Leonard Lake was born in San Francisco, California. His parents separated when he was 6 years old, after which he and his siblings were sent to live with their maternal grandmother. He was reportedly a bright child, but had an obsession with pornography that stemmed from taking nude photos of his sisters, apparently with the encouragement of his grandmother. It was also alleged that Lake extorted sexual favors from his sisters. When he was a child, he enjoyed collecting mice and killing them by dissolving them in chemicals (a technique he would later use to help dispose of his human victims). After attending Balboa High School, in 1964 Lake enlisted in the Marine Corps. He served two tours of duty in the Vietnam War as a radar electronics technician. During this time period, Lake was first diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder. Following a spell in Da Nang, he suffered a delusional breakdown and was sent home. Leonard Lake was eventually given a medical discharge in 1971 and underwent psychotherapy. Back in civilian life, he lived in San Jose. He briefly attended San Jose State University, but dropped out after one semester. It is believed that he settled in a hippie commune in the early 1970s. Lake married in 1975, but the marriage dissolved quickly because his wife found out that he was making and appearing in amateur pornographic movies, usually involving bondage or sadomasochism.
Leonard Lake was obsessed with the hippie lifestyle in San Francisco and increasingly with the idea of an impending nuclear holocaust. For 8 years, he lived in a hippie commune near Ukiah in northern California. There, he met Claralyn Balazs, or “Cricket” as he nicknamed her. Balazs became involved in Lake’s fantasies. She starred in the pornographic films he began to make. Lake and Balazs eventually married. Leonard began the creation of what he called a “bunker” on the Greenfield Ranch, a 5,600 acre back-to-the-land hippie settlement near Calpella just north of Ukiah. The owner of the property was informed that Leonard was using earth-moving equipment on her property and requested he stop. Leonard Lake’s other obsession was with guns – part of his survivalist paranoia. He met Charles Ng through a magazine advertisement he placed in 1981. Leonard Lake invited Ng to his new place: a remote cabin near Wilseyville, California which he rented from Claralyn Balazs. Lake had custom-built a dungeon next to the cabin. It is believed that, by then, Lake had already murdered his brother Donald and his friend and best man, Charles Gunnar, in order to steal their money, and Gunnar’s identity. Over the next year, Lake and Ng jointly raped, tortured and killed numerous people. Their victims included their rural neighbors Lonnie Bond, his girlfriend Brenda O’Connor and their infant son, Lonnie Jr. They also killed another young family, Harvey and Deborah Dubs and their young son Sean. In both cases, the men and babies were killed quickly, while the women were kept alive and abused. The men filmed themselves raping and torturing their victims before murdering them. Other victims included workmates of Ng’s, relatives and friends who came looking for Bond and O’Connor, and two gay men. Overall, the two are believed to have murdered between 11 and 25 victims at Lake’s ranch.
Their murderous career may have gone on longer if it had not been for Ng’s addiction to stealing. On June 2, 1985, Ng was spotted shoplifting a vise from a South San Francisco hardware store. He ran away from the scene, and Lake went to the store later to try to pay for the vise, but by that point, the police were there. Officer Daniel Wright discovered that Lake’s car’s license plates were registered to another vehicle, and that Leonard Lake’s ID, in the name of Scott Stapley, was suspicious. When Wright found a gun with a suppressor in the trunk of the car, he arrested Lake. While in custody, Lake swallowed the cyanide pills he had sewn into his clothes. After revealing his and Ng’s true identities, he went into convulsions from cyanide poisoning and died four days later. Further investigation led police to the ranch. They did find Scott Stapley’s truck and Lonnie Bond’s car and, behind the cabin, they found the dungeon. Officers noticed a foot poking through the earth and proceeded to unearth roughly 40 pounds of burned and smashed human bone fragments, relating to at least a dozen bodies. Two bodies, identified as Lonnie Bond and Scott Stapley, had been gagged and executed by gunshots to the head. Some victims were also found handcuffed, some with gunshots wounds. Police also came across a hand-drawn “treasure map” that led them to two buried five-gallon buckets. One contained envelopes with names and victim IDs, suggesting that the full body count might be as high as 25. In the other bucket, police found Lake’s handwritten journals for the years 1983 and 1984, and two videotapes that showed the torture of two of their victims. These demonstrated that Ng was intimately involved in these crimes. In one of the tapes, Ng tells victim Brenda O’Connor: “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”.
- October, 29, 1945
- San Francisco, California
- June, 06, 1985
- San Francisco, California
Cause of Death