Interstate 5 runs the west coast of the US. Parts of it are scenic. Parts of it travel through major cities. Parts of it are isolated enough to become a favorite haunt for serial killers. If you just search for I-5 serial killers, you’ll be greeted with a list of them. At one point in the 1970s, there were 3 serial killers either picking up victims or disposing of them along these desolate sections. This overlap happened again in the 1980s. Even Zodiac is thought to have tried to abduct a woman from I-5.
Randall Woodfield – Woodfield was man whose star was on the rise. At least, everyone thought it was. He was even offered a contract by the Green Bay Packers in 1974. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out and he failed to lock up a position on the final roster of the team. Of course, his failure to make the roster wasn’t just because he wasn’t good enough. He’d been in trouble with the law before and found it again when he flashed a couple of women in Portland. A year later, Woodfield raised the stakes. He would pull a knife on a woman, sexually assault her, and then steal her stuff. He was arrested when Portland police put female officers undercover. He served only four years. He was released from prison in 1979 and things would escalate again after his release. His first murder was a former classmate that he raped then beat and stabbed to death. More would follow. A string of brutal rapes, robberies, and a few more murders would occur over the next year. Woodfield was convicted of one murder, but he was already linked to three others when he was convicted (as well as being convicted of rape, sodomy, and attempted murder). However, he is suspected of more than 40 murders. He is currently serving life in prison, but as technology improves, DNA has linked him to five more confirmed murders.
Patrick Kearney, William Bonin, & Randy Kraft – While these are individual serial killers that did not work as a unit, understanding them requires all three to be in the picture. All three men liked young male homosexuals. They trolled the same areas for victims and they dumped the bodies of the victims in similar locations. Between the three of them, they are suspected of 110 murders. Oddly, the police did not believe there were any serial killers working I-5 when the Freeway Killer theory started to gain ground. Imagine their shock when it turned out there were 3 different Freeway Killers.
- Kearney was a necrophile. He enjoyed mutilating and dismembering his victims. He is suspected of killing 43 men between 1968 and 1977. He would pick them up in bars and clubs or while they were hitchhiking, take them back to his house or another predetermined destination, the kill shot would be delivered to the temple. Once they were dead and he grew tired of them, he would dispose of their remains in ravines, canyons, the desert, and along the highway. On numerous occasions, he bathed the body parts to remove evidence. He was caught when he made a serious mistake. A young man named LaMay told a neighbor he was going to meet a man named Dave that he had met in the gym. When he arrived at the address Dave Hill wasn’t there, but his roommate, Patrick Kearney was. LaMay’s disappearance and link to Dave Hill initially made Hill the prime suspect, but after a little digging, the focus shifted to Kearney.
- Kraft was active between 1972 and 1983. He also enjoyed young men whom he raped, tortured, mutilated, and then killed. A true sexual sadist, Kraft was happiest when his victims were pleading for him to stop. He was convicted of 16 murders, but a coded piece of paper turned out to be a list of his victims (earning him the moniker The Score Card Killer as well as The Freeway Killer) and there were more than 16 names on it. It contained 65 entries, not all of which have been connected to victims, but he was meticulous and cryptic. For example, one of the none decoded entries reads: 2 in 1 Hitch. The other entries marked “2 in 1” all refer to double murders. Kraft also worked with a handful of different accomplices and some of them also went missing or were found murdered and match entries in Kraft’s scorecard. Kraft was apprehended while trying to dispose of a body, while driving drunk. He was spotted driving erratically by a California Highway Patrol unit, who pulled him over and conducted a sobriety test. He failed. One officer attempted to rouse the passenger only to discover he was dead (strangely, Kraft’s pants were unbuttoned at the time he exited the vehicle, but he was not known to be a necrophile) with visible ligature marks to his neck. This murder was not on the score card, bringing the total to 66. Furthermore, Kraft was convicted of the murder of a young man named Eric Church and the score card does not seem to include an entry for him… Bringing the total to 67.
- Bonin had more accomplices than anyone else on this list. A couple of which became victims at a later date. Bonin was active between 1979 and 1980. After the debacle of not thinking there were any serial killers then discovering Patrick Kearney was indeed a serial killer who liked to pick up hitchhikers on I-5 and dispose of body parts there as well, the heat was on. To make matters worse, after Kearney was arrested and convicted, the bodies just kept coming. The Freeway Killer was somehow still at large. So when Bonin took up the trade of serial killer, everyone was on high alert. However, in that year or so, Bonin and his accomplices managed to kill 21 young men. Interestingly, it was a “near victim” that brought Bonin to the attention of law enforcement. For some reason, Bonin picked up a man named William Pugh who was hitchhiking. After driving a little ways, Bonin asked if Pugh wanted to have sex. Pugh didn’t and attempted to flee the vehicle. Bonin caught him and confessed to Pugh that he enjoyed picking up hitchhikers and sexually abusing them. Inexplicably, Bonin then dropped Pugh off at Pugh’s home without harming him. Pugh was then arrested for auto theft and after hearing about a victim on the news, told his lawyer that he suspected Bonin was the culprit (it wasn’t, it was one of Kraft’s victims). A search warrant was granted and low and behold, Bonin was indeed the predator he had claimed to be.
Roger Kibbe – We’ll switch it up a little with Kibbe, as he preferred female victims. Kibbe, also known as the I-5 Strangler was active between 1977 and 1987. Also, as far as serial killers go, he was fairly tame. He claimed 7 victims. He would find a girl, bind them, duct tape their mouths, and then rape them, before strangling them. His favorite hunting ground was the numerous hitchhikers along I-5. He did cut off their hair, but this was mainly to remove evidence of the duct tape. On a side note, in 1977 he was convicted of another crime and served almost 9 years. When he was released in 1986, he went on a spree and all but two of the murders were committed in 1986.
Edmund Kemper – Kemper was a large man who got a taste for blood as a teen. He shot his grandmother during an argument when he was just 15 years old. When he grandfather got home, he shot him as well. When asked why, he said he wanted to know what it felt like and he killed his grandfather because he knew the old man would be angry about Kempe shooting his grandmother. He served 5 years for those murders. During his time in an institution for the murders, he grew to be 6’9″ tall and he was tested as having an IQ of 140 (well above average). When he was released, Kemper began a killing spree that would last almost a year. During that time, he’d kill six female students (mostly picked up while hitchhiking), his mother, and his mother’s best friend. Of the six students, 5 were college students and one was a high school student. He killed them, took them back to his apartment, and then raped them (yep, another necrophile). Kemper hung out a cop bar however and stayed ahead of the case because he was never considered a suspect and his cop pals discussed the case with him. He was caught after murdering his mother and her friend because he called one of his police friends and confessed to it. It would take a little longer to get him to confess to the other murders. Now that he has, he doesn’t shut up about it. He frequently gives interviews, stating that he is trying to stop others from becoming like him. He also sees himself as a victim and talks about how he is as much a victim as those he killed.
Random I-5 killers – There are about a dozen other I-5 killers. As mentioned above, even Zodiac may have picked up a potential victim from that stretch of road. Several serial killers over the decades have picked up victims or disposed of victims on that interstate. Some have lead to confusion because it overlapped with other serial killers (Martin Lee Sanders was a serial killer in the early 1980s that overlapped with Woodfield, however instead of killing in Oregon, he was killing in Washington… Since both men liked to sexual assault their victims before killing them, there were questions about just how far the I-5 Killer travelling). Also, non-serial killers will dump bodies there from time to time. It’s a jumbled mess and sorting out which victims belong to which killers is difficult.
However, I-5 sets a precedent. The experiences of those involved with serial killers on I-5 has been useful to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their search for serial killers along The Highway of Tears. (The same strategies have also been used to identify and capture serial killers working on Interstate 70 in the US)