In September 1974, two individuals were off-roading in present-day Aliso Viejo, California on a fire road when they discovered a deceased male over the side of the trail. At the time of discovery, the section of Orange County was considered a part of Laguna Hills. It was determined that the remains belonged to a white male between the ages of 18 and 25 years. The man was estimated to have died three to five days prior to his remains being discovered. His manner of death was initially determined to be accidental due to alcohol and diazepam intoxication.
Information regarding the unidentified man was released to the press in hopes that someone would come forward with sufficient information to assist in establishing the unknown man's identity. His fingerprint classification was submitted to the Criminal Identification and Investigation Division in Sacramento, California, the Federal Bureau of Identification, and to Canadian authorities with negative results. After several weeks of efforts to establish his identity, the man was interred at El Toro Memorial Park in an unmarked grave. Efforts were made over the years to establish his identity. Details of the case were entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as UP7648.
Six years later, in 1980, Orange County Sheriff’s Department Homicide investigators noted there were other deaths in 1978 due to alcohol and diazepam intoxication in Southern California, including Orange County. These deaths were classified as homicides. Over the years, multiple young men were found deceased throughout Orange County and Southern California, including several within a few miles of where the remains were discovered.
In May 1983, Randy Steven Kraft, later known as the “Scorecard Killer”, was arrested for murder after a California Highway Patrol officer conducted a traffic stop on Kraft. In the front passenger seat of Kraft’s vehicle was a deceased male, identified as Terry Lee Gambrel. Around his feet were several empty beer bottles and an open prescription bottle of Lorazepam tablets.
In the trunk of Kraft’s vehicle was a coded list believed to be upwards of 67 victims of Kraft’s. In May 1989, Kraft was convicted of 16 murders and sentenced to death. An additional 10 murders Kraft was suspected of committing were not filed by the Orange County District Attorney. He remains incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison. This homicide victim has long been thought to be an early victim of Randy Kraft.
In 2022, Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) investigators submitted forensic evidence to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram scientists used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unidentified man. The casework completed at Othram was funded by the Roads to Justice (RTJ) program and we are grateful for the support funding this case and many other cases. After successfully completing the process, the DNA profile was delivered to OCSD’s Cold Case Team.
In October 2023, after months of work, investigators from OCSD's Cold Case Team identified the possible grandparents of the unidentified homicide victim. Investigators contacted a granddaughter of this couple, who told investigators she had not seen her 17-year-old brother since April of 1974. Investigators traveled to Kansas City, Missouri to obtain a DNA sample from a woman believed to be the mother of victim. Her DNA sample was used to positively identify the decedent as Michael Ray Schlicht of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Schlicht’s family members have been notified and are in the process of having a headstone installed to mark his final resting place.
Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigators now turn their focus to investigating Schlicht’s homicide case. Anyone with information related to this case is encouraged to contact Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS or crimestoppers.org.