The Serial Homicide Case of the Day, from "Hunting Humans, the Encyclopedia of 20th Century Serial Killers" , by Michael Newton
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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.
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