After nearly half a century, authorities have identified the remains of a man who is believed to have been killed by Randy Kraft, California’s notorious “Scorecard Killer” who targeted young men in the 1970s and ‘80s.
Michael Ray Schlicht, who died when he was 17 in 1974, was identified Tuesday by investigators with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department using investigative genetic genealogy.
The Iowa native was found dead on Sept. 14, 1974, on the side of a trail in what is now Aliso Viejo. He had been dead for three to five days, according to authorities, and died of alcohol and diazepam intoxication. His death was initially determined to be accidental.
Homicide investigators with the Sheriff’s Department realized in 1980 that there were other young men who had died of the same intoxication, and those deaths were classified as homicides, the department said.
“Over the years, multiple young men were found deceased throughout Orange County and Southern California, including several within a few miles of where [Schlicht’s] remains were discovered,” the department said in a news release.
It was not until 1983 when two California Highway Patrol officers pulled over Kraft, a 38-year-old computer technician from Long Beach, and discovered a dead Marine in the front seat that authorities began to piece together the homicides. Kraft’s deadly trail took investigators to Oregon and Michigan, and numerous bodies were also found in Orange County.
The officers discovered photos of other young male victims, apparently dead, under the floor mat of the car. Kraft was convicted of 16 murders in 1989, though he is suspected in dozens more. Eight of the men he killed had diazepam — commonly known as Valium — in their system, like Schlicht, prosecutors said.
Kraft’s nickname came from the list police found in the back of his car. It was a list of “notations” that prosecutors at Kraft’s trial said was a “death list,” showing each person he had killed. Prosecutors dubbed him the “Scorecard Killer.”
Kraft, 78, is still being held on death row at San Quentin State Prison.
After 49 years of not knowing Schlicht’s identity, Sheriff’s Department investigators said they were able to generate a DNA profile for their John Doe victim by submitting tissue samples to a forensic biotechnology company.
Once they had the profile, sheriff’s investigators uploaded the DNA to a “law enforcement-approved genealogy database” and began building a family tree of the victim.
After months of researching, investigators connected the man’s DNA to people believed to be his grandparents. When they contacted a granddaughter of the potential grandparents, the woman told investigators she had not seen her brother since 1974 — the year the man was killed.
Close to their answer, investigators then received a DNA sample from a woman they believed to be their victim’s mother. It was a match and they were able to identify the dead 17-year-old as Schlicht.
A relative of Schlicht declined to comment to The Times on his identification.