Leonard Lake’s sexually deviant behaviors can be traced all the way back into his childhood. Allegedly encouraged by family to take nude photos of his sisters, Lake’s fascination with pornography soon spiraled into extorting his sisters and forcing them to perform sexual favors on him. It shouldn’t come to much surprise that as Lake grew older his fantasies began to become more extreme.
His first wife divorced him after he was caught starring in some home videos involving bondage and other sadist sex acts with women other than Mrs. Lake. After his divorce he packed up and made a new home at a hippie commune, nestled within the Northern California valley.
It was at a renaissance fair that Lake would meet his second wife, “Cricket”, and convinced her to come live at the commune with him. Cricket enjoyed exploring Lake’s sexual fantasies and the pair would often make amateur sex tapes together. Living together for eight years at the commune, the two would eventually marry. It would seem that finally Lake had everything he needed, but things weren’t all daisies and sexual sadism at the hippie commune.
Aside from his obsession with making pornography, Lake also liked to stockpile guns. Having spent several years in the Marines, Lake was medically discharged after a mental breakdown led to a diagnosis of schizoid personality disorder. Lake’s years of going untreated for his psychological disorder began to get the best of him.
He became increasingly paranoid about an impeding nuclear holocaust and as his delusion grew, so did his need to create a bunker. Now living at the Greenfield Ranch, another hippie commune, Lake’s first attempt at creating the bunker was thwarted once the landowner saw the earth movers and ordered him to halt the construction. This prompted Lake and his wife to rent their own cabin in the remote area of Wilseyville, California.
Lake’s decision to build the bunker revolved around an idea he had, one which he would later coin “Operation Miranda”. Lake’s personal logs described how he would go about constructing his bunker with the intention of capturing and enslaving women there. Once the world had been destroyed, Lake planned to emerge from the bunker and repopulate the world through the use of his female sex slaves. Aside from the plans detailed within Operation Miranda, Lake also had much darker plans. Plans that would include rape, torture, and murder with the help of one very ambitious accomplice.
It was around this time that Lake began corresponding by another man, Charles Ng. Charles, originally from Hong Kong and a former Marine himself after falsifying his citizenship, became acquainted with Lake through a survivalist magazine. Ng only spent a year in the Marines before he had been caught stealing weapons and charged with desertion. Sentenced to serve 14 years behind bars, Ng’s sentence was later commuted after just three and received a dishonorable discharged.
Once Ng was released he agreed to go live with Lake and Lake’s wife over at their Wilseyville cabin. By the time Ng arrived, Lake already had his bunker built and killed two people. In order to fund Operation Miranda, Lake had murdered his own brother and as well as his best man, taking their money as well as their identities.
Together the dynamic duo killed between 11 and 35 people. Known victims include 2 young families – the Dubs family as well as the Bond family – Kathleen Allen, Michael Carroll, Robin Scott Stapley, and Randy Johnson, along with three other suspected victims, including Lake’s brother and best man. Investigators also reported finding burned and shattered bone fragments on at Lake’s cabin, and a collection of identification cards, suspected to belong to other victims.
Male victims and children were believed to have been murdered outright. Women were kept alive longer so that Lake and Ng could video tape themselves raping and torturing them. On one tape Ng is heard telling one victim, Brenda O’Connor (part of the Bond family), “…you can cry and stuff, like the rest of them, but it won’t do any good. We are pretty—ha, ha—cold-hearted, so to speak.”
The pair probably would have carried on their reign of terror for longer if it had not have been for Ng’s problem with shoplifting. After breaking a vice the two had used to torture their victims, Ng and Lake took a drive to a local hardware store. Ng went into the store where employees witnessed him shoplifting and alerted the police.
Ng fled the scene and Lake was pulled over by the police. Inside the vehicle a .22 revolver was found to be equipped with a silencer, silencers being illegal to possess within the state of California. When police asked Lake for identification he produced a drivers license identifying him as Robin Stapley, Lake’s best man who was presumed to be dead. Noticing that the heavy-set, bearded man looked nothing like the man in the photo, police became suspicious and held Lake for further interrogation.
The truck Lake had been driving was found be to registered to Paul Cosner, a man reported to be missing eight months prior to Lake’s apprehension by the police and subsequent arrest. Noticing the blood on the front seat, police asked Lake a few more questions before taking him down to the station for further interrogation.
A search of Lake’s cabin uncovered a far more peculiar scene. Lake’s arsenal of weapons were inventoried and a written manifesto on Operation Miranda was found, along with videos of both Lake and Ng torturing and raping female victims. An excavation of the grounds surrounding Lake’s cabin unearthed 12 bodies and 45 pounds of charred bone fragments.
Still in police custody, officials were able to discover the true identity of Lake, along with his accomplice, Ng. Lake was then able to produce two cyanide pills he had carefully affixed to the inside collar of his shirt, unnoticed by police. During the interrogation Lake asked for some water, claiming he wanted to take some aspirin, and ingested the cyanide. He then scribbled a short note on a piece of paper before immediately slumping over and going into convulsions. He died several days later. The note read “I love you, please forgive me. I forgive you. Please tell Mama, Fern, and Patty I’m sorry.”
Ng managed to evade officials by fleeing to Canada. It would be less than a week later that Ng would be caught shoplifting, yet again, and arrested after shooting the security guard who attempted to apprehend him. Ng was sentenced to four years for felonious assault and possession of a concealed weapon, awaiting extradition to the U.S. upon the completion of his sentence.
Knowing that if he could have his trial for his hand in the murders at Lake’s cabin in a Canadian court he would not face the death penalty, Ng’s defense team fought hard to prevent his extradition. Though Ng put up a costly fight, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled against his petition and was extradited back to face capital murder charges in the state of California in 1991.
Ng further postponed the trial by firing several lawyers, filing frivolous motions, and other ludicrous requests. His formal conviction and death sentence would not be handed down to him until 1999, nearly 15 years after Lake’s cabin was uncovered and Ng’s arrest in Canada. Ng’s trial would cost the state of California close to $10 million, at the time the most costly trial in the history of California.