Convicted serial killer Randy Steven Kraft was sentenced to death Wednesday by an Orange County judge, who said the mutilation murders carried out by the 44-year-old computer consultant were “hard for me to comprehend.”
“I can’t imagine doing these things in scientific experiments on a dead person, much less someone alive,” Santa Ana Superior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin said.
The judge’s decision to uphold the jury’s Aug. 11 death verdict against Kraft in the murders of 16 young men in Orange County over a 12-year period brought a mix of tears and grim smiles of satisfaction from many family members whose loved ones were victims.
One father, Darwin Hall of Pocatello, Ida., shouted out as Kraft was led from the courtroom: “Burn in hell, Kraft!”
Prosecutors have accused Kraft of killing 45 young men in Southern California, Oregon and Michigan, where he traveled on business. But they believe, based on a handwritten, coded, so-called “death list” found in his car, that his victims may number more than 65, which would make him the nation’s worst serial killer.
The victims--most of whom were between 18 and 25--usually were dumped along freeway ramps or in remote areas, and many were sexually mutilated. Prosecutors believe most victims were hitchhikers--many of them Marines--who were drugged by Kraft, then strangled after being overpowered.
McCartin remarked on the brutality of the crimes and said one of the Orange County victims had cigarette lighter burns to his eyes and body, his mouth had been packed with dirt, his genitals removed, and the body punctured by a swizzle stick and left wrapped around a tree.
As the judge spoke, Darwin Hall wrapped an arm around his wife, Lois, who began to cry. McCartin was talking about their son, Mark Howard Hall, 22, whose body was found in Silverado Canyon in January, 1976.
“I don’t know of any type of person who could do that to another human being,” McCartin said.
Kraft listened with his chin resting on his hand. When given a chance to speak, he was brief: “I have not murdered anyone, and any reasonable review of the record will show that.”
Ten of the 12 jurors who set Kraft’s punishment at death and one of the alternates were among the spectators in the crowded courtroom. Most indicated that they attended the sentencing because they had invested more than a year of their lives in the trial.
“I can still shut my eyes and see the evidence,” juror Carol Neal said Wednesday. “There won’t be an end for me until he’s gone.”
With automatic appeals in death penalty cases, experts said it could take at least 10 years before Kraft could be executed.