It was two years ago that Philip Taylor Kramer vanished. But his family hunts for him as though it were yesterday because the last, tantalizing clue to his disappearance came straight from Kramer’s mouth:
En route from Los Angeles International Airport to his home in Thousand Oaks on Feb. 12, 1995, the software executive and former bassist for the rock group Iron Butterfly made a series of cellular phone calls.
Kramer called the band’s original drummer, Ron Bushy, saying: “Bush, I love you more than life itself.”
He called his wife, Jennifer: “Whatever happens, I’ll always be with you.”
And one minute shy of noon, somewhere on the Ventura Freeway near Calabasas, Kramer dialed 911.
“This is Philip Taylor Kramer,” he told the emergency operator. “I’m going to kill myself. And I want everyone to know O.J. Simpson is innocent. They did it.”
Cryptic as it seems, his family and friends saw Kramer’s last call as a strong clue to one of several possible fates other than suicide:
Insanity. Kidnapping and murder. Or abduction by foreign agents who wanted to pump Kramer for nuclear secrets.
Kramer’s family has enlisted private eyes, psychics, tabloid talk show hosts and an Ohio congressman in its search for the missing man.
His relatives have chased innumerable leads. They have launched an informational site on the World Wide Web (www.amci.com/missing).
And they have printed thousands of posters with pictures of Kramer and his green 1993 Ford Aerostar van, with California license number 3EBU024.
They have pleaded for help from anyone who might be able to bring back the cheerful, strapping, blue-eyed musician, father and theoretical mathematician who just happened to know how to steer a nuclear warhead straight to its target.
They refuse to believe that Kramer, 42, killed himself. Because, despite the long, nasty bankruptcy dispute his software company was undergoing, and despite the dizzying math that seemed at times to obsess him beyond reason, Kramer was not the suicidal type, they say.
And because, they say, Kramer’s last known words rang with hidden meaning.
Kramer once told his father, Ray Kramer, that if ever he were in trouble but could not speak freely, he would call 911 and threaten suicide.
Kramer’s relatives believe that the weird mention of O.J. Simpson might hark back to something once said at a staff meeting for Total Multimedia Inc., Kramer’s Thousand Oaks software firm.
A mystical shaman associated with one of Kramer’s co-workers made a psychic pronouncement that became sort of a running joke at the lab. Referring perhaps to space aliens, the shaman said: “O.J. Simpson is innocent. They did it.”
Kramer’s sister, Kathy Kramer, clings to hope.
She is willing to try anything--sitting for interviews with a UFO magazine, hiring parapsychologists, even appearing on the Sally Jessy Raphael show, where a psychic envisioned Kramer underwater, dead.
“For me, it’s a matter of keeping people thinking about my brother,” she said. “And getting the information out there that he’s still missing, he’s 6-foot-5, and he has a family that misses him very much.”
Jennifer Kramer no longer speaks publicly about her husband’s disappearance because she cannot bear to keep reliving it, Kathy Kramer said.
But for some in the federal government, Kramer’s disappearance is a matter of national security.
Kramer’s work history was enough to get Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. (D-Ohio) tugging on the FBI’s coattails, demanding that Director Louis J. Freeh order agents to investigate the man’s disappearance.
Once an aerospace engineer with secret clearance, Kramer had worked for Northrop in the mid-1980s, trouble shooting the bug-ridden guidance system on the nuclear-tipped MX missile.
And just before he vanished, Kramer had feverishly announced he was near a breakthrough on a set of theoretical math worked out with his father that could make it possible to transmit information--and matter--faster than the speed of light.
“This is not your average missing-person case, with a kid’s face on a milk carton,” said Paul Marcone, Traficant’s chief of staff. “He had a lot of top-secret knowledge. This was revolutionary, groundbreaking stuff that could be worth billions of dollars.”
Marcone said Kramer’s disappearance could have followed one of three scenarios:
Kramer killed himself; others killed him after forcing him to make the phone calls, or they forced him to make the calls and then abducted him.
“Someone like Taylor Kramer . . . could be very valuable to a country like China, who could build a rocket to reach California but wouldn’t have it quite sophisticated enough to hit its target,” Marcone said. “Taylor Kramer had the information that could make that missile hit Muscle Beach, if that’s what they wanted.”
Traficant’s office has gone so far as to enlist Leonard Buchanan, a Maryland psychic practiced in the field of parapsychology called “remote viewing.”
To date, the FBI has simply opened a file, run background checks on Kramer and offered assistance to local investigators, asserting in letters to Traficant that there is no indication that any foreign intelligence service would have wanted to kidnap him.
“The FBI has been assisting when requested by the Ventura County sheriff’s office in the Kramer matter,” said Gary Auer, special agent in charge of the FBI office in the county. “To date, no information has been developed lending any credence to the proposition that Mr. Kramer’s disappearance was the result of criminal activity by anyone, U.S. citizens or foreign governments.”
And so far, Ventura County detectives have found no solid leads among the tips offered by psychics or anyone else who phoned in after Kramer vanished.
“We’re still working anything that comes in,” said Ventura County Sheriff’s Det. Tom Bennett, citing the flurry of calls that land whenever “America’s Most Wanted” airs the Kramer saga on TV.
“But the last really, really solid lead was Feb. 12, 1995,” he said. “That’s the last thing we can definitely say that he was at a certain location at a certain time.”
People claimed to have seen Kramer at a Georgia gas station, an Arizona restaurant and sites in Montana and Mexico. But no purported sighting panned out, Bennett said.
“If anyone sees somebody they think is him, they should call local law enforcement where they are so the person can be identified as not him,” Bennett said. “And if it is him, we’ll want to know about it.”