Randall Woodfield – The I-5 Killer

Randall Woodfield
Randall Woodfield

Randall Brent “Randy” Woodfield (born December 26, 1950) is an American serial killer who was dubbed The I-5 Killer or The I-5 Bandit by law enforcement due to the crimes he committed along the Interstate 5 corridor running through Washington, Oregon, and California. Before his capture, the I-5 Killer was suspected of multiple sexual assaults and murders. A native of Oregon, Woodfield was convicted of three murders and is suspected of killing up to 44 people. He is currently incarcerated at the Oregon State Penitentiary. In 2011, Woodfield was the subject of a Lifetime television movie Hunt for the I-5 Killer. The movie was based on the book The I-5 Killer by crime author Ann Rule.

Early Life

Born in Salem, Oregon, Woodfield came from a middle class family with no signs of dysfunction. He was popular among his peers, and was a football star at Newport High School and at Portland State University. Beginning in adolescence, however, Woodfield began to exhibit antisocial sexual behaviors, primarily a penchant for indecent exposure. Upon his first arrest for the crime in high school, his football coaches hushed it up so that he wouldn’t be kicked off the team.

Three arrests in the early 1970s for petty crimes such as vandalism and public indecency did not prevent Woodfield from being selected in the 1974 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers as a wide receiver, in the 17th round (428th pick). Woodfield tried to establish himself with the Packers during Coach and General Manager Dan Devine’s last season but he could not shake his problems with a trip across the country. He signed a contract in February 1974 but was cut during training camp, failing to make the team’s final roster.

After being cut by the Packers, Woodfield played the 1974 season with the semi-pro Manitowoc Chiefs and worked for Oshkosh Truck. A similar arrest, in Portland, earned him more suspended time in June 1973. In 1974, after a dozen “flashing” incidents called unwelcome attention to Randy, the Packers gave up and sent him home.

Crime Spree

In early 1975, several Portland women were accosted by a knife-wielding man, forced to perform oral sex and then robbed of their handbags. Law enforcement reacted by having female police officers act as decoys. On March 3, 1975, Woodfield was arrested after being caught with marked money from one of the undercover officers. In April 1975, he pleaded guilty to reduced charges of second-degree robbery. Woodfield was sentenced to ten years in prison, but was freed on parole in July, 1979.

On October 9, 1980, Cherie Ayers, a former classmate of Woodfield, was raped and murdered in Portland, Oregon. Ayers had been bludgeoned and stabbed repeatedly in the neck. Woodfield was questioned but refused to sit for a polygraph. Homicide detectives found his answers generally “evasive and deceptive” but, because his blood type did not match semen found in the victim’s body, no charges were filed. One month later Darci Fix and Doug Altic were shot to death execution-style, in Altic’s Portland apartment. A .32-caliber revolver was missing from the scene. While Fix had once been involved with one of Woodfield’s closest friends, police did not connect Woodfield to the crime.

On December 9, 1980, a robber wearing a fake beard held up a gas station in Vancouver, Washington. In Eugene, Oregon four nights later, a man matching the same description raided an ice cream parlor; on December 14, a robber matching the previous two descriptions robbed a drive-in restaurant in Albany. A week later in Seattle, a waitress was trapped in the restroom of a chicken restaurant by a gunman wearing a false beard; the gunman forced her to masturbate him. Shortly afterward, a gunman matching the same description of the man in all the previous crimes robbed a Seattle-area ice cream parlor.

By January 1981, law enforcement had dubbed the robber “The I-5 Bandit”, given his apparent preference for committing crimes along the Interstate 5 corridor. On January 8, he held up the same Vancouver gas station he had robbed in December, this time forcing a female attendant to expose her breasts after he emptied the cash register. Three days later, on January 11, he robbed a market in Eugene. The next day, January 12, he shot and wounded a female grocery clerk at a store in Sutherlin, Oregon.

On January 14, a man matching the description of the I-5 bandit and wearing a false beard invaded a home occupied by two sisters, aged eight and ten; he forced the girls to disrobe and sexually assaulted them. Four days later, in Salem, a man matching the same description entered an office building and sexually abused two women, Shari Hull and Beth Wilmot, after which he killed Hull and wounded Wilmot, leaving her for dead. On January 26 and 29, he traveled to southern Oregon and committed robberies in Eugene, Medford and Grants Pass. In the latter location, two females, a clerk and customer, were assaulted by the robber.

On February 3, 1981, the bodies of Donna Eckard, 37, and her 14-year-old daughter were found together in a bed in their home at Mountain Gate, California, north of Redding. Each had been shot several times in the head. Forensic tests showed that the girl had also been sodomized. The same day in Redding, a female store clerk was kidnapped, raped and sodomized in a holdup. An identical crime was reported in Yreka on February 4, with the same man robbing an Ashland, Oregon motel that night. Five days later in Corvallis, a man matching the I-5 Bandit’s description held up a fabric store, molesting the clerk and her customer before he left.

On February 12, 1981, robberies committed by a man matching the now infamous I-5 Bandit’s description occurred in Vancouver, Olympia, and Bellevue, Washington; the Olympia and Bellevue incidents included three sexual assaults. On February 15, Julie Reitz was shot and killed at her home in Beaverton, Oregon.

Interrogation, search, and arrest

By February 28, the investigation was now focused on Woodfield, but by then the I-5 Bandit had struck three more times: in Eugene on February 18 and 21, and with another sexual assault in Corvallis on February 25.

On March 3, 1981, Woodfield was brought into the Salem Police Department for an interrogation. His apartment was searched two days later by warrant. Detectives said they were looking for someone who was familiar and comfortable with the I-5 freeway, as well as someone who used false beards and moustaches as a disguise. Another portion of the killer’s modus operandi was using tape to bind his victims; the type of tape found on the victims and tape found at Woodfield’s house matched. On March 7, Woodfield was taken into custody after being positively identified by several of the I-5 Bandit’s victims during a police lineup. By March 16, indictments for murder, rape, sodomy, attempted kidnapping, armed robbery, and illegal possession of firearms were coming in from various jurisdictions in Washington and Oregon.

In Salem, Woodfield went to trial for murder, attempted murder, and two counts of sodomy. Convicted on every count on June 26, 1981, he was sentenced to life in prison plus 90 years. By December, after conviction of sodomy and weapons charges in Benton County, Oregon, 35 more years were added to Woodfield’s sentence.

Retracing Woodfield’s trail along Interstate 5, law enforcement eventually found other victims. During the spring of 1980, 19-year-old Marsha Weatter and 18-year-old Kathy Allen had vanished while hitch-hiking. Their bodies were found in May 1981 following the first eruption of Mount Saint Helens; suspected serial killer Martin Lee Sanders was later connected to their murders, but as of 2015 the case remains officially unsolved.

Despite the apparent links with countless other crimes and at least 13 more homicides, Woodfield would not be prosecuted for the majority of the crimes he was believed to have committed. Unable to afford an endless string of trials, the State of Oregon was satisfied with Woodfield’s existing life sentence.

In October 1981, Woodfield was tried in Salem for the murder of Shari Hull, as well as charges of sodomy and attempted murder. Chris Van Dyke, son of actor Dick Van Dyke, was the Marion County, Oregon District Attorney at the time and prosecuted the case. Woodfield was convicted of Hull’s murder and sentenced to life in prison as well and sentenced to an additional 165 years for convictions of the other crimes.

Prior to a trial held later in 1981, Woodfield’s counsel attempted to move the trial from Willamette Valley; he felt that, owing to the publicity the case received, Woodfield would not get a fair trial there. The judge in the case denied counsel’s request, along with a request to hypnotize a prosecution witness in an effort to determine if that witness had been influenced by the media coverage.

Currently, Woodfield is serving his sentences at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem. While he was charged with four murders, it is estimated that Woodfield committed as many as 44 murders, as well as upwards of 60 sexual assaults.

After conviction

In October 1983, Woodfield was injured by an Oregon State Penetentiary inmate during a prison disturbance. In April 1987, Woodfield filed a $12 million libel suit against author Ann Rule, the true crime author who had written The I-5 Killer. The account of Woodfield’s life and crime spree became a best-selling book in 1984. The Federal Court in Oregon dismissed the lawsuit in January 1988, citing that the statute of limitations on such a lawsuit had been exhausted.

By 1990, after the discovery of more victims, Woodfield was suspected in at least 44 homicides. In 2001 and 2006, DNA testing linked Woodfield to two additional murders in Oregon that occurred from 1980 and 1981.

During his time at the penitentiary, Woodfield has married three times and divorced twice. Some letters he wrote from prison were eventually sold online as a collection titled, The Serial Killer Letters and published by The Charles Press.

Woodfield wrote the following on his MySpace account in 2006: “I’m Randy, I’m 55. I spend the remainder of my days in prison because I have committed a murder along with many other crimes. I once tried out for the Green Bay Packers. The only reason I didn’t make it is because the skills I had to offer they didn’t need at the time.” Inmates do not have Internet access in prison, but have friends or family open social media accounts for them, posting as if the inmate were doing it.

In May 2012, he was linked by DNA to three more cold cases (namely, Darci Fix and Doug Altic in 11/80 and Julie Reitz 2/81).



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