The trial judge deferred a decision Friday on a defense request to dismiss three of the 16 Orange County murder counts against Randy Steven Kraft, whose attorneys claimed the evidence for those charges has been lost.
But Superior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin did warn Kraft attorneys that for at least one of the three charges against their client, their argument “doesn’t do that much for me.”
Kraft, 43, is charged with killing 16 young men in Orange County between 1972 and 1983. He is linked by prosecutors to a total of 45 murders, and many of those may be used as evidence in a separate penalty phase if he is convicted.
Prosecutors acknowledge that some evidence involving three of the 16 counts was destroyed inadvertently in police investigations. But they contend the error is not significant and should not affect the trial.
The evidence in question involves the bodies of three victims: Wyatt Loggins, 19; Keith Arthur Klingbeil, 23, and Edward Daniel Moore, 20.
Loggins’ badly decomposed body was found Sept. 3, 1980, in a green plastic bag in El Toro. He had been missing about two weeks.
A criminalist placed the body bag and some other evidence on a roof to dry because of the odor, and a rainstorm destroyed it. The defense says it might have gleaned information from the bag that might have pointed to another suspect.
But prosecutors consider the Loggins slaying one of its strongest counts against Kraft. Pictures of Loggins in nude poses, in which he appears dead, were found in Kraft’s car.
Edward Daniel Moore’s body was found Dec. 26, 1972, in Seal Beach. Physical evidence from Moore’s body was destroyed four years later, when a police official erroneously believed the statute of limitations had run out.
The defense claims that information is critical in defending Kraft. But prosecutors contend it is not significant in light of other evidence.
Klingbeil’s body was found in Mission Viejo on the San Diego Freeway on July 6, 1978. Evidence from his case, including matchbooks, blood samples, and two hair samples, was inadvertently destroyed.
The defense contends that those hair samples may have come from another suspect. But the judge responded that even if the defense could show the two hairs were not Kraft’s, it wouldn’t prove anything.
The judge went on to say that their argument “doesn’t do that much for me.”
The defense asked the judge to make a decision now, after the first week of testimony in the trial. Kraft attorney William J. Kopeny argued that whatever the judge decides will affect defense tactics the rest of the way. But the judge disagreed and said he would probably decide after hearing the prosecution’s case.