PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The "Scorecard Killer" is one of the most prolific serial killers in U.S. history, tied to as many as 67 murders — most in California and about half a dozen in Oregon.
But Randy Kraft also paid a midweek visit to Grand Rapids.
Thirty-five years after his arrest, Kraft, now 73, is still on death row in California.
A WATER TANK AND TWO BODIES
It's a steady climb up and around tree-lined curves heading west on Buth Drive NW from West River Drive, past century-old farm houses. In a clearing on the left, a massive water tank — stark, white — occupies the highest ground. Save for an occasional maintenance worker, Plainfield Township's water tank gets few visitors. And why would it?
But on Dec. 9, 1982, a frigid Thursday morning, a Consumers Power meter reader who was there just to do his job happened upon them on the frozen ground: the bodies of two men.
Both were face up. One was naked, the other shoeless and without a coat. They lay feet to feet at a right angle, frozen and partially drifted over with snow. The drag marks made it clear somebody had dumped them there.
"We had two bodies that were obviously molested, mutilated and unclothed and dead," recalled now-retired Kent County Sheriff's Department Detective Edward Rusticus, who helped investigate the murders.
Locals knew they were dealing with a monster unlike anything they had seen before.
"You wonder, what's going to happen? Is this the start of something? Or is it just an aberration?"then-Kent County Prosecutor David Sawyer said.
It wasn't long before authorities identified the bodies as 20-year-old Chris Schoenborn and his 24-year-old cousin Dennis Alt.
"They were hardworking farm boys, totally dedicated to the lifestyle that they had grown up in," Schoenborn's mom Carol Luneke said.
"It's something that you can only imagine might happen to somebody else," she continued. "Truly. These things don't happen to ordinary people like us."
Courtesy photos of Dennis Alt and Chris Schoenborn.Schoenborn lived and worked on the family's centennial farm on 20th Avenue in Wright Township, raising hogs and row after row of apple trees. A Grand Rapids West Catholic High School graduate, member of the prom court and a natural mechanic, as his mother called him, he was expected to help take over the farm one day.
Alt came from a well-known farm family in the Comstock Park area. A Kenowa Hills High School graduate, he was one 10 kids, worked on his uncle's farm and loved to hunt, fish and snowmobile.
"They were great families," Rusticus, the retired detective, said. "They were kind of from that Fruit Ridge area. They were church people, good people, raised good families."
"It was shocking," Kent County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cohle, who performed the autopsies on Alt and Schoenborn, said. "These were two young men from prominent farming families known to be in good health, not known to have any bad habits or bad associates."
"How can you end up with two individuals, two young individuals, 20 and 24, good physical character, and there they are," Sawyer, the retired prosecutor, said. "They had had some mutilation and they obviously had been abused."
DEADLY COCKTAILS AT THE AMWAY GRAND
The cousins had last been seen alive two nights before their bodies were found at the annual horticulture convention at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids. It was a big deal for fruit farmers: a chance to learn more about their trade and trade stories. It's where the Michigan Apple Queen was crowned.
They had drinks that night at Tootsie Van Kelly's, a popular hotel bar, but never made it home.
"That was not like him not to show up for chores in the morning and not to contact us, so in your heart, you know that something is very, very wrong," Schoenborn's mom said.
The Alts and Schoenborns had searched for their sons. Schoenborn's parents sat in the hotel lobby beneath a massive chandelier, hoping the two would walk by.
"You're looking for them, you know they're missing. Where are they? This is the last that we knew, they were down there," she said.
Cohle's autopsies raised more questions than they answered.
Schoenborn had been sexually mutilated with an Amway Grand Plaza pen.
But Cohle saw no obvious signs of how the young men died.
"There really was very little in the way of injury," he said. "Maybe a few scratches, but nothing traumatic, nothing that would have disabled either one of them, or even restrained either one of them. There were no ligature marks on the wrists or ankles.
"How they could have been at this convention at the Amway Grand and then nobody saw them leave?"
And how could anyone have overpowered the two men? Alt was 5-foot-6 and weighed 130 pounds, but Schoenborn was 6-foot-1, weighed 200 pounds and wrestled in high school.
"So it was hard to conceive that he (Schoenborn) would against his will and without incident have left this convention and ended up dead. It was an incredible mystery," Cohle said.
Then came the toxicology test results. Both had alcohol in their systems and diazepam, more commonly known as Valium.
"It would make them very sleepy, and indeed it could make them pass out — the combination of alcohol and Valium," Cohle said.
The cocktail would have made it easy for a killer to choke them to death without resistance.
"They'd be either minimally conscious or unconscious and I think it would be pretty easy to suffocate them," Cohle said.
From there, the investigation stalled.
"This one just occupied us so much because you sat there. We hadn't encountered something like this, such a serial killer," said Rusticus, the detective who helped on the case. "We didn't focus strongly in on a suspect. We had no suspect."
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