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Computer Programmer Convicted Of 16 Sex-Torture Murders of Young Men

May 12, 1989

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ Randy Kraft, a computer programmer accused of leading a double life as a brutalizer and killer of 37 young men in three states, was convicted Friday of 16 murders.

The jury, after deliberating into a 12th day, also found Kraft guilty of one count of sodomy and one count of sexual mayhem. He was acquitted of one sodomy count.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin scheduled a hearing Tuesday to set a date for a penalty phase of the trial to decide whether Kraft, 44, should be put to death.

The case already has taken six years from arrest to verdict, hampered by a multitude of defense motions, the illness of a judge, the size of the case and the need for defense attorneys to prepare for the possible introduction of the 21 other deaths into the penalty phase.

Judy Nelson, whose son Geoffrey Nelson, 18, was slain in 1983, burst into tears after the verdicts were read.

″I know he’s guilty. He knows he’s guilty. Every mother in there had 16 beautiful sons, and he should pay,″ she said.

The defendant sighed loudly as the court clerk began reading the verdicts, then showed no other emotion during the 30-minute recitation.

Besides the 12-year span of Orange County slayings for which he was convicted, authorities have said Kraft is suspected of killing 21 young men in California, Oregon and Michigan.

Deputy District Attorney Bryan Brown contends that Kraft picked up hitchhikers, disabled them by plying them with drugs and alcohol, sexually tortured and mutilated them, and then strangled them.

The prosecutor described Kraft, who has an unusually high IQ of 129, as a fetishist who kept some of the dismembered parts of his victims in his refrigerator freezer.

Rodger DeVaul Sr., whose son Rodger, 20, was among the victims, said he was relieved the ordeal of trial had finally ended.

″It was six years ago that he was arrested. There’s no way it should take this long to come to a verdict,″ he said. ″There is no need for the families to suffer this long.″

Brown would not comment, saying only ″It’s tough right now when we’re between these phases.″

Jurors considered seven months of testimony including evidence of necrophilia.

When Kraft was arrested, police said they found 47 color photographs of young men, many of them nude and apparently dead. They also found a notebook with more than 60 handwritten notations, which prosecutors have called a ″death list.″

Kraft hasn’t spoken about the case since a jailhouse interview in which he denied killing anyone.

He was arrested when California Highway Patrol officers pulled him over for erratic driving and discovered a strangled Marine in the passenger seat.

Defense attorneys C. Thomas McDonald and James Merwin never called Kraft to the witness stand. They argued that evidence against him was inconclusive, and they attempted to raise doubts by posing a series of questions during closing arguments.

″I don’t think you’ll find a single piece of direct evidence that Randy killed these people,″ said Merwin.

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