Charles Chi-Tat Ng (Chinese: 吳志達/吴志达,; born
December 24, 1960) is a Chinese-American serial killer. With Leonard
Lake, he is suspected of murdering between 11 and 25 victims at Lake's
ranch in Calaveras County, California.
After a long extradition battle in Canada, Ng stood
trial in the US and was convicted of 11 murders, and is currently on
death row at San Quentin State Prison.
Ng was born in Hong Kong in 1960, the son of a
wealthy company executive. As a child, he was harshly disciplined and
abused by his father. As a teenager, Ng was described as a troubled
loner and was expelled from several schools. When he was arrested for
shoplifting at age 15, his father sent him to Bentham Grammar boarding
school in Yorkshire, England. Not long after arriving, he was expelled
for stealing from other students and returned to Hong Kong.
Ng finally moved to the United States, where he
entered Notre Dame de Namur University. However, he dropped out after
only one semester.
U.S. Marine Corps
Ng enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in
early 1980, but after serving less than a year he was dishonorably
discharged for theft of heavy weaponry and machine guns from MCAS
Kaneohe Bay. He was further charged with escape from confinement and
attempted desertion, though the desertion charge was dropped. Ng was
convicted on the remaining charges and was sentenced to 14 years in a
military prison. He was released in late 1982, when his sentence was
Ng met Leonard Lake in 1983 and the two are
suspected of murdering between 11 and 25 victims at Lake's ranch in
Calaveras County, California. They filmed themselves raping and
torturing their victims.
The crimes became known in 1985 when Lake committed
suicide after being arrested, and Ng was caught shoplifting at a
hardware store. Police searched Lake's ranch and found human remains.
Ng was identified as Lake's partner in crime.
Ng fled to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where he was
arrested by the Calgary Police Service on July 6, 1985, after
resisting arrest for shoplifting at The Bay department store. Ng
pointed a pistol at two security guards, and after a brief struggle
shot one of them in the hand. However, the guards managed to overpower
him and held him in custody. Ng was charged and subsequently convicted
of shoplifting, felonious assault, and possession of a concealed
firearm. He was sentenced to four and half years in a Canadian prison.
After a long extradition battle, Ng was handed over
to the U.S. authorities. He stood trial in 1998 on 12 counts of murder
and was convicted on February 11, 1999, of 11 murders - six men, three
women, and two male infants. He was sentenced to death. Ng's trial was
lengthy and cost California approximately $20 million. At the time, it
was the most expensive trial in the state's history.
Charles Ng is currently on death row at San Quentin
State Prison. Since entering prison, Ng has taken up art.
Charles NG y
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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
continued to uncover one horror after another as more skeletons were
sorted out of acattered fragments.
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
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.
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?"
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.
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
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
"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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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?"
replied, "Lonnie Bond."
"Where is he?"
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
picked up the gun and asked the man, "Don't you know it's illegal to
carry a silenced weapon."
mine, it belongs to Lonnie. I just use it to shoot beer cans."
used the radio a second time to check the serial number of the weapon
and found that it was registered to Robin. S. Stapley.
arrest," Wright told the bearded man.
"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."
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."
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.
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."
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."
asked him to repeat what he'd said, the man continued. "My friend's
name is Charlie Chitat Ng, Chitat, pronounced Cheetah and Ng,
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
fingerprints on and around the window were later positively identified
as belonging to Ng and Lake.
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.
gave police the twelve videos she had taken from the cabin which, as
she had indicated, were of her and Lake having sex.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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,
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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."
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.
passively as his sentence is read.
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.
then followed the jury's recommendation and imposed a sentence of
death even though he had the option of sentencing Ng to life
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?
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.
material for this story was drawn from the following sources:
Denied - The Ng Case, The Most Famous and Expensive Murder Case in
History" - Joseph Harrington and Robert Burger. - Plenum Trade, Plenum
Publishing Corporation, New York.
Encyclopedia of Serial Killers" - Brian Lane and Wilfred Gregg. -
Hodder Headline Publishing, London.
Mass Murder and Serial Killing Exposed" - James Alan Fox and Jack
Levin. - Dell Books - Bantam Doubleday Publishing, New York.
Darkness" - John Douglas and Mark Olshaker - Arrow Books, Random
"A Fate Better
than Death" - Time Magazine Law Article - March 4, 1991.
"Crime - An
Encyclopedia" - Oliver Cyriax - Andre Deutsch Ltd.