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‘Airplane Hill’ Argued by Kraft Trial Lawyers

Times Staff Writer

On a day when defense attorneys for mass murder defendant Randy Steven Kraft offered evidence involving four different murders, debate centered on a place known as “Airplane Hill.”

When Kraft was arrested, a list was found that prosecutors say amounts to a coded directory to his alleged victims. One entry, next to a murder victim who never has been identified, refers to the Airplane Hill site.

The victim was a tattooed young man. He was found on Ellis Street, between Gothard and Golden West streets in Huntington Beach, on April 14, 1973. After investigators learned that that section of Huntington Beach once had been known locally as “Airplane Hill,” they added the John Doe victim to the list of murder charges against Kraft.

Charged With 16 Murders

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Kraft, 43, is on trial in Santa Ana, charged with the murders of 16 young men in Orange County, most of whom were sexually abused. Prosecutors could present up to 29 other murders at a penalty phase if Kraft is convicted.

“Airplane Hill” was listed fifth in a list of 61 handwritten entries on a sheet of paper found in Kraft’s car after his May 14, 1983, arrest. Prosectors allege that the Airplane Hill reference must be to the Huntington Beach location, but Kraft’s attorneys told jurors Monday that the reference could have been to several other places as well.

For instance, they pointed out, Kraft lived in Long Beach most of his adult life. As a result, they said that Kraft would have been familiar with two other areas known as Airplane Hill--one near Signal Hill and the other just south of Long Beach State.

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Bryan F. Brown told the jury that Kraft also lived for many years with his family in Midway City, and on his own in Sunset Beach, which would have made him familiar with the Airplane Hill where the John Doe was found.

Brown said he does not dispute that there may be other areas known as Airplane Hill. His argument is that one has to look at numerous entries on the Kraft list to see a pattern of references to victims.

And, he says, 43 of 45 victims he links to Kraft can be found on the list.

The Airplane Hill victim remains unidentified despite the tattoos and some information that he may have been involved in an East Los Angeles County gang, according to Huntington Beach Police Investigator Charles Hattabaugh.

The defense put on evidence Monday involving four different murders included in the charges. Kraft attorney C. Thomas McDonald explained to the court that he had to jump around from charge to charge to present witnesses when they were available.

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