|Classification: Serial killer|
|Characteristics: Rape - Torture - Robberies|
|Number of victims: 11 - 25|
|Date of murder: 1983 - 1985|
|Date of arrest: June 2, 1985|
|Date of birth: October 29, 1945|
|Victims profile: Harvey Dubs, his wife Deborah and infant son, Sean / Lonnie Bond Sr., his wife, Brenda O'Connor, and his infant son, Lonnie Bond Jr. / Clifford Peranteau / Jeffrey Gerald / Michael Carroll / Kathleen Allen / Scott Stapley|
|Method of murder: Shooting|
|Location: Calaveras County, Caklifornia, USA|
|Status: Committed suicide by taking a cyanide pill shortly after being arrested for a firearms offense on June 6, 1985|
Leonard Lake (October 29, 1945 – June 6, 1985) was an American serial killer. He often used the alias Leonard Hill. The crimes he committed with Charles Ng became known when Lake committed suicide by taking a cyanide pill shortly after being arrested for a firearms offense.
Lake was born in San Francisco, California. When he was six years old, he and his siblings were sent to live with their grandparents after their parents had separated. He was reportedly a bright child, but had an obsession with pornography that stemmed from taking nude photos of his sisters, apparently with the encouragement of his grandmother. It was also alleged that Lake extorted sexual favors from his sisters.
In 1965 at age 19, Lake joined the Marine Corps and served two tours of duty in the Vietnam War as a radar operator. Diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder, Lake was eventually given a medical discharge in 1971 and underwent psychotherapy. Back in civilian life, he was living in San Jose, California, and briefly attended San Jose State University, however he dropped out after one semester. It is believed that he joined a group of hippies in the early 1970s and settled with them in a hippie commune. In 1975 Lake married, but the marriage dissolved quickly because his wife had found out that he was making and starring in amateur pornographic movies, usually involving bondage or sadomasochism.
In 1980, Lake was released from prison and given a year's probation for car theft. He was married again in 1981 to Claralyn Balasz, a woman he had met while working at a renaissance fair in 1977. However, Balasz soon left him after she got tired of her husband's increasingly erratic behavior and his insistence that she star in pornographic films. Lake was arrested in 1982 for a firearms violation, but he skipped bail and settled into a remote ranch in Wilseyville, Calaveras County, owned by his ex-wife Balasz. In 1982, Lake met a man from Hong Kong named Charles Ng and the two struck up a friendship. Lake and Ng took residence at Lake's remote ranch in Wilseyville where they began abducting, torturing, raping and killing people. Most of Lake and Ng's victims were people who knew them.
On June 2, 1985, an Asian man—later identified as Charles Ng—was seen shoplifting in South San Francisco. He fled by the time police arrived, but Leonard Lake, who was with him, was arrested when his car was searched and found to contain a .22 revolver illegally equipped with a silencer.
He identified himself as Robin Stapley and had a driver's license in that name. Police were suspicious because, according to the driver's license, Robin Stapley was 26 while the man they had in custody was clearly in his late 30s. While being interviewed at the police station, Lake asked for a glass of water and used it to swallow a cyanide pill hidden in the lapel of his shirt. He collapsed and was rushed to a hospital, where he went into a coma, and survived on life support machines for four days before being pronounced dead.
By then, police had confirmed the true identity of their suspect as Leonard Lake. Furthermore, the man whose identity Lake had taken, Robin Stapley, had been missing for several weeks. Lake's car was found to belong to Paul Cosner, 39, who had gone missing eight months previously in November 1984.
The police searched Lake's ranch in Wilseyville. It was clear Lake was a survivalist, his ranch fitted with a bunker and a stash of weapons. In a diary, Lake had written how he was convinced there was going to be a global nuclear war, and he planned on surviving in his bunker and rebuilding the human race with a collection of female slaves (he named this plan "Operation Miranda" after a character in the book The Collector by John Fowles). The police also found videos showing Lake and Ng torturing and raping women.
The grounds of the ranch were dug up and 12 corpses were uncovered in shallow graves. Among these victims were two families: Harvey Dubs and his wife, Deborah, and baby son, Sean; and Lonnie Bond and Brenda O'Connor and their baby son, Lonnie Bond Jr. The women had been sexually abused, and killed after their husbands and infants were disposed of. Five of the bodies were of men lured to the ranch to be robbed and killed — including Robin Stapley and Paul Cosner — and the 12th was identified as 18-year-old Kathleen Allen, who knew Ng because her boyfriend had once been his cellmate in prison. Police also found charred fragments of human bones (in excess of 45 pounds in total), but they were unable to determine the identity of the victims or their number. It has been postulated the number of unknown murdered persons could be as high as 25.
Lake's younger brother, Donald, had vanished in 1983 and was presumed dead, as had Charles Gunnar, a friend of Lake's from his military days; the latters' remains were discovered at the ranch in September 1992.
In the media
An episode of "Deranged" and an episode of "Wicked Attraction", both aired on the Investigation Discovery channel, were dedicated to the murder spree of Lake and Charles Ng.
In Investigation Discovery's Most Evil, Lake is rated a 22 on Dr. Stone's scale of evil – the highest category on the chart.
The thrash metal band Exodus has a song titled "The Ballad Of Leonard And Charles" written about Lake and Ng on their 2010 album Exhibit B: The Human Condition.
In 2001, NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit aired an episode entitled "Manhunt", which fictionalized the hunt for the two killers. The main villain of the episode, Daryl Kern, was a conglomerate of both Lake and Ng. He is both the dominant personality of the two, and is caught attempting to shoplift in Canada.
Charles NG y Leonard LAKE
The Motherlode murders
by Bill Kelly
On the hazy morning of June 2, 1985, Southern San Francisco police received a routine call about a shoplifting incident. An Oriental man had strolled out of a store with a $75 vice, placed it in the trunk of a tan 1980 Honda Prelude, and disappeared before he could be detained. Arriving police encountered a Chinese puzzle of sorts.
When police questioned an overweight, bearded white man still inside the Prelude, he produced a driver's license bearing the name Robin Stapley. But he did not resemble the DMV photograph. Concealed inside the trunk, probers found the vice reportedly stolen.
In addition, they found a .22-caliber revolver equipped with a silencer. More puzzling, an inquiry of the license plate revealed it was registered to a man named Lonnie Bond. Yet the plate was supposed to be attached to a Buick, not a Prelude. The suspect was immediately taken into custody for questioning. At police headquarters, he flately denied all charges of impropriety.
While the suspect was being questioned, police ran a check of the Vehicle Identification Number on the Prelude. A DMV print-out said the car belonged to Paul Cosner, a resident of San Francisco. A computer spat out that Cosner had been unaccountably missing for nine months.
At the jailhouse, the suspect asked for a glass of water. He removed a cyanide capsule from a secret niche in his belt buckle and swallowed it. Rushed to the emergency room of the Kaiser Permante Hospital, he lingered for several hours and succumbed on June 6. The dead man was not a natural object of sympathy. Good riddance, some said, he had saved California tax payers millions of dollars in legal fees.
Meanwhile, the dead man's Oriental accomplice -- the man who had actually stolen the vice -- had escaped unscathed. Before it was over, and in the wake of civic uproar, he would manipulate a dotard legal system beyond anyone's wildest imagination.
A computer check showed that 26-year-old Robin Stapley was founder of San Diego's Guardian Angeles chapter. His family reported him missing several weeks earlier. Family members were summoned to identify the body. No, they said, this was not Robin. This man was an imposter. A fingerprint check revealed the overweight, bearded corpse was Leonard Lake, a San Francisco native born on July 20, 1946. A dossier collected on Lake unfolded the bestial side of a man too pathetic to be called human.
At a young age his mother allegedly encouraged him to take nude photographs of his sister and other adolescent girls. Gradually, Leonard developed an overwhelming obsession with pornography. His unbalanced personality, a report said, included sex with his sister. His weird sexual escapades included making neighborhood girls his love slaves.
In 1966 Leonard joined the Marine Corps and served noncombatant duty in Da Nang, Vietnam as a radar operator. He was given a medical discharge in 1971, after two years of psychiatric treatment at Camp Pendleton. A civilian again, his criminality worsened.
Following his discharge, Lake moved to San Jose. He got married and ultimately earned a reputation among his neighbors as a survivalist and weirdo sex-freak who openingly talked about bondage with anyone who would listen. When his wife discovered that he was filming bondage scenes that included handcuffs, leather straps and shackles, with women other than herself, she divorced him.
In 1980 a sympathetic judge gave him one year's probation on a grand theft charge of stealing weatherizing material from a construction site. In 1981 he married again and moved his wife to a communal ranch in the rugged foothills of Ukiah, California. The ranch was a good place for whoredom, flimflammery and wife swapping. Here, Lake was as much at home as a hound in Baskerville.
Aside from pornography, collecting automatic weapons was Lake's favorite pastime and he didn't care where the weapons came from. Neighbors learned that the second Mrs. Lake had been fired from her job as a teacher's aid at the Anderson Valley High School in Boonville. She allegedly taught kids how to make explosives. She told a General Sessions Court that she thought the knowledge would come in handy in case the kids wanted to blow up tree stumps for land-clearing in the farmland. A judge believed her.
In 1982 federal agents swooped down on the ranch and arrested Lake for firearms violations. Freed on $6,000 bail, he assumed the name of Charley Gunner. He and his wife retreated to a remote ranch in Wilseyville, Calaveras County, deep in the Sierra Nevada. The cabin had been purchased by her parents as a future retirement home. Lake had other plans. He transformed it into a house of horrors.
Police say, Lake erected a fortified bunker adjacent his cabin where he hoarded illegal weapons and pilfered video equipment. Foolishly, he recorded his dastardly deeds in a ledger that could be used as evidence against him in a court of law. His diary was crammed with sexual fantasies involving sex slaves he planned to keep in his bunker after a nuclear holocaust. He wrote: "God meant woman for cooking, cleaning house and sex. And when they are not in use, they should be locked up."
On another page he scribbled: "If you love something, let it go. If it doesn't come back, hunt it down and kill it." No one knows how many people Lake killed during his lifetime, but it is thought that his first victim was his brother, Donald. They got along like Dracula and sunlight.
Their mother reported Donald missing after he failed to return from a visit with Leonard in San Bruno, in July 1983. Donald, she told authorities, went to Humboldt County to find work as a carpenter and she never heard from him again. She remembered that Leonard once told her, "The world would be better off without Don."
After Lake's hara-kiri, San Francisco police investigated the Honda Prelude he was driving at the time his arrest. It was registered to 39-year-old Paul Cosner, a San Francisco car salesman. Further investigation revealed that on November 5, 1984, Cosner took an obese man answering Lake's description on a test drive to sell him a Prelude and never came back.
Video equipment found in Lake's cinderblock-torture-chamber was traced to Harvey Dubs. Dubs, a San Francisco resident, vanished on July 25, 1984, along with his wife and son. Stacks of video tapes revealed "home movies" of hog-tied women, orgies of lust, and young girls, their faces contorted in hideous grimace as they are forced to partake in oral sex and torture. One of the sex tapes showed terrified 33-year-old Debbie Dubs being sexually abused so badly she couldn't have survived.
On the same tape, Lake and his Oriental accomplice were seen sexually abusing pretty Brenda O'Connor. Brenda, her husband Lonnie, and their son had been unlucky enough to be Lake's closest neighbor. Brenda didn't trust Lake, who called himself "Gunnar." She told people thereabouts that she had seen him bury a body in the woods. Instead of notifying the police, Lonnie invited a friend named Robin Stapley to stay with them for added protection. None of the four had been seen since May of 1985.
In captivity, Brenda was seen on tape tied to a chair, pleading for her life as her husband, son, friend Stapley, and others watched in horror. The Asian untied her and she was forced to strip naked before being put in leg-irons and sexually abused by both Lake and the Oriental.
On tape, Lake was heard to say, "By cooperating with us, that means you will stay here as a prisoner, you will work for us, you will wash for us, you will fuck for us. Or you can say no, in which case we'll tie you to the bed, we'll rape you, and then we'll take you outside and shoot you. Your choice!" Police estimated that 21 "missing" women; daughters, wives, girlfriends, were shown as victims of malicious attacks in the tapes or captured on still photos. Veteran homicide sleuths who thought they had seen everything winced at the screams of luckless victims being raped and sodomized. Cries of children in the background particularly distressed casehardened detectives.
Female captives were seen withering on the floor, humiliated in front of other male and female captives. Still photographs showed naked young girls raging in age from 12 to early twenties forced to engage in kinky sex trysts.
Six women identified in the tapes were eventually found alive. Fifteen more remain missing to this day. Abducted children and male captives were obviously buried or cremated in an incinerator found adjacent Lake's Wilseyville bunker.
Investigators continued to uncover one horror after another as more skeletons were sorted out of acattered fragments.
Beautiful Kathleen Allen was a San Jose high-school student working part-time in a supermarket when she met Lake and his Asian partner through an ex-con named Mike Carroll. Carroll, police discovered, derived sadistic pleasure from watching people die. He and the Asian were cellmates at Leavenworth. Since Carroll's parole, he and the Asian were involved in several shady deals together. Allen left her job after receiving a phone call that her sweetheart had been shot and was dying. Police traced her final paycheck to Lake's address in Wilseyville.
On one of the videotapes Lake promises to kill the terrified, naked girl and bury her like "Mike" if she doesn't cooperate in a sex orgy. "It's like horror film," Sheriff Ballard told journalists who gathered at a press conference. "Vicious, Vicious, vicious."
On June 8, hordes of police started digging outward from Lake's bunker, working with meticulous care, to preserve evidence. With the help of sheriff's canine dogs they uprooted some fifty pounds of human skeletons and fragmented bones, teeth and partial remains of missing men, women and children. They found jewelry, rotted clothing and several driver's license, including that of Stapley and Mike Carroll. A rotted corpse was eventually identified as Randy Jacobson.
Randy was a 34-year-old unemployed drifter who vanished in October 1984 after Lake answered an ad he had placed in a newspaper to sell his van. Donald Giuletti, 38, a favorite San Francisco disc jockey answered an ad in a sex tabloid offering free oral sex by an Asian male. He was found shot three times in the study of his home. Giuletti's roommate identified the man who visited Giuletti that night as Charles Ng.
Terry Parker, who filled-in as an elected coroner when he wasn't operating the area's only two mortuaries, was a member of the body-search team. He had a story to tell that would peel masonry off buildings.
"When we started digging, we didn't have a clue what we were getting into, but more and more evidence kept turning-up, a bone here, a shoe there, an entire body in a ditch. It got to the point where you were thinking: 'Am I walking on someone's remains now? There could be more under every rock. How much longer could this go on?"
Authorities refused to speculate about a link between the crimes, but that was little comfort to the 500 residents of Wilseyville. According to California Highway Patrol officer Bill Claudino: "People started locking their doors and listening for noises and wondering who lives next door." Police speculated on solutions as the victim toll mounted and detectives uncovered body parts of some 26 people. In an unprecedented move, the district attorney's office released fifteen of 21 photographs to the news media in hopes that relatives or friends would come foreword to identify the bodies.
Since Lake was beyond human punishment, having taken his own worthless life with a hidden tablet, police concentrated on his Asian partner, determined that someone would pay for these atrocious crimes. If anyone deserved the description "Mad Dog" it was Charles Chitat Ng (pronounced "Ing"), Lakes 24-year-old sidekick from Hong Kong. The son of well-to-do Chinese parents, he spent his entire life launching a one-man reign of trouble. In Hong Kong, Ng was kicked out of public school, so his wealthy parents sent him to a private school in England. In no time, he was expelled for stealing from his classmates. Frustrated, his parents sent him to California to live with an uncle and to continue his education. In California, he got in more trouble. Rather than face court ignominy involving a hit-and-run accident, he joined the Marine Corps, listing his birthplace as Bloomington, Indiana. That's where his world really began unraveling.
Ng rejected every effort of his commanding officers to make him a good Marine. He saw himself as a "ninja warrior." While stationed in Kanehoe on Oahu, Hawaii, Ng, now a lance corporal, talked incessantly about his ability to kill anyone who was foolish enough to face him in hand-to-hand combat. His fellow Marines referred to him as "Bruce Lee" and avoided him like the plague. While stationed in Hawaii in October 1979, Ng, along with two accomplices, broke into a Marine arsenal and swiped $11,000 worth of deadly weapons. They took three automatic machine guns, seven revolvers, a night-sighting scope, and three grenade launchers.
The reaction by the Marines and Washington was equally predictable. He was arrested. During psychiatric analysis, he whimsically boasted he had "assassinated" a person in California, although he would not elaborate. He was proud of the fact that he laced salt shakers in the mess hall with cyanide while he was stationed in Kaneohe. Luckily, there were no reported deaths concerning the incident. Ng told the same psycharitist that he fired a grenade launcher at a staff sergeant in a futile attempt to kill him. "Damn the luck - the grenade was a dud," he smirked.
From the psycharitist's point of view, most of Ng's stories came from an overworked imagination and bizarre braggadocio. Feeling certain he would be convicted for the armaments theft, Ng fled captivity. He was listed as a deserter when he answered Lake's ad in a survivalist magazine, in 1981. The two hit it off like Robinson Crusoe and Friday. Neighbors loathed to see them strutting around with T-shirts bearing the slogan: "Mercenaries do it for money."
The Marine deserter was eventually traced to Chicago after a San Francisco gun dealer told police he had received a call from Ng, asking him to mail him an automatic pistol he had left at his gunshop for repair. Ng, a user of more nom de plumes than Lon Chaney, now called himself "Mike Kimoto." The gun dealer explained there was a federal law against shipping firearms across state lines. Ng threatened to kill him if he reported their conversation to authorities.
Having received the report that Ng was somewhere in the Chicago area, Chicago police organized an aggressive search for the fugitive. The FBI pulled out all the stops. American authorities apprised the Paris-based international police agency that a federal warrant had been issued for Ng. The alert warned police agencies across the nation that Ng was a demolition expert and master of booby traps. There was no guarantee he could be taken alive.
At this point, State Attorney General John Van de Kamp, assumed overall charge of the case. His first act was to informed Canadian authorities that Ng might be worming his way toward Toronto. There, he could mix in the with vast majority of Chinese population to escape detection. Additionally, the state attorney urged the public to help identify 15 bodies that had been uprooted on the ranch grounds. Clifford Parenteau, barely 24, had been identified on the videotapes by relatives. It was presumed he had been slain. He vanished like a puff of smoke after winning $400 in a Superbowl pool. A bartender at the Rockin'Robin saloon said the last time he saw either Ng or Parenteau, they went off together to celebrate Parenteau's good fortune. Parenteau had erred terribly.
25-year-old Jeff Gerald, a drummer with a traveling band, vanished like a poltergeist after helping Ng move some furniture. For openers, Parenteau and Gerald, along with 10 others were named in the indictment against Ng.
Van de Kamp said more victims probably never would be properly identified because many had been chopped into small pieces and fed to chickens or buried. Having suffered excruciating pain, others were cremated and their bones crushed into malt. It was the slaughter of the innocents all over again. Additionally, Van de Kamp said, Ng's practical involvement in the serial murders were documented in Lake's ledger and on videotapes. "Unless we can locate Ng and get him to talk, the chances are slim that we'll never know everything that went on out there," he acknowledged. "It has become a case so overwhelming, so enormous and so gruesome that our computer system hasn't been able to keep up with it."
Randy Jacobson waved good-bye to his girlfriend in October 1984 and drove off into oblivion. He was regarded as a 34-year-old long-haired flower child left over from the 1960s hippie period. The thing that attracted Lake to Randy was his beautiful, well-stacked girlfriend, whom he unsuccessfully tried to seduce. Randy's blue-eyed beauty told investigators that Lake offered her a job as caretaker of a marijuana plantation on the lip of Humboldt County in northern California, but she turned the job down. The last time she saw Randy, the distraught woman told police, was the day he left to sell Lake his 1981 Ford van.
When Lake was arrested on June 2, 1985, he had in his possession a bank card belonging to Jacobson. Jacobson's corpse was found under a chicken coop on the ranch along with several other victims, discarded like so much garbage. His Flower-Child friends held a memorial service for him in a San Francisco soup kitchen for the homeless.
There were references in Lake's journal to the Pink Palace, a rooming house in the slum district of Haight-Ashbury where Jacobson lived. Investigators discovered that two other victims of Lake and Ng were lured from the pink-colored rooming house. Cheryl Okoro was 26, with an hourglass figure. 38-year-old Maurice Wock was black, the hippie-type with braided hair and gold emblems and chains dangling from his neck. After "indescribable things" had been done to them, they were ground into chicken feed. A relative of Mrs. Okoro said she warned Cheryl not to accept Lake's offer to show her his farm. She described Cheryl as a partygoer who lived in the fast lane. She said Cheryl survived by marrying illegal aliens who paid her handsomely then divorced her. Police were confident that Cheryl became Lake's new score shortly after she entered the gates of Lake's farmhouse.
An excellent guitarist, Wock was the life of the party whenever he and his dope-addict friends got together. Once he crossed paths with Lake and Ng his strumming days were over. Like Okoro, pieces of Wock's flesh were fed to the chickens. Their bones were uncovered in the nearby woods adjacent Lake's fortified bunker.
With hundreds of posters plastered throughout Canada it didn't take long until Canadian authorities informed the FBI that a man bearing Ng's description had been spotted in a bus station restroom in Chatham, Ontario. A witness said he saw Ng shaving off his sideburns and eyebrows. The witness picked out Ng in a photo lineup at Ontario police headquarters.
This information equated a Chicago man's call to the FBI alleging that he had driven a hitchhiker answering Ng's description from Chicago to a motel in Chatham, Ontario, where they parted company. The shaken informant vowed never to pick up another hitchhiker after reading in the newspapers that his Oriental passenger was the subject of a worldwide manhunt.
Canadian police missed nabbing Ng in Sedbury by a hairsbreadth. They focused their attention to the Vancouver area of British Columbia. Authorities were worried that he might try to reach the Pacific coast. From there, it was a hop and a skip to Hong Kong where he could blend in with the Asian community.
Ng's weakness for shoplifting finally caught up with him. On July 6, 1985 Hudson's Bay department store security guards John Dolyle and George Forster spotted him slipping a bottle of soda water under his coat. When they attempted to arrest him, Ng pulled a .38-caliber Cobra. There was a scuffle and a wild shot took off the finger of Doyal. Calgary, Alberta police arrived and subdued the shoplifter. A California driver's license identified the kleptomaniac as Charles Chitat Ng. The thirty-four day manhunt for one of the most brutal and imaginative killers in the annals of crime was over. Down to his last ten dollars, Ng's hide-out was a clapboard lean-to in a 200,000-acre wastelands boarding the southernmost tip of Calgary. His wordily possessions: a pen knife, ten dollars, and a .38-caliber Cobra.
American authorities were elated that the brutish killer was in custody. He was immediately housed at the Calgary Remand Centre and place under 24-hour suicide watch. It was public knowledge that Lake and Ng had made a pact to commit hara-kiri rather than face incarceration. Top officers from the San Francisco Police Department, Calaveras County Sheriff's department, and the California State Department of Justice flew to Calgary to interview Ng. Confronted with the evidence, he typically blamed everything on his dead partner Leonard Lake. He had a phenomenal memory for details dealing with the deaths of Cosner, Gerard, Parenteau and the Dubs family. His story was enough to gag a maggot.
Getting the scoundrel back to the United States from Canada was no piece of cake. According to a 1976 treaty between the two nations, Canada, like Mexico, which also opposes the death penalty, is not obliged to hand over suspected killers to the United States if the charges call for execution. Ng's attorney fought strenuously against extradition proceedings because some of the charges Ng faced included multiple murder, a special circumstance that marked him for death at San Quentin. The Canadians found Ng guilty of aggravated assault, robbery, and illegal use of a firearm for the department store incident. He was sentenced to four and one-half years in prison. California would have to wait.
Haggling between the United States and Canada took six years before the Canadian Supreme Court finally allowed Ng to be extradited in September 1991, for capital murder. After running through loophole after agendum loophole, he was brought to trial.
Because of pretrial publicity in Calaveras County, the trial was moved to Orange County, which was already bankrupt, and would have to worry later how they would pay for the litigation's hidden costs. Certainly, no amount of money could pay for the pain and suffering Ng's legal shenanigans cost the families of the victims he was accused of torturing and sexually abusing.
Ng's trial, known throughout as "the lemon-law case of California's judiciary system," began on Monday, October 26, 1998 on the 11th floor of the Orange County Courthouse. Deputy Attorney General Sharlene Honnaka and Calaveras County District Attorney Peter Smith prosecuted the case. Bill Kelley, an assistant Orange County public defender, represented Ng. The presiding judge was Robert Fitzgerald. 12 jurors and six alternates listened intently as Honnaka outlined the state's case against Ng. "Leonard Lake and Charles Ng planned and committed the murders charged in this case," she said. Through videotapes she retraced for jurors the nightmarish ordeal Kathleen Allen suffered. Jurors winced at the sight of Allen, her hands tied tightly behind her back, listening in obvious terror to Ng telling her that he would put a round through her head if she didn't submit to their perversions.
In another segment, Ng rips off a red-and-white baseball shirt Brenda O'Connor is wearing, takes a folding knife, and cuts off her brassiere. He warns her: "You can cry and stuff like all the rest of them, but it won't do you no good. We're pretty cold-hearted," In another video clip, Lake, snuggled in a recliner chair, quietly describes his plan to enslave youthful girls.
"What I want is an off-the-shelf sex partner," he says. "I want to be able to use a woman any way I want. And when I'm bored, I want to be able to simply put her away." Kelley, in his opening statement, told jurors that Lake alone killed the 12 victims Ng was being charged with murdering. He said, Ng may have witnessed the crimes but he did not help Lake dispose of them. "I'm not saying Charles Ng is an angel," Kelley said, "He's certainly not that. That's apparent. But he's charged with murder here, remember -- ending people's lives, not cutting off their clothes." Considering the case had taken 13 years to come to trial, the opening statements were anticlimactic. The state took 50 minutes to present the evidence against the myopic and sullen defendant, while the defense took five minutes longer. By early afternoon, the first in a long line of witnesses took the stand, and the prosecution began to reassemble for jurors the sick sexual fantasies of Charles Ng.
Using every conceivable stalling tactic imaginable, by 1991, Ng had fired two different defense teams, sued the state over his temporary detainment at Folsom State Penitentiary, and waged a costly court battle over whether he should be allowed to do origami in his holding cell, a case he lost. At Folsom, he was caught hiding escape paraphernalia. Ng filed challenges against four of the judges assigned to his case, resulting in the removal of three of them. During the course of his trial, Ng went through 10 attorneys, including some who ended up defending him a second time. After saying he lost trust and confidence in Kelley, Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert Fitzgerald allowed Ng to represent himself. His decision delayed the trial another year while he brushed up on the law.
Ng petitioned to get Kelley back. When Fitzgerald refused to reinstate Kelley, Ng filed a complaint with the appeals court. Subsequently, Judge John Ryan replaced Fitzgerald. Kelley was reinstated as Ng's lawyer.
On March 20, 1998, Ng changed his mind again and asked Judge Ryan to replace Kelley with Michael Burt, who already represented him on a charge of killing a cab driver in 1985. The deal fell through when Burt refused to state if he would be available by September 1.
On April 20, Ng decided he wanted to represent himself again. Judge Ryan refused. Ng filed a malpractice suit against two of his former lawyers and lodged enough motions to fill Fort Knox with legal tokens. His success in starving off his trial, caused one reporter to note: "After Ng, California's legal system should be placed on trial."
"This is just one of those situations where you have a defendant intent on using every mechanism for delay," Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff told a talk show audience. "In a case like this, the system has to return the same kind of focus to stop it from continuing." In August, 1998, Judge Ryan finally ended Ng's legal charade, He berated Ng and accused him of "playing games within games within games." In a dramatic outburst Ng cursed the judge and the legal system. One of Ng's defense attorneys said this was evidence of Ng's mental illness. The prosecutor said Ng was again further trying to manipulate the legal system.
After an exhausting trial, the jury deliberated 15 hours over a three day period before finding Ng guilty of murdering all but one of 12 victims.
In the penalty phase, Kelley struggled to convince jurors that Ng's life was worth saving. He depicted the defendant as a classic "dependent personality" who was easily led by Lake, the utmost powerful force in his life.
Mom and Daddy Ng flew in from Hong Kong to testify in his behalf. His father testified that he mistakenly enforced severe punishment on his son believing it would make him a better citizen. Both parents tearfully pleaded for his life.
It was what the newspapers called a shocker. It gave the tabloids one more juicy fact to chew on, the defense attorneys one more thing to worry about. And it reconfirmed Charles Ng's position at center stage, his status as a killer without remorse, who loved the limelight. Against the advice of his lawyers, he addressed the jurors.
"When our client decided against our wishes to take the witness stand we felt tactically that wasn't a particularly wise choice on his part," said Kelley. "I believe that sealed his fate." On Monday, May 3, 1999, a jury's decision that Charles Ng should be executed for his role in the murders of 11 people 14 years ago, marked a long-awaited but satisfying act of justice in a marathon case that went into record books as the longest and costliest murder case in California's history. Theirs would be the high honor and the phenomenal pleasure of convicting America's most cold-hearted killer in the most signicant murder prosecution ever.
The real injustice, a police spokesman said, is the justice system that allowed years-long extradition discrepancies, complex security measures, fired and rehired attorneys, accidentally destroyed evidence and an immeasurable flow of legal haggles and delays over such earthly issues as the strength of Ng's eyeglasses, the temperature of his food and his right to practice origami -- the Japanese art of paper-folding, in his jail cell.
The laborious case cost all that and more, to the tune of $20 million. Before Ng is executed, that amount is sure to rise through appeals and the cost of keeping him on death row for many years to come. As one prosecuting attorney noted: "The justice system in America has gone haywire."
Lake, Leonard, and Ng, Charles Chitat
A native of San Francisco, Leonard Lake was born July 20, 1946. His mother sought to teach pride in the human body by encouraging Lake to photograph nude girls, including his sisters and cousins, but the "pride" soon developed into a precocious obsession with pornography. In adolescence, Lake extorted sexual favors from his sister, in return for protection from the violent outbursts of a younger brother, Donald.
By his teens, Leonard displayed a fascination with the concept of collecting "slaves." Lake joined the Marine Corps in 1966 and served a noncombatant tour in Vietnam, as a radar operator. He also underwent two years of psychiatric therapy at Camp Pendleton, for unspecified mental problems, before his ultimate discharge in 1971.
Back in civilian life, Lake moved to San Jose and was married, developing a local reputation as a gun buff, "survivalist," and sex freak. His favorite high was filming bondage scenes, including female partners other than his wife, and they were soon divorced.
In 1980, Lake was charged with grand theft, after ripping off building materials from a construction site, but he got off easy with one year's probation. Married a second time in August 1981, he moved with his wife to a communal ranch at Ukiah, California, where a "renaissance" life-style was practiced - complete with medieval costumes and surgical alteration of young goats to produce "unicorns."
A few months after his arrival in Ukiah, Lake met Charlie Ng. Hong Kong born, in 1961, Charles Chitat Ng was the son of wealthy Chinese parents. Forever in trouble, Ng was expelled from school in Hong Kong, and then from an expensive private school in England, where he was caught stealing from his fellow students. A subsequent shoplifting arrest drove him to California, where he joined the Marine Corps after a hit-and-run incident, falsely listing his place of birth as Bloomington, Indiana. An expert martial artist and self-styled "ninja warrior" who was "born to fight," Ng talked incessantly of violence to his fellow leathernecks. In October 1979, he led two accomplices in stealing $11,000 worth of automatic weapons from a Marine arsenal in Hawaii and found himself under arrest.
During psychiatric evaluation, Ng boasted of "assassinating" someone in California, but he never got around to naming the victim. He escaped from custody before his trial, and was listed as a deserter when he answered Lake's ad in a war gamer's magazine, in 1981.
The two men hit it off at once, in spite of Lake's racism, which seemed to encompass only blacks and Hispanics. They began collecting automatic weapons from illegal sources, and a team of federal agents raided the Ukiah ranch in April 1982, arresting Lake and Ng for firearms violations. Released on $6,000 bond, Lake promptly went into hiding, using a variety of pseudonyms as he drifted around northern California. His second wife divorced him after the arrest, but they remained on friendly terms.
As a fugitive, Ng was denied bail, and he struck a bargain with military prosecutors in August, pleading guilty to theft in return for a promise that he would serve no more than three years of a 14-year sentence. Confined to the military stockade at Leavenworth federal penitentiary, Ng was paroled after 18 months, avoiding deportation with a reference to the phony birthplace shown on his enlistment papers.
On release from prison, he returned to California and again teamed up with Leonard Lake. By that time, Lake had settled on two and a half acres of woodland near Wilseyville, in Calaveras County, enlisting the help of neighbors to construct a fortified bunker beside his cabin, stockpiling illegal weapons and stolen video equipment.
His every thought was recorded in various diaries, including details of "Operation Miranda," entailing collection of sex slaves to serve his needs after a nuclear holocaust. On the subject of females, Lake wrote: "God meant women for cooking, cleaning house and sex. And when they are not in use, they should be locked up." An oft-repeated motto in the diaries advised, "If you love something, let it go. If it doesn't come back, hunt it down and kill it."
On February 25, 1984, shortly before his reunion with Ng, Lake described his life as "Mostly dull day-to-day routine still with death in my pocket and fantasy my major goal." If authorities are correct, the first death in Lake's pocket may have claimed brother Donald, reported missing by their mother - and never seen again - after he went to visit Lake in July 1983.
On June 2, 1985, employees of a lumberyard in South San Francisco called police to report a peculiar shoplifting incident. An Oriental man had walked out of the store with a $75 vice, placed it in the trunk of a Honda auto parked nearby, and then escaped on foot before they could detain him.
The car was still outside, and officers found a bearded white man at the wheel. He cheerfully produced a driver's license in the name of "Robin Stapley," but he bore no resemblance to its photograph. A brief examination of the trunk turned up the stolen vice, along with a silencer-equipped .22 caliber pistol. Booked on theft and weapons charges "Stapley" evaded questions for several hours, then asked for a drink of water, gulping a cyanide capsule removed from a secret compartment in his belt buckle.
He was comatose on arrival at the hospital, where he would linger on life-support machines over the next four days, before he was finally pronounced dead on June 6.
A fingerprint comparison identified "Stapley" as Leonard Lake, but the driver's license was not a forgery. Its original owner was also the founder of San Diego's Guardian Angels chapter - and he had not been seen at home for several weeks. The Honda's license plate was registered to Lake, but the vehicle was not. Its owner of record, 39-year-old Paul Cosner, was a San Francisco car dealer who had disappeared in November 1984, after leaving home to sell the car to "a weird guy." Lake's auto registration led detectives to the property in Wilseyville, where they discovered weapons, torture devices, and Leonard's voluminous diaries.
Serial numbers on Lake's video equipment traced ownership to Harvey Dubs, a San Francisco photographer reported missing from home - along with his wife Deborah and infant son, Sean - on July 25, 1984. As detectives soon learned, the equipment had been used to produce ghoulish "home movies" of young women being stripped and threatened, raped and tortured, at least one of them mutilated so savagely she must have died as a result.
Lake and Ng were the principal stars of the snuff tapes, but one of their "leading ladies" was quickly identified as the missing Deborah Dubs. Another reluctant "actress" was Brenda O'Connor, who once occupied the cabin adjacent to Lake's with her husband, Lonnie Bond, and their infant son, Lonnie, Jr. They had known Lake as "Charles Gunnar," an alias lifted from the best man at Lake's second wedding and another missing person, last seen alive in 1983.
O'Connor was afraid of "Gunnar," telling friends that she had seen him plant a woman's body in the woods, but rather than inform police, her husband had invited a friend - Guardian Angel Robin Stapley - to share their quarters and offer personal protection. All four had disappeared in May of 1985. Another snuff-tape victim, 18-year-old Kathleen Allen, made the acquaintance of Lake and Ng through her boyfriend, 23-year-old Mike Carroll.
Carroll had served time with Ng at Leavenworth and later came west to join him in various shady enterprises. Allen abandoned her job in a supermarket after Lake informed her that Carroll had been shot and wounded "near Lake Tahoe," offering to show her where he was. Her final paycheck had been mailed to Lake's address in Wilseyville. Aside from videocassettes, authorities retrieved numerous still photos from Lake's bunker, including snapshots of Leonard in long "witchy" robes, and photos of 21 young women captured in various stages of undress.
Six were finally identified and found alive; the other 15 have remained elusive, despite publication of the photographs, and police suspect that most or all of them were murdered on the death ranch. Gradually, the search moved outward from Lake's bunker, into the surrounding woods.
A vehicle abandoned near the cabin was registered to another missing person, Sunnyvale photographer Jeffrey Askern, and police soon had a fair idea of what had happened to Lake's vanishing acquaintances. On June 8, portions of four human skeletons were unearthed near the bunker, with a fifth victim - and numerous charred bone fragments, including infant's teeth discovered on June 13.
Number six was turned up five days later, and was first to be identified. A 34-year-old drifter, Randy Jacobson was last seen alive in October 1984, when he left his San Francisco rooming house to visit Lake and sell his van.
Two of Jacobson's neighbors, 26-year-old Cheryl Okoro and 38-year-old Maurice Wok, were also on the missing list, linked to the Wilseyville killers by personal contacts and cryptic entries in Lake's diary. Three more skeletons were sorted out of scattered fragments on June 26, and authorities declared that Lake and Ng were linked with the disappearance of at least 25 persons.
One of those was Mike Carroll, who reportedly agreed to dress in "sissy" clothes and lure gays for Ng to kill, then died himself when Charlie tired of the game. Donald Giuletti, a 36-year-old disc jockey in San Francisco, had offered oral sex through published advertisements, and one of the callers was a young Oriental who shot Giuletti to death in July 1984, critically wounding his roommate at the same time. Lake's wife recalled that Ng had boasted of shooting two homosexuals, and the survivor readily identified Ng's mugshot as a likeness of the gunman.
Two other friends of Ng - and occasional coworkers at a Bay Area warehouse - were also on the missing list. Clifford Parenteau, age 24, had vanished after winning $400 on a Superbowl bet, telling associates that he was going "to the country" to spend the money with Ng. A short time later, 25-year-old Jeffrey Gerald dropped from sight after he agreed to help Ng move some furniture. Neither man was seen again, and Ng is formally charged with their deaths, in two of twelve first-degree murder counts filed against him.
Other victims named in the indictment include Mike Carroll and Kathleen Allen, Lonnie Bond and family, Robin Stapley, Don Giuletti, and three members of the Dubs family. Ng is also charged as an accessory to murder in the disappearance of Paul Cosner. (Remains of Stapley and Lonnie Bond were found in a common grave on July 9, bringing the official body-count to 12 known victims.)
On July 6, 1985, Ng was arrested while shoplifting food from a market in Calgary, Alberta. A security guard was shot in the hand before Ng was subdued. Charges of attempted murder were reduced to aggravated assault, robbery, and illegal use of a weapon, with Ng sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment upon conviction.
On November 29, 1988, a Canadian judge ruled that Ng should be extradited to the United States for trial on 19 of 25 charges filed against him in California. Ng's appeal of the decision was rejected on August 31,1989, but further legal maneuvers stalled his extradition until 1991.
Even that was not the end, however, as Charlie Ng pulled out all the stops, using every trick and legal loophole in the book to postpone his trial for another seven years. He fired attorneys, challenged judges, moved for change of venue (granted, to Orange County), lodged complaints about jailhouse conditions -in short, used the cumbersome California legal system to hamstring itself.
In October 1997, Ng's stubborn refusal to cooperate with his latest court-appointed attorney won yet another delay in his trial, with jury selection pushed back to September 1, 1998.
Police in San Francisco, meanwhile, grudgingly admitted "accidentally" destroying vital evidence in one of the 13 murder counts filed against Ng, but 12 more still remained for his trial.
In May 1998, Judge John Ryan permitted Ng to fire his lawyers and represent himself, with a stern warning that the trial would begin on September 1, wther Charlie liked it or not.
On July 15, Ng tried for yet another postponement, claiming that his glasses were "the wrong prescription" and his personal computer was not fully programmed, thus hampering his defense. Judge Ryan, unmoved, denied the motion and scheduled pretrial hearings to begin on August 21. Ng's trial was the longest, most expensive criminal proceeding ever in a state notorius for courtroom maarathons, finally ending on May 3, 1999, when Ng was convicted athe jury recommended death.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
Charles Ng: Cheating Death
by Patrick Bellamy
When Officer Daniel Wright, of the South San Francisco police, responded to a routine shoplifting call at South City lumberyard, he had no idea what he was about to uncover. All that he knew was that a sales clerk had witnessed an Asian man hiding a bench vise inside his jacket, and had asked another employee to call the police.
When he arrived at the scene he pulled up next to a 1980 Honda Prelude and was approached by the clerk and another larger man with a beard. The clerk pointed out the vise, which lay in the open trunk of the Honda and told Wright that he had seen the Asian man put it there before running off.
Wright looked into the car and saw another bag containing what he thought was a handgun. After a closer inspection of the bag, he found a loaded .22 revolver and a silencer. At this point, the bearded man approached Wright and showed him a sales receipt. "Here's the receipt," he said. "I've paid for the vise my friend took, there's no need for the police." Without answering, Officer Wright returned to his car and used his radio to check the Honda's registration number. While he was waiting for a response he asked the bearded man,
"Who does this car belong to?"
The man replied, "Lonnie Bond."
"Where is he?" Wright asked.
"Up north," came the reply.
At that time, Wright returned to the radio and was informed that the Honda's registration number "838WFQ" belonged to a Buick, registered in the name of Lonnie Bond. After advising the man that swapping registration plates was a crime, Wright asked for I.D. and was given a driver's licence in the name of Robin. S. Stapley, a 26-year-old San Diego resident. At that point, Wright became increasingly suspicious, as the bearded man looked considerably older than the age stated on the licence.
Wright then picked up the gun and asked the man, "Don't you know it's illegal to carry a silenced weapon."
"It's not mine, it belongs to Lonnie. I just use it to shoot beer cans."
Wright then used the radio a second time to check the serial number of the weapon and found that it was registered to Robin. S. Stapley.
"You're under arrest," Wright told the bearded man.
"Owning an illegal weapon."
"I told you, it's not mine," the man replied.
"You say that you're Stapley right? Well the gun is registered in your name."
After handcuffing the man and reading him his rights, Officer Wright locked him in the rear of the car and returned to the sales clerk to obtain a description of the other man, which he then broadcast. - "Asian male, slight build, about twenty-five, last seen wearing a parka."
After arranging for the Honda to be towed to the police impound yard, Wright drove his prisoner to South City police station where he was placed in an interrogation room and told to empty his pockets. Among his possessions, he had a travel receipt in the name of Charles Gunnar.
"Who's Gunnar," Wright asked.
At that point, another officer advised Wright that the vehicle identification number on the Honda revealed that it belonged to a man named Paul Cosner who had been reported missing to the San Francisco Police nine months earlier. When Wright told the bearded man what he had been told, the man went pale and asked for a pen and paper and a glass of water.
"Are you going to write a confession," Wright asked.
"No," the man answered, "Just a note to my wife."
After asking for his handcuffs to be released, the man scribbled a short note and placed it in his shirt pocket.
"I can have that delivered for you if you like," Wright told him.
The man then said, "I didn't think a lousy bench vise would bring me to this."
When Wright asked him to repeat what he'd said, the man continued. "My friend's name is Charlie Chitat Ng, Chitat, pronounced Cheetah and Ng, pronounced Ing."
He then told Wright that his real name was Leonard Lake and that he was a fugitive wanted by the FBI. Without saying another word, Lake then took something from the lapel of his shirt and placed it in his mouth. Within seconds, his eyes rolled back in his head as he went into convulsions. Wright called for help and checked the prisoner's pulse. He was alive but just barely. Police later discovered that Lake had taped two cyanide capsules to the underside of his shirt lapel.
As the paramedics carried Lake to an ambulance and conveyed him to hospital, Wright wondered why a man would want to kill himself over a stolen car; he was soon to get his answer.
It wasn't long before South San Francisco police knew that they had more than a simple case of shoplifting on their hands especially when they discovered bloodstains on the front passenger's seat of the Honda, a bullet hole above it near the sun visor and two spent shell casings under the seat. Paul Cosner, 39, the original owner of the Honda and a trader of used cars, had disappeared on November 2, 1984 after he told his girlfriend that he was meeting with "a weird looking guy," to show him the car. He was never seen again.
The car and the property were later moved to San Francisco as detectives from the Missing Persons Unit there were investigating the disappearance of Paul Cosner. Among the property were several bank and credit cards and other documents in the name of Robin Scott Stapley, which had been found in the glove compartment. A check made with San Diego police revealed that Stapley was one of the founding members of the San Diego chapter of the "Guardian Angels," a national organisation that had been formed to protect private citizens from criminal attacks and generally aid the police. He had been missing since the previous April.
Another bankcard, in the name of Randy Jacobsen was also found amongst the property as was a Pacific Gas and Electric bill in the name of Claralyn Balasz. The address shown on the bill was a post office box in Wilseyville, California, a region one hundred and fifty miles east of San Francisco at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. After checks with P.G&E, police discovered that Balasz was Lake's ex-wife and was living in San Bruno, just a few short miles from the lumberyard where Lake had been arrested.
On Monday, June 3, 1985, two detectives from S.F. Missing Persons, Tom Eisenmann and Irene Brunn, went to interview Balasz. When asked about the Wilseyville address, Balasz told the police that it related to a cabin that her father owned near San Andreas, Calaveras County. When the detectives asked for directions to the cabin, Balasz explained that it was in a remote location and could only be found by someone familiar with the area. The detectives then made arrangements for Balasz to take them to the cabin the following day, as they first required authorisation from the Calaveras Sheriffs Department to conduct a search.
The following day, after meeting with Sheriff Ballard and obtaining the necessary clearance, Eisenmann, Brunn and two other officers supplied by Ballard, met Balasz and Lake's mother Gloria Eberling at a grocery store located on Highway 88 a short distance from the cabin. When the detectives asked Balasz why she was late for their appointment, she explained that she had been to the cabin prior to meeting them. The police then advised her that if she had removed any evidence she could be found guilty of obstructing justice. Balasz explained that she had been looking for videos that Lake had taken of her in the nude and had only wanted to save herself from embarrassment.
Shortly after, Balasz led them up Blue Mountain road and after just two turns, they drove past a cinder-block structure and came to the cabin. Contrary to Balasz's advice it had been relatively easy to find. After asking Balasz to unlock the cabin, Brunn and Calaveras Deputy Sheriff Varain conducted a search of the interior while Eisenmann and the other deputy looked around the grounds.
The cabin was comprised of two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. The first thing that Brunn noticed on entering the room was a spray of reddish coloured stains on the living room ceiling. On one wall was a mural of a forest scene, in the middle of the scene was a single, small calibre bullet hole. Entering the kitchen, Brunn found another similar bullet hole in the floor. The master bedroom held a four-poster bed that had electrical cords tied to each of its posts. Bolted through the floor at each corner of the bed were heavy eyebolts and above it, a 250-watt floodlight had been fastened to the wall.
To one side of the bed was a dresser, which contained an assortment of women's lingerie, many of which were soiled with dark red stains. Moving to the bed, Brunn lifted one corner of the mattress. Below it was a second mattress, it too was heavily stained with what looked like dried blood. Returning to the front room she was shown a television and two items of audio duplicating equipment by Deputy Varain. All the serial numbers had been erased. Brunn later found that the audio equipment belonged to Harvey Dubs, a San Francisco resident who, with his wife and baby son, had disappeared on July 24, 1984. The family had last been seen by a neighbour who saw them talking to two men who had come to the house to enquire about the equipment which Harvey Dubs had advertised for sale in a local paper.
Brunn then left the property with Varain and drove to the office of the San Andreas District Attorney and spoke with Assistant DA John Martin who, after listening to their report, agreed that they had sufficient evidence to request a search warrant for the whole property. After obtaining the warrant from Judge Douglas Mewhinney, Brunn and Varain returned to the property and conducted a brief interview with Balasz and Eberling, questioning them about their previous visit to the cabin. Eberling refused to answer any questions and Balasz became evasive stating only that her parents had bought the cabin from "the fat guy.
A Grisly Find
When she had finished with Balasz and her mother, Eisenmann took Brunn to another part of the yard and showed her an incinerator with thick fireproof walls that were capable of withstanding extreme temperatures. Aware that the previous occupants of the cabin were in some way involved in the disappearance of several people, Brunn and Eisenmann decided that a detailed examination of the entire area, including the incinerator and the mysterious concrete bunker, was a priority. As their search warrant didn't cover the locked bunker, Brunn asked Balasz if she would give them consent to search it. Balasz responded to their request angrily, suggesting that they talk to Lake's partner, Charles Ng.
Brunn asked for more details on Ng and was told that he was an Asian who normally hung out with Lake. When asked if she had seen Ng recently, Balasz told the detectives that Ng had rung the previous day and asked her to drive him to his apartment to pick up a paycheck. She then told them that Ng had packed a suitcase with clothes, a .22 handgun, ammunition, a large amount of cash and two I.D's, a California driver's licence and a Social Security card, both in the name of Mike Kimoto. Afterwards she had driven him to the United Airlines terminal at San Francisco airport but had no idea where he was going.
Balasz was then asked for more information on Lake and told the detectives that she and Lake had met at a Renaissance Fair in Marin County and had married after dating for a short time. As his best man Lake had chosen Charles Gunnar, a long time friend who at just 5'8", weighed nearly four hundred pounds, prompting Balasz to christen him "the fat man." Shortly after the wedding, which was paid for by Gunnar, the couple moved to Philo in Mendocino where Lake found work managing a motel. Within a year, Ng arrived and moved in with Lake and his new wife. According to Balasz, Lake and Ng got on well, as they were both former marines. In 1982, five months after his arrival, Ng left for several days and returned late one night driving a pickup. Balasz told the detectives that on the night of Ng's return, he and Lake had performed a strange dance in the yard and later unpacked some crates from the truck and placed them in a shed.
Early the following morning, an FBI swat team raided the property and arrested Ng and Lake and charged them in relation to the theft of weapons from a military base in Hawaii. Lake was later released on $30,000 bail, which was paid by Gunnar, while Ng, who was still considered a serving member of the Marine Corps, was court-martialled and sentenced to two years in Leavenworth prison. Not wishing to go to jail, Lake made plans to run off and hide in the mountains and asked Balasz to go with him. When she refused, the relationship broke down and Lake moved into the cabin alone.
Although Balasz had spoken freely about her life with Lake, when Brunn pushed for further details on his relationship with Ng, Balasz became angry, refused the detectives permission to enter the bunker and demanded to speak with an attorney. Shortly after, Balasz and Eberling left.
After relaying the information regarding Ng's movements and alias to their office, Brunn and Eisenmann left the site to request an additional search warrant for the bunker. Because of the information they had uncovered, their request was given top priority and a joint task force was set up to search the entire site. San Francisco police chief, Cornelius Murphy, authorised a twelve-man unit and Sheriff Ballard of Calaveras County assembled a team of five men and placed Lieutenant Bob Bunning in charge. Deputy Chief of Inspectors Joseph Lordan was placed in charge of the San Francisco detachment.
On Tuesday, June 4, 1985, the search began. The first task was to set up a base camp while a locksmith was summoned to unlock the bunker. A preliminary examination of the area around the bunker was then conducted which revealed a cleared area ten feet in diameter that showed traces of lye and a long trench that seemed to contain articles of clothing. Fearing a gravesite, Sheriff Ballard ordered the searchers to focus their attention on those areas while he sent an officer to find out who owned the neighbouring property. Within hours a team of "sniffer" dogs and their handlers, a forensic specialist and two additional patrolmen had joined the search.
While Ballard was coordinating his search party, the officer returned from the house next door with more disturbing information. The owner of that property, Bo Carter, who had been contacted by telephone, informed the officer that the house was a rental. Some weeks before, his tenants, Lonnie Bond, his partner Brenda O'Connor and their infant son Lonnie Jr., had fallen behind on their rent so he had sent a real estate agent to collect it. When the agent arrived, a man calling himself Charles Gunnar came from the direction of the cabin and told him that the tenants had left ten days previously. At that time, the agent informed Carter that another man, by the name of Robin Stapley, had been living with the Bonds prior to their disappearance. The agent had also told Carter that an eroded bank near the boundary between the two properties had been recently dug up.
Disturbed by the news, Carter went to the site a week later to inspect his property. When he arrived, a man calling himself Charlie Gunnar had approached him and watched as he inspected the house. Carter said he didn't worry about Gunnar until he saw a TV news item about a man who took cyanide following his arrest for a weapons charge. The news item had also shown the man's picture and given his name. According to Carter, the man he had seen near the cabin was Leonard Lake. After hearing the story, Ballard sent searchers to find the area described by the agent.
The following day, the bunker was opened. Sheriff Ballard, Detectives Brunn and Eisenmann and the Calaveras County Information officer, Jim Stenquist, conducted the initial search. The main room was a twenty-foot by twelve-foot workshop area with a range of hand tools and power saws hanging on a plywood wall next to a workbench. On closer inspection, many of the tools were found to be encrusted with a dried brownish substance, possibly blood. Attached to the bench was a broken vise. As they inspected the room further, the detectives checked the dimensions of it and discovered that it was smaller than the size it seemed from the outside and deduced that there may be a hidden room. They soon found that the plywood tool rack was in fact a door leading to a smaller room. Inside were a double bed, a side table, books and a reading lamp. On one wall was a wooden plaque with the legend "Operation Miranda" carved into it.
Police would later learn that the name was derived from a book called "The Collector" by John Fowles, which was found in the bookshelf. The book tells the story of a butterfly collector who kidnaps a beautiful woman and keeps her locked in his cellar where the woman eventually dies.
The room also contained military equipment including uniforms, boots and a vast array of weapons, including assault rifles, shotguns and machine guns. On the floor, police found a work shirt and a baseball cap with the words "Dennis Moving Service," embroidered on them.
In a bookshelf on the far wall, between books on explosives and chemicals, the searchers found a small window that appeared to be made up of multiple panes of glass, possibly soundproofed. On another shelf was a military "Starlight" scope which, initially designed for snipers, was capable of viewing objects in extremely low light conditions. On another wall were twenty-one candid photographs of young girls in various stages of undress, most of which were taken outdoors. Two of the pictures had been taken in front of wallpaper with a cartoon character motif.
Police would eventually identify the wallpaper as being the same as that in the South City Juvenile Hall, the same location that Claralyn Balasz worked as a teacher's assistant. All twenty-one women were later identified and found to be alive and well.
After checking their measurements again, the detectives found that there was another discrepancy indicating that there may be a third room behind the small window. Sheriff Ballard was informed but refused the searchers permission to continue with the search until the forensic technicians had collected evidence from the first two rooms.
The first find by the technicians was a single adult fingerprint taken from the bookshelf window. Later they found other prints on and around the same window, which were retained until the fingerprint records of Lake, Ng and missing person files could be obtained for comparison.
The fingerprints on and around the window were later positively identified as belonging to Ng and Lake.
As the technicians continued their analysis, searchers outside uncovered two bones beside the driveway but were unable to ascertain if they were human. They were later sent to Doctor Boyd Stephens, San Francisco's Chief Medical Examiner for further analysis.
The second day at the site, the lab crew responsible for the search of the cabin found additional evidence in the form of a .22 calibre bullet that was removed from the wall of the main bedroom. Under the springs of the bed in the same room, they found a diary, which later proved to be written by Leonard Lake and described in chilling detail how he and Ng had selected, raped, and murdered numerous victims. It also described how Lake, an ardent survivalist who feared nuclear war, had planned to build a series of bunkers across the country complete with supplies, weapons and female sex-slaves. The diary further spelled out his intention to use his female captives to repopulate the world.
By 5.00pm on the second day, the initial forensic analysis of the bunker had been completed and Ballard ordered Brunn and Eisenmann to continue their search of the interior. After checking what looked like a sealed room, Brunn found a secret door behind a bookcase that led into the room with the window. The room itself was only three foot three inches wide by seven and a half feet long with a six-foot ceiling. Inside they found a narrow bed, a chemical toilet, air freshener and a water container. Holes had been drilled in the wall to provide ventilation but had been baffled to exclude light. After closely examining both rooms at the same time, they discovered that the window was "two-way" glass. They later discovered a button beside it which, when pushed, allowed the occupants of the first room to hear any sounds from within the smaller room. Eisenmann than turned off all the lights in the bunker and, using the "Starlight" scope through the "viewing window," was able to see Brunn clearly in the smaller room. They had discovered what looked like a "hostage cell." When the newest information was relayed to Ballard, he left the site and returned to his office where he made plans for a full-scale murder investigation, which would include the FBI, the Californian Forestry Department and the Californian Department of Justice.
On day three, the searchers were assisted by another specialist detachment of dogs and their handlers from the Californian Rescue Dogs Association. After an hour of fruitless searching, Ballard called for heavy equipment to begin digging up the site. During the same morning, Ballard received an unexpected visitor in the form of Gloria Eberling, Lake's mother. She told Ballard that she had come because she was concerned about her other son, Donald who had disappeared two years earlier. Brunn, who was also present, asked Eberling if Balasz had removed anything from the cabin on the day they met and was told that Balasz had taken twelve videotapes from the main bedroom.
Balasz later gave police the twelve videos she had taken from the cabin which, as she had indicated, were of her and Lake having sex.
Ballard then asked Eberling if Lake's condition had improved, she told him that her son had been officially pronounced brain dead and doctors were pressing her to switch of his life support.
For Ballard, the case was becoming a nightmare. He had evidence that suggested multiple kidnappings, rapes and murders and two main suspects but one was virtually dead and the other was in hiding, possibly in another country. All he could do was collect the evidence and wait.
The FBI, meanwhile had determined that Charles Ng had taken a flight from San Francisco to Chicago but they were unable to ascertain where he had gone from there. After a check of his background, they found that he came from Hong Kong, had sisters in Toronto and Calgary, an uncle in Yorkshire, England and former Marine friends in Hawaii. They were aware that, with sufficient funds and several days' lead, Ng could be in any of four locations. To assist in the search, they contacted Interpol and Scotland Yard and distributed Ng's description worldwide.
All That Remains
On the fourth day of the search, Doctor Stephens arrived at the site and informed Ballard that the bones found near the driveway, were definitely human. Shortly after he arrived, another bone was found which appeared to have been cut neatly on both ends by a saw or similar cutting tool. As the search progressed, numerous items were unearthed from various locations. In the trench that ran from the bunker to the entry road, police found a plastic bag containing a letter addressed to Charles Ng and a receipt in the name of Harvey Dubs. Next they unearthed a shirt with the name "Scott" embroidered on it. Literally hundreds of items, which had to be painstakingly photographed and held for analysis, were removed from the site.
It wasn't until the fifth day that the first bodies were found. The skeletal remains of two people seemed to be complete but the bones had been sawn into sections and badly burned. Ironically, at 8.00pm on the same day the skeletons were found, doctors at Kaiser Permanente Hospital switched off Leonard Lake's life support - he died within seconds.
Later, a sealed five gallon bucket was uncovered which contained a cheque book in the name of Robin Scott Stapley, jewellery, credit cards, driver's licences, wallets and two videotapes without labels and a third marked "M. Ladies Kathy/Brenda." The first two videos were later viewed, the first showing Lake and Balasz at a Thanksgiving dinner. On the second, Lake had been filmed discussing his greatest fantasy - kidnapping a woman and enslaving her. The third video was the most disturbing, it showed a young woman, identified only as Kathy, changed to a chair and later forced to perform a striptease while being taunted by two men, Lake and Ng. In another part of the video, Ng could be seen clearly cavorting on a bed with Kathy while Lake took still photographs.
The young woman was later identified as eighteen-year-old Kathy Allen, a clerk at a supermarket in Milpitas. Allen was apparently lured to the site by Lake who told her that her boyfriend had been shot. Police later revealed that Allen's boyfriend, a known drug dealer named Michael Sean Carroll, had been Ng's cellmate in Leavenworth.
The tape also included footage of another young woman named Brenda, which showed her begging for information regarding her baby. In answer, Lake tells her "Your baby is sound asleep, like a rock." Eventually, when the constant barrage of taunts and threats breaks her resolve, Brenda agrees to cooperate. Later in the tape she can be heard taking a shower with both men.
The second victim shown on the tape was nineteen-year-old Brenda O'Connor, Lake's next-door neighbour. Police believe that her common-law husband Lonnie Bond and their baby, Lonnie Jr. were murdered by Lake and Ng prior to the tape being made.
As the search progressed, the searchers uncovered a partial skull, another plastic bucket containing personal items and a complete, albeit burned body. Within minutes four more bodies, including that of a child, were uncovered. Two were female, the other a black male. A short time later another plastic container and a long twelve-inch diameter metal tube were unearthed. Inside the container, police found 1,863 silver dollars, more wallets and credit cards. The tube contained a Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. In another search of a mound of freshly dug earth some distance from the cabin, two more bodies were uncovered; both had been killed by a single, small calibre bullet to the head. The bunker was later completely demolished in the search for more bodies.
As the search wound down, the bodies of seven men, three women, two baby boys and forty-five pounds of bone fragments had been recovered, along with numerous amounts of property belonging to the deceased. In all, police found evidence suggesting that up to twenty-five people, who had previously been reported missing, may have been murdered in or around the Wilseyville compound but the fact that most of the bodies had been cut up, burnt and scattered around the site made identification extremely difficult. Eventually, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Charles Chitat Ng for twelve murders.
The victims would eventually be identified as Kathleen Allen, her boyfriend Michael Carroll, Robin Scott Stapley, Randy Johnson, Charles "The Fat Man" Gunnar (Lakes best man), Donald Lake (Leonard's brother), Paul Cosner, (the owner of the Honda), Brenda O'Connor, Lonnie Bond Snr., Lonnie Bond Jr., (Lakes next door neighbours) and Harvey Dubs, Deborah Dubs and Sean Dubs. (The Dubs family had been abducted and killed after Ng and Lake went to their house in relation to audio equipment that Harvey Dubs had advertised for sale.)
Tracking a Killer
While Sheriff Ballard and his team were working twelve hours a day to unearth the grisly secrets of the Wilseyville compound, the FBI were gathering additional information on one of the people believed to be responsible for the carnage, Charles Chitat Ng.
They learned that Ng had been born in Hong Kong on December 24, 1961. The son of a wealthy businessman, he was given every opportunity life could offer but Charlie developed a rebellious streak at a young age and was expelled from several schools. Anxious for his son to change his ways, his father sent him to a boarding school in Yorkshire England where he would be under the protection of his uncle, who was a teacher at the school. After a short time at the new school, Charles was caught stealing from other students and a local department store and was, once again, expelled.
He then returned to Hong Kong until, at the age of eighteen, he obtained a student visa to study in the U.S. and attended Notre Dame College in Belmont California. Obviously the life of a student didn't appeal to him as he dropped out after just one semester. In October 1979, Ng was charged in relation to a hit and run accident. He was later convicted and ordered to pay damages. Shortly after, he enlisted in the Marines, even though he wasn't an American citizen, listing Bloomfield, Indiana as his place of birth.
By 1981, Ng had been promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal. His military career ended shortly after, however, when he and three accomplices stole military weapons from an armoury at Kaneohe Marine Base in Hawaii. A month later, he was arrested by the Military Police and locked up. Within days of his incarceration, he escaped and made his way to California where he met up with Leonard Lake. One story suggests that the two met as a result of an ad that Lake had placed in a survivalist magazine but this information cannot be verified. Not long after, he moved in with Lake and Balasz until the FBI arrested them for weapons offences.
Following his release from Leavenworth in June 1984, Ng returned to California and moved into the Wilseyville cabin with Lake. Ng should have been deported following his release from Leavenworth but the Marine Corps was still unaware that he was not an American citizen.
The FBI estimates their kidnapping and killing spree started within a month of their reunion. In July 1984, Donald Giuletti, a San Francisco disc jockey, and his roommate, Richard Carrazza, were shot by an Asian man who broke into their apartment and robbed them. Giuletti died in the attack but Carrazza survived and would later identify Charles Ng as his attacker. The pistol used in the attack was found at the Wilseyville site.
Gradually, the FBI were successful in tracing Ng's movements after leaving San Francisco. On the day that Claralyn Balasz had driven him to the airport, he was seen boarding an American Airlines flight to Chicago. On his arrival, he booked into the Chateau Hotel under the name of Mike Kimoto before checking out four days later. He then met up with an unidentified friend and travelled to Detroit before crossing the border into Canada alone. A search of his apartment revealed a cache of weapons and property allegedly belonging to the victims as well as a pay slip from the Dennis Moving Company.
The FBI also compiled a dossier on Leonard Lake who obviously hadn't had the benefit of the privileged upbringing that Ng had enjoyed. He was born in San Francisco on October 29, 1945 to parents who were constantly fighting. His birth obviously did nothing to ease their domestic conflict as he was sent to live with various relatives until, at the age of six, he found a permanent home with his grandparents. According to statements taken from his friends and relatives, Lake was never able to come to terms with his feelings of rejection and abandonment.
At the age of nineteen, Lake left home and enlisted in the Marines where he was trained as a radar operator. Following his specialist training, he was sent to Da Nang in Vietnam. According to his medical records, Lake was hospitalised during his first tour for "exhibiting incipient psychotic reactions." Obviously his superiors did not consider his condition serious as he was treated and returned to his unit to finish his tour. A second tour lasted a few short months before it was cut short when Lake was deemed to be suffering from "unspecified medical problems" and returned to El Toro Marine Base in Orange County. In all, he served seven years, earning the Vietnam Service Medal, a Vietnam Campaign Medal and two other medals for good conduct. He was later discharged on medical grounds and went to live in San Jose, California.
Shortly after his release, he entered the Oakland Veteran's Administration Hospital where he was treated for "psychological problems." Following his release, he briefly attended college at San Jose State University. Five years after his discharge, he met Claralyn Balasz at a renaissance fair in Marin County where he ran a stall, charging visitors for photographs posed with a goat that he had disguised as a unicorn. In 1981, Lake and Balasz were married and moved to a commune, located in Philo, Mendocino County, Northern California. While in Philo, the Lake's lived in a sprawling ranch that Leonard called "Alibi Run" where he allegedly grew marijuana. According to friends, it was about this time that Lake became delusional and converted his ranch into a "survivalist enclosure" and stocked it with weapons and supplies to ward off the "siege" that he believed was coming.
A Simple Theft
Although Charles Ng managed to elude a nationwide manhunt for thirty-four days, his penchant for shoplifting lead to his demise just as it had for Leonard Lake. On Saturday July 6, 1985, two security guards in a "Hudson Bay" store in Calgary approached Ng after he had attempted to leave the store with several grocery items secreted in a backpack. When they challenged him, Ng drew a gun and threatened them. A short scuffle followed, during which, one of the officers was shot in the hand before Ng was overpowered and taken into custody. He was later charged at Calgary Metropolitan Police station with robbery, attempted robbery, possession of a firearm and attempted murder.
As Charles Ng prepared to face the courts, news of his arrest reached the Calaveras Task Force. Any elation at his capture was soon dispelled, however, when John Cosbie, the Canadian Justice Minister, announced that under the terms of a 1976 extradition treaty with the United States, he had refused the request for Ng's extradition as Canada, having abolished capital punishment, would not release any prisoner charged with a capital crime that carried the death penalty.
After the US authorities had recovered from their shock, two San Francisco detectives were sent to interview Ng in his Calgary jail cell. He told them that it was Lake who was responsible for most of the Wilseyville killings but admitted helping to dispose of Paul Cosner's body. Following the interview, the US justice department made a renewed attempt to have Ng extradited but the Canadian authorities refused, as they were about to bring Ng to trial for offences committed on Canadian soil. He was later tried and convicted on the Calgary shoplifting and assault charges and sentenced to four-and-a-half years imprisonment.
As Ng prepared to serve his sentence, the United States Justice Department began what would become a long and protracted battle to extradite Charles Ng. The battle lasted almost six years, during this period Ng spent most of his time studying American law. During the extradition proceedings, evidence was tabled that Ng had drawn several cartoons, which, according to US attorneys, showed details of the Wilseyville killings that only someone with an intimate knowledge of the killings could produce.
A Costly Endeavour
After dozens of appeals and a seemingly endless round of hearings, the Canadian government finally acceded to the Californian government's request and agreed to extradite Charles Ng on September 26, 1991. Within minutes of his release, Ng was flown to McClellan Air Force base where he was transferred to Folsom prison in Sacramento to await trial. What followed were the most drawn out, costly criminal proceedings in US criminal history, even outstripping the infamous O.J. Simpson case. Ng used every point of law that he and his string of attorneys could muster to delay trial proceedings against him.
The site for the trial was to be San Andreas but Ng constantly filed actions against the state of California, making formal complaints on matters ranging from alleged poor treatment and bad food to the claim that he was forced to take medication for motion sickness during the fifty-mile trip to the courthouse, which he claimed, made him drowsy and unable to take part in pre-trial proceedings. He gained further delays by dismissing his attorneys at regular intervals and later filed a $1 million malpractice suit against them for incompetence. At one stage he filed a motion with the San Andreas court applying for the right to represent himself but later withdrew it.
The delaying tactics continued as Ng's attorneys applied to have the trial moved to Orange County as they believed that their client would not receive a fair trial in San Andreas. In support of this motion the attorneys tabled an independent survey indicating that 95% of the residents of Calaveras County already considered Charles Ng guilty of the Wilseyville murders. These and other motions were brought before the California Supreme court no less than five times until finally, on April 8, 1994, a San Andreas judge upheld the motion and ordered the trial moved to Santa Ana in Orange County. This action caused further delays when Orange County officials objected to the order on the grounds that the county was virtually bankrupt and unable to bear the costs of such a trial. The issue was eventually resolved when the state of California agreed to pay any costs incurred.
More years of legal wrangling ensued as Ng changed attorneys who in turn asked for further adjournments to prepare their case. At one point during the proceedings, Ng was housed in a small cage between appearances, as he was considered "highly dangerous." The cage was later removed when a Federal magistrate described its use as "barbarous." Even before the actual trial began, Ng had appeared before six different judges in a case that had amassed over six tons of evidence and other legal documents at a cost approaching $10 million.
In October 1998 after thirteen years of delays and extended legal arguments, the trial of Charles Chitat Ng began. For the next few months, the jury, the media and the families and friends of the victims, heard state prosecutor Sharlene Honnaka relate how Leonard Lake and Charles Ng had selected and kidnapped their victims before taking them to the Wilseyville site where they sadistically tortured, raped and murdered them.
To support the state's case, Honnaka submitted the videos that were found at the site that clearly showed Ng and Lake torturing and abusing Kathy Allen and Brenda O'Connor. Evidence, including stolen property and photographs were also tabled further linking both men to the victims. Honnaka also attempted to submit excerpts from Lake's diaries as evidence but Judge John J. Ryan refused to admit them, ruling that most of the material submitted bore no relevance to the case. Part of Lake's military record was also withheld.
The defence countered, claiming that Ng was an unwilling accomplice to the more dangerous and demented Lake who was responsible for the murders while Ng merely participated in some of the sexual offences. Towards the end of the proceedings, Ng damaged his own case when he insisted on taking the stand, a move which allowed prosecutors to present additional evidence, including a picture of Ng in his cell showing the incriminating cartoons behind him on the wall next to a motto which read, "No kill, no thrill - no gun, no fun."
William Kelley, Ng's court appointed attorney, attempted to regroup by calling Claralyn Balasz to give evidence in support of his client even though the prosecution had previously granted her immunity. He later changed his mind when Judge Ryan advised him that Balasz had made prior statements implicating Ng.
Ng sits passively as his sentence is read.
Finally, after a trial lasting eight long months, all the evidence had been heard and the jury retired to consider a verdict. Within hours they returned. They found Charles Chitat Ng guilty of the murder of six men, three women and two baby boys. The charge of murdering the seventh man, Paul Cosner, had been dropped previously owing to insufficient evidence.
Judge Ryan then followed the jury's recommendation and imposed a sentence of death even though he had the option of sentencing Ng to life imprisonment.
At the time of writing, Ng and his attorneys are presenting appeals against the "harshness" of the sentence. This process alone could take another six years and perhaps another six million dollars, a grand total of almost twenty million dollars to convict one man, even though the evidence against him included videotape footage of two of the crimes in progress. But while Ng and people like him make a mockery of the American legal system, the question remains - What made them do it? What possessed them to kidnap, rape and torture their innocent victims including friends and family?
One suggestion is that Lake and Ng were already capable of such crimes as individuals but it wasn't until they met that they began to fuel each other's sado-sexual desires to inflict pain and death on others. The situation may be an example of what criminal psychologists call Gestalt, where "the organised whole is greater than the sum of it's parts," not unlike that other tag-team from hell, Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole. Whatever their motivations were, one clear fact remains, a court of law deemed that Charles Ng and Leonard Lake were jointly responsible for some of the most brutal and sadistic crimes in the annals of criminal history. It's unfortunate that it takes so much time and money to bring such men to justice.