Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods


Random Evil

More astonishing still were the 10-year-old boys who decided to kidnap a boy one day when they grew bored. In 1993, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables took two-year-old James Bulger out of a shopping center in Liverpool, England. They led him for a ways and then splashed him with blue paint, pelted him with bricks, and hit him with an iron bar. Then not knowing how to end it, they laid him down on the railroad tracks and kicked him in the head and groin. Removing his pants and underwear, they fondled him and may have pushed batteries into his anus. One of them admitted later that they had continued the attack because he just kept getting up.

Jon Venables & Robert Thompson
Jon Venables & Robert Thompson

Expert testimony from psychiatrists affirmed that these boys were not insane; they had understood the nature of their crime and knew it was wrong. Thus, their state of mind at the time of the crime was not psychotic. In essence, they knew what they were doing but saw nothing wrong with it. While they went to prison, they were released when they turned 18 and given new identities. It's no wonder that the British are upset to have these dangerous boys back in society.

Yet there's no shortage of young men capable of killing for a lark. On April 19, 1997, Thomas Koskovich, 18, and Jayson Vreeland, 17, ordered a pizza from a Dunkin' Donuts in Franklin, New Jersey. They kept calling places until they found one that would deliver. They ordered two cheese pizzas and gave an address that was actually an abandoned house. Then they went there to wait.

Thomas Koskovich and Jayson Vreeland
Thomas Koskovich and Jayson

Jeremy Giordano, 22, and Giorgio Gallara, 24, went out with the pizzas, never suspecting that they had been chosen at random to die that night. As they approached the house, Koskovich and Vreeland came up to the car. Gallara, sitting with the pizzas on the passenger side, rolled down his window to ask for the money. Koskovich pulled out a .45 caliber pistol and shot at both of them. Giordano was killed when one bullet severed his spinal cord, while Gallara received bullets in the face, arm, and shoulder. The bullet to the back of his head that killed him came from Vreeland's gun.

The killers then searched the bodies for money. After that, they hugged each other and expressed great excitement over what they had just done. "I love you, man," Vreeland reportedly said. But then he felt a twinge of conscience, so they changed out of their bloody clothing and went to church.

A former girlfriend heard about the murders and recalled Koskovich telling her that he had planned to do something like that. He'd wanted to join the Mafia or become a Navy Seal, and he believed that killing someone would help him to achieve his goals. He'd also stated that he wanted to see what an act like that felt like.

Leonard Lake
Leonard Lake

One team killer who was in it for the thrill was Leonard Lake. When he was arrested in 1985 for illegal possession of a weapon, he swallowed a cyanide capsule. The police were mystified by his rather extreme reaction, but then they found out his secrets.

He owned a cinderblock bunker outside Sacramento, California, where he and his partner, Charles Ng, had taken numerous people to torture and kill. It's estimated they may have had as many as 25 victims, both male and female. Some had responded to classified ads or the promise of a job, and a few of them were even related to their killers. Lake took photographs and videotapes of his attempts at sexual slavery, and he wore clothing that suggested some sort of cult activity.

Charles Ng, mugshot
Charles Ng, mugshot

Ng was 15 years younger and had gotten his criminal start with shoplifting and theft. He'd been arrested while in the marines, but had escaped. Seeing one of Lake's ads for a mercenary soldier, he went looking for the man and they soon became a team. He may not have realized that Lake actually wanted a killing partner, but there's no doubt that he eagerly participated in the spree.

Lake left a diary and videotapes behind that provided graphic images of sexual torture, murder, and cremation, and these tapes included Ng. After strangling or shooting a victim, they dismembered them with a power saw and burned them in metal drums. Any bones were pulverized and buried in bags. Later, police found 45 pounds of bone fragments and teeth.

Although Lake had eluded justice by causing his own death, Ng was extradited from Canada and put on trial. He caused numerous delays, firing one lawyer after another, and insisted that he was both an unwilling accomplice and a changed man. His criminal proceedings were the most expensive in U.S. history. Finally he was convicted by a savvy and disgusted jury in the murders of six men, three women, and two babies, and given the death sentence. He quickly appealed this sentence, based on its cruelty, and will no doubt spend even more of taxpayers' money before it's over.


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