Leonard Lake and Charles Ng
This pair of survivalists from hell built a torture chamber and
snuff film parlor in a remote Northern California ranch to fuel their perverse
lustmord. Lake, who went underground in 1982 after skipping bail on a weapons
charge, was fond of his survivalist doomsday plan called "Operation Miranda,"
which would be enacted immediately after the WWIII radioactive dust settled. He
was building a system of underground bunkers around the cabin at Wilseyville, in
the Sierra Nevada foothills, where mindless female slaves would cater to every
one of his needs. (It's reassuring to know that even sadists plan to survive the
A pathological woman-hater who had been abandoned my his mother as a child, Lake preyed on men to use their money and their identification, and preyed on women for sex. In one of the siezed videotapes Lake expounds on his views on women. "I guess the bottom line of my statement, the simple fact is, I'm a sexist slob," he says. "I enjoy using a woman ... but in the long term I don't want to bother." On one of the tapes Lake mentions "The Collector" -- a novel by John Fowles about an obscure little clerk with a penchant for butterfly collecting who nets a lovely, twenty-year-old woman -- as his inspiration.
In April 1985, Lake and Ng videotaped themselves mistreating two captive women at Lake's home in Wilseyville, in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Calaveras County. Kathy Allen, a San Francisco-area supermarket clerk, and Brenda O'Connor, Lake's neighbor, were never seen again. Lake on tape threatens the women with rape and death if they don't agree to cooperate as sex slaves. He repeatedly uses the plural "we" while Ng stands by, Calaveras County District Attorney Peter Smith pointed out as the prosecution finished its summation. Ng, naked, is seen on tape getting a massage from a nearly nude Allen; Ng cuts away O'Connor's shirt and bra as she pleads for her husband and baby, who are also among his alleged victims.
When captured in 1985 for a bungled shoplifting attempt, Lake committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide pill. When police reached Lake's ranch they uncovered a "truckload of bones," and a body stuffed into a sleeping bag. They also found videotapes and photos documenting their reign of terror. Ng, the only known serial killer with no vowels in his last name, escaped to Canada where he was later arrested for another bungled shoplifting attempt. In 1991, after fighting extradition for six years, he was returned to California where he is charged with conspiring in the sadistic killings of 12 people: two infants, three women and seven men. Authorities say Ng and Lake imprisoned, raped and tortured the women while using the men's identities to take money from banks, credit accounts and even to collect a Super Bowl pool.
The son of a wealthy Hong Kong businessman, Ng has proved to be an astute corruptor of the legal system. Using every ruse, the former ex-Marine has been able to postpone his trial for 13 and a half years. At one point, after having fired a series of defenders, Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan allowed Ng to act as his own attorney. After several months Judge Ryan reinstated a public defender to the case to stop any more postponements by the crafty alledged serial killer. Finally, on October 26, 1998, his trial -- considered by many legal experts the , most expensive trial in California legal history -- began in Orange County.
A man who was to play a pivotal role in the trial of accused serial killer Charles Ng has died in a car accident in Calgary, Canada. Ng, arrested in Calgary 13 years ago after a worldwide manhunt, allegedly confessed his crimes to fellow inmate Joseph Maurice Laberge. Laberge, 46, died May 19 in a car accident near Crossfield, 18 miles north of Calgary. Laberge -- whose name has not been revealed until now because he was under a witness protection program -- was alone. Foul play has been ruled out.
During his stint on the witness stand, Charles Ng denied that his videotaped threats were real, saying they were just "bluffs" to sexually excite his pal Leonard Lake. Throughout his trial in Orange County, Ng's lawyers claimed that the Hong Kong native was merely a patsy under the spell of Leonard Lake. In fact, on the witness stand Ng claimed that he knew nothing about the murders, even after helping his friend bury a couple of bodies. When he was questioned by prosecutor Sharlene Honnaka about the videotaped abuse on Kathy Allen, the shoplifting ex-marine testified that he had apparently it blocked out memory. The tape shows Allen giving Ng a massage. "It wasn't a pleasant memory I would try to remember," Ng said. "It didn't stick out in your mind that you had a woman that had been kidnapped?" Honnaka said. "My subconscious may be blocking it. That's my testimony," Ng said. He added that "nothing sexual" occurred with Allen, although he took a shower with her.
Other testimony revolving around graphic cartoons he made in a Canadian jail read like the script of an absurdist play. Ng blamed most of the content of cartoons on Maurice Laberge. When Honnaka showed a drawing depicting Lake whipping a woman while Ng stands by eating a bowl of rice, Ng said it was a satire of the allegations, "to show how ludicrous this sort of thing is." Another drawing depicted a man of Asian appearance cooking a baby in a wok and the phrase, "Daddy died, momma cried, baby fried." Ng admitted drawing "the majority of it," but said he had been goaded by Laberge.
Mr. Good Will himself, Ng said he drew the cartoons only for the amusement of Laberge. "Every time I send him a cartoon or we collaborate on a cartoon, he'd laugh." He added that the cartoon was a joke referring to rumors that Lake and him had microwaved a baby. Other "satiric" cartoons showed Ng smashing a a baby in a pillowcase against something, Lake drowning a baby in a pillowcase and a man strangling a woman with pantyhose during sex.
Prosecutor Honnaka replayed segments of the videos, asking Ng what he meant by telling a shackled Brenda O'Connor: "You can cry and stuff like the rest of them, but it won't do you no good." "What do you mean by 'the rest of them?"' Honnaka asked. "There's no 'rest of them,"' Ng said. "I just try to project that seriousness ... so she wouldn't resist." Ng told the prosecutor he was acting tough -- like a character in a Death Wish movie -- when he cut away O'Connor's shirt and bra and told her: "You're totally ours."
"I don't want to act like a wimp, put it that way," Ng said. "You don't want to act like a wimp with a woman who's asking about her husband and her baby and her friend?" Honnaka countered. "At that time I didn't know who those people were," said Ng. O'Connor, a 19-year-old neighbor of Lake's, disappeared in April 1985 about the same time as Lonnie Bond, 27, their son Lonnie Bond Jr., 1, and friend Scott Stapley, 24, who lived in San Diego at the time. Ng said he helped Lake bury Bond and Stapley, and that was the first time he had seen a dead person so closely. That and the treatment of O'Connor, who was pregnant, left Ng "pretty disturbed about it afterward," he said.
In a jailhouse interview with the Sacramento Bee, convicted serial killer Charles Ng said he was shocked and angry for being sentence3d to death. "It's a strange experience," he said. "It's just like the doctor telling you that you have a terminal disease . . . You think you are psychologically prepared for it, but it's still like a big shock."
Three days before the jury's recommendation, juror Karen Barrett received a call from a man who said he was "Charles" and told her: "I just wanted to tell you, you are very nice." Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan allowed the juror to remain on the panel; she said she was "nervous" but would not be prejudiced by the incident. Ng refused to say whether he called the juror, but said Barrett was "the only one who gave me a smile and looked me in the eyes. I don't know whether she had something going on or not."
On February 24, 1999, a Santa Ana jury found Charlie guilty of 11 counts of first-degree murder. To expedite the process, a deadlocked count count was dropped by the judge. The jury also found special circumstances of multiple murder that makes Charlie eligible for the death penalty. Ng looked down at the defendants' table as the verdicts were read and showed no reaction.
Dr. Stuart Grassian, a Boston psychiatrist, said Ng's severe personality problems developed early in life because of a strict upbringing in Hong Kong. "He was never encouraged as a child to be assertive," Grassian said. "He was always morbidly shy as a child and when teachers would say that he didn't speak in class, his father would beat him with a cane. He felt debased, devalued. He was told he was stupid."
Ng loved animals, Grassian said, and was devastated when one of his pet chickens was killed by a family member and wound up on the dinner table. Grassian said that once Ng came to the United States he sought guidance from authority figures because he was incapable of determining his own path in life.
Dr. Stuart Grassian described Ng, 38, as a classic "dependent personality" -- an abused child and someone who would latch onto authority figures and do their bidding in order to gain acceptance. "Charles Ng was the type of person that would have ended up in South America drinking Kool-Aid," said Grassian, referring to a mass suicide by poison at Jonestown in Guyana. "I don't think he was predestined in terms of violence or sadism."
"He didn't know how to be assertive because they don't teach you that in Hong Kong," said his defense lawyer William Kelley. "He wanted to be told what to do." As a child in Hong Kong Ng was beaten with chains by his father and spent so much time being ordered around that he became dependent on others to tell him what to do. "He was just like any other kid," said Alice Shum, Ng's aunt, speaking through a Cantonese interpreter. "A regular kid. He was shy. He was quiet."
Ng came to the United States from his native Hong Kong in 1978 on a student visa to attend the College of Notre Dame near San Mateo. He was studying biology, but dropped out after the first year because of poor grades, he said. Ng then joined the Marines. He said he grew up watching American war movies and that he had always been fascinated by the military. In San Francisco, he met a recruiter who enlisted him even though he was not a citizen or a permanent resident.
He eventually ended up at the Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station in Hawaii, where he ran afoul of the military authorities when he and three other soldiers raided a weapons depot. "It was just a chance for gun enthusiasts to get their hands on things that you couldn't get in the outside world," he said. Rather than face a court-martial, Ng fled.
He made his way back to Northern California, where he met Lake, a fellow Marine and a Vietnam veteran. "Part of me saw him as the father or big brother I always wanted," Ng said. Their friendship was interrupted in 1982, when federal authorities raided their mobile home and seized a large stash of weapons and explosives. Ng, still wanted by the military, was court-martialed. Lake jumped bail and became a fugitive. Ng served time at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., then rejoined Lake in 1984. That's when the killing started.
During the penalty phase of his trial "Ng the victim" told jurors with graphic descriptions of how he was trussed up and bodily carried to some of his court appearances even though he never resisted, and showed photographs of a cage that was built to hold Ng when he arrived in Calaveras County after being extradited from Canada.
Poor Charlie's lawyers then tried to depict him as a caring and loving man. According to the lawyer, the evercaring Ng offered consolation to his friends in times of grief and sent them gifts and artwork from prison.
One Betty Kirkendall of Cleveland, Oklahoma, testified she made friends with Ng after her son was murdered in 1983 and she decided to take up prison ministry. Mrs. Kirkendall said she was having problems with her husband, had been raped and had no one to communicate with when she began writing letters to Ng while he was imprisoned at Leavenworth, Kan., for weapons theft while serving in the Marine Corps.
When he was released from Leavenworth they decided to meet in person. She said she met Ng at the home of a friend in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and the next day picked him up in her car and drove to a motel. After they had sex, she said, she never saw him again and she felt later that it had been a mistake. Of the climactic meeting, she said, "It certainly wasn't for sex. It was my way of saying, I really care for you."
Chuck Farnham of San Jose, California, testified he wrote to Ng a year ago when he heard they had the common hobby of origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. He said they began to talk by phone and Ng comforted him over the death of his father. "Of all the people I know I was surprised that with all his problems he had this genuine concern about what I was going through."