Serial Killer Profile:Charles Ng & Leonard Lake
THE OPERATION MIRANDA BUNKER
When it is compared to the horrific crimes that have been committed by Charles NG, shoplifting seems such a trivial offence. Yet the simple theft of a bench vice was enough to seal NG's fate and that of his partner in crime, Leonard Lake.
Ng was born in Hong Kong on Christmas Eve, 1960, to a wealthy, if unstable, family. His father, a highly-placed company executive, maintained discipline through constant beatings. The adolescent Ng was a poor student with no friends, so he distinguished himself by attacking and beating younger children. At the age of 15 he was caught shoplifting for the first time. He was sent to an English boarding school, but he was expelled after setting fire to a classroom.
Above Charles Ng was thrown out of school arson & dishonourably discharged from the marines
At the age of 18 he moved to the United States, where he attended Notre Dame de Namur University, a small Catholic institution that is located in Belmont, California. He lasted just one semester.
Despite his dismal academic background, Ng was accepted into the United States Marine Corps in 1980. Less than a year later, he was caught stealing various kinds of weapons, including machine guns, from the Hawaiian base at which he was stationed. His attempt to escape added a charge of desertion to his record. After being dishonorably discharged, he was sentenced to 14 years in a military prison, but was released in late 1982.
Ng's bad experience with the marines was something he shared with Leonard Lake. Born on 29 October 1945 in San Francisco, Lake had not enjoyed anything like Ng's Privileged childhood. His parents had separated when he was only 6 years old, which resulted in the Lake children being sent to live with their grandparents. Unlike Ng he had been a fairly good student as a child. He had also pursued some odd hobbies. He kept mice and, when they died, watched with interest as he dissolved their bodies in acid. He also enjoyed taking nude photographs of his sisters, an activity that was encouraged by his grandmother. His favorite book was The Collector by John Fowles, a novel about a seemingly mild young man who imprisons an attractive art school student, Miranda Grey, while he tries to make her love him.
Lake was 19 when he joined the Marines. He completed two tours of duty in Vietnam as a radar operator, but he was discharged in 1971 after having been diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder. Once more a civilian, he enrolled in San Jose' state University, but he lasted only one semester. Lake's 1975 marriage was equally brief. It ended when his wife learned that he had been making amateur pornographic films. Even worse, he had been starring in them. He remarried in 1981, though his return to marital status was brief. His second wife did not want to act in his pornographic films, most of which featured bondage and sadomasochism. By the time he was arrested on a firearms violation in the following year, Lake had already gone through with his second divorce.
It was Lake's second brush with the law. He had already served some time for car theft and he had no intention of returning to prison. Skipping bail, he hid out in a isolated property in Calaveras County, California, that belonged to his wife. It was not long before Lake met Charles Ng. They were both visiting San Francisco's red-light district at the time. The two men immediately recognized each other as kindred spirits. Among other things they shared a common interest in firearms and other weapons, as well as a belief in a coming nuclear holocaust.
Before long, Ng joined lake in Calaveras County, where he assisted him in setting up ' Operation Miranda', a project that was named after the woman who had been held captive in The Collector. Leonard Lake explained the plan in a video he had mad of himself in October 1983, shortly before his 38th birthday.
'What I want is an off the shelf sex partner. I want to be able to use a woman whenever and however I want. And when I’m tired or bored I simply want to put her away'.
To this end, the pair built a bunker in the side of a hill. It was intended as the first of many that would house the pair's sex slaves. The women would be used to repopulate the planet after the expected nuclear war. Crudely constructed, it consisted of a main room that contained the power saws and the other tools that were need for disposing of bodies. There was also a smaller, sparsley- furnished room. Beneath it there was a cramped, windowless cell, which could be accessed through a trapdoor in the floor. On its walls were photographs of the young women that Lake and Ng abducted, tortured, raped and killed.
The pair had also murdered a number of men and children- usually those who had been with the women when they were captured.
Lake and Ng built a bunker in the side of the hill. It was
intended to house sex slaves. The women would be used to
populate the planet after the expected nuclear war
Most of the victims' bodies were burned in a home-made crematorium that had been built beside the bunker. Exactly how many people Ng and Lake killed is unknown, though the number is usually estimated between 15and 25. What can be said with more certainty is that Operation Miranda came to an end on 2 June 1985.
On that day, customers as a San Francisco hardware store noticed Ng stealing a bench vice. Police officers caught sight of the former Marine as he was putting the stolen item in the back of a Honda, but he managed to flee on foot. Lake had been sitting at the wheel, so he was easily apprehended. He was taken to the local police station where a quick search uncovered a revolver, complete with silencer.
As the detectives prepared to question their suspect, the driving licence he provided was run through the system. The name on the document, Robin Scott Stapley, was that of a man who had been missing for nearly four months. It was then discovered that the Honda was registered to Paul Cosner, a man who had disappeared in the previous November while delivering the vehicle to a prospective purchaser.
While he was waiting in the interrogation room, Lake asked for a pencil, and a sheet of paper and some water. Minutes later, he was found slumped in his chair, barely alive.
He was also rushed to hospital, where it was discovered that he had swallowed cyanide pill. He died four days later. The pencil and paper had been used to write one last letter to his second wife, the owner of the Calaveras County property:
I love you. I figure your freedom is better than all else. Tell fern I'm sorry. Mum, patty and all. I'm sorry for all the trouble.
After Lake's death, investigators from the local sheriff's office visited his isolated mountain home. There was some suspicion that he and Ng had been trading stolen goods. They had, after all, been advertising used items for sale. One look at the house was enough to make them realize that petty theft was the least of their crimes. The living room ceiling was stained with blood and there were bullet holes here and there. In the master bedroom, the investigators found a collection of lingerie, much of it stained with blood. The mattress on the bed was also stained and electrical cords had been tied to the bedposts.
The view from the secret peep-hole into the bunker
After searching the grounds, the investigators found ashes, teeth and human bones buried in a long trench. Because the act of cremation had made the identification difficult, the authorities relied on other clues. For example, Lake had been trying to sell some furniture that belonged to his neighbours. He explained that the items had been left as payment for a debt when they had moved to Los Angeles. Yet, those same neighbours - Lonnie Bond, his girlfriend Brenda O' Connor and their baby - were nowhere to be found.
An impressive array of expensive video equipment was found in the house. It was traced back to Harvey and Deborah Dubs, a young couple who had disappeared from their San Francisco home in the previous year. Their 16-month-old son was also missing.
Among the victims that the police were able to positively identify was Donald Lake, Leonard’s brother.
After two weeks, the police had discovered nine bodies and nearly 18 kilograms (40 pounds) of charred teeth and bones. Though it was painstaking work, which involved dozens of people sifting through tons of soil, some progress had at least been made. The same could not be said about the hunt for Charles Ng. Like his many victims, he seemed to have vanished. Could it be that Ng, too, had taken his own life.
In fact, Ng was very much alive. He had fled some 1,500 km (940 miles) to the north, where he had managed to cross the border into Canada. On 6 July 1985, after he had been on the run for more than a month, he was spotted shoplifting in a downtown Calgary department store. When he was approached by two male security guards, Ng pulled out a revolver and shot one of the men in the hand. Incredibly, the injured guard still managed to overpower the former Marine and keep him restrained until the police arrived.
Above Jim Stenquist, Calaveras County information officer, reveals the bunker’s secret entrance
It did not take the Canadian authorities long to identify Ng, but his extradition created a legal problem. Canada was a country that had abolished capital punishment, so the authorities were reluctant to send Ng back to California, where the death penalty was still in force. That is not to say that Ng was a free man. In December 1985 he was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for shooting the department store security guard. As Ng sat in a Canadian prison, American lawyers fought to have him returned to the United States. One of the arguments was that Canada risked becoming a safe haven for criminals who faced the death penalty ay home.
Bone fragments are examined outside Lake and Ng’s house.
Then on 26 August 1991, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Ng could be extradited. Minutes after the ruling, the murderer was on a flight back to the United States. Ng's trial did not begin until October 1998, more than 13 years after his last murder. Eight months later, he was found guilty of the murder of three women, six men and two babies. He was sentenced to death. In 1999, pending appeal, he took up residence on San Quentin Prison death row. For documentary click Here.