America’s vast network of freeways and highways acts as a sort of circulatory system, one of our prime markers of maturity as a country in the 20th century. Hitchhiking became a common practice in the 1930s out of simple necessity. The dip in the ’50s was promptly followed up by a big resurgence in the ’60s and ’70s, arguably the ‘golden age’ of hitchhiking, as the bored and curious decided to seek out a more exciting way of living.
They were usually young, broke and naïve enough to rely on the kindness of strangers to drive them to their next big adventure. There are plenty of stories out there of wanderers spending their entire summers this way. But alongside the counterculture that embraced hitchhiking as a celebration of human interdependence, runs a dark parallel history. As the popularity in thumbing a ride steadily grew, so did a seemingly endless body count as the American highways became a hunting ground for some of the country’s most prolific serial killers.
One of these killers was eventually identified as Randy Kraft, a Long Island computer consultant, who was eventually convicted of 16 murders-and suspected of upwards of 61-in a murder spree that spanned almost 13-years. While he showed some promise as a child, Kraft grew up into a bitter and sickly man whose utter indifference to human life earned him the reputation as one of the most ferocious and unrepentant killers in California’s history, although he also killed in Oregon and Michigan. Kraft stood out, not only for the brutality of his crimes, but for how organized he was after the fact.
When Kraft was arrested in 1983 police quickly discovered a 61-entry list in his vehicle. The entries appeared to be short cryptic codes. It would eventually come to light that this odd looking list was a macabre resume of Kraft’s depraved murders. He was cataloging his victims by writing phrases that would remind him of them. A memory trigger of sorts. Some were quite descriptive–“EDM” is believed to represent victim Edward Daniel Moore–while others were vague; such as “PARKING LOT” which is believed to represent Keith Crotwell.
While there is plenty to unpack about a man willing to commit such horrific crimes then go on to take no accountability (despite the overwhelming evidence against him), I don’t want to talk about him. Everything worth saying about Randy Kraft has been said tenfold over the years. Instead let’s focus our attention back to those who deserve it; the men who Kraft murdered.
Some of them were fathers. Some served their country. Some had so many plans for the immediate future and most were just trying to find themselves. 16 young drifters and dreamers who paid the ultimate price for crossing paths with a monster. The following list is a record of the young men known to have been victimized by Randy Kraft.
Survivor Joseph “Joey” Fancher was a tough kid who grew up in a tough environment. By March of 1970 Joey was a smug, self assured 13-year-old who hated going to school almost as much as he hated going home. Fed up with his parents constant bickering and the beatings he endured for misbehavior, Joey put on his new shoes, grabbed his bike and ran away from home on March 11th, 1970. It wasn’t the first time he’d run away. It wouldn’t be the last. He rode towards the boardwalk, an extension of California’s Huntington Beach pier. He never told his parents what happened to him that day. In fact, it would take Joey nearly two decades to describe, in painfully vivid detail, his encounter with Randy Kraft.
He’d suffered greatly over the years, at one time expressing in an interview with police how he feared being alone with men in the following months; including his own brother and father. Joey’s teenage and young adult years were littered with instances of explosive violence. He’d been sent to Orange County’s Juvenile Hall. Later, Joseph would find himself in and out of prison for various drug, burglary and auto thief charges. He attempted suicide several times. During Kraft’s trial in 1989 Joseph Fancher testified for the prosecution. Fancher had grown into a sullen, burly, tattooed biker type. On the stand he was equal parts agitated and eloquent with his testimony.
It’s unclear where Joseph Alwyn Fancher is today. If he is still alive he would be 64 years old.
Edward “Eddie” Daniel Moore
Unfortunately there is no photo available online for Eddie Moore. By September of 1972, Eddie was a 20 year old Marine with the First Engineers, First Marine Division at Camp Pendleton and, frankly, he wasn’t happy about it. The blond haired, blue eyed jarhead was one of at least four siblings who grew up in a disorderly home with alcoholic parents who could not properly take care of him. When he was 12, Eddie and his brother were removed from the family home and taken to a Methodist foster home in Kentucky. Shortly after their arrival, Eddie disclosed to a friend later, both he and his brother were sexually abused.
He spoke with a Southern drawl. Acquaintances noted that Eddie had a peculiar way of looking at people due to an unnamed eye condition. He squinted a lot and didn’t have a drivers license because of his poor eyesight. As a child he had surgery to help open his eyes and help his vision. It’s up for debate how much it actually helped. Eddie was a self taught harmonica player, a skill he occasionally used to earn money on street corners, though it wasn’t a necessity. Eddie Moore was described as a hustler. Not the sort who would hurt anyone. The kind who would flash his impish, almost shy grin to get whatever he wanted; which was usually money or something to eat. And it normally worked.
Beyond the charming and overgrown-kid mannerisms was a lonely vagabond who made friends where ever he went. As one of them observed, “Eddie had this thing…some kind of compulsion, some kind of desire to have friends, to just want people to like him.”
The handful of articles written about him all agree that 18-year-old Kevin Bailey led a short, tortured life that began in his hometown of Middletown, New York. In 1960, when Kevin was 4-years-old, his parents divorced. His father left the family home and never saw Kevin again. In a 1995 phone interview Kevin’s father, Clark Bailey, admitted he didn’t even possess any photos of Kevin or his brother, Bruce.
Before Kevin could enter the third grade, he was diagnosed as “hyperactive” then sent to a mental institution where he began taking Ritalin to help combat his hyperactivity. Most of Kevin’s young life was spent in and out of mental hospitals until his mother remarried in September of 1972 and moved the family to Lake Elsinore, California. Kevin disappeared soon after, eventually calling his mother from Corvallis, Oregon.
The last accurate sighting of Kevin was on April 9th, 1973, when he was arrested and fingerprinted in Oregon for loitering near a school ground. His mother, Parry, later recalled of her son, “Kevin felt so safe (traveling) on the freeway…Even after all the places he had been in, he was very immature. Very innocent.”
1973 was an eventful year for 20-year-old Ronnie Wiebe. By the summertime the Fullerton native was living with his father after separating from his wife, Glenda, and was already in a new relationship with a woman named Julie. When Ronnie wasn’t working at the Eurton Electric Company in San Pedro or entering dance contests with Julie at Honeymooner Club in Long Beach, he enjoyed hanging out with friends at nearby bars. On the night of July 28th, 1973 Ronnie spent his evening at the Sportsman Bar. He stayed until last call, at about a quarter to 2 a.m., waved goodbye to his friends and went out to the parking lot where he discovered his car had a flat tire.
As a student at Wilson High School, 19-year-old Keith Crotwell made up for his poor grades with his phenomenal athletic ability. Keith was such a standout on the baseball field and basketball court that friends thought he might have made it to the pros if he’d been given a decent chance at home. By the time Keith was a senior, his parents were divorced and the Crotwell house was reported to a “revolving door” according to friends. Like his three siblings, Keith could be gone for days at a time without raising much concern among his family. After dropping out of school in the middle of his senior year, Keith was unofficially adopted by his friend Terry Ditmar’s family so he could figure out what he was going to do with his life.
By March of 1975 Keith spent his days hanging around his temporary home, the East Long Beach apartment complex, where most of his friends happened to live. The boys developed a loose knit fraternity; they spent most of their free time playing softball, tinkering with motorcycles- “He (Keith) was an advanced motorcycle rider and a decent mechanic,”- and lounging at Huntington Beach, Newport or Seal Beach together. Keith enjoyed swimming, body surfing and browning in the sun while “studying bikini mammography and drinking a Bud.”
On the night of March 29th, Keith left the music and arcade games of Big John’s Fun Hall to sit in the parking lot with his buddy Kent May, who had just had a fight with his girlfriend, to commiserate and offer some dating advice. Keith Crotwell was a well liked, kind hearted young man who didn’t seem to give his future much thought beyond the next party
Mark Howard Hall was born on April 3rd, 1953. The only child to Darwin and Lois Hall, Mark was admittedly spoiled and very close with both his parents. When the weather was on their side, he and his father would go fishing and hiking the reaches of the Salmon and Snake Rivers; their personal slice of heaven on earth in the Idaho wilderness. Mark drew the line at hunting though. That was too violent for him. There was talk for a time about Mark pursuing law school but after picking up the drums in junior high, he decided a career in music was what he really wanted. By the time he was in high school he was the drummer for a band he started with a few friends called Heavenly Blue. It didn’t take long for his bandmates to steadily grow tired of Mark as his focus strayed away from practicing and shifted to groupies and getting stoned. “In high school, he was loud and a little rude- something of a show off. That worked all right on stage with the band, but not with teachers or other students. He alienated more people than he needed to, including the members of Heavenly Blue.”
After dropping out of school in 1971, he dabbled briefly in graphic arts at a local vocational continuation school and took a job in a print shop. Mark played his last gig with Heavenly Blue in 1972 before being kicked out of the band. Crushed, he decided to move to California to pursue a music career with a new group “…but he finally had to face facts. There were no gigs around that paid a Pocatello boy enough to keep up the rent, let alone provide himself with an adequate reserve of marijuana and malt liquor.” Mark got a job working the swing shift at Emerson Electric in 1974 as a maintenance man. Hall was described as quiet and “…seemed a little dull-witted. People compared him in looks and manner to Ringo Starr, the “slow” Beatle.” He kept to himself for the most part though he was congenial enough with his co-workers, Bill Holly and Phil Holmer, that he often crashed on Holmer’s couch. Mark owned a Gibson acoustic guitar and a mouth harp that he played terribly. Though he was a decent harmonica player.
On December 31st, 1974, the 22-year-old decided he wanted to spend his New Years Eve on an “all night drunk” with Holly and Holmer. The trio woke up sometime in the afternoon to go pick up their paychecks and kick off their evening at the Holiday Bar. At this point in his life, Mark Hall was a disjointed and disconnected young man that didn’t have many friends. He loved Budweiser and Jimi Hendrix. “He was very trusting,” Darwin Hall said. “Mark figured that everybody had a right to do what they want, long as they don’t hurt no one else.”
Almost everyone who knew him described 18-year-old Scott Hughes as “boisterous”. The Wayne County, New York native was a U.S. Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton who enjoyed a good time. He drank to get drunk, smoked marijuana, and occasionally took acid. He was reportedly popular among women and had plenty of girlfriends. The party animal was also a notable athlete; he ran often and, in an interview with the Orange County probation office during Kraft’s trail, Scott’s mother Charlene Hughes spoke of her son and his excellence at baseball. She thought he might have had a shot at playing outfield for the Cincinnati Reds
Unfortunately, there is little known on the early life of Roland Young. We do know that by 1978, he was going through a rough patch in life. While it is unfair to judge someone based their past or current dependences, it is significant because Roland-who was 23-years-old-was well known to police as a “petty thief, a druggie and a drunk.” By all accounts his biggest problem was with alcohol. “Roland Young was halfway to the cemetery with a liver that went through more vodka in a week than most people digest in a year.” At this point in his life, he’d exhausted just about any good will he had left among his handful of acquaintances and his parents were fed up with his behavior. Roland had a girlfriend he often used drugs with. He was a trained machinist who couldn’t seem to hold down a job for more than a few weeks; he would either come in hung over too many times, pick fights. or would simply lose interest. Roland Young was last seen the morning of June 10th, 1978, leaving the D block of the Orange County Jail after being arrested for making a scene at a bar called Clubhouse. On his way out of the facility, unbeknownst to jail officials, he managed to steal a pair of LACO jail issued high-tops.
The last time Wanda Lynn Shepard saw her boyfriend, Lance Corporal Richard Allen Keith was on Sunday, June 18th, 1978. The 20-year-old Indiana farm boy had hitched a ride from Camp Pendleton to her home in the suburb of Carson in Los Angeles (almost an hour and a half drive) to surprise her. Wanda wasn’t pleased Richard did something so reckless as hitchhiking but let him in the house anyway. They spent a few hours relaxing around the house, mainly on the couch in her parent’s living room where Richard waxed on and on about the wonderful life they were going to have together after he finished his remaining year in the marines. Richard left the Shepard residence at 11:00 p.m. He had no car and was planning on hitching a ride back to the base.
Donald “Donnie” Crisel
20-year-old Donald “Donnie” Crisel was the only child to Lou Helen and Richard Crisel. A native of Arkansas, Donnie graduated high school in 1977. He’d been transferred to the Marine helicopter base in Tustin after more than a year with the Marine Corps in Okinawa. Friends at the base knew Donnie as a hell-raiser; the kind that smoked marijuana and drank like a fish to impress Japanese barmaids. Donnie was last seen on June 16th, 1979, walking towards Taylor’s Restaurant across the street from the base’s main gate to get some coffee.
Robert Loggins Jr
Unfortunately, there is little known on the early life of 19 year old Robert Wyatt Loggins Jr. Robert, known his friends as Wyatt, was a United States Marine stationed in Tustin. We do know that on the evening of Friday, August 22nd, 1980, Robert left the base with three other Marines to go drinking. After several weeks of being restricted to the barracks, following a drunken brawl in San Diego at the beginning of the summer, all Robert wanted to do was get drunk. The four went to a location off Laguna Canyon Road and drank from a bottle of Southern Comfort. Later, after the group stopped at a liquor store near the Huntington Beach pier, where Robert announced that he didn’t feel like returning to the base. His friends tried to get Robert back in the car but they, admittedly, didn’t press the issue too much. They just assumed he wanted to sleep it off on the beach and that the tough, heavily tattooed Marine could take care of himself, should he run into any trouble.
The year Geoff Nelson turned 18 was the same year he graduated from Cypress high school and his parents ended their marriage of 21 years. While he spoke enthusiastically of getting into a career in computer programming, all in all, he didn’t seem to have much in the way of long-term goals. Geoff worked as a waiter at a restaurant near his old school. In his free time he would go out all night with his friends, a habit that drove his family nuts. Or he would hide out in his bedroom, listening to music and writing poetry; Geoff was a big fan of Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and Journey. Geoff was a talented artist, “He was so witty and artistic and clever with his hands that his mother was certain he was the reincarnation of Benjamin Franklin.”
On February 11th, 1983, Geoff Nelson went out with his friends, including 20-year-old Rodger DeVaul Jr. The group spent time at the Electric Palace video arcade. They had a few beers, talked of potentially starting a band and philosophizing late into the night. In the following years, Geoff’s parents would go on to create a small endowment at Cypress High in their son’s name so that, each year, a student who shows artistic promise would be awarded a scholarship and remember Geoff, “…who also showed promise, but never had the opportunity to fulfill it.” Geoff Nelson was a talented, street smart young man who was just trying to find himself in the confusing world his generation was inheriting.
Rodger DeVaul Jr
20-year-old Rodger DeVaul Jr was known as Roddie to his family. One of three siblings, Rodger graduated high school in 1980 and enlisted in the Navy shortly after. He was stationed in San Francisco but discharged on medical grounds. After arriving home, Rodger decided to leave the family estate and move into an apartment with a roommate while working as a maintenance man at Anaheim Stadium and enrolled in an auto mechanics class at Cypress Junior College. According to friends most of Rodger’s salary went to beer, marijuana, going to the movies, and video games. Like Geoff Nelson, Rodger was a curious, hard rock loving young man who was just looking for his place in the world and enough money to support himself and his girlfriend. He was looking forward to an upcoming ski trip with friends.
In the years following her son’s death Shirley DeVaul became an outspoken member of the Crime Victims’ California Justice Committee. She would later assist in drafting a thirteen point Crime Victims Justice Reform Act that would speed up trials and make public the defense expenses of murder defendants like Randy Kraft. In 1989 Shirley spoke with the LA Times about her son and how she coped with losing him, “…She has prepared a small memorial to her son in a special room in their home: Pictures from his days in the Navy, his graduation class from boot camp. Some of his favorite poems. His kindergarten picture. The American flag from his military funeral, wrapped around the cartridges from the 21-gun salute. There is a letter from his Navy days telling her that he was doing fine. “Don’t mess with my room,” he wrote closing another letter.”
“Roddie was no angel, but he was at a time in his life when he was finding out about the world,” she explained. She also wanted to show that there was another, more sensitive side to her son. Found in his personal effects after his death was a poem he had kept:
I’d like the memory of me
to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an afterglow
of smiles when life is done.
I’d like the tears of those who grieve
to dry before the sun
of happy memories that I leave
when life is done.
Eric Church had always been hyperactive. From the time he was a child bouncing from one hobby to another at breakneck speed, all the way to a 21-year-old free spirit who couldn’t stand being in one place for too long. One of five siblings, he was raised in a single-story four-room dusty beige bungalow situated off a gravel road. Eric never had his own room, perhaps that was a factor in his future transient lifestyle. Growing up in Coventry, Connecticut Eric was a popular young man. Especially among the ladies. “He was friendly. He got along with anyone…He made friends everywhere he went, girlfriends mostly,” recalled his father Clayton Church. “He was a good looking kid…He always seemed to have a girl on the string.”
Eric dropped out of Coventry High in either 1978 or 1979. He was a bright enough student but he always had problems concentrating. After dropping out of high school, he enrolled in a trucking trade school and managed to last a few months. Eric was good with engines. He just grew bored of standing around in one place all day long. Eric quickly found that he loved traveling via hitchhiking. It was easy, plus there was a chance to meet interesting people. Eric’s travels took him all over the country; New Hampshire, New York City, Las Vegas, Florida and California. He would work odd jobs to earn money, though he would sporadically return to his parent’s house in Connecticut when he was out of money. It was in California where Eric fell in love with a girl from Sacramento. It didn’t happen right away, though he was smitten enough to start writing her postcards as he carried on with his travels. Eric left his parent’s home for the last time on January 2nd, 1983. His father spotted him $150, he gave his mother a kiss and promised to stay in touch before heading off to catch a Greyhound bus. He was starting out his new year heading for a new life in a state where the sun always shined with a girl he could really see a future with.
Most of 23-year-old Keith Klingbeil’s childhood bordered on nomadic. Due to his father’s Navy career, the Klingbeil family criss-crossed all over the country, rarely staying in one place for more than six months, until his parents divorce sent Keith to San Diego to live with his mother. Now, with a permanent residence, Keith seemed to flourish; he did well in school was an athletic over-achiever who played baseball and football. But his life would change forever when he was 17. A devastating motorcycle accident would leave Keith confined to a hospital bed for a year. The handlebar of the bike went through his spleen, his collarbone was broken, and he nearly lost his leg. He had to have the bone fastened with a metal pin just so he would be able to walk; albeit with a considerable limp. It was during his stay in the hospital that Keith was introduced and eventually became addicted to the drug Demerol. He never returned to school to graduate. After his release he received $50,000 in an insurance settlement from the accident. By the time he was 21 he had spent it all.
Out of funds, Keith joined the Marines until it became too much for his injured leg, he was discharged before he got out of boot camp and was sent to a Veterans’ hospital. It was there he once again got addicted to Demerol. He had the pin removed from his leg before hitting the road. Keith was more than comfortable hitchhiking and got various odd jobs along the way to earn money. “He was a good worker,” said his sister, Glenda. “He just didn’t like restrictions.” Keith thrived as a carnival worker; he was considered a “natural” with his numerous tattoos and a snarl that both amused and intimidated the youngsters who spent their money at his game booth. Despite his rough, almost ruffian-like appearance, Keith was a sweet, hardworking young man who loved his family and just liked to wander.
Sadly there is very little known about Michael Joseph Inderbeiten. Born on December 29th, 1956, Michael was a truck driver in the Long Beach area. On the evening of Friday, November 17th, 1978, he went with friends to a nightclub on the Pacific Coast Highway (roughly three to five miles from his home). At the end of the night Michael caught a ride home with a group of girls where an argument ensued. Angry, he got out of the car and declared he would walk home. His friends last saw him walking toward the Pacific Coast Highway in the direction of his house. He was 21-years-old.
Terry Lee Gambrel
25-year-old Terry Lee Gambrel was described as a “simple farm boy with a big heart and a taste for beer– lots of beer.” A native of Indiana, Terry grew up in a close knit rural community on an acre of land that belonged to his grandmother with his twin brother, Jerry, and his older sister. Terry was considered the quiet twin and was teased by Jerry for being the baby of the family; on account of him being born just a few minutes after his brother. Growing up Terry became quite proficient at chess and a power hitter for the high school baseball team. After graduating from Brownstown Central High in 1976, Terry joined the Marines to escape his stifling small town existence and was stationed at Camp Pendleton. At the base, he was considered a dedicated Marine, given the nickname Luke and joined a baseball team.
When his enlistment was up in 1979, Terry moved back home to work in the same shoe factory as his brother and sister. Even after spending the summer of 1981 backpacking across Europe, Terry still didn’t have the wanderlust out of his system. So he reenlisted as a Marine. Things were different this time though; this time he had plans for what he wanted to do when his leave was up. One of which was to get married to his girlfriend Diana Richie. He was last seen on May 14th, 1983 leaving the base to attend a friend’s housewarming party in Santa Ana.