplant off the Seventh Street exit of the 605 Freeway, near the location of the first victim. He was last seen at the Sportsman Bar in Los Alamitos. Unlike the other victims, Wiebe was not gay. He had previously been married and divorced just a few months before his death. The Sportsman Bar was a straight bar, still in operation in Los Alamitos as of 2009.
Mestas, Vicente Cruz: 23 years old, he was found by hikers in the San Bernardino foothills. He was found on December 29, 1973. He had been a student of Long Beach State. According to the California Death Index, he was born January 18, 1949 in California and died December 23, 1973 in San Bernardino.
1974Little, Malcolm Eugene: 20 years old, a truck driver from Selma, Alabama visiting his brother in Long Beach. On May 27 he decided to hitchhike home. His body was found on June 2 near a desert road near the Salton Sea. According to the California Death Index he was born May 15, 1954 in Alabama and died June 2, 1974 in Imperial County.
Dickerson, Roger E.: 20-years-old. He was a marine and had told his drinking buddies in a San Clemente bar that he had found someone who would give him a ride to Los Angeles. He was found on June 22, 1974, dumped down a hillside in South Laguna. The police didn't reveal how he was connected to Long Beach. According to the California Death Index, he was born August 5, 1955 in Oregon and died June 22, 1974 in Orange County.
Lee, Thomas Paxton: 25-years-old. A waiter in San Pedro, he was on vacation and had traveled through Long Beach, visiting several gay bars. He was found in a Long Beach oil field on August 3, 1974.
Cordova, Gary Wayne: he was found on the highway in Orange County on Aug 12, 1974. According to the California Death Index, he was born April 13, 1951 in California and died August 9, 1974 in Orange County.
Reeves, James: 19 years old. He was a "known homosexual", last seen leaving a gay church in Costa Mesa after Thanksgiving dinner. He was found the next day, at the end of a remote road in Irvine.
1975Leras, John W.: He was found in the surf at Sunset Beach on January 3, 1975. It was believed that he had been carried into the surf a mile from where he had been found. According to the California Death Index, he was born March 23, 1957 in Rhode Island and died January 4, 1975 in Orange County.
Craig Victor Jonaitis: Found Jan 17th at Long Beach Motel on Pacific Coast Highway. According to the California Death Index, he was born September 9, 1953 in New Jersey and died January 17, 1975 in Los Angeles County.
Keith Daven Crotwell - 19, High School dropout. Keith vanished on March 26, 1975. His head was found on May 8 off the coast of Long Beach. Randy was arrested and questioned by the police about him but was released due to lack of evidence. The rest of his skeleton was found in October. According to the California Death Index, he was born September 22, 1955 in California and died May 8, 1975 in Los Angeles County.
1976Mark H. Hall: He was found nude on January 3, 1976. Described as 5'10, 165 pounds, he died of alcohol and asphyxiation. He was found on the West side of Bedford Peak at the east end of Santiago Canyon in the Saddleback Mountains, thirty miles south of San Juan Capistrano. Traces of diazepam and valium were also found in his system. He had been sodomized, cigarette lighter used on various parts of his body, nicks and grooves on the legs, the penis and testicles had been removed and inserted into the anus. According to the California Death Index, he was born April 3, 1958 in Idaho and died January 3, 1976 in Orange County.
1978Scott Michael Hughes: 18, found April 1978. According to the California Death Index, he was born October 3, 1959 in Washington and died April 16, 1978 in Orange County.
Roland Gerald Young: 23 years old. He was released from Orange County jail on June 10, 1978 for public intoxication and was found dead at 3:30 am on June 11 in a gutter in Irvine. Alcohol and diazepam were found in his blood. Evidence showed that he had been thrown from a moving vehicle. His wrists were bound and genitals severed. However, instead of being strangled, he was stabbed in the heard several times. According to the California Death Index, he was born January 3, 1955 in California and died June 11, 1978 in Orange County.
Richard Allen Keith: A young marine last seen in Carson, California. He was found, strangled, in Laguna Hills in June 1978. According to the California Death Index, he was born August 3, 1957 in Ohio and died June 19, 1978 in Orange County.
Keith Arthur Klingbeil - hitchhiker, crippled leg from a motorcycle accident. His body was found on the northbound lanes of Interstate 5, near Mission Viejo, in Orange County. According to the California Death Index - he was born Feb 6, 1955 in Florida and died July 6, 1978 in Orange County.
Michael Joseph Inderbieten - 21, Long Beach truck driver. He was dumped in the morning rush hour traffic at the Seventh Street offramp on the 605 Freeway. He had been burned with a lighter and emasculated. According to the California Death Index, he was born December 29, 1956 in California and died November 18, 1978 in Orange County.
1979Donnie Harold Crisel - The Seal Beach police investigated his murder with the help of psychic Joan Julian, aka Reverend Joan. According to the California Death Index he was born June 7, 1959 in Arkansas and died June 16, 1979 in Orange County.
1980Robert Wyatt Loggins: A teenage marine found in September. Snapshot's of his body were found in Kraft's home. According to the California Death Index, he was born October 8, 1960 in Texas and died September 3, 1980 in Orange County.
1983Eric Herbert Church: 21 years old. He was found sodomized, bludgeoned and strangled along the 605 Freeway. Semen found on the body matched Kraft's blood type. According to the California Death Index - he was born July 25, 1961 in Connecticut and died January 27, 1983 in Orange County.
Geoffrey Alan Nelson: Found in Garden Grove on Feb 12, 1983. According to the California Death Index, he was born June 1, 1964 in California, and died February 12, 1983 in Orange County.
Terry Lee Gambrel: 25-year old marine. He was found dead in back of Kraft's car when he was pulled over for drunk driving. His blood had high levels of alcohol and Ativan. He was found in strangled and with his pants down. According to the California Death Index, he was born October 23, 1957 in Kentucky and died May 14, 1983 in Orange County.