It’s the spooky season, and a Sunday – the perfect time to explore when true crime meets the gridiron, in the form of one of the NFL’s serial killers (yes there’s more than one!).
Some people may not believe football intersects with true crime and frankly that is short-changing both. The NFL needs its own SVU series, but that’s not the point of today’s article.
First things first:
*Trigger warning* The contents of this article is about serial killers which is inherently disturbing. Please do not continue reading, if serial killers and true crime associated topics are not your cup of tea. If you prefer more lighthearted content now or by the end of this article, here is a link to a furry kitten befriending a baby chick. Or feel free to peruse other less violent articles.
*Disclaimer* Only people who have been convicted of murder or are connected to murders post-conviction with undeniable proof (i.e. DNA) will be discussed.
*Definition* There are many definitions for what a serial killer is – Mind Hunters is the best show ever so the FBI’s definition will be used: One offender, two or more victims, at separate times. This is important to mention because it distinguishes these people from other cases when there is not the required “cooling down” period (think Phillip Adam’s case). It also excludes people who don’t have the required quantity (Rae Carruth’s crime).
The NFL’s most prolific serial killer:
Welcome to Randall Woodfield’s origin story.
Born in Salem, Oregon in 1950, Randall was born into a regular middle-class family with no clear dysfunction or abuse present. His mother was a homemaker, and his father was a manager at a phone company. Woodfield was a mostly popular football star in high school.
For an unclear reason, Woodfield developed a “appetite” for deviancy since he was 13. A “peeping Tom” and chronic “exposer,” Woodfield seemed incapable of resisting public indecency. He seemed to enjoy distressing women with the unwanted behaviors. His high school coach covered charges and quieted any rumors, something that probably didn’t help little Randy learn any concept of accountability. His parents sent him to a therapist after his first “exposure”, but the therapist wasn’t concerned by a young boy exploring his new interests. The bias exhibited by the therapist likely didn’t help Woodfield either. Psychologists didn’t feel there was much of a connection between “male teenage antics” and adult behaviors at the time.
The late Ann Rule, True Crime Writer extraordinaire, offered a unique perspective. She proposes that Woodfield was crippled by feelings of insecurity due to his harsh disciplinarian, perfectionist mother who he both loved and resented. Randy also felt overshadowed by his two sisters who were always smarter and better in school. Later in life they were both more accomplished – one was a doctor and the other was a lawyer. Allegedly, Randall felt outnumbered by women in his household, seemingly have a unpleasant relationship with the important female relatives in his life. This likely contributes to his dysfunctional relationship with women in the future. This is in no way justifying his actions, just offering an educated perspective on contributing factors.
It appears that short of one visit in jail, none of Woodfield’s family has had anything to do with him after he was caught and identified as a serial killer. It seemed they didn’t have much to do with him prior to his second prison stay either. During Randy’s crime spree in 1981, he attempted to visit his sister and she said her husband would not allow him to come. He committed two life ending crimes directly after in result of the perceived rejection.
Randall’s journey on the gridiron
After high school, Randall spent a year at an Oregon Community College. He managed to get in trouble there too. He was arrested, but not charged, for breaking in and ransacking his ex-girlfriend’s house.
Upon a planned transfer to Portland State University, Randy’s proclivities for being a flasher continued to escalate. He was arrested many times, and convicted twice for keeping his pants off more than on. His head coach, Ron Stratten claims he wasn’t aware of the charges, he hadn’t been the one to recruit him. He says he would have told prospective NFL teams if he had known. Lets give him the benefit of the doubt.
No one can quite nail down what the Green Bay Packers did or didn’t know when they ran a background check before selecting him in the draft. His lengthy juvenile record was expunged. However, it’s unclear if they were aware of his run ins with the police in college. Either way, they took a chance on him in the 1974 draft as the 428th pick in the last round.
Woodfield attended a mini camp in April of ’74, was given a training regime for the next few months, and then brought back down to training camp in Wisconsin in June, where he stayed into July. Then he got the cheese grater. The Packers are mum on the topic, but rumor has it that his football skills weren’t incredible – his PSU Coach noticed he avoided contact (probably the least unusual thing about Randy), and his playing style clashed with Packers’ Coach Devine’s vision. Others say his off the field behavior was too much of a liability for the team.
Post firing, Randy decided to stay in Wisconsin to hopefully win over the Packers by proving himself by playing semi-pro for the Manitowoc Chiefs. He played in Manitowoc for a year but was let go there too as well despite a good performance. He was arrested for 10 indecent exposure cases in Wisconsin, likely contributing to the Chiefs’ decision.
The caterpillar morphs into the moth
Now unemployed, Randall sought out a career change. The blow to his football career seemingly put him over the edge. What used to be a more passive approach to criminality, became direct.
Once back in Oregon, he was convicted of forcing women into non-consensual acts by firearm and knifepoint, and was given a 10-year prison sentence in 1975. Woodfield had an uncanny ability to disarm male psychologists since he was a child, and he was given a positive review by the mental health professional in prison. He served four of the 10-year sentence.
Whatever restraint Woodfield had prior to prison, was gone post-sentence. Woodfield was extremely absorbed by his appearance – he was the epitome of the creep sending unsolicited dirty texts to girls, except he used snail mail. He sent a more discreet picture to playgirl in 1979 and was given consideration by the magazine. He was not selected for a photo shoot. Randall had a pension for channeling feelings of rejection into violent rage – the magazines’ lack of interest began his final crime spree.
Texas Native, Shari Lynn Hull was born in 1960. Little is known about her life until it’s premature ending. At age 20, Shari was a college student and part-time janitor for the cleaning company her parents owned. She was cleaning an office one evening in 1981 with her best friend and fellow student Beth Wilmot (some sources have named this woman Lisa Garcia), when Woodfield broke in and assaulted and attempted to end both women’s lives. Wilmot played dead and was able to call 911 when Woodfield left, bringing help in time to get both young ladies to the hospital alive. Wilmot was the lone survivor, and she testified against Randall in the case that ended with him being sentenced to life. Ms Hull’s legacy and the incredible bravery and strength of Beth Wilmot will not be forgotten.
A different kind of stat
In terms of serial killers, there was very little that distinguished Randall from those like him – his criminal patterns as seen below are similar to many others. He even had a VW Bug he drove state to state like Ted Bundy – his was gold though, not tan.
Location: Up and down interstate 5 – Mostly Oregon, California, and possibly Washington. Hence his nicknames the “I-5 Killer,” and the “I-5 Bandit.” Pretty much every serial killer ever operated in the west coat – it would be harder to list the serial killers that didn’t. Others in the best coast: Ted Bundy, Jerry Brudos, Gary Ridgway, etc.
Modus operandi (MO): Typically preceded death of female victims with forced physical acts. Chester Turner, Randy Steven Kraft, Richard Ramirez. Then he discharged an firearm in the occipital portion of their head. Lonnie David Franklin Jr., Aileen Wuornos, the Zodiac Killer.
Years he committed crimes: 1979-1981. Gary Ridgway, David Carpenter, Joseph James DeAngelo.
Number of victims: 7 confirmed. Convicted of 1 death. Post-conviction he was linked definitively to 6 other deaths via DNA. He has been connected to 18-44 unconfirmed deaths. Many DA’s avoided charging Randall for additional charges because it would be expensive, and he was already spending life in prison Aileen Wuornos, David Carpenter, Derrick Todd Lee also had 7 confirmed deaths.
Type of victim: Young white women in their 20’s – give or take 10 years. Ted Bundy, Robert Lee Yates, Edmund Kemper.
As some of the sketches showed, Randall called back to his football days with his one distinguishing identifier. He wore athletic tape or Band-Aids across the bridge of his nose like players did at the time. The reason for this was not entirely clear, although one detective stated it was because he thought victims wouldn’t be able to identify him with the tape off.
The beginning of the end
Woodfield’s reign of terror ended as abruptly as it began. Randall’s pace of crimes was increasing – he went from having a cool down period of 5 weeks, to 4 weeks, to mere hours in between crimes. It would only be a matter of time before he would be caught as his self-control continued to deteriorate.
The Oregon detectives were suspicious of him based on his prior criminal record, and loose social ties to many of his victims. After Ms Wilmot identified him as her attacker in a lineup, the police obtain a warrant to search his home. They found firearm cleaning supplies and bullets. However, while the police were investigating, Randall’s landlady brought them his phone records – bills for calls in an I-5 shaped pattern from Washington to California. Just like the crimes that seemingly had his MO.
Once identified in the line up, Woodfield was arrested just four days later. When word spread that Randall had been detained, indictments from different jurisdictions in Washington and Oregon were sent to Marion County, and then ignored. Randy pled not guilty to the initial charges and his public defender claimed he was falsely identified as the perpetrator, with the witness being manipulated by the detectives via hypnosis.
Unsurprisingly, after just 3.5 hours of deliberation, the jury found him guilty of Hull’s death and Wilmot’s attack and assault. He was sentenced to 90 years. At the end of 1981, Woodfield had his sentence increased by 35 years after being found guilty of another violent incident.
What his family, friends and teammates said:
Often people never suspected that the person in their life was a serial killer, or capable of being one. With Woodfield it was a bit of a mixed bag.
Family: nothing besides the father saying Randall wasn’t the son he used to know during his jail house visit- it’s unclear what he meant by that. Randall’s father was worried in 1975 when his son re-developed an obsessed focus on religion, almost to the point of a mental breakdown. Something that appeared once again in his first jail sentence.
Girlfriends: He had a woman (or underage teenage girl) in every port. He came on strong asking for commitment and canoodling within minutes of meeting someone. If a girl wasn’t receptive he would respond with anger. He never let any of these women go – he had a date book of over 500 women that he would reach out to periodically with phone calls, letters, and gifts proclaiming his love.
Friends: One of his friends and coworker described him as a little weird after Randy was fired from his bar job due to bringing in too many underage girls on a regular basis. He also recalled Randall asking him to lie for him in small claims court. It would be scary to know how the friend defined more than a little weird.
Teammates His PSU teammates described him as not really “fitting in,” being vain, lazy, odd, quiet, strange, saying off the wall things at the most random of times, and giving people a bad feeling, due to them sensing something hiding behind his “mask.” Chiefs’ teammates described him as a ladies’ man, a thief, forgettable, and strange. One former teammate said he was surprised but after thinking about it decided it made sense, another said he never would have seen it coming.
Coaches: The PSU receiving coach said he was the nicest kid he ever knew, and it must have been the wrong Randall Woodfield. The PSU secondary coach said he was shocked – out of 100 guys on the team, Randy would be the 99th person he suspect of committing those crimes. Woodfield did have a habit of appearing overly connected to coaches, with feelings of friendship that didn’t exist through out college – the less assuming may have found this endearing. After returning from Wisconsin in 1975, Woodfield started working out with the PSU team and teammates warned the new head coach, Mouse Davis, to stay away from him – Davis had found him to be nice and a good athlete.
Police/lawyers: Interrogators described Randall as lying effortlessly, showing no guilt or fear. He never displayed any emotions during hours long interviews, besides smiling when confronted with crimes he committed and slicking his hair down. A prosecutor stated he was the most arrogant, cold, emotionless, remorseless, and detached person he ever met. Randy developed fond feelings for one of the interrogators, writing him personal letters for years after from prison. A female lieutenant who interrogated him in the 2000’s, described him as charismatic, and well groomed. She could see how victims were easily disarmed by him.
What did Woodfield have to say for himself?
Very little. He has never verbally admitted guilt and has denied all charges, to this day.
He testified at his trial, speaking softly and humbly with his arms crossed, communicating little. He also had a rambling, incoherent statement at his sentencing that ended with him declaring complete innocence.
These days, Woodfield mostly sits isolated in his cell, uninterested in talking. Unless it’s about football. He instantly lights up and will talk all things football, particularly his career. He still carries around all correspondences he had with Green Bay and the ticket they paid for to fly him down to Wisconsin with. Another thing that still excites him is women, since 1981 he will still attempt to groom himself and flirt with any and all females he comes into contact with, particularly the guards. The female guards state that he is completely different with him than male guards – a troubling pattern for Randall.
Randy allegedly created a myspace that people are confident was actually his in 2006. There he admitted to taking Hull’s life, and other unspecified crimes. He also mentions his short stint with the Packers and explains that he didn’t have the skills they needed at the time, so he “didn’t make it.” It’s a bit chilling to see him explain his summation of his own life – a criminal, and failed NFL football player. He didn’t make the team, and he didn’t make it in life either.
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