Friday, October 30, 2009

Claremont creepiness

If you don't spook easily on Halloween perhaps these true tales of Claremont creepiness will get your skin crawling.

Twenty years ago - August 11, 1989 to be exact - Randy Steven Kraft was sentenced to death by an Orange County judge.

Kraft is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College back in the day when it was called Claremont Men's College. The convicted serial killer was found guilty of murdering 16 young men and teenagers, most of whom were brutally tortured and sexually abused.

Kraft is suspected in dozens of other murders throughout the 1970s and 1980s and is high on the list of the county's most prolific serial killers. He still awaits his ultimate fate while locked up at San Quentin State Prison. To my knowledge, he's the only Claremont Colleges graduate or former Claremont resident on death row.

Then there's the notorious case of the Rose Petal Murder involving Claremont native Kristin Rossum. Ten years ago on June 5, 1999, Rossum married Greg De Villers at Claremont's quaint Padua Hills Theater.

Greg was found dead the following year with drugs in his system and rose petals scattered over his body. Police initially believed he committed suicide but prosecutors in San Diego, where the couple lived, convinced a jury that Rossum was responsible for his death and staged it to look like a suicide.

In the highly publicized trial, Rossum was found guilty of murdering her husband using a lethal amount of an opiate 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is believed that Rossum, a former San Diego County toxicologist, stole the drug from her workplace. Handed a life sentence without the possibility of parole, Rossum's new home is the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla.

Another chilling tale unfolded 5 years ago tomorrow. On October 31, 2004, Evgeniy Lushevskiy from Philadelphia was visiting a friend at Havey Mudd College and decided to go for a solo hike on Mt. Baldy.

When he didn't return the following day, Claremont police were called to investigate. About a week later, his backpack was found off a hiking trail containing a video camera. Police watched the film, seeing the 19-year-old build a campfire on Halloween night and watching the sunrise the following morning. The tape ended after that.

Despite over 100 search parties, no other traces of Evgeniy have ever been found. His disappearance remains Claremont's only unsolved missing persons case.

Happy Halloween.

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