Charles Ng: California Court Upholds Death Penalty in Sex Slave Murders in 1980s

Charles Ng was convicted in 1999 of murdering 6 men, 3 women and 2 babies in 1984 and 1985. He was initially accused of 13 murders, including 12 in Kalavras County.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The California Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the convictions and death sentences of one of two men involved in at least 11 notorious torture incidents in the mid-1980s. Forests of Northern California

Thirty-seven years later, authorities are still trying to identify the remains of some of their victims.

Charles Ng, now 61, was convicted in 1999 of killing six men, three women and two baby boys in 1984 and 1985. He was initially charged with 13 murders – 12 in Calaveras County and one in San Francisco.

He and his partner in crime, Leonard Lake, committed a series of kidnappings in which they engaged in captivity and sadism that ended in murder. They were initially suspected of killing 25 people.

“It’s one of those stories that has been told over time in this community,” said Lt. Greg Stark, whose father worked for the department at the time of the murders. “There have been wild estimates and conservative estimates, and to be honest, I don’t think anyone knows because of the way the bodies are disposed of.”

Eng and Lake kept their victims in a remote 2.5-acre compound in the Sierra Nevada about 150 miles (241 km) east of San Francisco. It consisted of a bunker with three rooms, two of which were behind a secret door. A hidden, locked cell-like room was furnished with a bed covered with a foam pad, a plastic bucket and a roll of toilet paper.

Lake killed himself with a cyanide capsule after police arrested him for shoplifting in San Francisco in 1985 and questioned him before the body was found.

In a detailed 181-page analysis of the case, the justices said Ng received a fair trial, including a change of venue from Calaveras County to Orange County because of pretrial publicity.

It was one of California’s longest and most expensive trials at the time, costing millions of dollars, in part because the court said Ng repeatedly tried to delay and disrupt his trial. This included extensive discussions about whether he could represent himself and who would be his lawyer.

The judges also unanimously concluded that Ng was properly extradited after fleeing to Canada, where he was arrested in 1985 in Calgary, Alberta for shoplifting and wounding a store security guard. He fought extradition for six years before the Supreme Court of Canada ordered his return.

The men incriminated themselves with videotapes of the women they used as sex slaves before their murders.

Jurors were shown a tape of a woman pleading in vain for men to spare her husband and baby, while Ng slashed her shirt and bra with a knife on camera.

Researchers also discovered piles of charred bones, blood-soaked tools, shallow graves and a 250-page diary kept by the lake.

Four law enforcement agencies spent five weeks cleaning up the property, according to detailed court filings.

They found thousands of teeth and bone fragments buried throughout the property, at least four of which belonged to a child under the age of 3. “Hundreds” of bone fragments were burned.

Two forensic anthropologists eventually concluded that the remains belonged to at least four adults, one child, and one infant. Two men were found in a shallow grave not far from the property. They were bound, gagged and shot dead.

Authorities in Calaveras County last year exhumed additional bones and other human remains from a crypt in a cemetery where Ng had been held since his conviction, hoping that modern DNA tracing could reveal their identities.

The sheriff’s chaplain read a brief invocation, and soon California Department of Justice criminalists and two forensic anthropologists began sorting and analyzing the remains.

“They’re initially hoping there’s enough DNA left to compare, but the Justice Department hasn’t been able to do that in part because active cases are more urgent,” Stark said.

Investigators plan to compare the DNA with that of relatives of known victims and run it through DNA databases in hopes of comparisons.

“Regardless of whether there are 11 (murders) or more than 11, we hope to sort the remains and if possible return them to the families to honor them and put them in jail,” Stark said. “If we find more identities, we will definitely look into them and their connection to the case.”

After coming to the United States from Hong Kong, Ng joined the Marine Corps. He was previously incarcerated in Leavenworth, Kansas, for stealing a gun while serving in the Marine Corps.

He and his defense attorneys argued that he was influenced by Leake, an older, savior man who they say engineered the serial killings. Ng denied involvement in many of the crimes.

His lawyers argued at the time that Ng had developed it as a child when he was beaten by his father.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has suspended the death penalty as long as he is governor, and Ng still has the option of another federal appeal.

Death penalty reform in California Raynor’s report

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