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Leonard Lake and Charles Ng

Leonard Lake and Charles Ng - Serial Killers
Leonard Lake and Charles Ng

Notable Quotable
Give my baby back to me: I’ll do anything you want.
Victim Brenda O’Connor

You’re going to do anything we want anyway.
Leonard Lake

Employees from a San Francisco lumberyard noticed that a young man, who appeared to be Chinese, had boldly walked out of their store with a vise without paying for it. The man had placed the vise in a trunk of a Honda parked outside, and then closed the trunk and run away, inscrutably, on foot.

The employees called police, and when they showed up, they got a surprise: Instead of the Honda being empty, there was a fortyish, bearded Caucasian man sitting blithely behind the wheel. The cops asked who he was, and he answered that his name was Robin Stapely. When asked for ID, the man produced a driver’s license with the name he had given the cops. But there was a problem: the man looked nothing like the photo on the driver’s license. When they opened the trunk to retrieve the stolen vise, they found a loaded .22 pistol.

He had no license for the gun, and that - plus apparently being complicit to theft - resulted in his arrest. At the station house detectives questioned him, but he didn’t answer them - he didn’t say anything at all. A few hours into the interrogation, he popped something into his mouth and began to convulse. He was rushed to the hospital, where he lingered between life and death for twelve days until he passed away. The medical examiner determined that he had died of selfadministered cyanide poisoning, and they discovered a secret compartment in his belt where he had hidden the pill.

Why did he kill himself? For that matter, why was he carrying around a cyanide pill? The charges against him - gun possession and being complicit in theft - were not so bad, and he might have had an explanation for using Robin Stapely’s ID as his own that would not end in an additional criminal charge. The investigation into these questions soon led to a horror story that would be hard to dream up.

Investigators found evidence that many different people had been murdered, including some whose last moments had been videotaped as they were tortured, and it was clear that it didn’t matter to Lake - or his coconspirator Charles Chitat Ng, the man who had stolen the vise - whom they killed. For example, they murdered Harvey Dubs, a San Francisco photographer, as well as his wife and the Dubs’s infant son on July 25, 1984. And police saw young women being raped and tortured and murdered, and some mutilated on camera so badly that death was the only logical result.

In addition to finding horrendous videotapes that were basically snuff films, investigators also found many still black-and-white photos showing women in various stages of nudity. Later, police would try to identify the women in the photos - they eventually found six of the fifteen alive; the other nine, or at least most of them, were presumed to have been murdered.

Police also found extensive diaries kept by Leonard Lake that detailed his compulsion to enslave, torture, and murder women. And they found bodies - lots of them, and a variety of people - in the land surrounding Lake’s bunker. Indeed, one of the investigators nicknamed it “Lake and Ng Memorial Cemetery.” Investigators found many skeletons and skeletal fragments, which told police there were likely more victims than they knew.

Police also found a wide variety of stolen personal property; they used the vehicles and video equipment to identify the people who were missing or found dead.

Monster Mash
At the heart of Ng and Lake’s crimes was a twisted desire: bondage, torture, and death. Just why Ng came to enjoy this is hard to understand. He was born in Hong Kong in 1961 to wealthy parents and was always in trouble, expelled from schools in Hong Kong and England. He was a marine, extremely violent, an expert in martial arts, and he loved guns - enough to steal $11,000 worth of automatic weapons from a marines arsenal in Hawaii with some coconspirators. That was the end of his military career: He consequently deserted and was eventually caught, jailed, and dishonorably discharged.

Lake’s childhood, on the other hand, was clearly dysfunctional. He was about fifteen years older than Ng, born on July 20, 1946, in San Francisco. His mother was batty. She suggested that he glorify the human body by taking nude photos of women, but this encouraged him to become interested in pornography when young and to become involved with his sisters sexually. He also was into sadomasochism and bondage by the time he was a teenager, and this interest ultimately turned to obsession.

Lake joined the marines in 1966 and served as a noncombatant radio operator in Vietnam. While there he was given two years of psychotherapy for unspecified mental maladies and was discharged in 1971. He married in 1980 and settled down in San Jose, California, where he gained a reputation as a gun lover and survivalist - and as someone who was sexually bizarre. He liked nothing better that to film women in bondage, and he was the ultimate male chauvinist pig, firmly believing that the only purpose of women was to cook, clean, and be sex slaves. He was married twice, the second time in 1981.

Notable Quotable
“If you love something, let it go. If it doesn’t come back, hunt it down and kill it”
Leonard Lake

Ng and Lake connected in 1981 when Lake answered an advertisement in a war games magazine. The two men had a lot in common - love of violence, ex-marines, and their regard for women as no more than slaves. They lived on a farm together in Ukiah, California, until police raided it for firearms violations. Ng was sentenced to fourteen years but served only eighteen months, and Lake became a fugitive, living under a variety of assumed names. When Ng got out of jail he again hooked up with Lake, who was living in a house in Wilseyville on two-and-a-half acres of wooded land. Lake built a bunker beside the house to store stolen equipment and, when he could, sex slaves.

Notable Quotable
“God meant women for cooking, cleaning house and sex. And when they are not in use they should be locked up.”
Leonard Lake

“Ng and Lake,” one detective was to say later of them, “are as crazy as bedbugs. And killing meant about as much to them as biting you would mean to a bedbug.” Ng went on the run after the authorities searched his house, and he did not receive final justice for fifteen years. On July 6, 1985, he was picked up for shoplifting in a market in Calgary, Canada. He fought extradition to the states, where he faced twenty-five felony charges, including multiple murders, and his uncooperativeness and legal maneuvers succeeded in delaying his extradition until 1991. Ultimately, he represented himself at trial and the jury convicted him of twelve murders on May 3, 1999. The jury, unsurprisingly, recommended death. He is currently in prison awaiting execution.
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