On one arm, Robert Wyatt Loggins Jr. wore a tattoo of Merlin the Magician, with the words “Dazed and Confused.” Eight years after his death, the 19-year-old Marine’s tattoo has become a key issue at the trial for Randy Steven Kraft, accused of killing 16 young men in Orange County, including Loggins.
Pictures of Loggins’ badly decomposed body, found in a plastic bag dumped along a dead-end street in El Toro on Sept. 3, 1980, were introduced by prosecutors at Kraft’s trial in Santa Ana on Monday. Included was a close-up of the tattoo.
Kraft, now 43, faces a possible death penalty if convicted in what some legal experts say is one of the biggest, and perhaps the most expensive, trials ever held in California. Prosecutors allege that he is responsible for 45 deaths of young men in Southern California, Oregon and Michigan.
Kraft’s attorneys in their own court papers acknowledge that the Loggins death is one of the prosecution’s more substantial murder counts against their client.
Besides the plastic bag pictures, prosecutors on Monday introduced 21 other pictures of Loggins that they claim were found either in Kraft’s car or in a briefcase at Kraft’s Long Beach home. In most of the pictures, Loggins was either nude or partially nude, and appeared lifeless. Prosecutors contend that he was already dead.
Prosecutors also view Loggins’ socks as critical evidence. Some of the pictures found in Kraft’s possession show a white pair of socks with blue stripes next to Loggins. A sock with blue stripes was found in the plastic bag with Loggins’ body. Prosecutors contend the socks show that the pictures of Loggins must have been taken in the same time period as when Loggins was killed.
But also important to prosecutors is the tattoo.
A list with 61 entries found in Kraft’s car included a reference to “MC HB Tattoo.” The defense attorneys say that list is meaningless. But prosecutors claim that it is Kraft’s own scorecard of his victims. They also contend that the “MC HB Tattoo” refers to Loggins--he was in the Marine Corps at the time, and was last seen in Huntington Beach. He also had large, distinguishing tattoos, the Merlin tattoo and another of a rose.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Bryan F. Brown has not yet told jurors anything about that list. But it is expected to be a key piece of evidence later in his case.
The Loggins’ death was introduced into the trial for the first time Monday.
Brown has been taking jurors through the 16 murders in reverse order, beginning with 25-year-old Terry Lee Gambrel, the Marine found dead in Kraft’s car when he was arrested on May 14, 1983.
Loggins is the fifth of the murders to be introduced.
He was stationed at the Tustin Marine base and had gone on weekend liberty with friends on Aug. 22, 1980. They last saw him when he separated from them near the Huntington Beach Pier and refused to return to the base with them.
The Loggins death is one of three counts that defense attorneys are seeking to have dismissed on the ground that some of the evidence has been destroyed, which precludes them from examining it.
Superior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin showed his irritation Monday when the Kraft attorneys renewed an earlier motion to have the Loggins charge dismissed.
The judge told them that he preferred to hear motions on Fridays, when the jury is not hearing testimony. The judge stuck to his original decision from two weeks ago that he will not hear the defense motion until later in the prosecution’s case.
In a hearing outside the presence of jurors, the lawyers argued over the dismissal issue, plus how many pictures that Brown would be able to introduce. The judge excluded a few of the plastic bag pictures but approved several pictures that he said appeared to be “relevant” to the prosecution’s case.
The pictures that the jurors will see show Loggins with his hands tied together and his feet bound.