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Charles Chitat Ng

Crime Files
Charles Chitat Ng

Charles Chitat Ng (pronounced Cheetah Ing) was convicted in 1998 of the brutal slaying of over eleven people, including two babies, in a serial killing spree that was responsible for twenty-five deaths. Together with his accomplice, fellow Marine, Leonard Lake, the two men carried out some of the most brutal and sadistic crimes in American history. Ng was brought up in an affluent family home in Hong Kong. There is little evidence to support anything that may have damaged him emotionally other than that he had a ruthlessly strict father. Ng took to anti-social activity and petty crime at an early age, resulting in him being expelled from several schools. At one stage his father sent him to a boarding school in Yorkshire, England. A brief return to Hong Kong at eighteen saw him obtaining a student visa to study in the US, but shortly after he was involved in a hit-and-run accident and charged. Later he joined the Marines and lied about his place of birth in order to be accepted. Even in the Marines his fellow comrades nicknamed him ‘Bruce Lee’ and kept a wide berth from him. Ng’s military career ended abruptly when he was caught with three other men stealing weapons from a base in Hawaii. He was arrested and incarcerated, but escaped when it is believed he met up with Leonard Lake in California. Ng moved in with Lake and his girlfriend Claralyn Balasz. Lake was fifteen years older than Ng and obsessed with everything military and in particular weapons. Whether or not Ng shared Lake’s misogyny, believing that women were men’s ‘property’ or was convinced that an imminent nuclear war going to take place is unknown. However, they both shared a passion for illegal firearms which eventually brought about their arrest and incarceration. Certainly Lake was a disturbed, anti-social creature having developed an obsession with pornography at a young age and in particular a fetish for S&M, bondage and a sexually driven desire to enslave women. He served non-combatant duty in Da Nang, Vietnam as a radar operator, but was given a medical discharge in 1971 after two years of psychiatric treatment. When Charles Ng eventually left Leavenworth prison in June 1984 he moved into the Wilseyville Cabin with Lake. The latter’s first wife had divorced him when she discovered he had filmed bondage scenes involving handcuffs, leather straps and shackles with women other than herself. It is believed that Lake’s first victim was his brother, Donald, who went missing after he failed to return from a visit with Leonard in San Bruno in July 1983.

The Crimes

A routine arrest by police officers to a shoplifting scene at a South City lumberyard in South San Francisco initiated the unearthing of one of the most grisly discoveries of mass murder that the country had witnessed. A clerk had called the police after an Asian man had been seen stealing a vice. He ran off, but another middle-aged man with a beard was apprehended when he was caught with several firearms including an illegal silencer. The man, who had a multitude of aliases, turned out to be one Leonard Lake, ex Marine and partner in crime of Charles Ng.At the time the police had no idea what they had uncovered, believing Lake to be a petty criminal. Not long after having been taken into custody Lake committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide pill - one of several he had hidden in his belt – but not before he had written a note to his wife.The police soon realised that they were onto something bigger than petty theft and illegal gun ownership. The Honda truck that Lake had been found in possession of was actually owned by a man called Paul Cosner. He had been missing for months. Among the items found in the Honda were several stolen bank cards and an electric bill in the name of Claralyn Balasz. The South San Francisco police wasted no time in contacting Balasz who turned out to be Lake’s ex wife and who lived in Bruno, a place just a few miles from where her now dead ex -husband had been arrested.On 3 June 1985, two detectives from San Francisco’s Missing Persons dept, Tom Eisenmann and Irene Brunn, went to interview Balasz. The electricity bill was for an address in Wilseyville, California, a remote region at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Balasz informed the detectives that the address was a cabin belonging to her father. The detectives were given instructions about where to find the place. But Balasz made sure that she got there first in order to remove several home-made pornographic videotapes that she feared would embarrass her.When Balasz finally took them to the cabin the detectives asked her to unlock it. The cabin itself comprised of two bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom. Red stains which appeared to be blood were found on the ceiling. There were also two small calibre bullet holes in both the living room wall and kitchen floor. Most disturbing of all was a four-poster bed in the bedroom that had electric cords tied to each post. A 250-watt floodlight was fastened to the wall.Blood stained mattresses and women’s lingerie together with video duplicating equipment all suggested that something sinister had taken place in this remote environment. Elsewhere in the area an incinerator with fireproof walls and a mysterious looking bunker precipitated further investigation that was to reveal a horrifying tale of abduction, torture and death.Claralyn Balasz became irate at being questioned about her connection to the property, which she maintained had been bought by her father and rented out. When asked by detectives if they could search the concrete bunker, Balasz suggested that they talk to Charles Ng, an Asian man who was the ‘business’ partner of her ex.Balasz informed them that she had recently gone to Ng’s apartment to collect a pay cheque before driving him to the San Francisco airport. She had no idea where he was heading. After Ng’s details were relayed to the authorities a task force was set up to search the entire property.The next day the task force set about their grisly work. A cleared area around the bunker saturated in lye, revealed a trench deposited with clothing. Even at this stage the detectives feared that they were about to unearth a gravesite. Two bones were later found and sent off for analysis.Once the bunker had been accessed it appeared smaller on the inside suggesting hidden rooms. Meanwhile, investigations revealed that the bunker property was rental and had been occupied by a couple, Lonnie Bond and his partner Brenda O’Connor with their young baby. A real estate agent informed officers that the couple had fallen behind on their rent and left the property together with a lodger by the name of Robin Stapley. All these people were now registered missing.Inside the bunker a main room appeared to be a workshop filled with an assortment of hand tools and power saws that hung on one wall. On closer inspection many of them appeared to be encrusted with bloodstains. A plywood tool rack served as an entrance to a hidden, smaller room revealing a double bed, side table and reading lamp. There were also several books, one ‘The Collector’ by John Fowles was about a butterfly collector who abducted a young girl and kept her in his basement.This novel would have chilling parallels to real life events that had taken place inside the bunker.Akin to something out of a ‘militia’ magazine, the room was filled with an armoury of weapons, gun paraphernalia, magazines and tomes on how to make chemical weapons. On one wall were plastered 21 snapshots of young girls taken in various form of undress.One of the most important finds was a diary, written by Lake himself which described how he and Charles Ng had abducted, raped, tortured and then killed various victims.Another room that appeared to be a ‘hostage cell’ was discovered behind a bookcase door. This small room, only seven feet by three, contained a single bed and chemical toilet. Holes had been drilled in the walls to provide ventilation but not light. More insidiously was a two-way mirror, which allowed viewers from one side to see and listen to the room’s occupants by switching a button.At the time of excavating the area, Gloria Eberling, Leonard Lake’s mother, turned up at the site. She had come to the murder scene in order to find out about her other son Donald, who had disappeared two years earlier.It was at this point that detectives quizzed her about Balasz removing videotapes from the cabin. Eberling admitted that her daughter-in-law had taken them in order to spare herself embarrassment by the content, which showed her in the nude and having sex with Lake. Balasz was ordered to return all tapes.The FBI was now investigating a full-scale murder enquiry as it was suspected that Lake and Ng had carried out multiple kidnappings, rape and murder. Although one suspect was now dead from suicide, the other, Ng, was still on the run.Kathleen Allen and boyfriend Michael Carroll’s bodies were found at the site. Ms Allen had been lured to the cabin by Lake after he told her Carroll, a felon and one time cellmate of Ng, had been shot. Other victims included Robin Scott Stapley who Lake has impersonated on the day of his arrest for theft. Strangely, one victim was Charles Gunner, known as ‘The Fat Man’ who had been Lake’s best man during his wedding to Claralyn Balasz.Lake’s neighbours Brenda O’Connor, partner Lonnie Bond and their baby son Lonnie Bond Jr. were also tragic victims of the two callous sociopaths, as were second couple Harvey and Deborah Dubs who had become unfortunate targets after their killers visited their home when Harvey advertised audio equipment to sell. The couple along with their baby Sean were abducted and later killed. One of the video tapes showed a terrified Brenda O’Connor being horrifically abused and told by Ng on the tape “If you say no (to co-operation) we’ll rape you and then we’ll take you outside and shoot you. Your choice."Ng wasn’t averse to also attracting men as sexual prey. He placed an ad in a sex magazine offering ‘oral’ and when answered went to the home of Donald Giuletti, a 38 year old disc jockey from San Francisco. He was later found dead, shot three times in the study of his home. Giuletti’s roommate identified Ng as the man who came to the apartment.Other victims were raped and taunted, the heinous acts filmed on video, while other captives watched in horror. Sheriff Ballard who conducted the enquiry told journalists that the videos were like horror films. Police estimated that around 21 ‘missing’ women were shown as victims being sexually assaulted, raped and sodomised on the tapes, their ages ranging from twelve to their early twenties. Six women in the tapes were thankfully found alive but many more remain missing today, their bodies most likely to have been incinerated.

The Trial

In the presence of the victims’ families the jury heard how both Charles Ng and his older accomplice Leonard Lake had abducted, raped, tortured and eventually murdered up to 25 people including two babies. Ironically Lake’s own diary confessional was rendered inadmissible by the judge, but other items such as the incriminating videos showing victims tied up and taunted played their part in finding Ng guilty of murdering six men, three women and two babies.All along Ng's attorneys insisted that he had been an ‘unwilling’ accomplice who had not taken part in any killings, but had participated in some of the sexual assaults. This ploy did not wash with the jury which also took into account the fact that while in custody Ng had drawn cartoons depicting various murders with incriminating detail. He had also written a motto on his cell wall which read: ‘No kill, no thrill – no gun, no fun’.Ng was sentenced to life imprisonment and is currently on death row at San Quentin prison, California, but even this has not stopped his attorneys for presenting appeals against the ‘harshness of the sentence’.The court proceedings had taken a grand total of thirteen years and cost taxpayers twenty million dollars to convict one man who had an incredible amount of incriminating evidence stacked against him, including video tape footage showing him as a cruel, sadistic gaoler of several murdered victims.


Key Dates June 1984: Ng leaves Leavenworth prison and lives with Lake in Wilseyville. Shortly afterwards the killing spree begins. 3/6/1985 : Detectives interview Claralyn Balasz (ex wife of Lake) 4/6/1985: Task force unearth ‘hostage’ bunker and bodies at Wilseyville, California. 26/10/ 1991 : Ng extradited to US and held at Sacramento prison. October 1998: Court Proceedings begin as Ng is put on trial.

The Key Figures

Key FiguresLeonard Lake: Charles Ng’s accomplice in crime who committed suicide after arrest. Claralyn Balasz (Lake’s girlfriend): Led police to scene of crime. Detectives Eisenmann and Irene Brunn : Detectives from San Francisco Missing Persons dept.Victims Identified Victims (25 people are suggested by the police to be victims):Paul Cosner Robin Scott Stapley Randy Johnson Charles ‘The Fat Man’ Gunner (Lake’s best man) Donald Lake (Leonard’s brother) Kathy Allen Michael Carroll (Allen’s boyfriend) Brenda O’Connor (Lake’s neighbour) Lonnie Bond (O’Connor’s common in law husband) Lonnie Bond Jr. (O’Connor and Bond’s baby) Harvey Dubs Deborah Dubs Sean Dubs (The Dubs' baby) Donald Giuletti, a San Francisco disc jockey

The Arrest

Ng had sisters in Toronto and Calgary, an uncle in Yorkshire, England and former Marine friends in Hawaii. Interpol and Scotland Yard were informed about his possible whereabouts in the hope of arresting him in one of several locations.Although bones and articles of clothing had been recovered at the bunker site, it was several more days before the first skeletal remains of two people were unearthed. The bones had been sawn in pieces and burnt. Also, the discovery of a sealed container revealed a cache of personal belongings and several videotapes. One of them disclosed disturbing footage of Kathleen Allen who was seen chained to a chair and made to perform a striptease while being taunted by two men off screen.Another video revealed Leonard Lake himself describing his fantasies about kidnapping women and enslaving them. Most disturbing of all was footage showing Brenda O’Connor pleading for information about her baby.The baby and O’Connor’s partner Lonnie Bond had most likely been killed before the tape was recorded. O’Connor then appeared to agree to co-operate and later she is heard taking a shower, no doubt under duress - with the same men who were heard taunting Ms Allen.Later excavations, involving the demolishing of the entire bunker, finally revealed up to ten bodies (seven men, three women) including two baby boys and forty-five pounds of bone fragments. Evidence pointed to the slaughter of up to 25 people in total.On the day that Balasz had taken Ng to the San Francisco airport he had been seen boarding an American Airlines flight to Chicago. The search took the FBI to a hotel where Ng had checked out four days earlier. Ng travelled to Detroit with a friend before entering Canada. He managed to elude the authorities for nearly a month before a shopping theft in a Calgary grocery store led police officers to approach him. One was shot in the hand, but Ng was eventually overpowered and charged with robbery, possession of a firearm and attempted murder of a police officer.When news of his capture alerted the American Task Force, bureaucratic red tape soon obstructed the extradition of Ng for trial in the States. This protracted affair went on for six years as Canadian officials refused to hand over any prisoner who was charged on a capital offence that could lead to the death penalty.In the interim, Ng was questioned by US detectives. He maintained his innocence regarding the killing of the victims found at the Wilseyville bunker and insisted that Leonard Lake was responsible for most of the abductions and murders.While serving his four year 'sentence' for theft and assault charges in Calgary, Ng invested his time in learning everything he could about American law.It was to be the start of a protracted roller coaster ride where Ng would use every legal trick up his sleeve to delay proceedings against him for the murders. Ng was finally extradited to America on 26 September 1991 and incarcerated in Sacramento prison while awaiting trial.During this time the devious Ng used his newfound knowledge of American law to draw out proceedings. First he made formal complaints ranging from poor treatment and bad food to even declaring that he was forced to take medication for motion sickness which resulted in him being unfit for court.One clever tactic was filing to represent himself, which then took considerable time to arrange only for him to withdraw from the offer at the last minute.When Ng and his attorneys insisted that the trial be moved to Orange County for fear of media prejudice in San Andreas, this in itself became a protracted arrangement particularly when OC officials complained that such a trial would bankrupt them. Finally the matter was resolved when the Californian state agreed to pay all costs.After having delayed court proceedings which also involved Ng dismissing his own attorneys and filing a million dollar suit against them for incompetence, Ng was finally placed in the dock in October 1998, thirteen years after he had been initially arrested.