Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Richard Trenton Chase

The Trial

Evidence was gathered from Chase to compare to samples already being analyzed in the crime lab from the murder victims. There was plenty of blood on Chases clothing, and they also took hair samples. However, when they tried to take a blood sample, he had to be restrained. They had no idea then of his intense primal fear of losing his blood.

Farris Salamy was appointed Chases attorney and he was immediately separated from the detectives who had spent so much time trying to extract a confession.

Police officers continued the search for the baby, using a bloodhound. They even went to Chases mothers home and she was uncooperative, insisting that despite what they had found, it did not prove that her son had done anything.

At one point, Chase admitted to another inmate that he had drunk the blood of his victims because he had blood poisoning. He needed blood and he had grown tired of hunting and killing animals.

Finally, the baby was found. On March 24th, a church janitor came upon a box containing the remains of a male baby. He called the police.

Box in which David Ferreira was found
Box in which David Ferreira
was found

When they arrived, they recognized the clothing. It was the missing boy from the Miroth home. The baby had been decapitated and the head lay underneath the torso, which was partially mummified. A hole in the center of the head indicated the child had been shot. There were several other stab wounds to the body and several ribs were broken. Beneath the body, too, was a ring of keys that fit Dan Merediths now-impounded car.

David Ferreira, nephew of Evelyn Miroth
David Ferreira, nephew of
Evelyn Miroth

The lead prosecutor for the case of California v. Richard Trenton Chase was Ronald W. Tochterman. He intended to seek the death penalty.

The defense entered a plea of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity, but Tochterman was determined to show that he knew the difference between right and wrong and that he was not compelled to murder. Part of his strategy included boning up on the legends of Dracula. He also read about blood-related crimes and blood rituals in various cultures, noting that some people believed that ingesting another persons blood would strengthen or heal them. He wanted to show that while this might be a belief, it was not a viable reason for murder.

A change of venue was requested, given the local notoriety of the case, and the trial was moved one hundred twenty miles south to Santa Clara County. By the time it was all over, a dozen psychiatrists had examined Chase. He admitted to one that he was disturbed about killing his victims and he was afraid they might come for him from the dead. There was no evidence in his admissions that he had ever felt compelled. He simply thought the blood was therapeutic. One psychiatrist found him to be an antisocial personality, not schizophrenic. His thought processes were not disrupted, and he was aware of what he had done and that it was wrong.

On January 2, 1979, the trial began. Chase was charged with six counts of murder. The prosecutor emphasized throughout the trial that Chase had had a choice, and mentioned several times that he had brought rubber gloves with him to the victims homes with the intent of murder. Altogether, there were 250 prosecution exhibits, the strongest of which were Chases gun and Dan Merediths wallet, found in Chases pocket.

The first witness in a trial that stretched across four months was David Wallin, who described the scene of horror he had encountered upon coming home that day. Nearly one hundred witnesses followed him.

Chase then took the stand in his own defense. He looked awful, having dropped in weight to 107 pounds. His eyes were sunken and lusterless. He claimed to have been semi-conscious during the Wallin murder and he described in detail the way he had been mistreated much of his life. He admitted to drinking Wallins blood. He did not recall much about the second series of murders, but knew that he had shot the baby in the head and decapitated it, leaving it in a bucket in the hope of getting more of its blood. He thought the baby was something else, but did not elaborate. He thought that his problems stemmed from his inability to have sex with girls as a teenager and he said he was sorry for the killings.

The defense asked for a verdict of second degree murder, to spare Chase the death penalty, since he was clearly insane and had never been given proper help. Tochterman argued that he was a sexual sadist, a monster who knew what he was doing and who could not be salvaged.

On May 8, 1978, after five hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of six counts of first degree murder.

During the sanity phase, the jury found Chase legally sane after deliberating an hour. It took them four hours to decide that Chase should die in the gas chamber at San Quentin Penitentiary.

 

 

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