An Iowa teen who is believed to be one of the earliest victims of a notorious California serial killer has been identified after 49 years.
Long known simply as "John Doe," the teen was identified Tuesday as Michael Ray Schlicht of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The Orange County Sheriff's Department in California said in a news release that the teen has long been thought to to be an early victim of Randy Kraft, dubbed the "Scorecard Killer."
Kraft, who remains incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, was convicted of brutalizing and killing 16 men during a decadelong series of slayings in Orange County that ended with his 1983 arrest. Besides the Orange County slayings for which Kraft was convicted in 1989, authorities have said the now 78-year-old is suspected of killing others in California, Oregon and Michigan.
The body of the teen now identified as Schlicht was found on Sept. 14, 1974, as two people were off-roading on a fire road northeast of Laguna Beach, California, the release said. The death of the 17-year-old was initially determined to be accidental due to alcohol and diazepam intoxication.
But other similar deaths in the years that followed caught the attention of investigators who classified them as homicides. Some of the deaths happened within a few miles of where Schlicht's remains were discovered, the release said.
It all ended in 1983 when a California Highway Patrol trooper pulled over Kraft after spotting him weaving and driving on the shoulder of the freeway. In the passenger seat of the vehicle was a strangled U.S. Marine.
"Coded list" of victims
"Around his feet were several empty beer bottles and an open prescription bottle of Lorazepam tablets," the sheriff's office said. "In the trunk of Kraft's vehicle was a coded list believed to be upwards of 67 victims of Kraft's."
Prosecutors described Kraft, a former computer programmer, as a fetishist who kept some of the dismembered parts of his victims in his freezer. After his conviction, he told the judge, "I have not murdered anyone and I believe a reasonable review of the record will show that."
John Doe's death got another look in November 2022, when sheriff's department investigators submitted tissue samples to a private forensic biotechnology company to develop a DNA profile. Investigators then loaded the profile into a genealogy database to begin building a family tree.
That eventually led them to Kansas City, Missouri, to obtain a DNA sample from a woman believed to be the victim's mother.
"Her DNA sample was used to positively identify the decedent as Michael Ray Schlicht of Cedar Rapids, IA," the sheriff's department said.
Family members have been notified of the identification and are in the process of having a headstone installed to mark Schlicht's final resting place, authorities said.
The sheriff's department is now investigating Schlicht's homicide case. Anyone with information related to the case is asked to contact Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS or crimestoppers.org.
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