|“||I want to be able to use a woman whenever and however I want. And when I'm tired or bored or not interested, I simply want to put her away, lock her up in [her cell], get her out of my sight, out of my life.||”|
— Lake in one of his video tapes
Lake was born in San Francisco, California, on October 29, 1945. When he was young, his parents separated, and he and his siblings were sent to live with their grandparents. At an early age, he began taking nude photos of his sisters; this became the start of his obsession with pornography. He also enjoyed killing mice by dissolving them in chemicals. In 1965, aged 19, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and did service in Vietnam during the war as a radar operator. During his first tour, he was hospitalized for "exhibiting incipient psychotic reactions" but was returned to duty after a short time. In 1971, he was given a medical discharge, having been diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder. He moved to San Jose, California and attended the San Jose University, but dropped out after only one semester and joined a hippie commune. Around this time, Lake became obsessed with the idea of a global nuclear war and developed a kind of survivalist paranoia and with it an obsession with guns. He met a woman named Claralyn Balazs, a 25-year-old teacher's aide whom he nicknamed "Cricket", in 1977 and married her in 1981 and moved in with her. Shortly afterward, he met Charles Ng. Lake would star in S&M- and bondage-related amateur porn movies and also made Balazs take part in them. He had been married to another woman before her in 1975 while he was serving in Vietnam. Like Balazs, she left him when she could no longer put up with his sexual deviance.
Ng was born in Hong Kong on December 24, 1960. His father, a business executive, was strict and disciplined him through physical abuse. From an early age, he displayed an obsession with martial arts and fire-setting and also had a lifelong addiction to stealing. At the age of 15, he was arrested for shoplifting and sent by his father to a private boarding school in England in an attempt to change him, from which he was expelled for stealing from his fellow students and sent back to Hong Kong. In adulthood, he moved to the United States and enrolled in the Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California, but dropped out after his first semester. In October of 1979, he was arrested in relation to a hit and run accident and forced to pay for damages. In 1980, he lied about his nationality and joined the USMC. He was dishonorably discharged after less than a year for stealing automatic weapons worth $11,000 from the gun storage of the Marine Corps' base in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Though sentenced to 14 years, he escaped and made his way to California, where he met Lake. Though some sources claim that they met when Lake posted an ad in a survivalist magazine, this cannot be confirmed. After meeting Lake, he moved into his ranch.
Criminal Activities and killings
In 1982, Lake and Ng were both arrested by the FBI for firearm violations. Lake made bail and went into hiding inside a ranch in Wilseyville, California owned by his ex-wife and turned it into a "survivalist enclosure", stocking it with weapons and supplies in anticipation of a great siege. Ng was sentenced to three years, which he served in a prison in Leavenworth, and sought out Lake again after his release. At this time, the pair became serial killers, abducting, torturing and killing women and sometimes entire families. They knew many of their victims one way or another. One of them was Michael Carroll, a drug leader with whom Ng had shared a cell during his stay at Leavenworth. Another was Donald Lake, Lake's younger brother.
Arrest, Lake's suicide, and Ng's conviction
On June 2, 1985, Ng was caught shoplifting in a hardware store in South San Francisco and fled the scene. Lake, who was with him, was arrested in their car outside the store when a .22 revolver illegally fitted with a suppressor, bullet holes and bloodstains were found inside the car. Lake identified himself as "Robin Stapley" (one of his and Ng's victims) and showed an altered driver's license which had belonged to the actual Stapley. Because the license listed Stapley's age as 26 and Lake was clearly older, the authorities became suspicious and arrested him. When handed a glass of water and left alone, he swallowed a cyanide tablet sewn into a secret compartment of his clothing and slipped into a coma. He was put on life support but died after four days. Prior to killing himself, he wrote a suicide note revealing his and Ng's real names and confessing to their crimes. When the ranch was searched by the police, they found 12 corpses buried in shallow graves on the property as well as a bunker, a stash of weapons and a total of 45 pounds of charred bone fragments, leading the investigators to believe that the pair may have killed as many as 25 people. In the master bedroom, there was a four-post bed with loose restraints tied to each post and bloody pieces of women's lingerie. The searchers also found Lake's diaries and journals, as well as video recordings of him and Ng raping and torturing their victims and of Lake alone talking about holding a woman captive as a sexual slave and servant after the world was destroyed by nuclear war. The bunker had two hidden rooms. The first, the torture chamber, contained various tools and a sign reading "The Miranda", a reference to the name of Lake's plan, "Operation Miranda", a reference to the novel The Collector by John Fowles, in which the protagonist abducts a woman named Miranda and holds her captive in his basement. The other room was a small, soundproof cell with a bed, a table, and a chemical commode.
In the meantime, Ng fled to Calgary, Alberta, Canada via Chicago and Detroit. He remained a fugitive for a month but was once again caught shoplifting. At the police station, he fought back against two police officers, shooting one of them in the hand during the struggle. He was charged and convicted of shoplifting, felonious assault and possession of a concealed firearm and was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. When the American investigators found out about his incarceration, they tried to have him extradited and interviewed him in prison. Ng, who spent his jail time studying American law and sometimes drawing cartoons depicting murders (some of which had been committed at the Wilseyville ranch), admitted to his involvement in his and Lake's murders but claimed that his part had been mostly limited to disposing of the corpses. The Canadian authorities refused to extradite him on the grounds that Canada had abolished capital punishment and Ng could be executed if he was returned to the U.S. It took six years of legal proceedings to have him returned to California in 1991, in part because of the testimony of a man who had survived an encounter with Ng, and even then the legal battle wasn't over. It took another seven years and over $10 million worth of the taxpayers' money for him to be put on trial for murder in October of 1998. In July the next year, he was found guilty by the jury on almost all counts and sentenced to death. The charges for the murder of Paul Cosner were dropped on the grounds that it couldn't be proven with absolute certainty that he had died by Ng's hand. In total, Ng's legal battle with the state of California cost over $20 million. He is currently on death row in San Quentin.
"No gun, no fun. No kill, no thrill. Daddy dies, Mommy cries, Baby fries".
- Ng's work-time chant
Lake and Ng targeted women but were not hesitant to abduct entire families. After killing the men and children to get them out of the way, they would hold the women captive in a custom-built room in a bunker at Lake's ranch, tie them up and torture and rape them, videotaping each other while doing so. Sometimes they also lured men to the compound with promises of work and robbed them, after which Lake stole their identities. After killing the victims by either strangling or shooting them, they would often bury them in shallow graves on the property, though there is evidence that some were also dismembered and burned and their remains shattered.
Dates refer to when the victims were last seen
- May 22: Charles Gunnar, 36
- July 25: The Dubs family
- Harvey Dubs, 29 (father)
- Deborah Dubs, 33 (mother)
- Sean Dubs, 1 (son)
- October: Randy Johnson, 34
- July 25: The Dubs family
- April 12: Michael Carroll, 23
- After April 12: Kathleen Allen, 18
- April 19: The Bond family
- Lonnie Bond, 27 (father)
- Brenda O'Connor, 19 (mother)
- Lonnie Bond, Jr., 2 (son)
- Robin Stapley, 26
- July 1983: Donald Lake, 32 (Lake's brother)
- April: Jeffrey Askren, 30
- July 12: Donald Giulietti, 36 (allegedly shot by Ng)
- November 2: Paul Cosner, 39 (there was no evidence that Ng was the one who killed him)
- January 20: Clifford Parenteau, 23
- February 24: Jeff Gerald, 25
- Note: The massive amount of burned, shattered bone fragments suggests Lake and Ng killed several more victims besides the ones found buried and the ones possibly shot by Ng; investigators suggested that the total victim count may be as high as 25.
- The Collector, the book that inspired Lake to abduct and imprison women, also appears to have served as inspiration for some other killers. Robert Berdella, a.k.a. The Kansas City Butcher, who abducted young men and tortured them, photographing the process, claimed to have been inspired by the movie adaptation. Christopher Wilder, a.k.a. The Beauty Queen Killer, who abducted and raped at least ten girls aged 10-12, eight of whom died, during the course of a month-long spree before killing himself, had a copy of The Collector in his possession at the time of his death and was reputed to have memorized the whole book.
On Criminal Minds
- Season Three
- "Children of the Dark" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, the duo appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsubs, Gary and Ervin Robles - Both were serial killing teams, family annihilators, and robbers, whose teams consisted of a Casian male and another male that was of a different race, had at least one member who was abused by parental figures (Ng was abused by his father, while Gary and Ervin were abused by their foster parents), and one member of both teams assumed the identities of one of their victims before being arrested.
- "Identity" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, the duo appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsubs, Francis Goehring and Henry Frost - Both teams consisted of serial killers (budding at least) and abductors and at least one serial rapist (Goehring), and a survivalist (Ng and Frost) who primarily targeted women (though Ng and Lake also killed men and even children), kept them enslaved at a private compound which the dominant partner obtained from their ex-wives, raped and tortured them, videotaping the acts, and then killed them and disposed of them on the property. Additionally, the home videos where Goehring voices his narcissistic beliefs and his plans to enslave women are very similar to tapes made by Lake and Ng where Lake talks about his plan to do so. Both submissive partners suffered at the hands of their fathers at the age of 15 (Frost's father threw him out of his home while Ng's father sent him to boarding school), and both dominant partners were in the U.S. Armed Forces (Goehrig joined the Army, while Lake joined the Marines) and were discharged. Also both dominant partners committed suicide before they could be arrested for their murders.
- Season Four
- Season Six