Charles Ng and Leonard Lake
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 History here.
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.
Source: Partners in Evil, It Takes a Killer, Oxygen
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.
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Dungeon of Dread | Pandora’s Box: Unleashing Evil | Investigation Discovery (S1,E1)