The Bizarre Truth Behind An NFL Draft Pick Turned Notorious Serial Killer

Locked in a prison cell at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem is the shell of a former college wide receiver who once flirted with NFL glory. Since 1981, he has been behind bars for the murder of Shari Hull and the attempted murder of Beth Wilmot. 

As horrific as the crimes he was convicted for are, this former athlete had a crime spree up and down the interstate in the Pacific Northwest that garnered him the monikers "The I-5 Killer" and "The I-5 Bandit" (via Murderpedia). He was suspected in a string of robberies along the I-5 corridor from Washington to northern California, as well as the killing of as many as 44 people and more than 60 rapes (per Oxygen). 

His name is Randy Woodfield, and he probably doesn't fit the profile of the serial killer that you would typically envision. His middle-class upbringing in a family that was well-respected by members of the community and his collegiate successes as an athlete and student wouldn't ordinarily paint the picture of someone who is a mass murderer and rapist. But as you'll see, as privileged as Woodfield was in adolescence, he still grew up to be a monster.

Woodfield's sexual dysfunctions were displayed at an early age

Randy Woodfield grew up in the tiny seaside town of Otter Rock, a little over 100 miles southwest of Portland (via Oxygen). Randy was the youngest of three children, with two older sisters. He grew up in what some would consider an ideal middle-class American family in the 1950s. There was nothing reported in Woodfield's early years that could have predicted the monster that he would become. His father was in management at the telephone company, and his mother was a dedicated homemaker. Unlike many killers who fill our prisons, Woodfield was not the product of a broken home and did not suffer any neglect or abuse. 

Despite the advantages of his upbringing, a young Woodfield began to exhibit abnormal sexual behavior. He began to expose himself to others as early as junior high school and developed a reputation as a "peeping tom." And at one point in high school, Woodfield was arrested for exposing himself to women on a bridge (per the Portland Tribune). But as a standout athlete, his coaches in high school sought to protect him so that he could keep playing sports. A talented athlete, Woodfield excelled in track and field events and was also a dominating force on the high school football field. To protect one of their stars, they helped shield Woodfield from repercussions at school.

His parents were aware of his problems and had him see a therapist regularly. At the age of 18, Woodfield's juvenile record was sealed.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Woodfield had a promising future

After graduating from Newport High School in 1969, Randy Woodfield attended Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario for two years (per the Portland Tribune). He continued to play football and did well enough academically to be accepted to Portland State University in 1971. He was accepted onto the football team his first year but redshirted so that his academic eligibility could be preserved. 

Woodfield used his time off the football field to be active in the PSU's chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ. He was also reported to have been in at least one small bible study group with fellow college students. Going into his senior season of football in 1973, Woodfield was the standout receiver for PSU. He led the team in receptions that year and caught the attention of an NFL scout, which later led to his recruitment into the Green Bay Packers organization (per Sports Illustrated). 

But Woodfield's time in college wasn't all about football — he was escalating his criminal behavior. While at Treasure Valley, he was arrested (not convicted) for ransacking the home of an ex-girlfriend. And while at PSU, Woodfield was arrested multiple times for indecent exposure.

His deviancy cost him a career in the NFL

According to Sports Illustrated, Randy Woodfield was signed to the Green Bay Packers for $16,000 with the potential for bonuses if he caught 25 passes. He was drafted in the 17th round and was sent off to a mini-camp in April. The money was enough for him to leave his job at a Burger Chef, which also prompted Woodfield to leave PSU three semesters shy of earning his bachelor's in physical education.

But Woodfield, though surviving early cuts, didn't make the final squad. While the organization refused to later comment on the subject, police in Wisconsin believe he was released was due to his troubles off the field. He started playing for a semi-pro team in the nearby city of Manitowoc, and though he was by all accounts a great receiver for this team, he was released after only one season. A detective would later discover that though Woodfield had no arrest record in Wisconsin, he was connected to 10 separate cases of indecent exposure in the state during his playing time there. Rumors abounded that his off-field behaviors are why he was also cut from the Manitowoc Chiefs. 

At the age of 24, Woodfield traveled back to Portland. He dismissed requests from family members to reenroll at PSU and took odd jobs to survive and spent time working out with his former college team. Curiously, soon after he arrived back in Portland, there was a sudden uptick in sexual attacks on women in the area.

Woodfield spiraled out of control after being released from the team

Sports Illustrated reports that in early 1975, a string of sexual assaults and robberies were occurring in Portland. Multiple women reported being approached by a knife-wielding man who would demand oral sex from them. He would then seize their purses and flee.

Police set up a sting operation with female officers. This method worked, as soon after the operation began, one of the undercover officers was accosted by a man with a knife who demanded money from her. Nearby waiting officers swarmed and arrested the would-be attacker. He was identified as Randy Woodfield. According to Oxygen, Woodfield pled guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree robbery and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. A model inmate, he was released in 1979 after serving only four years.

Soon after his release, Woodfield began a crime spree up and down I-5 that has still not been fully documented. Woodfield was a suspect in several crimes, including the murders of Cherie Ayers, Doug Altig, and Darcey Fix. He was known to the victims, but there wasn't enough evidence to charge him. During 1980 and 1981, word got out that a killer and robber was lurking on I-5 as gas stations and eateries were getting hit by the bandit, and women were being raped and murdered by an unknown assailant. 

Woodfield was considered for Playgirl magazine

According to Sports Illustrated, Randy Woodfield began taking naked photos of himself and sending them to women that he knew. In 1979, he decided to send some of these same photos to Playgirl magazine. His submissions to the magazine were nudes, his muscles oiled and flexed. Months later, he got word back from Playgirl with the message, "Congratulations! You have been selected for possible publication in Playgirl's 'Guy Next Door' feature." Per Sports Illustrated, police believe that while awaiting this photoshoot, he began his murder spree. The Oregonian reports that one of the photos made it into an issue of the magazine.

Sentenced to life plus 90 years, the prospects of Woodfield leaving prison alive are nill. DNA evidence used by cold-case investigators has named him the prime suspect in more murders than just Shari Hull's in 1981. In 2012, he was further determined by investigators to be behind the deaths of five additional people. Prosecutors refused to charge him with these additional murders, citing the waste of resources for taking five murder cases to court against a man who would never be let out of prison. But with a possible murder count as high as 44, who knows how many more will be officially tied to this ruthless killer.