Mug shot of Ng taken in 1982
December 24, 1960 |
Conspiracy to commit murder
Span of killings
|State(s)||Calaveras County, California|
|July 6, 1985|
Charles Chi-Tat Ng (Chinese: 吳志達/吴志达 (Cantonese pronunciation: [ŋ̩̏ tsītàt̚]); Pinyin: Wú Zhìdá; born December 24, 1960) is a Hong Kong-American serial killer. He is believed to have raped, tortured and murdered between 11 and 25 victims with his accomplice Leonard Lake at Lake's ranch in Calaveras County, California.
Ng was born in Hong Kong, the son of a wealthy Chinese executive and his wife. The island was then a British colony, and would remain so until 1997. As a child, Ng 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 Lancashire, England. Not long after arriving, Ng 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 in Belmont, California. He dropped out after one semester. Soon after that, he was involved in a hit-and-run accident, and to avoid prosecution, he signed up for the U.S. Marine Corps. It was at this time that he met Leonard Lake.
U.S. Marine Corps
In early 1980, although not a United States citizen, Ng enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Ng later revealed that with the help of a recruiting sergeant, he provided fake papers stating he was born in Bloomington, Indiana. After serving less than a year, he was dishonorably discharged for the theft of heavy weaponry and machine guns from MCAS Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii. 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 commuted.
After being released from prison, Ng immediately contacted Lake, who invited him to his new place: a remote cabin near Wilseyville, California that he was renting from Claralyn Balazs. Lake had custom-built a dungeon next to the cabin. It is presumed that by then Lake had already murdered his brother Donald and his friend and best man, Charles Gunnar, in order to steal their money, and in Gunnar's case, his identity. Over the next year, Lake and Ng indulged themselves in an orgy of rape, torture and killing. Their victims included their rural neighbors Lonnie Bond, his girlfriend Brenda O'Connor, and their infant son, Lonnie Jr. Another young family, Harvey and Deborah Dubs and their young son, Sean, were also their victims. In both cases, the two men quickly killed the men and babies, keeping the women alive for repeated abuse. They filmed themselves raping and torturing their victims before murdering them. Other victims included workmates of Ng's; relatives and friends who came looking for Bond and O'Connor; and two gay men. Overall, the two are believed to have murdered between 11 and 25 victims at Lake's ranch.
Their murderous career may have gone on longer if it had not been for Ng's addiction to stealing. On June 2, 1985, Ng was spotted shoplifting a vise from a San Francisco hardware store. Ng ran away from the scene, and Lake appeared later to try and pay for the vise, but by that point, the police were there. Officer Daniel Wright discovered that Lake's car's license plates were registered to another vehicle, and that Lake's ID, in the name of Scott Stapley, was suspicious. When Wright found a gun with a silencer in the trunk of the car, he arrested Lake. While in custody, he swallowed the cyanide pills he had sewn into his clothes. After revealing his and Ng's true identities, he went into convulsions from cyanide poisoning and died four days later.
Further investigation led police to the ranch. Ng was on the run and nowhere to be found, but they did find Scott Stapley's truck and Lonnie Bond's car there, and behind the cabin, they found the dungeon. Officers noticed a foot poking through the earth and proceeded to unearth roughly 40 pounds of burned and smashed human bone fragments, relating to at least a dozen bodies. Police also came across a hand-drawn "treasure map" that led them to two buried five-gallon buckets. One contained envelopes with names and victim IDs suggesting that the full body count might be as high as 25. In the other bucket, police found Lake's handwritten journals for the years 1983 and 1984, and two videotapes that showed the torture of two of their victims. This erased any doubt that Ng was also involved in these crimes. In one of the tapes, Ng is seen telling victim Brenda O'Connor: "you can cry and stuff, like the rest of them, but it won't do any good. We are pretty - ha, ha - cold-hearted, so to speak."
During this time, Ng had fled to Calgary, Alberta, where he was arrested by the Calgary Police Service on July 6, 1985, after resisting arrest for shoplifting at The Bay department store. 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.
While in the Canadian prison, he began a legal battle against extradition for charges of murder to the United States, on the grounds that Canada did not have the death penalty, and to send him back would be in breach of his human rights. It was not until 1991 that he lost this battle and was extradited to the U.S.
Ng was extradited to the US, where he was prosecuted and stood trial in 1998 on twelve counts of murder. He was convicted by a jury of eleven counts on February 24, 1999, for 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.
- WELBORN, LARRY (2011-02-25). "O.C. death row: 11 murders, maybe more". THE REGISTER. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
- "Ngs trail went from California to Calgary and back again". The Lethbridge Herald (Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada: Heritage Archives). 11/12/1998. p. A9. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
- "Reference Re Ng Extradition". umontreal.ca. 1991-09-26. Retrieved 2011-02-27.
- "Charles Chi-tat Ng – Extradited From Canada to Face Death Penalty in California". Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty. 2005-04-25. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
- Greig, Charlotte (2005). Evil Serial Killers: In the Minds of Monsters. New York: Barnes & Noble. p. 91. ISBN 0760775664.
- United States vs Charles Ng.
- Greig, Charlotte (2005). Evil Serial Killers: In the Minds of Monsters. New York: Barnes & Noble. p. 92. ISBN 0760775664.
- World: Americas Serial killer sentenced to die, BBC, Thursday, July 1, 1999.
- Greig, Charlotte (2005). Evil Serial Killers: In the Minds of Monsters. New York: Barnes & Noble. p. 93. ISBN 0760775664.
- Greig, Charlotte (2005). Evil Serial Killers: In the Minds of Monsters. New York: Barnes & Noble. p. 94. ISBN 0760775664.
- "Leonard Lake and Charles Ng". Frances Farmer's Revenge. Retrieved 2011-02-25.
- Owens, Gregg (2001). No Kill, No Thrill: The Shocking True Story of Charles Ng - One of North America's Most Horrific Serial Killers. Red Deer Press. ISBN 978-0889952096.
- Bellamy, Patrick. "Charles Ng: Cheating Death". truTV Crime Library. Crime Library's detailed accounts of Charles Ng and Leonard Lake's killing spree
- Chitat Ng v. Canada, Communication No. 469/1991, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/49/D/469/1991 (1994).