Shattered Families, Shattered Service: Taking Military Domestic Violence Out of the Shadows -US House Armed Services Committee (September 18, 2019)
“We are here today because domestic violence has become a forgotten crisis in our military. It has been 15 years since a DOD task force analyzed domestic violence within the military, yet we have seen unsettling warning signs since. Within the last few months, DOD reports have highlighted concerning failures in our services’ domestic violence systems. The DOD has not responded urgently. Today, we will hear from three survivors of domestic violence in the military who are bravely coming forward to share their experiences in the hope that others may be helped. Because we lack data that is recent, plentiful, or granular, we must rely on survivors, advocates and experts to help us understand the unique challenges of dealing with this crisis within the military.” Read more from House Armed Services Committee Chairwoman Jackie Speier here.
Amy discovers that her boyfriend’s war game unfolds very differently when the player chooses a female character. -Inside Amy Schumer, Comedy Central (August 26, 2014)
The sketch says it all… there’s a reason the majority of service members don’t report crime. Character assassination and retaliation is real for both male and female victims of crime in the military. Their lives, reputations, careers, and futures are dependent on the actions of the convening authority who has the power to do nothing. In the civilian world, after reporting a crime to the local police department and evidence is gathered, a prosecutor determines whether or not a case moves forward in the judicial system. The Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) attempts to mirror this process and was reintroduced in June 2019, yet again was not allowed on the Senate floor for a vote. The last cloture vote on the way the military should handle felony crimes was on March 6, 2014. Invoking cloture means 60 Senators or two-thirds is required for passage of a bill as opposed to the majority of Senators. The biggest opponents of the MJIA were former Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and former Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), both since voted out of the Senate and replaced by Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ). This pair of military officers are proponents of keeping the Chain of Command involved in the decision making process of adjudicating felony crime despite what the majority of military sexual assault survivors have asked for because the fear and retaliation continues. Meanwhile, the fight for military justice reform rages on. #PassMJIA
Robin Williams, the prolific Oscar-winning actor and comedian, died by suicide on August 11, 2014. He was 63. Read more from Historyhere.
“From entertaining thousands of service men and women in war zones, to his philanthropy that helped veterans struggling with hidden wounds of war, he was a loyal and compassionate advocate for all who serve this nation in uniform,” [Chuck] Hagel said in a released statement. “He will be dearly missed by the men and women of DOD, so many of whom were personally touched by his humor and generosity.” -Stars and Stripes
Department of Defense Press Release for Robin Williams found here.
Statement by the President on the Passing of Robin Williams found here.
Good Will Hunting:
Will (Matt Damon) wants to know what’s in his file, while Sean (Robin Williams) assures him that the abuse he suffered wasn’t his fault. -Miramax
“The most brilliant mind at America’s top university isn’t a student, he’s the kid who cleans the floors. Will Hunting is a headstrong, working-class genius who is failing the lessons of life. After one too many run-ins with the law, Will’s last chance is a psychology professor, who might be the only man who can reach him. Finally forced to deal with his past, Will discovers that the only one holding him back is himself.” –Miramax Official Site
Mira Sorvino presents Robin Williams with the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Good Will Hunting at the 70th Academy Awards. -Oscars
Hearing is Gillibrand’s First As Chair Of Senate Armed Services Subcommittee On Personnel – Has Been Leading The Fight To End Sexual Violence In Military
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand released the following prepared remarks of her opening statement at today’s Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel hearing examining sexual assault in the military:
“It is an honor and privilege to Chair this hearing of the Personnel Subcommittee this morning. I want to thank the Ranking Member of this Subcommittee, Senator Lindsey Graham, for his support and working with me to move this hearing forward as quickly as possible.
“I know that all of our colleagues on the Armed Services Committee share our deep commitment to improving the quality of life of the men and women who serve in our all-volunteer force on active duty, or in the National Guard and Reserves, their families, military retirees, and Department of Defense Civilian personnel.
“And that is why this hearing today is so important to me personally…and to thousands of servicemembers…and their families across the country.
“The issue of sexual violence in the military is not new. And it has been allowed to go on in the shadows for far too long. The scourge of sexual violence in the military should be intolerable and infuriating to us all. Our best, brightest, and bravest join our armed forces for all the right reasons – to serve our country, protect our freedom, and keep America safe.
“The United States has the best military in the world and the overwhelmingly vast majority of our brave men and women serving in uniform do so honorably and bravely. But there is also no doubt that we have men and women in uniform who are committing acts of sexual violence and should no longer be allowed to serve.
“Too often, women and men have found themselves in the fight of their lives not in the theater of war – but in their own ranks, among their own brothers and sisters, and ranking officers, in an environment that enables sexual assault.
“And after an assault occurs, an estimated 19,000 sexual assaults happened in 2011 alone according to the Defense Department’s own estimates…some of these victims have to fight all over again with every ounce of their being just to have their voice heard…their assailant brought to any measure of justice… and the disability claims they deserve fulfilled. Congress would be derelict in its duty of oversight if we just shrugged our shoulders at these 19,000 sons and daughters…husbands and wives…mothers and fathers…and did nothing. We simply have to do better by them.
“When brave men and women volunteer to serve in our military they know the risks involved. But sexual assault at the hands of a fellow service member should never be one of them.
“Because not only does sexual assault cause unconscionable harm to the victim — sexual violence is reported to be the leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder among women veterans — but it destabilizes our military, threatens unit cohesion and national security. Beyond the enormous human costs both psychologically and physically, this crisis is costing us significant assets – making us weaker both morally and militarily.
“Already, this Committee and the Pentagon took some first steps on this issue as part of last year’s National Defense Authorization bill that President Obama signed into law. While obviously our work is not done, I am hopeful that we can build on these initial changes which include:
Ensuring that all convicted sex offenders in the military are processed for discharge or dismissal from the Armed Forces regardless of which branch they serve in;
Reserving case-disposition authority for only high-ranking officers in sexual assault cases;
Pushing the Pentagon to lift the combat ban that prevents women from officially serving in many of the combat positions that can lead to significant promotion opportunities. By opening the door for more qualified women to excel in our military, we will have increased diversity in top leadership positions, improving response from leadership when it comes to preventing and responding to sexual violence;
And an amendment introduced by my colleague Senator Jeanne Shaheen and based on my legislation, the MARCH Act, means that troops who become pregnant as a result of an act of rape no longer have to pay out of pocket to have those pregnancies terminated.
“Concerning our first panel of witnesses, I want to salute each of you for your courage today in telling your very painful and personal stories. It is my hope and belief that by committing this selfless act you are encouraging others to step forward and are also helping to prevent other crimes from going unpunished.
“We have a duty to you, and the thousands of victims you represent, to examine whether the military justice system is the most effective and fairest system it can be.
“Despite some very dedicated JAG officers, I do not believe the current system adequately meets that standard. The statistics on prosecution rates for sexual assaults in the military are devastating. Of the 2,439 unrestricted reports filed in 2011 for sexual violence cases – only 240 proceeded to trial. Nearly 70 percent of these reports were for rape, aggravated sexual assault or non-consensual sodomy.
“A system where less than 1 out of 10 reported perpetrators are held accountable for their alleged crimes is not a system that is working. And that is just reported crimes. The Defense Department itself puts the real number closer to 19,000! A system where in reality less than 2 out of 100 alleged perpetrators are faced with any trial at all is clearly inadequate and unacceptable.
“My view is that emphasizing institutional accountability and the prosecution of cases is needed to create a real deterrent of criminal behavior. The system needs to encourage victims that coming forward and participating in their perpetrator’s prosecution is not detrimental to their safety or future, and will result in justice being done. Because currently, according to the DOD, 47 percent of service members are too afraid to report their assaults, because of fear of retaliation, harm or punishment. Too many victims do not feel that justice is likely or even possible.
“We need to take a close look at our military justice system, and we need to be asking the hard questions, with all options on the table, including moving this issue outside of the chain of command, so we can get closer to a true zero tolerance reality in the Armed Forces. The case we have all read about at Aviano Air Base is shocking, and the outcome should compel all of us to take the necessary action to ensure that justice is swift and certain, not rare and fleeting.
“I had the opportunityto press Secretary Hagel on the issue of sexual violence in the military during his confirmation hearing. Secretary Hagel responded by saying, ‘I agree it is not good enough just to say zero tolerance. The whole chain of command needs to be accountable for this.’
“I could not agree more. I was very pleased with the Secretary’s public statement earlier this week that he is open to considering changes to the military justice system as well as legislation to ‘ensure the effectiveness of our responses to the crime of sexual assault.’
“It is with this spirit as our guide that I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.
“After Ranking Member Graham makes his opening remarks, we will hear testimony from my colleague from California, Senator Barbara Boxer who has been a leading voice on this issue. In last year’s Defense bill she successfully included an amendment that prohibits any individual who is convicted of a felony sexual assault from being issued a waiver to join the military.
“We will then have the following witnesses who have either been the victims of sexual assault while serving in the military, or are very knowledgeable advocates for addressing the issue of sexual assaults in the military:
Anu Bhagwati is Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Service Women’s Action Network. Anu is a former Captain and Company Commander, she served as a Marine officer from 1999 to 2004. While serving, Anu faced discrimination and harassment as a woman in the military, and has borne direct witness to the military’s handling of sexual violence.
BriGette McCoy, former Specialist in the U.S. Army. BriGette served in the U.S. Army from 1987 to 1991. She was just eighteen years old when she signed up to serve her country in the first Gulf War. While stationed in Germany from 1988 to 1991, she was sexually assaulted by a non-commanding officer.
Rebekah Havrilla, former Sergeant in the U.S. Army. Rebekah served in the U.S. Army from 2004 to 2008. She was the only female member of a bomb squad in eastern Afghanistan and was attacked by a colleague at Salerno Forward Operating Base near the Pakistani border during her last week in the country in 2007.
Brian Lewis, former Petty Officer Third Class, US. Navy. Brian enlisted in the U.S. Navy in June of 1997. During his tour aboard USS Frank Cable (AS-40), he was raped by a superior non-commissioned officer and forced to go back out to sea after the assault.
“I encourage you to express your views candidly and to tell us what is working and what is not working. Help us to understand what we can do to address this unacceptable problem of sexual assaults in the military.
“Later this afternoon at 2:00 p.m., we will have a third panel of witnesses from the Department of Defense, and the military services, including the Coast Guard. I want to acknowledge that many of those witnesses are here this morning to listen to the critically important testimony from our first and second panels and I would like to thank them for their participation.”
Today, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey announced the rescission the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule for women and that the Department of Defense plans to remove gender-based barriers to service.
“Women have shown great courage and sacrifice on and off the battlefield, contributed in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission and proven their ability to serve in an expanding number of roles,” Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said. “The Department’s goal in rescinding the rule is to ensure that the mission is met with the best-qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender.”
Today, women make up approximately 15 percent, or nearly 202,400, of the U.S. military’s 1.4 million active personnel. Over the course of the past decade, more than 280,000 women have deployed in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today’s announcement follows an extensive review by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who unanimously concluded that now is the time to move forward with the full intent to integrate women into occupational fields to the maximum extent possible. It builds on a February 2012 decision to open more than 14,000 additional positions to women by rescinding the co-location restriction and allowing women to be assigned to select positions in ground combat units at the battalion level.
“The Joint Chiefs share common cause on the need to start doing this now and to doing this right. We are committed to a purposeful and principled approach,” said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.
The Department of Defense is determined to successfully integrate women into the remaining restricted occupational fields within our military, while adhering to the following guiding principles developed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
• Ensuring the success of our nation’s warfighting forces by preserving unit readiness, cohesion, and morale.
• Ensuring all service men and women are given the opportunity to succeed and are set up for success with viable career paths.
• Retaining the trust and confidence of the American people to defend this nation by promoting policies that maintain the best quality and most qualified people.
• Validating occupational performance standards, both physical and mental, for all military occupational specialties (MOS), specifically those that remain closed to women. Eligibility for training and development within designated occupational fields should consist of qualitative and quantifiable standards reflecting the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for each occupation. For occupational specialties open to women, the occupational performance standards must be gender-neutral as required by Public Law 103-160, Section 542 (1993).
• Ensuring that a sufficient cadre of midgrade/senior women enlisted and officers are assigned to commands at the point of introduction to ensure success in the long run. This may require an adjustment to recruiting efforts, assignment processes, and personnel policies. Assimilation of women into heretofore “closed units” will be informed by continual in-stride assessments and pilot efforts.
Using these guiding principles, positions will be opened to women following service reviews and the congressional notification procedures established by law. Secretary Panetta directed the military departments to submit detailed plans by May 15, 2013, for the implementation of this change, and to move ahead expeditiously to integrate women into previously closed positions. The secretary’s direction is for this process to be complete by Jan. 1, 2016.
“On July 22, 2003, U.S. Army Private Jessica Lynch, a prisoner-of-war who was rescued from an Iraqi hospital, receives a hero’s welcome when she returns to her hometown of Palestine, West Virginia. The story of the 19-year-old supply clerk, who was captured by Iraqi forces in March 2003, gripped America; however, it was later revealed that some details of Lynch’s dramatic capture and rescue might have been exaggerated.”
In April 2007, Lynch testified before Congress that she had falsely been portrayed as a “little girl Rambo” and the U.S. military had hyped her story for propaganda reasons…“I am still confused as to why they chose to lie and tried to make me a legend when the real heroics of my fellow soldiers that day were, in fact, legendary. The truth of war is not always easy to hear but is always more heroic than the hype.”
Pvt. John Bennett is the Only U.S. Soldier Executed for Rape in Peacetime. He Was Mentally Troubled and Black. Six White Murderers Were Also on Military Death Row. They Were Spared.
Richard A. Serrano is a Staff Writer in The Times’ Washington, bureau. He last wrote for the magazine about the bombing of the Oklahoma, City federal building, which was also the subject of his book, “One of, Ours,” published in 1998 by W.W. Norton
“Rain always frightened him, and on the night he was hanged in a military prison in Kansas, a rolling prairie thunderstorm was kicking up outside. That was four decades ago. Pvt. John Bennett had just turned 26. He went to his death perhaps more terrified of the thunder and lightning than of the gaunt hangman waiting upon the gallows.
News of the hanging scarcely made the papers. Executions then, like today, were commonplace, so much so that his story has never been told. But he is the last member of the U.S. Armed Forces to be executed. And he is the only serviceman hanged for rape during peacetime.
America is once again examining the death penalty, spurred by the most damning evidence in history that innocents have been sentenced to die. Advances in DNA testing and other revelations have overturned scores of death sentences in recent years, raising fresh doubts about American criminal justice, especially for minorities, who make up the majority of death row prisoners.
As a result, the death penalty issue looms larger in presidential politics than it has for a generation. Both major party candidates favor death sentencing, and Republican nominee George W. Bush has given it special emphasis. He expresses confidence in his state’s handling of capital cases and says that not one innocent man has been executed on his watch as governor of Texas.
The issue also has landed in the Oval Office, where President Clinton delayed by four months the federal government’s first scheduled execution since 1963. Juan Raul Garza will now have until Dec. 12–a date notably after the presidential election–to seek clemency. Garza’s attorneys say they will argue that the criminal justice system discriminates against minorities.
Amid the chatter, national opinion polls have found that while most Americans still favor death sentencing, the support is diminishing. Even its proponents question the role that race, mental illness, poverty, politics and the quality of legal representation play in death penalty cases. All those factors were present on that stormy night in April 1961 inside the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth. Was the system broken back then? Has it been fixed since?“
Read more from Richard A. Serrano (LA Times) here or here and check out Serrano’s book ‘Summoned at Midnight: A Story of Race and the Last Military Executions at Fort Leavenworth’here.
Leonard Lake is arrested near San Francisco, California, ending one of the rare cases of serial killers working together. Lake and Charles Ng were responsible for a series of particularly brutal crimes against young women in California and the Pacific Northwest during the mid-1980s. Read more from On This Day in Historyhere.
Oxygen premiered It Takes a Killer ‘Partners in Evil” and this episode highlighted the sadistic crimes committed by Marine veterans Charles Ng and Leonard Lake. In the early 1980s, the San Francisco bay area was under siege as more than twelve people vanished without a trace. Police would eventually learn that Ng and Lake were responsible for murdering them and so much more. What police uncovered during their investigation would prove invaluable in the prosecutor’s decision to pursue the death penalty. Charles Ng and Leonard Lake were psychopaths.
In December 1982, Army veteran Donald Lake, 32, was living with his mother in San Francisco, California. At their surprise, his brother Leonard Lake stopped by on a road trip up north and asked Donald to tag along. Donald was described as a very nice, gentle man but Leonard treated Donald terribly when they were growing up and even referred to him as a leech in conversations with his ex-wife Claralyn Balazs. Donald is never seen again and his mother Gloria is concerned so she reports him missing. Leonard Lake is nowhere to be found but he resurfaced on New Years Day in 1983 to rent a room in a house in Golden Gate Park.
Four months later, Lake moved in with his buddy from his green beret days, Charles Gunnar of Morgan Hill. They had a lot in common as they both valued survival skills and the weaponry world. On May 22, 1983, Lake invited Gunnar to go on a road trip to Vegas or Tahoe for some much needed rest and relaxation after his divorce. Charles Gunnar decided to go in an effort to cope with his tough times; he left his two daughter’s with a babysitter. A couple days later, Charles Lake returned alone in Gunnar’s van and told the babysitter that Charles ran off with a woman. Charles Gunnar was never seen again.
On July 11, 1984, Donald Giulietti, 36, a radio personality from San Francisco, California was spending time in his apartment expecting a visitor. Donald was an openly gay man who lived with a man named Richard Carrazza. Giulietti placed a personal ad in a low key newspaper offering to give oral sex to straight men. That night a stranger knocked on the door and Giulietti assumed it was someone taking him up on his offer. As soon as Donald opens door, the man whips out pistol and shoots him in the head at close range. Carrazza runs from the back room into the study and finds Giulietti on the floor. Carrazza is immediately shot in the chest and left for dead. The shooter fled and Carrazza survived the attack. Richard Carazza called 911 and when the police questioned him, he was able to give a description of the shooter.
Richard Carrazza described being shot by a small Chinese man wearing prescription glasses. Police searched for an Asian suspect but came up empty. What no one knows is that the killer was already searching the classifieds for his next victim. On July 24, 1984 in San Francisco, California, Harvey Dubs, 29, was home with his wife Deborah, 33, and their 16 month old son Sean. Harvey worked for a printing company but on the side, he videotaped special events and rented out his equipment. There was an individual who responded to the ad and came to his home. The family was never seen again. The following morning, a neighbor went to check on them and found keys in the door and dirty dishes in the sink but no sign of the Dubs family.
When the police did house to house canvassing and questioned the neighbors, they reported seeing a small Asian man leaving the property. The suspect was seen carrying a large duffel bag and a large flight bag both stuffed full and he tossed the bags into the trunk of a car that was waiting. The Asian man gets into the front passenger seat of the car with the burly man with a beard and they speed away. Some witnesses in the neighborhood get a good description of the Asian man. No one could give a good description of the bearded man but an eye witness was able to draw a description of the Asian man.
In San Francisco, California on October 31, 1984, entrepreneur Paul Cosner, 39, was selling his 1980 Honda Prelude which he had recently advertised in the local newspaper. A burly bearded man took the car for a test drive and a couple days later called Paul to tell him that he would like to purchase the Honda from him. On November 2, 1984, Paul drove the car to meet the potential buyer and he was never seen again. When Cosner’s sister Sharon didn’t hear from him for 24 hours, she filed a missing person’s reports and a missing vehicle report. Sharon was relentless and maintained heavy pressure on the police but they really had no clues or suspects at this point.
In San Francisco on January 18, 1985, Cliff Peranteau, 24, was at a local bar tossing back a few drinks with a co-worker. Cliff worked at a moving company and he shared with friends that he was going to work on Saturday. Cliff never showed up for the job but apparently was seen partying on Sunday after a 49er’s super bowl victory. He’s last seen by a bartender after winning a $400 bet. The bartender said he appeared to be going off to celebrate with an Asian friend. He was never seen again.
Investigators would learn that Peranteau’s Asian friend was his colleague Charles Ng who had been at the moving company for about four months. Charles was described as an odd character that Cliff Peranteau normally tried to avoid. Charles Ng wasn’t well-liked at the moving company because he had poor boundaries and said inappropriate things to others. Two weeks after Cliff’s disappearance, his boss received a short typed letter apparently from Cliff informing him that he had a new job. The writer also requested that Cliff’s last check be sent to an address in northeastern California near Wilseyville. The note wasn’t that far fetched until another moving company employee, Jeff Gerald, 25, went missing on February 23, 1985. Jeff got an offer to work with Charles Ng on a small moving job on the side. Jeff went to do the job and this was the last time he was seen.
In San Francisco on April 12, 1985, Kathleen Allen, 18, and her boyfriend Michael Carroll, 23, were spending time in a motel room where they were temporarily living. At 10 pm at night, Michael tells Kathleen that he has to do something and would be back in the morning. Michael never returned. A few days later Kathleen received a horrifying phone call at work. The caller told her that her boyfriend Michael may have been involved in a shooting. She immediately told her boss that she had to leave. She was last seen meeting a bearded man in the parking lot of the Safeway where she worked. Kathleen got into the car and was never seen again.
In April 1985, four more people vanished without a trace. Robert Scott Stapley, 26, lived in San Francisco but frequently took road trips to Wilseyville, California to spend time with friends. Scott Stapley stayed with Lonnie Bond and his live-in girlfriend Brenda O’Connor, and their 18 month old son. Lonnie and Brenda loved living in their cabin in the foothills of the Sierra-Nevada mountains. The only thing they don’t like was their neighbor. He was a burly, bearded man who they felt was extremely obnoxious, rude, and demented. This neighbor constantly fired weapons on his property and Brenda felt really uncomfortable with him because he would not stop asking her to pose naked for him. On April 19, 1985, Scott Stapley was present when Lonnie decided to confront his neighbor. Lonnie decided to deal with the problem once and for all, and none of them were ever seen again.
In San Francisco, California on June 2, 1985, two men entered a lumber yard to buy some building supplies. A burly bearded man and an Asian man with glasses decided they wanted a vice but were not going to pay for it. The Asian man swiped the $75 vice, exited the store, and placed the stolen vice into the trunk of a Honda Prelude in the parking lot. But the Asian man didn’t realize that an off duty police officer spotted him with the stolen merchandise and called in his description. The off-duty police officer approached the Asian man but he took off and disappeared. The officer searched the vehicle and found the stolen vice and a back pack, which contained a pistol with a silencer in it. Just then a stocky bearded man exited the lumber yard and approached the Honda Prelude.
The burly bearded man told the police officer that his name was Scott Stapler (the name of the man who vanished two months prior). He told the officer not to worry about the vice because he paid for it. The officer reminded him there was a gun with a silencer in the trunk of the car and placed the burly, bearded man under arrest. He was taken to the police station for questioning. Back at the station, investigators learned that everything the man was telling them was a lie. A background check on the Honda Prelude revealed that it was registered to Paul Cosner, who went missing months before. Then they learned the license plates belonged to Lonnie Bond, another person who went missing. As the officer confronted the man with this new evidence, the big burly bearded man began to cry and admitted his real name was Leonard Lake. And that his accomplice was Charles Ng.
At one point during the investigation, Lake asked the detectives for a glass of water and a pen and paper to write a letter to his ex-wife. Police uncuffed him expecting a full confession. After he got done writing the letter to his ex-wife, he reached up under his collar where he sewed a cyanide pill into the fabric and quickly shoved it down his throat. He fell onto the floor gagging and seizing. He was rushed to the hospital where he slipped into a coma and died a few days later. In June 1985, Leonard Lake suddenly killed himself with a cyanide pill taking his secrets to the grave with him. But he did leave behind a clue when he gave up the name of his sidekick Charles Ng who was now on the run. Leonard Lake had been on the run since April 1982 when the FBI raided his place on a stolen weapons tip.
Police wanted to know who Leonard Lake was. They learned he was born in San Francisco, California and was bright yet sadistic. He developed an infinity for pornography early on in his life. He apparently took nude photos of his sisters when they were young and used them to extort sexual favors. He joined the US Marine Corps in 1965 at age 19 and served two terms in Vietnam. In Da Nang in 1970, Leonard had a complete mental breakdown and was sent back to the United States. He was admitted to a psychiatric ward for two months and then discharged from the Marines upon his release. Lake spent the next eight years in a hippie commune. In the late summer of 1980, Leonard met his wife Claralyn Balazs and they married in 1981. They both had a love of making pornographic videos of themselves and enjoyed kinky sex.
After Leonard’s death in 1985, Claralyn was the critical piece to help police break the case wide open. Police investigated Leonard Lake and did a complete forensic search of the Honda Prelude in his possession. They found blood spatter in the car, bullet holes in the headliner, IDs of missing persons, and an electric bill with Claralyn’s address. On June 3, 1985, police manage to track down Claralyn. Claralyn told detectives that she and Leonard divorced in November 1982 but maintained a close relationship. She also mentioned to the police that her family owned property in Wilseyville but no one had been living there recently. Police were curious and Claralyn agreed to take them to the property on June 4, 1985. The police found what they could only describe as a compound for killing.
The police found the drivers license of Mike Carroll who disappeared with his girlfriend Kathleen Allen in 1985. They also found possessions of others who were missing including the Dubs family. Police found videotapes of women being tortured, signs of men being killed, and outside in the yard, police came across a tool shed that acted as a false front. There they found a large bunker where tortures had occurred and where Leonard Lake kept his sex slaves. Detectives unearthed Leonard Lake’s hide out and learned that he had this planned since he was a teenager. Lake read a book at age 17 called The Collector which was about a man who had a sex slave named Miranda. Lake became obsessed with a clear plan called Operation Miranda. He wanted to enslave young girls and these fantasies became a reality when Charles Ng entered his life.
The police found overwhelming evidence of Lake and Ng’s barbarism inside in the bunker. There were videotapes of Leonard Lake building the bunker. One tape labeled the M Ladies showed Ng and Lake raping, torturing, and abusing a number of women. Law enforcement didn’t know who any of the M Ladies were until weeks later when they discovered a mass grave on the Wilseyville property. Police found approximately 45 pounds of human remains scattered about the yard. They found many of the human remains of the missing people; they had been killed, burned, tortured, and dismembered. Among the remains, investigators found the IDs of Brenda O’Connor and Kathleen Allen.
Police recognized Kathleen Allen from the M Ladies videotape. Kathleen was selected by Lake as the perfect M Lady and was kept prisoner in his bunker. He treated her as a complete slave in every way. He forced her to dress up, have sex on demand, and pose for him. It took investigators weeks to go through the crime scene and as they do they discover more and more bodies. Then on July 8, 1985 they find two males stacked on top of each other in a make shift grave. They were identified as Lonnie Bond and Scott Stapley. Investigators knew Charles Ng played an integral part in all this and they wanted to find him.
In June and July 1985, investigators learned that Marine veterans Charles Ng and Leonard Lake murdered multiple people and dug them in a mass grave at the property in Wilseyville, California. At this point in the investigation, Leonard Lake had committed suicide and Charles Ng was on the run. Charles Ng was born in Hong Kong. His father was a strict disciplinarian who literally beat him with a cane. Ng didn’t really show any interest in school and was expelled from a number of them. He was described as anti-social and had a history of fire setting and stealing. Ng eventually ended up at Notre Dame University on a student visa but dropped out after getting in a hit and run accident.
Charles Ng joined the US Marine Corps in October 1979 as a means to pay restitution for his hit and run crime in Indiana. Ng told recruiters he was born in Indiana and nobody bothered to check his citizenship status. Ng was trained as a gunner in the Marine Corps and immersed himself in martial arts. Ng was obsessed with violence and boasted that he was born to fight in hand-to-hand combat. Ng said he would kill anyone that was foolish enough to fight him. In October 1981, Ng was court martialed for stealing weaponry from an armory and went Absent without Leave (AWOL).
Ng found out that Leonard Lake, another Marine, was managing a hotel in northern California. He flew to California and in December 1981 moved in with Leonard and his wife Claralyn. Lake was fourteen years his senior and acted as a father figure. They both shared a mutual love of weapons and sexual deviance. Lake realized that Ng was the perfect person to help him make his sexual fantasies become reality.
On July 6, 1985 in Calgary, Canada, Charles Ng attempted to steal food from a department store and got caught. He shot a security guard in the hand and was captured immediately. Charles Ng was charged with attempted murder and theft, and was jailed in the Canadian system. On December 18, 1985, Charles Ng went to court and was found not guilty on the attempted murder charge but guilty of assault and robbery. He was entenced to 4.5 years in an Edmonton prison. US officials petitioned to have him extradited back to America to stand trial. His deportation was held up in court until 1991.
Charles Ng is finally extradited to California to face charges for the horrific crimes he and Lake committed there. Ng didn’t actually go to trial for another seven years. In Santa Ana, California on September 14, 1988, Charles Ng’s murder trial proceeded in the Orange County Superior Court. Prosecutors argued that Ng and Lake stalked and targeted their victims, stole their money, then tortured and killed them. The trial lasts for 8 months. Some of the most compelling evidence came from dozens of cartoons drawn by Ng. The cartoons depicted women being tortured and abused and people being burnt. But the M Ladies videotapes were the prosecutions most disturbing evidence.
The M Ladies videotapes showed women who were tortured and sexually abused. Ng took the stand in his own defense and blamed everything on Lake. He denies any knowledge of the murders. He eventually admitted to being involved in the abduction of some of the women, and some of the rapes and tortures, but did not admit to killing anyone. In late February 1999, Charles Ng was convicted on 11 of 12 counts of murder. Four months later, he was sentenced to death. Investigators agree that both Leonard Lake and Charles Ng were both psychopaths but Leonard was the more dominant and goal oriented of the two. Ng went along with Lake’s plan because it allowed him to carry out his torturous and sexually deviant behaviors.
ID Go: When an off-duty police officer in San Francisco happens upon a minor theft at a lumberyard one Sunday afternoon, he unwittingly jumpstarts an investigation into one of California’s deadliest, most depraved serial killers: Leonard Lake and Charles Ng. -Dungeon of Dread, Pandora’s Box: Unleashing Evil (S1,E1)
Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. Download the ID Go app and binge away. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.
“Capt. Howard Levy, 30, a dermatologist from Brooklyn, is convicted by a general court-martial in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, of willfully disobeying orders and making disloyal statements about U.S. policy in Vietnam. Levy had refused to provide elementary instruction in skin disease to Green Beret medics on the grounds that the Green Berets would use medicine as ‘another tool of political persuasion’ in Vietnam.” Read more from This Day in Historyhere.
“John Bennett, a black man, was hanged for rapinga white girl in Austria. During the six years between his trial and death, eight other soldiers were executed, all of them black. Six white prisoners were on death row during those years. Some had killed little girls or had killed more than once. None were executed. President Dwight Eisenhower commuted the sentences of four. Two were spared by the courts. Today, six soldiers are on military death row–four black, one Asian, one white.” (update: 4 soldiers are on death row now)
“Evidence in Bennett’s case revealed mental defects in the young man and his family, defects that today would probably spare his life. He also almost certainly suffered from epilepsy, which his defenders cited as further evidence of mental illness. Even Dr. Karl Menninger, the country’s preeminent psychiatrist, twice sought to save the life of this ‘undistinguished epileptic Negro soldier.‘ The court-martial was held in Austria. The trial lasted five days, with little defense. The jury deliberated just 25 minutes.“
Read more from Richard A. Serrano (LA Times) here or here and check out Serrano’s book ‘Summoned at Midnight: A Story of Race and the Last Military Executions at Fort Leavenworth’here.