Survivalist, ‘Elusive Mr. Ng’ Thrived On Fear
WEST POINT, Calif. (AP) _ Leonard Lake, suspected with a friend of killing up to 25 people before committing suicide, moved through a mental twilight, wracked by sexual fantasies, ready for nuclear holocaust and dreaming of secret mountain hideaways.
Investigators, acquaintances and his diary depict the former Marine and jack-of-all-trades as a bewildering combination of reticence and assertiveness; a man who shunned neighbors at his rugged, isolated Sierra Nevada foothills home.
His ranch complex, hidden from the road by trees and shrubs, included a cinder-block bunker with a crude wooden cell about 6-by-4 feet. In that cell, police believe Lake and a companion, Charles Chitat Ng, may have tortured and murdered more than two dozen victims over two years period. Police say they have found videotapes of women being threatened with weapons.
To date, the remains of at least five victims have been found on Lake’s property.
″Who knows where this is going to end?″ said Jim Stenquist, a spokesman for the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department. ″We just don’t know. We don’t know how many victims we have. All we really know, is that we have a lot of missing people who had a connection to Lake and Ng.″
With Lake dead and Ng on the run, Calaveras County Sheriff Claud Ballard says the best evidence is Lake’s 250-page hand-written journal that allegedly details a chilling record of rape, murder and torture.
One investigator who saw the diary, said Lake believed women should be used as ″sex slaves.″
Ballard says the diary has ″names and dates″ of crimes that may aid investigators in developing a comprehensive list of victims, but others are not so optimistic.
″Unless we catch the elusive Mr. Ng,″ says Calaveras County Coroner Terry Parker, ″this case will never be solved. The identities of these victims may never be known.″
The 21/2 -acre property, owned by the parents of Lake’s ex-wife, is within 200 yards of Lodestar, a camp for Calaveras County school children. Over a mile away is Schaad Lake, a favorite of local fishermen.
Lake’s odyssey of real and fantasy violence ended abruptly on June 2. He swallowed a poison capsule shortly after he was arrested for shoplifting at a South San Francisco lumber store and died after four days in a coma.
Ng was with Lake at the store, but escaped arrest.
Lake was driving a car registered to auto dealer Paul Cosner, who had disappeared seven months earlier.
The car, a 22-caliber pistol and silencer found inside and Lake’s suicide testified that this was more than a shoplifting case. When Lake was connected with the ranch property, the investigation concentrated there.
Lake had been hiding from the law since 1982, when he jumped bail after being arrested in Mendocino County for burglary, grand theft and possession of explosives and automatic weapons.
Ng was arrested with Lake in 1982, and was held in connection with a 1981 Marine armory theft in Hawaii. Ng was court-martialed and imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
After his release in June 1984, Marine Corps officials say Ng should have been deported. Instead, he was turned loose and returned to the San Francisco area, linking up again with Lake.
A martial arts expert, explosives specialist and burglar, Ng has been described as a 5-foot-6 chameleon, adept at disguises and looking far younger than his 24 years.
Both men loved weapons, violence and militarism. Both were drummed out of the service. Both broke the law.
Lake, balding and bearded, was born Oct. 29, 1945. He was a San Francisco native who attended Balboa High School, then enlisted in the Marine Corps in June 1964.
He was an aviation technician in Da Nang, Vietnam, but saw no combat during two tours of duty. He was discharged in April 1971 after hospitalization for psychiatric problems, including a two-year stint at the base hospital at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego.
He moved to San Jose a year later where he came to the attention of local police.
″He started out as a voyeur, took photographs of young ladies ... was into bondage, and from what appears in the journal, evolved through fantasy or insanity into a killer,″ Lt. Don Trujillo told the San Jose Mercury News.
During his five years in San Jose, Lake worked as a store clerk and fix-it man. He married a San Jose woman, but they were separated by 1976. Authorities declined to identify her.
Lake, by now a fervent survivalist, left San Jose and moved to a Mendocino County ranch, establishing what he described as a survivalist camp. He was married again, this time to Claralyn Balazs, who worked as a teacher’s assistant.
The area, among the most beautiful in California, has been popular with the notorious, including and the ″family″ of convicted multiple killer Charles Manson and the Rev. Jim Jones of the Peoples Temple, who later instigated a mass suicide of his followers in Guyana.
After jumping bail, Lake fled Mendocino County in 1982 and arrived at the ranch near Wilseyville, where he built a concrete-block bunker for safety in the event of a nuclear attack, authorities said. He kept weapons and apparently practiced survivalist techniques regularly. He became know as a loner.
″I only saw him once in two years,″ said Chuck Whiteley, owner of the general store in Wilseyville. ″He was a quiet but arrogant man, he kind of kept to himself. He wasn’t friendly at all like most of the people around here. ... I never saw Ng at all.″
Laurie Springer, 22, of Wilseyville, answered Lake’s advertisment for a $10-per-hour photographer’s model in 1983. She said later that she posed clothed with a gun and camouflage jacket and described ″a feeling of apprehension there, a bad feeling.″
Ng was born Dec. 24, 1960, in Hong Kong. His father, Kenneth Ng, was an affluent businessman and sent his son to England to attend an expensive secondary school.
Ng was considered a bright student, shy and quiet.
After he finished school, Ng went to the San Francisco area and promptly got into trouble. In 1979, he smashed his car into a utility pole and allegedly tried to drive away. He enlisted in the Marine Corps before his case came to trial; Ms. Balazs has suggested he enlisted to flee the hit-run charge.
Two years later, while stationed at Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station near Honolulu, Ng and and three others pilfered more than $11,000 worth of machine guns, grenade launchers and other weapons from a Marine Corps armory. Ng and two other Marines were charged in the case; the fourth Marine reportedly led investigators to the stolen weapons.