Prison Pen Pal is Convicted of Murdering a Reclusive Ex-Hollywood High School Teacher
Hollywood High School Yearbook, 1984
Scott Kratlian, a former New York prison inmate, was found guilty of first-degree murder yesterday, for the killing of former Hollywood High School English teacher Harry Major. He faces 52 years to life in prison.
As we wrote in a story last year, the 82-year-old Major was fond of writing letters to prison inmates and inviting them to stay with him.
Kratlian had been serving a 25-year sentence for strangling a 66-year-old man in a bathtub when he became pen pals with the retired teacher. Months after his release, Kratlian took a bus to West Hollywood and moved into Major's apartment. Two weeks later, Major was found strangled and dead in his bathtub.
Speaking with L.A. Weekly months ago, Kratlian insisted he was innocent. But according to Deputy District Attorney Tony Cho of the Elder Abuse Division, LAPD analyzed Kratlian's shoes after he was arrested and found traces of Major's blood on them. Surveillance footage of Major's apartment showed that Kratlian was there on the morning of the murder, wandering around outside.
And evidence showed that Kratlian used Major's credit card the afternoon of the murder.
Kratlian never testified in the four-day trial. In a strange twist, Kratlian's attorney sent this reporter a subpoena, presumably to rebut the testimony of another prison inmate, James DiRocco, whose own stay at Major's apartment overlapped with Kratlian's. In the end, this reporter was not called to testify.
Speaking to the Weekly last year, DiRocco described Major's relationship with his prison inmate pen pals as primarily a sexual one:
"He was always nice and kind of generous with me, so I would cuddle with him, and I would let him suck my dick, and we would have sex," says DiRocco, 54, by phone from a Nevada prison, where he's incarcerated for violating his parole. "He was my friend and I respected him."
According to DiRocco, Major had sex with all the former prisoners who stayed with him. In fact, it was a rule.
"Even straight guys," DiRocco says, a bit astonished. "Harry would tell them, the only way they would stay there is if they had sex with him. That's the rules. He would be very up front with his pen pals."
The jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding Kratlian guilty. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 18.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.