Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

CHARLES NG: CHEATING DEATH

All That Remains

On the fourth day of the search, Doctor Stephens arrived at the site and informed Ballard that the bones found near the driveway, were definitely human. Shortly after he arrived, another bone was found which appeared to have been cut neatly on both ends by a saw or similar cutting tool. As the search progressed, numerous items were unearthed from various locations. In the trench that ran from the bunker to the entry road, police found a plastic bag containing a letter addressed to Charles Ng and a receipt in the name of Harvey Dubs. Next they unearthed a shirt with the name "Scott" embroidered on it. Literally hundreds of items, which had to be painstakingly photographed and held for analysis, were removed from the site.

Paul Cosner (left), Robin Stapley, Victims
Paul Cosner (left), Robin Stapley, Victims

It wasn't until the fifth day that the first bodies were found. The skeletal remains of two people seemed to be complete but the bones had been sawn into sections and badly burned. Ironically, at 8.00pm on the same day the skeletons were found, doctors at Kaiser Permanente Hospital switched off Leonard Lake's life support he died within seconds.

Later, a sealed five gallon bucket was uncovered which contained a cheque book in the name of Robin Scott Stapley, jewelery, credit cards, driver's licenses, wallets and two videotapes without labels and a third marked "M. Ladies Kathy/Brenda." The first two videos were later viewed, the first showing Lake and Balasz at a Thanksgiving dinner. On the second, Lake had been filmed discussing his greatest fantasy kidnapping a woman and enslaving her. The third video was the most disturbing, it showed a young woman, identified only as Kathy, changed to a chair and later forced to perform a striptease while being taunted by two men, Lake and Ng. In another part of the video, Ng could be seen clearly cavorting on a bed with Kathy while Lake took still photographs.

Kathleen Allen, Victim
Kathleen Allen, Victim

The young woman was later identified as eighteen-year-old Kathy Allen, a clerk at a supermarket in Milpitas. Allen was apparently lured to the site by Lake, who told her that her boyfriend had been shot. Police later revealed that Allen's boyfriend, a known drug dealer named Michael Sean Carroll, had been Ng's cellmate in Leavenworth.

The tape also included footage of another young woman named Brenda, which showed her begging for information regarding her baby. In answer, Lake tells her "Your baby is sound asleep, like a rock." Eventually, when the constant barrage of taunts and threats breaks her resolve, Brenda agrees to cooperate. Later in the tape she can be heard taking a shower with both men.

Brenda O'Connor, Lonnie Bond and Lonnie Jr., Victims
Brenda O'Connor, Lonnie Bond
and Lonnie Jr., Victims

The second victim shown on the tape was nineteen-year-old Brenda O'Connor, Lake's next-door neighbor. Police believe that her common-law husband Lonnie Bond and their baby, Lonnie Jr. were murdered by Lake and Ng prior to the tape being made.

As the search progressed, the searchers uncovered a partial skull, another plastic bucket containing personal items and a complete, albeit burned body. Within minutes four more bodies, including that of a child, were uncovered. Two were female, the other a black male. A short time later another plastic container and a long twelve-inch diameter metal tube were unearthed. Inside the container, police found 1,863 silver dollars, more wallets and credit cards. The tube contained a Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. In another search of a mound of freshly dug earth some distance from the cabin, two more bodies were uncovered; both had been killed by a single, small calibre bullet to the head. The bunker was later completely demolished in the search for more bodies.

The Dubs Family (AP)
The Dubs Family (AP)

As the search wound down, the bodies of seven men, three women, two baby boys and forty-five pounds of bone fragments had been recovered, along with numerous amounts of property belonging to the deceased. In all, police found evidence suggesting that up to twenty-five people, who had previously been reported missing, may have been murdered in or around the Wilseyville compound but the fact that most of the bodies had been cut up, burnt and scattered around the site made identification extremely difficult. Eventually, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Charles Chitat Ng for twelve murders.

The victims would eventually be identified as Kathleen Allen, her boyfriend Michael Carroll, Robin Scott Stapley, Randy Johnson, Charles "The Fat Man" Gunnar (Lake's best man), Donald Lake (Leonard's brother), Paul Cosner, (the owner of the Honda), Brenda O'Connor, Lonnie Bond Snr., Lonnie Bond Jr., (Lake's next door neighbors) and Harvey Dubs, Deborah Dubs and Sean Dubs. (The Dubs family had been abducted and killed after Ng and Lake went to their house in relation to audio equipment that Harvey Dubs had advertised for sale.)

Victims from left to right: top: Carroll, Johnson; Bottom: Gunnar, Donald Lake
Victims from left to right: top: Carroll,
Johnson; Bottom: Gunnar, Donald Lake

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