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'I-5 Killer' played for PSU before taking dark turn
Before murders, Randy Woodfield was at top of his game -- obsessed with his hair, looks
Only the most ardent Portland State football fan will remember Randy Woodfield.
Many a follower of true crime will recognize the name Randall Woodfield.
Randy and Randall are one and the same.
Randy was a 6-1, 175-pound senior who led the PSU Vikings in receiving in 1973 and was chosen by Green Bay in the 18th round of the 1974 NFL draft.
Randall was the notorious "I-5 Killer," the sociopath who was convicted of the murder of three young women and suspected in the deaths of more than 40 people and the sexual assault of as many as 60 women in the late 1970s and early '80s.
Woodfield, 65, has been serving a life sentence at the Oregon State Penitentiary since 1981. My favorite true crime writer — the late Ann Rule — wrote a book about him in 1984 titled "The I-5 Killer."
More recently, Woodfield's exploits and crimes were documented in a Sports Illustrated article titled "Interstate 5 Killer." The author was Jon Wertheim, a one-time Portland resident who is among the country's premier sportswriters.
Wertheim, now living in New York City, asked me for help in contacting those who were connected to the Portland State program during Woodfield's time there from 1971-73. Wertheim spoke with Ron Stratten — the PSU head coach during Woodfield's junior and senior seasons — as well as members of Portland law enforcement. I helped filled in the blanks, doing interviews with more than a dozen former coaches and teammates.
Attempts by Wertheim to interview Woodfield were rebuffed by the Oregon Department of Corrections on the grounds that it "brings notoriety to the inmate — and this is already a high-profile individual — and doesn't fall within the rehabilitation and correctional plan of the inmate."
Woodfield did not respond to letters or electronic inquires from SI seeking comment.
Wertheim used several quotes in his outstanding piece, but space prohibited him from including many I thought would be of interest to readers of the Portland Tribune.
So I'm bringing to print memories of those who knew Woodfield back then, along with some background on one of the Northwest's most infamous serial killers.
Woodfield grew up in Otter Rock, about eight miles north of Newport, and graduated from Newport High in 1969. His father was a manager at Pacific Northwest Bell. His mother was a homemaker. He had two older sisters. The family, Wertheim notes, was well-known and respected in the community.
Woodfield played football and basketball and ran track at Newport High. By that time, he already was into deviant behavior. He was apprehended exposing himself to females on the Yaquina Bay Bridge. According to law officials, Newport High coaches knew about the situation but swept it under the rug. Police say when Woodfield turned 18, his juvenile record was expunged.
"Randy was a little strange," says a football teammate of Woodfield's at Newport High, who asks to remain unidentified. "I don't know how to explain it. After all this came out, you look back, and maybe he was stranger than we thought he was at the time.
"He had an obsession with his hair. It was curly, and he'd go out of his way to straighten his hair. He was overboard."
In a narcissistic way?
"Definitely," says the former teammate, who also played with Woodfield at Portland State. "He was real concerned about how he looked. You just had a bad feeling about the guy. You always felt there was something underneath his mask."
Woodfield played two years at Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario, from 1969-71. Among his teammates there was Ted Spencer, a cornerback and return specialist from Washington, D.C. Spencer played two seasons at Treasure Valley with Woodfield before both transferred to PSU. It was not a package deal.
"I knew him pretty well," says Spencer, who now lives in Anaheim, California. "We lived in the same dorm (at TVCC). When we got to Portland, he lived off campus. I lived in the high-rise apartments on campus when they'd opened. He was a decent talent. He had some ability.
"I guess you'd call him somewhat of a ladies man. He wasn't a bad-looking guy. He was athletic. Typical white guy who got a little bit of money. They get a little extra (from the ladies). He got what he needed.
"He did his thing. He didn't seem odd until all the supposed information they had against him came out. That's when you started to look at him in another way. He was somewhat quiet at Treasure Valley. When we got to Portland State, he still didn't make a lot of noise. So when it all came out, I was kind of blown away."
Woodfield redshirted his first season at Portland State in 1971. By that time, he was active in a student group, Campus Crusade for Christ.
"He was part of a small bible study group with me," says Woodfield's former teammate at Newport and PSU. "I want to say that lasted about a year and a half. We had a basketball team called the 'God Squad.' He played for that. He came across as being very spiritual. He was relatively faithful (with his attendance).
"But toward the end, he became very irregular. He started doing weird things. A few of us were going to go on a weekend retreat. He didn't show up. He had some excuse. A few days later, after the retreat, I saw a friend from Newport who said he saw Randy real early in the morning the day of the retreat in a shady area in downtown Portland. That was strange. He said he was going to be one place, but he was really somewhere else. What he said didn't jive with what the guy said."
The former teammate says Woodfield was leading a "double life."
"He'd date showgirls," he says. "He'd go to topless clubs. When he moved into an apartment by himself, he'd have these girls over. He fooled a lot of us for a long time. "
The former teammate says a mutual friend lived with Woodfield in a Park Blocks apartment for a while.
"I lived in the same apartment complex," the former teammate says. The mutual friend "told me a lot of stories about Randy. Randy ended up killing (the mutual friend's) ex-girlfriend and her (then-) boyfriend."
Woodfield was recruited by PSU head football coach Don Read, but Read left for Oregon after Woodfield's redshirt year.
Read's successor was Stratten, who served three seasons.
The 1971 PSU football press guide listed Woodfield as second-string flanker behind Scott Saxton as a junior on the 1972 team. Woodfield's thumbnail sketch: "Sprinter in track. Gives solidarity in reserve role. Has the potential." He caught five passes for 97 yards that season.
Going into his senior season in 1973, Woodfield played a more prominent role. From the 1973 press guide: "The big boss (Stratten) points with pride to four outstanding receivers: Scott Saxton, Randy Woodfield, Ken Smith and Mike Gardner."
There are only 13 mug shots of players in the guide. One of them is Woodfield, wearing jersey No. 82. His thumbnail: "Made giant strides last season toward becoming a top-notch receiver and adequate blocker. Became much tougher. Saw some starting action, averaging 19.4 yards on five receptions. Has 10-flat speed."
Woodfield wound up leading the Vikings with 18 catches for 216 yards on one of the worst teams in school history. They were 1-10, with losses to Boise State (64-7), Nevada Reno (59-0) and Puget Sound (54-7). The PSU receivers coach during Woodfield's years was Gary Hamblet.
"I was shocked when I found out what he'd done," says Hamblet, who lives in Portland. "When he was with me, he was the nicest, most gentlemanly kids I ever knew. He was quiet and polite, hard-working and real coachable. He sucked in everything I tried to coach him. I talked to a scout and I think helped get him (drafted by) Green Bay.
"The reason he caught only 18 passes as a senior, in our offense we ran the ball. We never threw it. We ran the option. I was coaching receivers that nobody would throw the ball to."
Hamblet says he lost contact with Woodfield once he left Portland State.
"Years later, a reporter from a San Francisco newspaper called me one night at home after the police caught him as a suspect," Hamblet says. "The guy asked me, 'Do you know a Randall Woodfield?' I said, 'We had a kid named Woodfield, but we always called him Randy.' He said, 'Do you know he's the I-5 killer?' I said, 'That can't be. Probably the wrong Randall Woodfield.'"
PSU's offensive coordinator during Woodfield's junior and senior years was Mike Brundage.
"He was a pretty good athlete," Brundage recalls. "He was very fast. He had good hands. He ran good routes. He was kind of a loner. He didn't have a lot of friends. Seemed like he was by himself a lot.
"One summer — it might have been his junior year — he got into some trouble in a parking lot outside of Memorial Coliseum. He was exposing himself. I can't remember if we found out then or we found out later. You tried to work with him and tried to help him. He had some really good potential as a player, but he was having trouble between his ears."
Two other PSU assistant coaches during those years have memories of Woodfield.
"He was a pretty good player, a pretty good track man and a pretty good kid," says Roy Love, who later became the Vikings' athletic director. "In athletics, we had absolutely no problem with him."
Tim Temple was PSU's secondary coach.
"I remember he didn't like to go over the middle," Temple says. "He liked the 'out' patterns. Contact wasn't his forte. He was a good, solid receiver, though, and it shocked me when he had all those problems. He always led us in prayer. He had the prettiest, most innocent-looking blonde girlfriend. It caught my eye. She was really a sweet-appearing gal. The most I ever saw them doing was holding hands. It was an odd turnaround for him to have those behavioral demons.
"It really surprised me he would have that shadow in his character. I had no reason to suspect anything. If there were 100 guys on the team, he'd be the 99th guy I'd suspect something like that of. Later I heard a rumor that during daily doubles in preseason practice, he got caught exposing himself at Duniway Park.
"As a coincidence, I was selling real estate in Salem during my later coaching years. I had a couple of clients who backed out of buying a house near I-5. They said, 'We don't want to be near the I-5 bandit.' It really did affect sales. I'm still upset that he ruined a couple of sales for me. After they caught him, they sold right away."
Brothers Anthony and Charles Stoudamire were teammates of Woodfield at PSU.
"We dogged briefly, but I wasn't drawn to really getting to know him," says Anthony, a freshman quarterback when Woodfield was a senior. "Strange guy. Was really heavy with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He'd talk about it a lot in the locker room. He came off as a real religious-type person, but he was just different from the rest of his teammates. He was the one who didn't fit in. He'd say out-of-the-blue, off-the-wall statements.
"We had a bunch of receivers way better than him who got injured early in the season. He ran good routes, and he had good speed. His hands weren't that great. He used to drop a lot of passes."
Charles was a three-year starter at halfback, a senior during Woodfield's junior year.
"He wasn't like a star or anything, but he was a solid player," Charles Stoudamire says. "I didn't hang out with him that much. I thought he was a decent guy in the confines of a football team.
"Seemed like he had a bit of an ego. He thought he was better than he was, but a lot of guys think that.
He was always grooming himself. That even carried over to the way he played. Seemed like he was more interested in looking cute out there than getting the job done."
Bill Hansen played linebacker during Woodfield's junior season.
"He was quiet and abstract," Hansen says. "He made my girlfriend nervous — 44 years later, she is my wife. She had an eerie feeling about the guy. He made her uneasy.
"Back then, Scott Saxton was your typical wide receiver type. Pretty friendly with the ladies. Woodfield was the opposite. He hung out with the offensive linemen at team meals or busing somewhere. After football socially, he didn't hang out with anybody. He was an athletic kid, but his football skills weren't the best. That's why everybody was so shocked when the Packers took him."
Jon Carey was Portland State's starting quarterback in 1972 and '73. For a while, he lived with the player who was Woodfield's classmate at Newport High.
"Because of that, Randy was around our apartment," says Carey, who later served as athletic director at Western Oregon and retired in 2012. "I got to know him a little more in depth. He was a friend, actually. Sort of a suave, sophisticated fella — confident in himself but not to the point of being cocky.
"After we left Portland State, we maintained distant contact but not anything close. I was surprised when some of this stuff started coming down, but on reflection, I thought, that does sort of add up."
Saxton, whose senior year was the same as Woodfield's, roomed with him on some road trips.
"He was a softspoken guy — pretty laid-back, with not an aggressive personality," Saxton says. "I remember him oftentimes laying on the bed reading the Bible. He would often quote Scripture, but was never somebody who pushed Christianity on you. He never engaged himself with any of the activities of the team — going out drinking, raising hell, carousing. Wasn't judgmental at all."
Saxton says all the players were shocked when the Packers drafted Woodfield.
"He ran really good pass routes, but he had just fair hands and did not like contact," Saxton says. "He did not like to get hit. Why would they draft this guy? He could run, but playing in a muddy football game, he would not even have his jersey dirty. He avoided contact. He would not go for a ball if he thought he was going to get hit. In a way, he was a little bit of a joke among us. Maybe the coaches thought he was all that, but the rest of us were like, 'He got drafted? You kidding me?'"
Saxton says he last saw Woodfield in early 1981, just before he was identified as the I-5 Killer.
"I ran into him at TGIF (restaurant) by Washington Square," Saxton says. "We had a beer, and he asked if I'd seen any of the guys. He said, 'We need to get guys together and start a city league flag football team.' He took my number, I don't recall if I got his, and that was it. A month or so later, the news broke."
Woodfield signed a one-year contract with the Packers for $16,000, with a potential $2,000 bonus if he caught 25 passes that season, $3,000 if he caught 30. He was released during the preseason and wound up playing for the semipro Manitowoc (Wisconsin) Chiefs, catching a pair of passes for 42 yards in the league's championship game.
Mouse Davis came on at Portland as offensive coordinator in 1974 and took over for Stratten as head coach in 1975, staying until 1980. He's not sure what year it was, but when he was head coach, Woodfield came back for a while to train with the Viking receivers.
"He seemed like a nice kid," Davis recalls. "He was a good athlete. But one of the other players said, 'Coach, don't get too close with that guy. He goes out into the Park Blocks. He's strange.' I said, 'Really.' Turns out he'd already served some time in prison. That was the end of my relationship with him."
In 1975, Woodfield was arrested after several Portland women were accosted by a knife-wielding man, were forced to perform oral sex and then robbed of their handbags. He pleaded guilty to reduced charges of second-degree robbery and was freed on parole in 1979.
During those four years in the Oregon State Penitentiary, several of Woodfield's former PSU teammates stayed in contact.
"We visited him a lot — myself and other friends," says his ex-teammate at Newport High and PSU. "We were supporting him and behind him. He was considered a model inmate. He wrote these 'Apostle Paul' letters to us, similar to the language and phraseology and salutations of the Apostle Paul. We thought that was strange."
When Woodfield was released, they threw a party for him.
"He showed up 2 1/2 hours late," the ex-teammate says. "That was the last contact I ever had with Randy.
"At the time, one of the guys was rooming with him and hanging out with him. He told me, 'Woodfield is really weird. He's not sleeping. He's going 24 hours a day, seven days a week like a wild man.'
"We thought, 'The dude's been locked up. He's just releasing pent-up emotions.' Shortly after that, the whole thing broke open about what he was doing up and down I-5."