Orange County John Doe (1974) identified after 49 years may be victim of serial killer

December 05, 2023

Warning: The following post contains descriptions of murder and sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.

On Sept. 14, 1974, the body of a young man was discovered in Orange County, California, near a roadside area approximately 3 Miles south of Calle Corta and 4 Miles West of El Toro Rd, in unincorporated Laguna Hills (now Aliso Viejo.)

The discovery was made along a trail by two men who were off-roading on a fire road.

The man was described as being as being between the ages of 18-25, around 6ft tall and 178lbs, "well nourished." He had shoulder length strawberry blonde hair, and since he was estimated to have been dead for an approximately 3 - 5 days, was still recognisable.

Autopsy revealed that John Doe had died as a result of an accidental overdose, as he had both alcohol and diazepam in his system. They took a copy of his fingerprints and dental records, hoping they could be used to identify him later.

His likeness was released to the public in the hope that someone would recognize him, however, nobody ever came forward to identify the young man and he was eventually laid to rest in El Toro Memorial Park in an unmarked grave.

A couple of years later, in 1980, authorities noticed similarities between several other deaths of young men in and around Southern California in 1978. These other young men had also died with both alcohol and diazepam in their systems and their deaths had been determined to be homicides.

Investigators were suspicious that there was a link, but did not yet know to whom.

In the spring of 1983, a man named Randy Steven Kraft was arrested at a traffic stop after a California Highway Patrol officer found him with the body of a dead young man in the passenger seat of his vehicle.

The victim was identified as Terry Lee Gambre, a U.S marine whom Kraft had strangled to death.

A further search of the vehicle turned up alcohol and prescription drugs, and when patrol searched the trunk, they found a list written in code, with over 67 coded entries believed to be the man's victims. It is believed he had been on a killing spree for an entire decade before he was eventually caught red handed with a body in his car. 

Kraft was soon discovered to be a rapist and serial killer, and was convicted of the murder of 16 individuals several years later in 1989. He was given the media moniker the "Scorecard Killer,” and although convicted of 16 murders it is believed he may have many, many more- with a potential 61 victims.

He had also been dubbed the “Southern California Strangler”, and the “Freeway Killer,” and was known for raping, torturing, and killing his victims, sometimes keeping pieces of their decapitated bodies in his home. He would sometimes cut off his victim’s genitals, burn them with lighters, and violently beat them.

In the mid-1960s, Kraft worked at a gay bar in Garden Grove, Orange County, and would often drive to Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach in search of sex. He was arrested in 1966 after approaching an undercover officer and charged with lewd conduct. He joined the U.S Airforce after graduating college but was discharged in the summer of 1969 after informing his superiors that he was gay. It is believed Kraft began first assaulting males in 1970, starting with a 13-year-old runaway he found at Huntington Beach and convinced to "live with him" in his apartment. The boy was drugged and sexually assaulted multiple times, managing to escape some hours later while Kraft was at work. It was discovered that Kraft targeted US Marines and would often ask them if they wanted a ride somewhere, offering them alcohol if they accepted. Photographs of victims recovered during a search of Kraft’s home served as evidence that he would sometimes take the victims to his residence to further torture and sexually assault them before killing them and transporting their bodies elsewhere for disposal. He would stuff tissue paper into their nostrils and objects into their rectums, a detail that police believed indicated he could have served in the military, as this technique is often used to stop purge fluid leaking from the body after death. 

Kraft is currently 78 years old and is incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison.

More than a year ago, the Orange County Sheriff’s department obtained a DNA sample from the Orange County John Doe, and submitted it to Othram Laboratories- a forensic biotechnology company that has aided in the identification of John and Jane Does over the last several years. Othram worked with the OCSD to finally give John Doe back his identity and after entering the DNA profile into genetic genealogy databases, found familial links. Ten months later, John Doe's grandparents were identified, and from there, they were able to track down their living granddaughter. She told investigators that her brother had went missing from Cedar Rapids, Iowa when he was just 17 years old in the spring of 1974. Officers made their way to Kansas City, MO, where a woman they suspected to be John Doe's mother allowed them to take a DNA sample to test it against that of the unidentified victim.

It was a match and investigators were finally able to identify the Orange County John Doe as Michael Ray Schlicht.

Police believe that Schlicht may be one of Kraft’s early victims, as more young men who had died much the same way would be later found several miles from Laguna Hills, where Schlicht’s body was initially found.

Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to contact Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS or crimestoppers.org

Sources: [X][X][X]

    



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