Police in Oregon believe they have identified the killer who cruelly
murdered two teenagers more than four decades ago, a case that had
baffled investigators and haunted deputies ever since.
Kirk Leonard Wiseman, 19, and Cynthia Lynn Frayer, 17, were found
dead on a frigid November day near Lake of the Woods in rural
Southern Oregon in 1978. They had been hitchhiking, according to the
cops. Frayer had been sexually assaulted, the coroner found, and
both she and Wiseman were killed by shots to the head from a .22
caliber gun, a relatively small firearm. A person cutting firewood
for the night discovered the bodies.
Former Klamath Falls Chief of Police Dan Tofell told The Oregonian,
“It was a very gruesome scene. It’s not everyday you find two young
people killed in the way they were... I still remember it vividly. I
can still picture it.”
Authorities now believe Ray Whitson Jr. killed the pair. They were
led to him after police discovered DNA on Frayer’s clothing in 2019.
The 40-year-old genetic material was initially determined only to
belong to “unknown male #1,” but advanced analysis fingered Whitson
as the prime suspect in 2021. A laboratory that analyzed DNA in the
Golden State Killer case, Parabon Nanolabs, extracted Whitson’s
identity from the DNA found on Frayer.
“You could tell that whoever did it didn’t have much respect for
human life, the way the bodies were disposed,” Tofell said.
Whitson, who had worked in a lumber mill in nearby Klamath Falls,
died in 1996. He had no criminal record.
“If we had been just 10, 15 years earlier... we would have been able
to hold that individual accountable in a way that we now cannot do.
What we have been able to do is bring closure for a family,” said
Klamath County district attorney Eve Costello.
She said the DNA evidence would have been enough to charge Whitson
were he still alive, but she now considers the case closed.
Frayer had a letter from her mother on her at the time when she
died. It’s been kept as evidence all the years the case remained
unsolved, but now police will return it to Frayer’s mother along
with a pair of her daughter’s earrings.