When you first hear the news about an offender committing numerous crimes, you assume he or she might have been abused at some point in their life or that they have had a long criminal record. Most repeat offenders come from a string of a bad life, parental abuse such as abandonment, neglect, and/ or physical abuse to name a few. At an early age they show signs of being cold hearted, fearless and possibly thrill-seeking behavior.
This wasn’t the case for Charles Ng.
Born in Hong Kong (Levin), son of a wealthy businessman, he was not exposed to poverty, thugs, to the contrary; he had it all. Access to everything he could have ever wanted, lots of money, choice to attend any school he could have ever wanted without having to worry about how it would be funded. Whatever he wanted he received. Instead he opted for a life crime. He started with just being a rebel, he would be transferred or expelled from different schools throughout his childhood due to his outstanding behavior (sarcasm), and they couldn’t kick him out fast enough.
His father couldn’t handle him anymore, he sent him to England to live with his uncle. It didn’t take long for Charles to continue his bad behavior. He upgraded to stealing from his classmates to retail stores. He just couldn’t get enough of other people’s stuff. And once again he was kicked out of school.
While back in Hong Kong, he applied a for a student visa to study in the United States, and enrolled at a college in Belmont, CA, but studies were the last thing on his mind. After just one semester he dropped out of college. Even though he wasn’t an American citizen he managed to con the system and hands over a fake Indiana birth certificate and in 1980 he enlisted in the Marine Corps and was stationed in Hawaii. This act of defrauding was another devious act to add to his list. He didn’t last long in the military. Within a year he and other accomplices stole military weapons, to which they were caught and arrested. Just days after being arrested he escapes and runs to California.
In California he meets a man by the name of Leonard Lake. Lake was also in the Marine Corp where he trained as a radar operator. He lasted seven years with the Marines and was later honorably discharged with good conduct despite of his “psychological problems” being exposed during his time served. Lake had a history of mental issues within the military but they were not properly documented at the time. Unlike Ng, Lake did not have a great upbringing. He didn’t have wealthy parents. He was living with different relatives all up until the age of six. His parents were too busy fighting with each other, they neglected Leonard. Lake felt abandoned and rejected by those he thought would protect him and take care of him. The nurture part of growing was taken from him.
Ng befriends him given they have military service in common and ultimately moves in with him and Leonard’s wife. At some point Charles and Lake are arrested by the FBI for weapon charges. He is released sometime in June 1984 and moves back with Lake but this time he joins Lake at a cabin. This cabin would end up being their sanctuary, their hostage cell. It didn’t take long before Charles need for chaos would start. In July of that same year, just a month after his release Charles breaks into an apartment, robs the place and shoots 2 males living in the apartment. One of the tenants, Donald Guiletti died during the robbery but his roommate, Richard Carraza survived. But at this point Charles was not aware of Mr. Carraza’s survival until months later (A Fate Better than Death, 1991).
Charles teamed up with Lake and continued their criminal conquest. After the robbery, he went on to rape and bring to life his partners sadistic sexual fantasies. Their first group of victims came when Ng responded to an ad in the paper posted by Mr. Harvey Dubs about camera and audio equipment. They would seem as they were really interested in purchasing the merchandise advertised in the ad, they used this method of approach in order to gain access of their victims and pull off their plan. When Ng arrived at the Dubs residence, Mrs. Deborah Dubs had welcome the men into her home without knowing her life and those she loved most were about to end. Lake and Ng abducted the Dubs to include raping Mrs. Dubs. At some point Deborah begs to see her son who Ng had already killed but instead he played games and would tell her the baby is sleeping, making her believe she may have a chance to survive solely for the sake of the child. But in the end it was all lies. Just like his future female victims he tied, tortured and raped then before taking their life.
Another one of his victims was a young lady by the name of Kathleen Allen. Ng knew Kathleen through her boyfriend Mike, who had been a cellmate of Ng’s during his time in Leavenworth, for stealing military weapons. Lake phoned Kathleen and informs her that Mike had been and shot and she needed to get to his aside as soon as possible. He offers to pick her so she won’t have to drive herself given how shaken up she became with the news. Lake takes her to the cabin where he, his wife and Ng were residing. While in the cabin they take her to an outside shack with the assumption that her boyfriend was there.
Lake grabs her and ties her to a bed post they had customized by drilling holes and inserting ropes/ties in order to secure their victims. Charles positions himself on the bed with Kathy and begins to rip her shirt off with a butterfly knife. He threatens her by telling her if she didn’t act like a sex slave and do as he wishes he would take her outside and kill her. She complied with his wishes as well as others. All the while Leonard would be videotaping Kathleen’s nightmare and directing Ng. They saw this as making of a movie. Kathleen wasn’t Ng’s only female victim. He had a total of three female victims. All female victims were raped, tortured and regardless of how they responded to the attacks, whether resisted or complied they were ultimately killed.
They built a bunker style hiding place where they brought their victims and bury them. This hiding had everything they need to put their plans in motion. Weapons, lingerie for the women to do a little role play with as their sexy slave vixens, knives, digging equipment, etc. They built an incinerator, a room with a two way mirror; this was a complete hostage military style cell. Ng, would commit the sexual acts as well the murders along with Lake all the while Lake had the sick pleasure to watch and record. They would also take pictures and post them throughout their hidden bunker as a shrine to what they have done. They would look at these pics and feel good about what they had done. Aside from the pictures, Ng saved articles of their clothing and every once in a while would sniff them. By doing this it would bring him back to that moment he forced himself onto them.
What could possible gone wrong for this discovery to occur? Ng and Lake become too comfortable. As previously mentioned, Charles had a tendency to shoplift/ theft. He was at a local store where an employee spotted Charles walking out of the store with what appeared to be a bench vise. When the police arrived they did a search and found a weapon registered in someone else’s name. The officer questions Lake who does the vehicle and the weapon belong to, Lake unfortunately was not expecting the officer to follow up with information given and was arrested on the spot and Charles flees. While Lake is at the police station giving a statement, Charles manages to gather a large amount of money and flees to Chicago where he stayed a few days and then makes his way to Canada. While at the Police Station Lake swallows 2 cyanide capsules and collapses in the middle of the interrogation room. He is taken to hospital and dies. At this point the police officers are questioning what would make a man want to kill himself all for a shoplifting charge. This is where Charles world came crumbling down.
Lake’s wife leads the officers to the cabin where Lake, Charles and she were living. A search warrant was issued and the bunker along with all the other hiding places and equipment used to bring about their crime spree was revealed. At first the investigators couldn’t link the crimes between Donald G, the victim from the apartment robbery, with the rape and murder of Kathleen A. and Brenda O’C., until a picture of Lake and Ng were posted on the local news channels and Donald’s roommate, Richard came forward and identified Ng as their attacker. When neighbors were interviewed they were unaware of the different names Lake had used throughout the time he lived in the cabin. One of the neighbors had recognized him as a Charles Gunnar, not Leonard Lake, and this had itched the investigators as to who else may have been missing.
As the investigation in the U.S. moves forward, Charles is arrested by the Calgary police in Canada on charges of robbery, possession of a fire arm and attempted murder as he drew a gun at the officers while they were trying to detain him for shoplifting. Soon after news of his arrest reach the United States and California becomes aware of his whereabouts and applies for an extradition to which they were denied. During his time in a Canada jail Charles did a lot of reading, familiarizing himself with the law both in Canada and the U.S. For about six years he manipulated the both Canada and U.S. penal systems, causing delays for his extradition and finally his trial (Biography). At the end of his trial he requested to be put on the stand. He thought he was smarter than the prosecutors. During his line of questioning he indicates they didn’t have a specific type of victims. It was more or so, whoever they encountered and felt they could serve their purpose in their sexual fantasies.
Charles was found guilty and sentenced to death. An execution date is yet to be set, he is alive and well in San Quentin Prison in California (Nation, 2013).
As I watched the documentary and did research on Charles Ng and Leonard Lake, I realized they didn’t have a specific branding of how their crimes were committed. Charles chose the victims based on his comfort zone, near the cabin where he would be able to allure them to the cabin or transport them to it. One thing the woman all had in common was that they were married or had boyfriends. Charles and Leonard shared sexual fantasies and were able to put them in play. One thing is for sure, they didn’t select all their victims, it was more like first come first serve. Whoever is available will be the chosen one. Their signature aspect/ commonality was having the females as sex slaves. They thrived at the thought of sexual acts and watching each other with the victims.
Charles and Leonard came from different backgrounds. Charles being the privileged one, having his parents taking care of him, while Leonard was the
poor kid who his parents couldn’t love, managed to live the same life of crime and come together as a team destroying a total of 12 lives not including family and friends.