Is a cult responsible for the death of a high school student?

Smiling Kurt McFall with blonde hair

Kurt McFall

Paramedics attempting to resuscitate Kurt's body at the base of a cliff

Kurt’s body found at base of cliff

CASE DETAILS

On September 8, 1984, Kurt McFall, a 17-year old high school student, drove from his home in Concord, California, across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. He told his father he was staying with a friend and would be home Sunday evening. Kurt never returned.

Kurt's abandoned car at night

Puzzling clues found in Kurt’s abandoned car

On Monday, two birdwatchers spotted a half naked body on a remote beach below the cliffs of San Francisco Bay. Kurt McFall was dead. Kurt’s father, Tom McFall, says he knew at once his son’s death was no accident:

“Kurt told a friend of his that he was involved in some kind of Satanic cult and that he wanted out, but he thought that they might try to kill him. He really feared for his life. It was a murder. It needs to be investigated. There’s no doubt in my mind that Kurt could’ve handled himself in that cliff area because he was an experienced mountain climber and he was a diver. So he would not have drowned in the water or fallen down the hill.”

In Kurt’s room, Tom discovered a knife made from a deer’s hoof, a necklace of stone and feathers, and drawings depicting witchcraft themes and violent fantasies. These seemed to prove that Kurt was leading a double life. The year before he died, Kurt had joined a group that enjoyed reliving medieval customs. They dressed in costumes and practiced sword fighting in the parking lot of an Oakland subway station.

Gabriel Carrillo known as "Caradoc" wearing glasses and a mustache

“Caradoc”

Around the same time, Kurt also joined another organization that initiated him into a pagan religion. This new group frightened one of Kurt’s old high school friends. He later contacted Tom McFall and then began to fear for his own safety. He spoke on the condition that his identity not be revealed:

“Gradually, over a period of perhaps six months, his attitude towards other people changed drastically. He kind of moved from just studying with an interest in medieval religion, to actually adopting that religion as his.”

Kurt’s guide into the pagan religion was Gabriel Carrillo, who went by the ancient Welsh name, Caradoc:

“This is a religion that is also an art, a craft, and one that has techniques that are, at their essence, magical. I met Kurt because he had evinced an interest in magic. Kurt was real bright and real curious about just about everything.”

Kurt’s high school friend thinks Kurt got too deeply involved:

“His involvement with this group can be compared to a drug addiction, where you begin thinking that you’ve got it under control and you can take it whenever you want. But gradually, you lose that sense of knowing when to stop until you’re a junkie.”

Gabriel Carrillo:

“I do not make any attempt to control people’s lives. People are free to come and go at their own discretion, just as Kurt did. If anything, the emphasis that we have is on individuals taking control of their own lives.”

On Saturday, September 10th, Kurt stayed over at Carrillo’s apartment. They had dinner, went to a movie, and around midnight, Kurt went swimming at Ocean Beach, a few blocks from Carrillo’s home. According to Carrillo, Kurt had trouble sleeping and knocked on his door at about three in the morning. Kurt said he was going to go back to the beach. Kurt was never seen alive again. Carrillo thinks Kurt’s death was an accident:

“My best guess is simply that he took one too many chances. He might have gone swimming in the ocean and been pulled by the undertow. He might have gone climbing on the cliffs at Land’s End and slipped and fallen, or any one of a number of other things.”

The following evening, Kurt’s car was found abandoned on a golf course overlooking the ocean. There were a number of puzzling clues. Kurt’s driver’s license was on the floor.  His car keys were on the seat. A $20 bill was in the glove compartment. The prized suit of armor which Kurt had made for sword fighting was missing from the trunk. There were also beer bottles scattered in, and around, the car. Tom McFall thinks the clues were staged:

“The car has to be a phony scene that was set up, because Kurt did not drink beer. That’s also inconsistent with the autopsy report that shows that there was no sign of alcohol or drugs in the body when it was recovered. So that looked very suspicious.”

At 10:15 the following morning, National Park Service lifeguards recovered Kurt’s body.  It was lying in a cove less than two miles from Carrillo’s apartment, just below the cliffs at the golf course where Kurt’s car was found. Brian Cameron was one of the lifeguards:

“When we came upon the body, we noticed it was in fairly good condition, fairly pale, usually a sign of being in the water for an extended period of time. No obvious external trauma. He looked pretty clean, other than a few small abrasions on the body, but nothing obvious.”

Kurt had no shoes, socks or shirt.  His back and shoulders were covered with cuts and abrasions. The belt he wore was missing its buckle. Chief Petty Officer Ron Wilton with the U.S. Coast Guard:

“With the facts that we have in this case, it’s really anybody’s guess as to where he actually entered the water, where he came from. My guess would be — and that’s all it is, is an educated guess — that he simply fell off the cliff. And that’s what it appears to me.”

The coroner determined that Kurt died from multiple traumatic injuries and severe blood loss, but no one knows what caused those injuries. Perhaps Kurt died after stumbling over the edge. Or, perhaps he was pushed. The coroner ruled, “cause of death, unknown,” a determination unacceptable to Tom McFall:

“I went to the San Francisco coroner and I said, ‘What do you think happened to Kurt?’  And he said, ‘I think the most probable cause of Kurt’s death is homicide’. But he said he didn’t have enough to testify to that in a court of law. And so he sent his ruling up to homicide classified as ‘unknown.’ I can’t accept that.”

The police investigated further, but found no reason to change the ruling from “unknown” to “homicide.”  They declined to be interviewed for this story. Kurt’s father continues to believe his son was murdered:

“Kurt may have uncovered something in the organization and may have indicated to people that he was going to expose this. And I feel that all of these things probably contributed to them wanting to do away with Kurt.”

Gabriel Carrillo denies that he or his organization had anything to do with Kurt’s death:

“If I wanted to murder somebody, the last person I would murder would be somebody who was staying at my house and whose father knew that he was staying in my house.  I mean, the whole thing is stupid.”

Tom McFall hopes that someone will come forward with new evidence that could re-open the investigation.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season one with Robert Stack in season six with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Robert Stack and Dennis FarinaVarious seasons available now on Hulu.

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27 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Kenna

    I’d believe any theory except “satanic panic”. It was extremely prevalent in the 70s (Jeffrey MacDonald; i mean “acid is groovy”; did he really think people would buy it) and 80s and even 90s (The West Memphis Three) to blame satanism. Kurt was a kid who enjoyed LARP-ing and playing witchcraft. You’d have to watch out for most teens these days if that could kill you.

    Reply

  2. Avatar

    Brooke

    He was cutted wuth the missing buckle. As his father said, he was a diver and climber, he clearly was murderer.

    Reply

  3. Avatar

    CDZ

    I mean, the way the episode outlines the details, it sounds like Gabriel (Caradoc), a 35 year old gay man took a 17 year old boy to the cliffs over Baker beach, a well known gay sex hookup area, and perhaps things got out of hand and he fell, was pushed, or worse, was gay bashed by someone.

    Reply

  4. Avatar

    Graham

    I definitely think Gabriel had a hand in this weather accidental or on purpose, I don’t know.

    Reply

  5. Avatar

    Treesmail

    @Uhhh perhaps I am misunderstanding specific items mentioned by you, & the article comments of “belt buckle”? But am I correct in the buckle from Mr McFalls belt was missing? And the reference in your comments regarding the necklace of Mr Carrillo’s being of same? Would that not be collected for comparison with the belt of which buckle was missing? Or is it simply an error in the necklace held a medallion (as noted within Mr Abney’s comments) not a buckle as I understood in yours? Just clarification on if possible please? And if I misunderstood, please excuse my confusion in, not intended as disrespect towards anyone. Thank you.

    Reply

  6. Avatar

    Emma

    Is obvious this is satanic panic over a larping teen nerd hanging out with some hippies, this one is ridiculous the kid just tripped a fell.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Jason

      That was my thought as well. Fear over anything different was very strong in the late 1980s. I don’t see this man Gabriel Carrillo, as a threat. He was a convenient person to blame. I couldn’t imagine losing a child, I just think his dad was grasping at straws trying to come to terms with his son’s death.

      Reply

  7. Avatar

    U.N. Owen

    Murder?

    Nonsense.

    The only ‘unsettled’ issue is exactly how – meaning did he fall off the cliff, did be have an accident, etc – but NOT IF, nor WHO ‘killed’ him.

    The most laughable – and therefore the most dangerous part in the televised version of this, is the (supposed) ‘former best friend of Kurt, who’s only shown in the shadows. His (ridiculous) statement (in regards to Kurt having supposedly come across something nefarious about his ‘witchcraft’ group) in which he says ‘this type of group – when they find out someone might cause them problems, they ‘deal with it’ (‘deal with it’ as in kill them). This is so hokey-sounding. I’d bet this person’s ‘expertise’ comes from watching TV – not from any first -hands experience with such groups, or – at the very least – reading any published (and fact-checked) material.

    This period – the mid-80’s – was a time when the American general public (primarily in the dumb parts, I.e., the midwest and south) were constantly fearful of black magic, satanism, etc. If anyone recalls the ‘recovered memories’ in the most infamous case – the McMartin daycare case – the (supposed, and later Sidney add fabricated) memories of the child victims had the adults sound all sorts of nutsy ‘black magic’ stuff.

    The whole thing – from the father’s perspective – sounds like a Hardy Boys-type mystery, with the intrepid, young Kurt serving as the ‘interloper’, but as someone nor connected – and therefore able to have a more logical POV, it’s a young man, who’s not yet found himself – his interests, etc, and he’s exploring life.

    In all likelihood, he fell off the cliffs, tumbled part of the way, and most of his blood was washed away (his body being transported the relatively short distance from where his car was). As for the ‘staged’ setting – the beer bottles by the car, it’s more than likely that someone who DOES drink beer threw down some empties, and all that hairbrush was Kurt parked his car there.

    I would like to hope that with all this time having past (3 DECADES +), his father – if he’s still alive – has been able to accept what did Halen, and not touring himself with what is a loony – unlikely – ‘conspiracy’.

    Reply

  8. Avatar

    Servant

    Bryan Abbey – it sounds like you were close to Gabriel. However he could choose who he decides to confide different secrets to. He reveals a mistake in his interview on unsolved mysteries. He gets real excited and defensive when addressing the fact he was the last one with Kurt. Occult groups do not always operate transparently even among there own. Gabriel sought help from deceptive sources. And if you are seeking truth in the occult you need to know you will be judged and destroyed. No matter how annoying “christians’ have behaved in your past does not change the Truth. Do not make life decisions based on the ignorant behavior of others. Seek the truth without bias. Everyone I’ve seen who has the courage to seek ultimately see that the occult is misleading them by way of false hope given by demons. Repent and seek Yeshua (Jesus) and be saved. Blessings
    Servant of the Living God

    Reply

  9. Avatar

    Uhhh

    Yeah so, it seems like theres a lot more to this case than they were comfortable reporting on at the time. There are allegations on multiple websites by supposedly different folk that make allusions to “weird” sexual activities of both Kurt McFall and this Gabriel person. It seems pretty certain Gabriel had some homosexual leanings, he was apparently an early activist on that front and it seems this is somewhat established. Kurt’s “weird” sexual activities are much less specific and harder to find info about, also there’s the casual mention that he had “violent fantasy drawings”. What’s up with the lack of specificity here? It seems to me there are obvious paths forward for investigating this case.

    He’s 17 years old. A slight, somewhat nerdy kid. He’s at the house alone (?) of an older person in a position of power over him at 3am, who’s known (allegedly) to be gay or bi or what have you. Kurt’s reported to have “Weird” sex interests surfacing, as well as violent fantasy drawings. The only one that says he leaves the house on his own is the person who last sees him alive. The actor in unsolved mysteries says because he’s hot, though I can’t confirm if thats the official story. Did they just not investigate this, or are there answers that we just don’t have that clear up this obviously suspicious circumstance they highly undersold on the show?

    Did they test the beer bottles for DNA? Clearly Kurt wasn’t drinking because it wasn’t in the autopsy findings, but if they have the other guys DNA on a beer bottle that’s a conviction in ’84 (granted he’s dead now). What about the armor? Did he just throw it away? How do you get rid of something like that? I guess it would make a more convincing suicide scene if he had tossed things that were important to him if you were staging it, but Kurt was 2 miles from where he would have made that decision to die if it was suicide (why else would he get rid of the armor, unless he had some falling out with the group that’s unreported. It seems to show anger and/or transition if it was intentional). They found him essentially right away (right?), you couldn’t find a sighting of someone ditching some home-brew armor in a 2 mile area, or the armor itself in a dumpster or w/e?

    Why is this a mystery? It seems like they just didn’t want to investigate because it involved two dudes possibly having sex. and speaking of sex, was there any evidence of it in the autopsy? Surely they could have determined whether he had drowned or not based on the water in his lungs or signs of asphyxia, and the wounds supposedly only being on his back, could some of them have been inflicted during some sex play gone wrong? If he had fallen down a rocky cliff to get them wouldn’t the edges of the cuts typically be torn and not clean, with wide swaths of varied scratching and debris from the cliff embedded? There are allegations about Gabriel having related sexual interests to that. Why are the hard facts here tantamount to a “f**k it” and a shoulder shrug?

    Many things about this Gabriel of Bloodmoor (or w/e) character, his apparent suicide attempts by cutting himself, ties to S&M including something with weighted hooks and ritualistic cutting, Having a weird necklace with a buckle-like medallion he claims was from a different dead person that died accidentally. I have no idea which reports are true, or to what extent they’re true, but there seems to be plenty to go on in this case there’s no reason we shouldn’t have answers so far as I can see.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Jason

      Dude, this was the 1980s. DNA wasn’t a thing in forensics at the time. Also, I believe a lot of drugs aren’t found in the body after 24-48 hrs. Keep in mind forensics was nowhere near what they are today. They had a kid with scratches on his back, found dead on the beach. All of his belongings (minus the belt buckle, which could easily be lost in the sea) were still there, like his suit of armor.
      As far as ciggarette butts or beer bottles, he was 17. Anyone here drink beer and ciggarettes away from M&D? I know I did.

      Reply

  10. Avatar

    thinkingoutloud

    I think Gabriel is involved. He is the last person to see him alive, he has no other alibi. I think that night Kurt either told Gabriel he wanted out OR Gabriel took his chance of hanging with Kurt alone to kill him because he wanted out. Kurt couldn’t sleep so he went swimming by himself at 3AM? I don’t buy it. Gabriel was so experienced, I highly doubt he made the decision to go swimming at 3AM alone. I think they willing went to the beach that night and they got into a struggle about Kurt leavingand Gabriel pushed him/murdered him. His missing clothes and belt buckle probably contain evidence so Gabriel took them.

    Reply

  11. Avatar

    Anonymous

    Hey there, great website. Keep going the good work.

    Reply

  12. Avatar

    rob main

    [email protected] any updates on the case

    Reply

  13. Avatar

    Anonymous

    How prophetic that Kurt took a Mcfall

    Reply

  14. Avatar

    LUIS FREEH

    YEAH “Ive” BEDN IN THAT APARTMENT ALSO WITH THE BELT BUCKLE. HE GOES BY THE NAME KEITH! ORIGINALY A “BORDEN” HE LIKES “HAMILTON” ALOT! AS FOR THE “OCCULT” HE NEVER WAS! “ONLY” REAL NAVY SEAL TEAM” MEMBERS RECEIVE POWER’S OFF THE “OCCULT”. THEY’RE AT CONGRESS! DIDN’T I TELL U “I” WAS THE “ONLY” NAVY SEALS TEAM MEMBER CAUGHT ON CAMERA DURING THE “PANAMA WAR”. “I” WASN’T JOKING.

    Reply

  15. Avatar

    Corey Hicks

    I’ve watched this case several times and it’s very sad. Both Kurt and Gabriel are truly missed. I just saw recently that Kurt”s Dad Tom McFall has a Facebook. I’m pretty sure it’s him because it says that him and his wife live somewhere in CA. Tom is probably in his 70s now Kurt would be 50 years old today if he was alive.

    Reply

  16. Avatar

    Anonymous

    I get “feelings”. I felt so strongly once seeing this episode, that I knew exactly what happened and who was responsible. Gabriel told Kurt he wanted to drive to the cliff that night to see the water. Gabriel then made sexual passes at Kurt, who did not reciprocate. This enraged Gabriel who pushed Kurt over the edge of the cliff. In an attempt to cover up the murder, he placed the beer cans around the car. It was Murder. It was Gabriel.

    Reply

  17. Avatar

    fixed matches

    Hey there owner of unsolved.com. Great site. I think you should be little more strict with the comments.

    Reply

  18. Avatar

    Sylvia Ross

    I was a student of Garbriel Carrillo’s for a few years in the early ’90’s. Two things in the story above about Kurt McFall’s unsolved death stood out to me–the cuts on his body and the fact that his belt buckle was missing.

    Regarding the cuts found on the deceased: The lifeguard who helped discover the body, Brian Cameron, said, “When we came upon the body No obvious external trauma. . .He looked pretty clean, other than a few small abrasions on the body, but nothing obvious.”

    I found out after I left the group that Gabriel did practice ritual cutting. After leaving the group, I still saw some of the members social, and one night went out with a woman who was still a member for dinner and a movie. We saw Mel Gibson in Hamlet. When we were eating later, she was upset and told me that Gabriel had introduced ritual cutting at some rituals, and wanted others to do the same, but that some people had refused. I was shocked, and didn’t even know what to ask about this. Barbara was upset, looking down, dismayed and confused herself. She changed the subject.

    The lifeguard who found the body said that the abrasions were “pretty clean, other than a few small abrasions on the body, but nothing obvious.” So these weren’t big stab wounds that someone would use in a murder. But were they cuttings used in ritual?

    Gabriel told me once that he had tried to commit suicide twice when he was in high school because he was depressed about homosexual feelings he was having. The method he used in his suicide attempts was the slitting of his wrists. Blood attracts and “feeds” demonic spirits. It’s my guess that on these attempts, the blood from his suicide attempts attracted some demonic spirit(s) who then posed to Gabriel as “gods” or “goddesses.” It was after these suicide attempts that Gabriel became involved with the occult. The sad, heavy set, short kid, who had feelings of guilt and depression about his homosexual tendencies suddenly felt powerful–in contact with the “gods.” And that’s how his interest in cutting developed over the years.

    Regarding the missing belt buckle in the story of Kurt McFall’s death: Later the article says that “Kurt had no shoes, socks or shirt. His back and shoulders were covered with cuts and abrasions. The belt he wore was missing its buckle.”

    When I was a student of Gabriel’s, he had an altar in his living room in the 16th St. & Balboa area of San Francisco. Over the altar, hanging on the wall, was an interesting metal necklace with a large medallion on it. I asked him about it one day. Gabriel told me it was the necklace of a member of his group who had died in a house fire. So Gabriel did keep this personal item of a deceased person, presumably for use in rituals, since it hung prominently over his altar. So a belt buckle could be used for similar purposes.

    I feel so bad for Kurt McFall and even for Gabriel. I still remember the vulnerable Gabriel, sharing an intimate detail of his life with me, telling me about when he started cutting himself in his suicide attempts. It was like, for a moment, he was thinking out loud, using me as a sounding board, just trying to figure things out. He touched me deeply, and I felt badly for him. I loved him. A lot of people did. This is the cult experience.

    Gabriel is gone now. But he never figured things out. It’s so horrible. I write this so that others can learn from it. I was a pagan for 22 years, but became a Christian over five years ago.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Dee Fallon

      I’m looking on this site for stories I remembered from Unsolved Mysteries, checking for updates. I ran across your reply to this case and it touched me. Thank you for sharing your insight.

      Reply

    • Avatar

      Bryan Abney (Vyrdlokkin)

      This is hogwash. And I am surprised that a woman curious and intelligent enough to once delve into Occult subjects would write this! I sense conspiracy. There is a ring of misinformation throughout this posting that I would not need psychic powers to know this is flagrant besmirching of a man whom is now deceased and whom many (like myself) loved and revered Caradoc.
      Although I know of his slightly kinky sexual fetish side; these where nothing he hid from the mainstream. But, at the same time did not feel it was something he needed to have a NEON SIGN about.
      I know that Gabriel had an element of S & M to his sexual prows; but I can honestly say he never, ever talked to me about cutting rituals. He did utilize ancient shamanic techniques to induce ecstatic states of consciousness (like the process of the piercing of ones flesh which dangled a small weighted balls that were shaken off from the body; and with the enhanced pain senses; induced shamanic trance.).

      I actually was appointed one of his guardians who would go retrieve the weighted balls and insure Gabriel would not slip into unconsciousness. This was an open event that took place at the Women’s Center in the Mission district of San Francisco 1989-1990 (kind of unsure which year).

      He never, ever indicated a fetish involving cutting of ones flesh and I should know as I was a consensual sex partner of Gabriel’s during the time I was also studying for initiation into Bloodrose.

      One thing I do know is that the case of Kurt McFall was a topic Gabriel & I discussed often and it was something that upset him a great deal. Having ones life completely exposed and allegations of wrongdoing and perverse involvement in murder seems a story right out of the Burning Times and yet it happened to him.

      Personally, I do not know the truth. But I do know that Gabriel was no Satanist, Black Magician, or murderer. He was a shy, curious, intellectual wizard who often gave refuge to those who needed sanctuary (like myself).
      And he was truly gifted at real, no-nonsense witchcraft. But no matter how great his powers; he could never shake the stupidity and the ignorance of those who found him suspicious. Godspeed, Gabriel. You are truly a Saint of my Church!
      Blessed Be, Bryan (Vyrdlokkin).

      Reply

  19. Avatar

    unsolved

    There has been no new information in this case.

    Reply

  20. Avatar

    rob

    did they ever solved the case of kurt mcfall.was he murded or had he fallen

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Jason

      The police had one prime suspect and that was Gabriel. He has passed away. The police found no evidence of murder or foul play.

      Reply

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