Inside Leonard Lake And Charles Ng's Horrifying Death Ranch

While the vast majority of serial killers work in solitude, there are a few terrifying examples of these people working in tandem with accomplices. Some, like the notorious Fred and Rose West, are married couples that share the same sadistic fantasies. Others, like "Freeway Killer" William Bonin, had multiple individuals aiding in the crimes (per the Los Angeles Times).

Leonard Lake and Charles Ng were perhaps an unlikely duo. Lake was 15 years Ng's senior, a diagnosed schizophrenic, and had a history of sexual depravity going back to his childhood. Ng was the son of wealthy Hong Kong parents, but his childhood was troubled, his thievery getting him into so much trouble that his frustrated parents sent him to an English boarding school (per Historic Mysteries). He arrived in the United States on a student visa when he was 18, meeting his future murder partner after he responded to Lake's gaming ad in a survivalist magazine. Their friendship was interrupted shortly after becoming acquainted when Ng was jailed for stealing weapons and going AWOL during his very brief stint in the U.S. Marines. Upon his release from military prison in 1984, he was invited by Lake to live with him in a rented cabin at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California (via Crime + Investigation).

For the next year, Lake and Ng would torture and kill 25 or more victims on this remote property.

An attempted arrest goes awry

It's impossible to say how long Leonard Lake and Charles Ng would have been able to continue their murder spree if Ng's compulsion to steal had not led to their undoing. During one of their many torture sessions, a vice they used broke. When the two drove into town to replace it, Ng was caught trying to shoplift one at a local hardware store (per Biography). While Lake was trying to convince the store manager that he would personally pay for the item, Ng disappeared. That's when the police arrived.

When questioning Lake, police began to get suspicious because the photo on his driver's license didn't match his face. Lake had attempted to pass off the ID of one of his victims as his own. Further damning Lake that day was that he was driving a car belonging to another victim. After running the plates on the car, he was arrested (per All That's Interesting).

Ng was long gone at this point, but Lake wasn't about to wait around for charges to be filed against him for the horrors that he likely knew would be quickly discovered on his property. In what could be interpreted as a well-thought-out contingency plan, Lake had several cyanide capsules sewn into the lining of his jacket. He swallowed them while in custody and died.

With the ID of one missing person and the vehicle of another, investigators knew they had potential murder cases. But nothing could have prepared them for what they were about to uncover when they began their search of Lake's property.

The cinderblock bunker was a converted torture chamber

The 6.5-inch-by-3.5-inch cinderblock bunker caught the eye of the police. It was soon discovered that this is where Leonard Lake and Charles Ng would keep their female prisoners while they were sexually assaulted and tortured. The women were shackled to a chair or the floor. The three-room bunker had a hidden, locked room where their captive women would live until Lake and Ng killed them. Inside was a bed equipped with a foam pad alongside a bucket and rolls of toilet paper (via WWAYTV3). Lake had installed a one-way mirror in this room so he could watch his captives (per All That's Interesting), also giving a view to the significant others of the victims that he and Ng were sometimes also able to imprison.

Exploring the grounds, investigators found the remains of a dozen human bodies that the two killers had unceremoniously disposed of in shallow graves (via Historic Mysteries). More than 40 pounds of human bones were discovered scattered throughout the rest of the property, giving credence to the police's theory that Lake and Ng had many more victims than they could identify (via All That's Interesting). Police searched the cabin for clues and were able to recover what was described as "treasure maps." Using these drawings, detectives were able to unearth clues that would fill in some big gaps in numerous missing person cases, as well as discover the barbaric lengths these two men went to in their quest for their brutal erotic desires.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Homemade maps led police to more evidence

These "treasure maps" led police to buried five-gallon buckets on Leonard Lake's property, the contents of which provided a large window into the torture and murders. One bucket was full of IDs, credit cards, and paperwork from various missing persons. Another held pages from Lake's journals, outlining many of his dark fantasies and his sadistic acts of violence. The most disturbing pieces of hard evidence were the home videos that were unearthed (per All That's Interesting). On these VHS cassettes were some of the most heinous acts that even the most seasoned detectives had ever witnessed.

In a compilation of these tapes offered as evidence in court [Warning: disturbing content], Lake gives a bone-chilling description of his plans for the future. While seated in his recliner, Lake delivers his desires in a creepy monotone voice, outlining much of the unspeakable horror he is about to unleash on those unfortunate enough to be his captive. He expresses his desire to procure an "off-the-shelf sex partner," one that can be used to fulfill his twisted carnal desires only to be "put away" when he is finished. Likening this ideal woman as a slave, he continues by describing what his future holds.

"I believe that I can if I can construct a holding cell, a place where I can put such a woman, a facility that is so stark and so empty, so cold, so quiet, so totally removed from the world that I can quickly condition a young woman to cooperate with me fully," he said.

The VHS tapes have not been fully released

The nearly seven minutes of footage [Warning: disturbing content] contains segments of several of Leonard Lake and Charles Ng's victims tied or chained to a chair while their captors calmly give them instructions. At one point, one victim asks Leonard Lake why they are doing this to her, to which Lake calmly replies, "Because I hate you." Another victim expresses some disbelief, prompting Lake to threaten to whip her mercilessly so that she'll understand just how serious he and Ng are.

The tapes are horrific, and the majority of their contents are not available outside of law enforcement or the courts. They are reported to show brutal acts of sexual assault and torture. In several cases, the two men abducted entire families. Authorities determined that the men were forced to watch their girlfriends or wives undergo vile acts before being killed (via Historic Mysteries). The women were kept alive for days as sex slaves. At least two young children were among the casualties discovered on the property.

These tapes were able to help police identify several of the victims that Lake and Ng murdered, as well as provide devastating conclusions to various missing person cases from the area. It would seem that Lake and Ng did not select their victims at random — many of the people they killed were friends, neighbors, or others whom either man was somewhat acquainted with. 

Ng's shoplifting habit gets seals his fate once again

It's believed that Leonard Lake had already killed several people before Charles Ng joined him at what would later be known as his death ranch. All That's Interesting reports that Lake's younger brother Donald and Lake's friend Charles Gunnar were last seen with Lake before disappearing forever. Though neither man's body could be found, Lake was thought to have murdered them both. He would later be caught using Gunnar's identification.

With Lake out of the picture, Ng became the subject of a police manhunt. ABC News reports that Ng was picked up in Alberta, Canada, for shoplifting a month later. Fearing he would face the death penalty, he fought extradition back into the U.S. for six years before Canadian officials ordered his return. The jury that Ng faced at trial didn't buy his defense that he was terrified of Lake and was himself a victim. They found him guilty of 11 murders and sentenced him to death. It might be a lengthy stay on death row for Ng, as California Governor Gavin Newsom established a moratorium on executions in the state. Ng is also appealing his death sentence in higher courts.