Johnnie Joe Herrera, age 20, disappeared from Oxnard, California on August 27, 1971.
He was last known to have been at a friend’s bachelor party in the 700 block of West Cedar Street in Oxnard. Neither Johnnie nor his car have been seen since, except for an unconfirmed sighting at a nearby McDonalds.
At the time of his disappearance, he was married and had a ten month old son. He was eventually reported missing by his twin brother five days after he was last seen.
There is no evidence that his case was thoroughly investigated or publicized at the time. Oxnard newspapers from that time period are archived online, but there is no mention of him to be found. Details are still sketchy, although multiple theories have been presented by those interested in the case.
One theory is that he left of his own accord, feeling trapped by the responsibilities of fatherhood and marriage. Although his family stated in a newspaper article that Johnnie appeared to be happy, it has been speculated by someone involved with the case that Johnnie and his wife may have been experience marital and/or financial problems.
Another theory is that he became intoxicated at the bachelor party and accidentally drove into a ravine or other body of water after leaving the party.
It’s worth noting that both of the above theories exist mainly as possible explanations for why his car has never been found.
It has further been theorized that an altercation or overdose of some sort may have occurred at the party, which resulted in his death. This theory comes into play due to the fact that it has never been reported that anyone saw him LEAVE the party, just that he was seen AT the party.
Then, of course, there is the serial killer theory.
Randy Kraft was known to prey on young men in Southern California beginning in 1972.
He has been nicknamed “The Scorecard Killer”, as he kept a list of 61 terms and phrases, that are believed to represent his victims. The terms are not dated, except in cases where law enforcement have connected his list entries to actual victims. They are not in chronological order. Ironically, there is an entry of “Oxnard” that has not been connected to a specific victim.
Of the 61 terms on the ‘scorecard’, 43 have been matched to actual victims by law enforcement. Each of the 43 that have been matched have been found deceased, which leads me to believe that only unsolved homicides were used to compare with the list, and missing persons were not taken into account.
Therefore, I find it likely that the remaining, unmatched cases are those of missing persons. I was able to locate ONE missing male with ties to Oxnard between 1963 and 2000. His name is Johnnie Joe Herrera.
One thing, however, does cast doubt on the theory of Herrera being a Kraft victim. All 43 matched victims of Kraft (unless I overlooked anything) were located in plain sight. Mostly in parking lots, on the side of roads, and the like. It didn’t seem to be his MO to hide his victims. That said, I would expect to see potential matches for Herrera in the unidentifieds, if he were a victim of Kraft, because it stands to reason that’d he’d have been found rather quickly…. but I don’t see any. The theory of a Kraft victim also begs the question, where is the car?
Another possible serial killer connection that has been mentioned is Patrick Kearney. He also was active in the area, although he seemed to have a tendency toward gay young men, that he could lure into his home or car by turning on the charm. He did pick up hitchhikers and transients occasionally, however I don’t see Johnnie falling into this trap, he had a family to get home to. I don’t think he would have appeared vulnerable enough for Kearney’s taste. That, of course, is just my own opinion.
One of the members of Websleuths has been relentless in trying to get attention on this case, which has, for 42 years now, been virtually unknown to the society at large.
If you are interested in this case, and would like to help get the word out, you are encouraged to check out this list of media contacts, and request them to feature his case.
Johnnie, please come home.