One of the grimmest of the grim facts about serial killer Randy Kraft is that there were so many sadistic murders of young men whose bodies were dumped along Southern California’s freeways in the ‘70s and early ‘80s that three men, none of whom knew each other, shared the nickname “The Freeway Killer.”
Kraft operated the longest (roughly 1972-1983). He also might have been the smartest. On the outside he was a successful computer programmer, diligent, hard working and trusted implicitly by his employers. He was out as a gay man, and frequently in stable partnerships. He probably partied too much, with a weakness for Valium, but this was the ‘70s.
In short, few people guessed Kraft was a compulsive sexual sadist who left his house in Long Beach to drive for hours searching for victims, who were men, almost always young, frequently hitchhikers, commonly in the military.
Which is why when I read that a John Doe found naked and beaten to death in Long Beach in November 1974 had recently been identified as a missing 18-year-old Marine, I had two thoughts.
That sounds like a Randy Kraft victim. Then: I wonder who he is on the scorecard?
When Kraft was finally captured investigators found a neat, handwritten note with 61 mysterious notations set in two columns. They soon realized the list was Kraft’s macabre scorecard of his victims, with “EDM” standing for victim Edwin Daniel Moore, for instance. “JAIL OUT” referred to a victim he picked up just after the young man had been released on a misdemeanor charge.
Many of the cryptic notations were ultimately matched with known victims, but many were not, and have long been the source of speculation.
Back to the young Marine, who was known for 37 years as John Doe No. 155. His real name was Oral Alfred Stuart, Jr., known as “Buddy.” He was found naked and beaten to death in a carport in Long Beach on November 10, 1974.
Stuart, 18, had been expected to report to Camp Pendleton in late November; when he didn’t show, the Marines declared him AWOL.
His family never believed he’d desert the Marines, an organization they said he loved. His parents died never having known what happened to their son.
With money from a grant the Cold Case Unit of the Long Beach Police Department decided to review some old cases. The John Doe No. 155 case offered some workable clues: the victim had a Marine-related tattoo and military haircut. They collaborated with military investigators. Buddy’s brother was shown autopsy photos. Identification was made.
Oral "Buddy" Stuart, Jr.
The Kraft connection is not a huge leap. Kraft was known for lingering around Camp Pendleton and targeting young men who needed rides to Los Angeles or other cities in California.
As the Los Angeles Times noted yesterday, Buddy’s brother believes he was a victim of Randy Kraft.
But several details underscore the connection:
Stuart’s body was found quite close to the 605 Freeway in Long Beach. Kraft’s victims were frequently found next to freeways.
Kraft was targeting victims in the summer and fall of ‘74 at a rapid pace, just weeks and days apart. But there appears to be a big gap in October-November, until Nov. 29 when James Dale Reeves was found. The timing of Buddy Stuart’s murder would fit with Kraft’s pattern.
Three unsolved notations from the notorious “scorecard” are potentially interesting:
MC LAKES (Stuart’s body was found at 7890 E. Spring Street in Long Beach, which is The Lakes Apartment Complex)
IOWA (Stuart was from Des Moines)
The Marines have now changed Oral “Buddy” Stuart’s status to honorable discharge, and will hold a full honor guard funeral service at his unmarked grave.