Let me apologize for my absence, I’ve been spending time filming the hit show CHICAGO PD, starring a great, up and coming actor named LaRoyce Hawkins; as well as the upcoming Fox series EMPIRE with acclaimed stunt performer Eddie J. Fernandez and Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard. My participation in these productions can be considered minimal at best but hopefully won’t end on the cutting room floor. However minute my role; it was a pleasure to be in the company of these talented actors. Unfortunately, news out of nearby Hammond, Indiana brought me back to earth and returned me to my original calling.
The body of 19 year old Afrikka Hardy was found at a Motel 6 in Hammond, Indiana on October 17th. Friends of Ms. Hardy had begun to text her after her disappearance and became apprehensive when they received suspicious text responses believing that they were from the suspect. Evidence collected from the crime scene led to of 43 year old Darren Deon Vann being considered a suspect. After obtaining a search warrant, authorities arrested Vann near his Gary, Indiana home.
Once in custody, Vann began a horrific tale of the internet, prostitution and murder. Vann’s confession led authorities to the discovery of 6 additional bodies in the Northwestern Indiana area. Vann told interrogators how he arranged a rendezvous with Ms. Hardy who posted her “services” on an internet site. While in custody Vann confessed to the murders of Anith Jones, Teaira Batey and four other women from the Hammond/ Gary area. The current number of Northwestern Indiana murder victims in which Vann may be responsible is now at 7. Statements made during the course of his confession lead authorities to believe that the overall death toll may be much higher and his spree may extend back over 20 years.
Darren Vann, the suspect in these serial murders is no stranger to law enforcement. A convicted sex offender from Austin, Texas, Vann pleaded guilty to rape in 2009. Before that conviction, he served a year in prison in Indiana after he grabbed a Gary woman in a chokehold in 2004, doused her with gasoline and threatened to set her on fire. The victim in the 2009 case told police that in 2007 she went to Vann’s apartment, where he asked if she was a police officer. After she told him no, he knocked her down and began to strangle and beat her, hitting her several times in the face and telling the woman he could kill her. He then raped her. Sentenced to 5 years Vann received 15 months credit for the time he was in jail awaiting trial and was released in 2013. Despite both incidents, Texas officials deemed him a low risk for violence. In a recent interview, Vann’s ex-wife, who asked not to be named, cited that she had not known Vann to be violent. The woman that happens to be 29 years older than Vann went on to add that she knew a different kind of man, one who was friendly, protective and not abusive. However her adult son had a different view of Darren Vann. Vann’s ex-wife’s son says he was “creepy” and “strange.
Vann, who is housed in Lake County Jail, located in Crown Point, IN is being charged with one murder however, other charges are said to be forthcoming. Lake County Jail is the pre-trial detention facility for those awaiting trial but unable to make bail arrangements. Gary and Hammond, Indiana are the cities in which the women’s bodies were located, and both fall within Lake County boundaries. A reliable source within the jail indicates that there had been a buzz among the female residents of the jail in recent months about the disappearance of several area women as well as to whom the culpability may fall. Through the pods and cells of the women’s jail, ladies would speak of missing relatives and friends many of whom had chosen prostitution as a means of survival.
Since his arrest, Darren Vann had been cooperating with authorities. During his interrogation Vann told investigators of the locations of victim’s bodies throughout the abandoned buildings in Gary. However, Vann’s cooperation ended recently at a magistrate hearing at Lake County Jail. Vann stood stone-faced and refused to acknowledge Magistrate Judge Kathleen Sullivan as she asked the defendant basic questions regarding his name and his ability to understand his
charges. In response the accused stood stoically, non-respondent to the questions posed to him by the judge. Sullivan then addressed Vann’s public defender, Matthew Fech, urging him to “tell your client that he stays in jail the rest of his life until this hearing takes place.” Ultimately, Vann was held in contempt and the hearing rescheduled for the following week
As we mentioned earlier there had been talk among area residents concerning several disappearances. In The Darker Side of Evil, we use the term, “throwaway people.” Individuals that society cares not to look at therefore are hardly missed if they disappear. The accused, Darren Deon Vann; took advantage of law enforcement’s lackadaisical approach to following up on missing person’s reports. We have human beings vanish from the face of the earth and no one willing to take the time and effort to look at the evidence in front of them to find them. We’ve seen this time and time again. Andre Crawford terrorized Chicago’s Englewood area in the 1990’s. In addition to similar M.O.’s and circumstances, the killer also made use of abandoned residences.
On the other hand we cannot place the blame totally upon law enforcement. In a blink of an eye mothers, daughters, sisters and wives all gone; never to be heard from
again. If we take time to take an interest in the lives of one another this sort of crime would be impossible. Tupac Shakur once said, “How can the devil take a brother if he is close to me?” Some of these victim’s remains were mummified and skeletal meaning that they had been deceased for several months. People, let’s take time to reconnect with that estranged family member, distant cousin or long lost friend. Let them know that even though you may or may not agree with the way they are living their life; you still care. Inquire about that person you haven’t seen in a while. If we actively and aggressively keep tabs on people in our lives it reduces the likelihood of tragedies such as this occurring. Any information concerning people that we haven’t seen in a while should be forwarded to law enforcement. Let’s assist these families in receiving closure for their missing loved ones.
“It’s interesting when people die,” Don Henley, DIRTY LAUNDRY 1982. That phrase sums up America’s obsession with death. Whether its gang violence, serial killing or mass murder; each night we position ourselves in front of the television to receive our nightly fix, fed to us by the media. The focus of “The Darker Side of Evil,” was not only to bring to light the existence of Black serial killers in the U.S; the book also addresses the media’s ability to lessen the body count of these monsters through information and exposure. These predators, Black or White, normally operate within familiar circles and hide in plain sight, normally victimizing women within their own race, yet having no personal ties to. Female prostitutes and drug addicts comprise the target prey of most serial murderers. The disappearance of these individuals from the community go unnoticed a great deal of the time, enabling the perpetrator to continue to kill, virtually unnoticed
Occasionally, serial killers operate outside of the norm. Many choose young males as their choice of quarry. As in the case of Israel Keyes, some operate in multiple geographical areas. A select few choose to cross racial lines in their bloodlust. Such was the case of Cleophus Prince Jr., “The Clairemont Killer”. Prince terrorized the Clairemont community of San Diego County, California from January through September 1990. Though he chose to victimize women as most serial murderers do, his preference was to stalk rape and murder White women while he himself is African-American.
Cleophus Prince Jr. was born in Alabama on July 24, 1967 to Dorothy and Cleophus Prince Sr. Unlike the childhood experiences of most other serial killers, Prince Jr. Had not been abused in his youth and grew up in an environment that, described by his sister Tesa, was gentle and loving. However, Prince did not have a totally violence free upbringing. His father, Cleophus Prince Sr.; spent over 11 years in prison for murder.
As an adolescent, Prince never got into drugs, gangs or any other of the known pitfalls of youth. Growing up he never had any brushes with the law and became a role mode to his 7 younger siblings. After graduating high school in 1987 Cleophus Prince Jr. enlisted in the US Navy. In December 1989, not long after his stint in the service, Prince and his girlfriend Charla Lewis moved into the Buena Vista Gardens; an apartment complex in the Clairemont section of San Diego. Unfortunately, in January 1990, a 21-year-old Tiffany Schultz met her new neighbor.
On January 12, 1990 Prince spotted Tiffany Schultz sunbathing in a bikini just inside the door of her apartment. He then requested a hanger from the building manager; his reason was that he had locked his keys in his automobile. After receiving the hanger, Prince went back to the apartment building instead of heading to the parking lot. Moments later, neighbors that lived in the apartments below Ms. Schultz claimed that they heard noises and running water from her apartment. They described the noise as the sound of someone being beaten.
Neighbors noticed later that no one had seen Tiffany leave her apartment. Phone calls to her home went unanswered. It would be her roommate that endured the horror of discovering Tiffany’s lifeless body in her bedroom, lying face-up, clad only in bikini bottoms. Extending under the bed was her left leg and her right leg was posed at a 60-degree angle. A pathologist would later count 47 separate stab wounds around her left chest area, nearly half of which clustered around her breast. The murders were committed with so much rage that many of the punctures went all the way through the body. The other two areas that had sustained an attack were her neck and upper right thigh.
After an examination it was deemed that Tiffany had not been raped. Her boyfriend was immediately questioned and released by authorities. Tiffany worked part-time as an exotic dancer. Investigators thought that this was an isolated incident of one of her customers following her home and causing her untimely demise. They were dead wrong.
On February 16th, Janene Weinhold dropped her roommate off at work at about 9a.m. The two women were also residents of the Buena Vista apartment complex. Later that day the roommate waited patiently for Janene to pick her up from work. Oddly, the normally dependable 21 year-old was not only late but was not answering the phone. At approximately 8p.m., the roommate finally made it home. The young lady was horrified to find the body of the deceased Janene Weinhold.
The corpse lay on the bedroom floor wearing nothing but a bra. Similar to the first murder, her legs had been left open and she bore a concentration of stab wounds over the right breast. Not similar to the first, this woman had been raped. The frightened roommate soon found the phone and called police.
During the investigation police interviewed neighbors. The neighbor directly below Janene told authorities that earlier, at approximately 11:30 a.m. she saw a Black man sitting on the stairs; head in hands and with a saddened expression on his face. Moments later she heard noise coming from the apartment upstairs, the neighbor thought to call upstairs but just as quickly as they had begun, the noises stopped so she went on with her day.
The following month Anna Cotalessa-Ritchie, another second floor tenant of the Buena Vista apartment complex left her apartment heading to the corner store. On her way she noticed a Black man waiting at the bus stop. Returning from the store she noticed that the man was gone, assuming that he had caught the bus. The next time she would see this man he looked as if he was coming directly toward her in an aggressive manner. Surprisingly the man went right past Anna. Badly shaken, Anna hurried frantically to the door of her apartment. As she fumbled with the keys she heard footsteps coming up the stairs approaching her. Suddenly Anna had an epiphany, the man had never caught the bus, he had been stalking her since the time she saw him at the bus stop. Miraculously she found the right key, ducked into the apartment and locked the door before he made it up the stairs. Panic-stricken she listened with her ear against the door until she was sure he was gone. Anna Cotalessa-Ritchie had escaped the wrath of the Buena Vista Gardens murderer. Unfortunately, the next woman wouldn’t be nearly as lucky.
Eighteen year old Holly Tarr chose to visit her big brother, a Buena Vista Gardens apartment complex tenant, for spring break from her Michigan high school. She decided to bring along her best friend Tammy and both of the high school seniors were looking to enjoy a California spring break. On the morning of April 3rd the two young ladies enjoyed playing tennis in the rec area. The girls then headed to the pool to do some sunbathing and noticed a Black man in the weight room area watching them. Leaving Tammy poolside, Holly returned to the apartment to take a shower. Ten minutes later Tammy followed suit and headed to the apartment. As she approached she heard Holly scream. She ran to the door yelling her friend’s name but received no response. Eventually Tammy’s yelling and knocking at the door drew the attention of a member of the maintenance staff, who opened the door.
Tammy gained entry to the apartment just in time to see the same man that was watching them from the weight room scramble out of the bedroom. The man, holding a cloth to his face and a knife in his hand fell, got up and ran out of the apartment. Tammy ran into the bedroom and saw Holly, wearing only panties and bra, lying on the floor, barely alive. She had been stabbed once through the heart and like the others, her legs had been left spread apart. Tammy cried as she watched her friend gurgle blood and struggle for breath yet slowly expire. EMTs, though expeditious, could not save the dying teenager. As they removed the body, Tammy noticed that the opal ring Holly wore was missing.
As officers closed off the crime scene and searched for evidence they noticed several key clues. A Nike Air Jordan shoeprint was found near the door. The print did not match any shoes in Holly’s brother’s closet. Holly’s blood soaked T-shirt as well as a blood stained knife was found in the parking lot. Tammy told authorities of the Black man that watched them from the weight room. As officers checked the sign in sheet, there was only one name that they weren’t familiar with; a C. Prince. After further investigation it was found that C. Prince was Cleophus Prince Jr., a tenant in the building.
Officers tracked Prince down the following day and questioned him concerning his whereabouts on the day of Holly’s murder. During the interview he refused to be fingerprinted, answered the detective’s questions with a flippant tone and immediately asked if he could leave. Simply working out was not illegal and since the officers had no evidence to the contrary, his request was granted and Prince was allowed to leave without being charged.
The relationship that brought Prince to the Buena Vista apartments had ended earlier that spring. He now shared an apartment with Robert and Robin Romo. He confided to them that during a recent date he had that he in fact had raped his date multiple times during their night out. Not long after the police interview Prince moved out of the apartment complex.
In late May, Prince burglarized the home of Elissa Keller. The 38-year-old Keller shared an apartment with her 18-year-old daughter in the Top of the Hill apartment complex. On May 21st Keller had not reported to work nor was she answering phone calls. Co-workers thought this odd and contacted her about Elissa’s absence. Her daughter, who was away at the time, called and also got no answer. Worried she informed the police of her concerns. The daughter cut her trip short and returned to their apartment late that evening. She was horrified to find the dead body of her mother on the bedroom floor. Identical to the Buena Vista murders, the victim had a cluster of stab wounds to her chest. Elissa had also been beaten in the face, as well as choked. Next to her lifeless body lay her blood soaked underwear turned inside out. Devastated as she spoke with detectives, the daughter informed them that a gold nugget ring her mother wore at all times was missing from her finger.
Investigators walked the crime scene and soon deduced that the perpetrator entered through a window that had been left partially open. Detectives also noticed a familiar shoe print on the floor nearby. They also noticed a peculiar honeycomb pattern in the blood that was found at the other murder scenes.
On the morning of September 13th, neighbors of the Clark family heard 18-year-old Amber Clark, arguing with a male. Suddenly they heard Amber cry out then silence. Not long after, Pamela Clark returned home from her morning workout. Pamela, who was due to be at work in the afternoon, never arrived to her office. Phone calls made by her colleagues went unanswered. Curious, Pamela’s friend from work stopped by the Clark home and was shocked to find the body of Pamela lying in the doorway of the home. Pamela was on her back, nude, with her arms spread out at 90-degree angles to her body. She had been repeatedly stabbed, with eleven deep wounds to the upper left chest area. From blood trails on the floor, it appeared that she had been stabbed elsewhere and dragged to this location. Near her head lay a bloody knife.
After regaining her composure the friend called the police, however unbeknownst to her, the horror wasn’t over. As she walked through the home she found Amber dead on the bedroom floor. Though she was partially clothed, her breasts were exposed. Like her mother, she too had eleven stab wounds in a cluster on her chest. Another bloody knife was found in the bathroom nearby.
Examining the horrific scene, officers found that money had been taken from the women’s purses. Also missing was Pamela’s wedding rings and other small items. Officers located a torn dining room window screen and identified the window as the point of entry. They also found footprints made by an athletic shoe near the window.
Law enforcement compiled all of the similarities of the recent murders and drew the conclusion that this was the work of a serial killer. The county of San Diego was in an uproar and citizens put great pressure on law enforcement to solve these murders. A city councilman whose district included Clairemont told reporters he was fielding some 300 to 400 calls a day from concerned citizens. He went to meet with some people and found that they were in a state of terror. A task force was assembled to work these cases day and night. The task force consisted of twenty-seven detectives, five sergeants, one lieutenant, and a police captain. The murders were highlighted on America’s Most Wanted to gather any information that the public may have.
Ironically, during the same time frame, San Diego was being plagued by a series of burglaries. The burglar wore socks on his hands to so not to leave fingerprints. The perpetrator of the burglaries was no big secret though, except to law enforcement. Cleophus Prince Jr. bragged to trusted friends at work of the loot he had come across by burglarizing homes, even offering his foreman at Nacomm Communications several pieces of jewelry. A consummate talker, Prince now began to brag about women he was dating. Prince told friends he was dating an older white woman, a massage therapist. He had a wedding ring he said was hers, and he added that he was having sex with the woman’s daughter as well.
Eventually boasts from Prince’s mouth got to the ears of law enforcement. Neighbors from the various burglaries remembered the older model bluish-gray vehicle with a noisy muffler being present at the scene of burglaries. A BOLO, (Be on the Look Out) was placed on the car description. Soon officers got a tip that a member of the Family Fitness Center on Miramar Road (the same gym that Pamela Clark belonged to) drove such a vehicle. On February 4, 1991, an employee called police and reported that a man had just driven a 1982 Chevy Cavalier through the parking lot. The driver, Prince, was sitting there in his car when officers arrived fifteen minutes later. Though he had been a member of the club, Prince’s membership had been cancelled making him a trespasser and subject to arrest.
During the search of Prince’s vehicle officers found black leather gloves and wool gloves, along with a knife with an eight-inch blade, a steak knife, and two folding knives of different sizes. Though the items were suspicious, none were illegal. Prince could not be held for long on the trespassing charge so after being fingerprinted and having a blood sample taken he was released. Prince immediately left town and headed to his native Birmingham, Alabama.
Prince’s samples were sent to Maryland for testing along with samples from each of the murder scenes. Three weeks later, the police learned that there was a match between Prince and the semen samples from the Weinhold rape and murder. Police also learned that for each of the similar murders, Prince resided in the immediate area. Dispatched to his most recent address officers found that Prince no longer was in the area. However, during the search of his old apartment officers did find an opal ring that matched the description of the one removed from Holly Tarr when she was stabbed.
The police got a tip as to where Prince had gone and were elated to find that he had been arrested in Birmingham for burglary. The down side is that he had made bond and been released. After finding out the nature of San Diego’s interest in him his bondsman was contacted to find out where he was. Prince was then alerted to turn himself in. The following day, accompanied by his parents, he turned himself in to Birmingham authorities.
Initially on five murders had been linked to Prince until searches turned up another item that had belonged to a victim: a unique ring that matched the one missing from Elissa Keller. She was added to the victim list. Among the evidence against Prince was DNA matching several crimes. The Air Jordan shoes owned by Prince left footprints at several crime scenes also. The victims all fit a similar type: white, attractive brunettes that were physically fit. All except Holly Tarr had received the cluster type stab wounds. Her friend Tammy had interrupted her murder.
On July 13, 1993 Prince was convicted of murdering six women – Tiffany Schultz, 20; Janene Weinhold, 21, who was also raped; Holly Tarr, 18; Elissa Keller, 38; and Pamela Clark, 42, and her daughter, Amber, 18 – who were stabbed to death in their homes in Clairemont, University City and East San Diego. He was also convicted of 20 burglaries that occurred at the same time. Cleophus Prince Jr. was sentenced to die by lethal injection. Due to numerous appeals Prince currently resides on death row in San Quentin, as of this posting no death date has been set.
Normally I refrain from providing commentary on my posts, but I must get this out. Prince was sentenced to death in 1993 however, due to a vast number of appeals he is still alive 21 years later. These cowards find it so easy to prey on unsuspecting women, raping and murdering them without a second thought. But once they are caught, they make deals, file appeals, do any and everything imaginable to either avoid the death penalty or squeeze as many years as they can out of the state in which they are incarcerated. How many times have we seen the perpetrator agree to enter a guilty plea in order to take the death penalty; “off of the table?” Over and over again we have seen the defendant flee to Canada or some other sympathetic country to receive asylum from the death penalty when they gave no sympathy to their victims, brutally murdering just for the sport of it.
In every photo of Cleophus Prince Jr. he is shown smiling. The look on his face illustrates the arrogance and narcissistic demeanor of this individual. Each picture pisses me off more and more especially when I read that this punk is trolling for pen pals. In short, on behalf of the families of his victims and real men everywhere, I would love the opportunity to wipe that goofy ass grin off of his face and give him exactly what he is looking for; an old fashion ass kicking.
As I maintain my constant search for acts of extreme depravity I happened to run across a story from 2008. As I read through the story I thought to myself, “This can’t be real.” Sadly however, as I read the same story from different sources, I came to the conclusion that this story is not only real but one of the most disturbing that I had run across in a while.
Tyler, Texas is approximately 100 miles southeast of Dallas. In January of 2008 Tyler was home to 25 year old Christopher Lee McCuin and the strange events that follow. On Friday, January 4th McCuin took his girlfriend, 21-year-old Jana Shearer by force from her Whitehouse, Texas home. McCuin then murdered Jana at his home later that night. McCuin then drove to his estranged wife’s home, where he stabbed his wife’s boyfriend, William Veasley, 42. Though officers arrived at the home
expeditiously, McCuin managed to escape after a short chase.
Saturday morning McCuin arrived at the home he shared with his mother. Excitedly he exclaimed to his mother that he had something she needed to see out in the garage. To her unexpected horror, McCuin’s mother and her boyfriend stepped into the garage to see the mutilated corpse of Jana Shearer. The mother and boyfriend hurriedly fled the garage area in hopes of flagging down a police officer. Ironically, it was McCuin that called 911 on himself. He reported to the dispatcher he had killed Shearer and was boiling her body parts.
Officers arrived to find McCuin barricaded in the home. After a short stand-off McCuin surrendered and was taken into custody without incident. After his apprehension a tactical team entered and found Shearer’s body. During their search of the property officers were shocked to find an ear
boiling in a pot of water on the kitchen stove. Officers also found a hunk of human flesh on a plate with a fork stuck into it.
Although it is unclear whether McCuin actually ate any of his victim; authorities believe that, according to his 911 call, he may have tried to eat some of Ms. Shearer’s body parts.
Christopher Lee McCuin, 25, was arraigned Monday, January 7th, 2008 on a capital murder charge and was given a 2 million dollar bond. McCuin’s past charges include driving while intoxicated and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charges. When he was arrested, McCuin had an outstanding felony retaliation warrant. Authorities cite that McCuin had a history of violence, pointing out past instances of assaulting his estranged wife, his girlfriend and his sister. Officials are unsure of the cause of McCuin’s rampage.
I read further, thinking to myself about how we feel as a society feel about cannibalism. I tried to understand what could have set him off in this fashion. Surely there had to be warning signs concerning this young man’s instability. Still deep in thought about this young man, I came across a new headline concerning this tragedy. “Christopher McCuin accused of mutilating and killing girlfriend Jana Shearer dies.”
It seems that after being held in Smith County Jail for almost a full year, Christopher Lee McCuin died in his cell. McCuin was pronounced dead at the East Texas Medical Center. Authorities report that they do not believe McCuin’s death was suspicious and that foul play wasn’t suspected noting he was in a jail cell by himself.
How does an otherwise physically healthy individual just up and die? As an outsider looking in I can only imagine about what went on in that jail. A Black man accused of murdering, mutilating and cannibalizing a white woman in Texas; I truly doubt that a thorough investigation was made into this. Although I’m sure the young lady’s family would have wanted to see justice served, maybe they can rest a little easier knowing that he won’t be around to hurt anyone else. Rest in peace Jana Shearer and may God’s blessings ease the pain of all affected by this tragedy.
When researching topics to be used as subject matter for my books & blogs, I seek out illustrations of man’s disregard for human life. In my book, “The Darker Side of Evil,” we take a look at 10 African-American murderers who operated in complete anonymity while destroying communities from the inside out and how the media helped them do it. In each blog post, I’ve examined the lives of serial murderers throughout American history and their crimes against humanity.
There are several adjectives that I may use to describe my personal feelings for these perpetrators and their acts of depravity. Anger, hatred and disgust are a few that immediately come to mind. Three days ago I began researching the exploits of Leonard Lake and Charles Ng; at the end, there was only one word to describe my feelings for the last 72 hours; sheer and utter horror.
Born in Hong Kong on December 24, 1960, Charles Chi-Tat Ng, (Charles Ng) was born to a wealthy corporate executive and his wife. Throughout his childhood Charles exhibited a compulsion for theft which led to his constant expulsion from various schools throughout his youth and into his teenage years. After moving to the United States as a young man, Ng was involved in a hit and run. To avoid consequences and with the help of a recruiting sergeant that provided falsified documents, Ng; who was not a U.S. citizen, joined the Marine Corp in 1980. After serving less than a year, Ng was charged with, escape from confinement, attempted desertion andtheft of heavy weaponry. Sentenced to 14 years, Ng’s sentence was commuted and he was dishonorably discharged and released in 1982.
The story of Leonard Lake begins in San Francisco. Born on October 29th of that year young Leonard would be raised by his grandparents from the age of six due to his parents separation. From his youth, Lake exhibited a preoccupation with pornography from a young age, often taking nude photos of his sisters. Encouraged by his grandmother, Lake was said to have participated in sex with his elder sisters regularly until he enlisted into the Marine Corps in 1965.
Lake endured two tours of duty in Vietnam. It was during his time in the service that he was diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder and given a medical discharge in 1971. Obsessed with the “hippie,” lifestyle, Lake lived on communes of such that practiced the ideology of free love throughout the seventies. During his hippy years Lake would often produce, direct and star in his own porno movies. He also developed the desire to “possess,” slaves. Lake would often make bondage and other deviant sexual behavior an aspect of his self-produced films. Toward the end of the decade, Lake would eventually be charged and convicted for grand theft. Released from custody in 1980, he soon married Claralyn Balasz, a woman he had met back in 1977. Not long after that he met Charles Ng.
Having the Marine Corp in common the two men developed other shared interests, such as firearms. They began collecting automatic weapons from illegal sources, and a team of federal agents raided their ranch in April 1982, arresting Lake and Ng for firearms violations. Due to his past charge of escape, Ng was denied bail. Lake, however, was granted a $6,000 bond which he posted and skipped on immediately. Lake, using the name Charles Gunnar, floated around northern California. Claralyn Balasz divorced Lake during this time though they remained friends.
Ng would be sentenced and confined at Leavenworth federal penitentiary. Paroled after 18 months, Ng soon resumed his relationship with Lake and moved with him to a cabin owned by the family of Claralyn Balasz in Wilseyville, California. Next to the cabin, Lake constructed a bunker, similar to a dungeon. Within the fortified walls of this dungeon the men kept video equipment and illegal weapons. The men also kept instruments of torture. On this unassuming property, atrocities were committed that would shock society to its core. The actual number of people that these men abducted, tortured, raped and murdered remain unknown still today.
Initially, Lake and then Ng once released; begin killing the neighbors and their families. Lake had already murdered his own brother Donald, who had stopped by for a visit. Acquaintances such as Charles Gunnar had been killed for his money and identity. Rural neighbors Lonnie Bond, his girlfriend Brenda O’Connor and their infant son, Lonnie Jr. had been murdered as well as Harvey and Deborah Dubs and their young son, Sean. In these instances, the men and children were killed immediately. The women were held hostage while being raped and tortured repeatedly.
On June 2, 1985, Ng was spotted shoplifting by a local hardware store clerk. The clerk immediately notified authorities, however, when they arrived, Ng had left the premises. The clerk informed the responding officer that the white Honda Prelude that the thief had arrived in still remained in the lot. In the car sat Leonard Lake and when confronted by the officers, Lake identified himself to them as Robin Stapley and had a driver’s license in that name. The initial search of the vehicle turned up the vise Ng had stolen as well as a .22 caliber revolver with a silencer. The officers ran the car to find that it was registered to a Paul Costner. Both Robin Stapley and Paul Costner had been previously reported missing. Lake was placed under arrest and transported to the police station.
At the station, Lake confessed his real name and that he was a wanted fugitive. He also told authorities that the name of the shoplifter was Charles Ng. After requesting a cup of water Lake was found convulsing and foaming from the mouth. It was found later that Lake swallowed a cyanide pill that had been taped to his shirt lapel.
During the search of the vehicle police noticed several blood stains throughout the car. Noticed also were several shell casings as well as a bullet hole in the interior of the vehicle. Within the glove box several ID’s and credit cards in different names were found along with utility bills for the cabin in Wilseyville in name of Claralyn Balasz.
Police contacted Claralyn Balasz about the discovery and questioned her concerning Ng. After some prodding, she eventually admitted taking Ng to run various errands and dropping Ng. off at the airport. Balasz also agreed to take officers to the cabin in Wilseyville.
The following day, Balasz accompanied by Lake’s mother, Gloria Eberling at a grocery store located on Highway 88 a short distance from the cabin. The ladies led the officers up Blue Mountain road to the cabin. As they approached the officers felt an ominous presence come over them as they gazed upon the structure comprised of cement blocks next to the small cabin. The cabin consisted simply of two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. Upon entering, the officers immediately noticed a blood-like spray on the wall. Spotted next was a small caliber bullet hole in the wall and one in the floor of the kitchen. The master bedroom held a four-poster bed that had electrical cords tied to each of its posts. Bolted through the floor at each corner of the bed were heavy eyebolts and above it, a 250-watt floodlight had been fastened to the wall.
The officers then found lingerie of assorted sizes and types; all with blood stains. Throughout the house was video equipment, all registered to a person named Harvey Dubs. Unbeknownst to the officer at that time, Dubs, his wife and child; had been missing since July 24, 1984. They had been last seen at the cabin by neighbors.
The law enforcement officials immediately left to obtain a search warrant for the rest of the property. As they waited on the warrant, officers returned to the property and conducted a brief interview with Balasz and Eberling. Fearing possible implication, the women stubbornly refused to answer any of the officers questions. Aware that a tremendous evil had been committed on this property the officers asked Balasz for permission to open the bunker. Her advice to them was to take it up with Mr. Ng.
The following day, Tuesday, June 4, 1985, a full search of the property was authorized. A task force comprised of several officers was assembled to conduct the search. San Francisco police chief, Cornelius Murphy, authorized a twelve-man unit and Sheriff Ballard of Calaveras County assembled a team of five men and placed Lieutenant Bob Bunning in charge. Deputy Chief of Inspectors Joseph Lordan was placed in charge of the San Francisco detachment. As they began the search around the bunker officers noticed a trench which seemed to contain clothing coming from underground, all with a top coat of lye.
Noticing that a nearby house seemed abandoned, officers contacted the landlord of the property, Bo Carter. During an interview Mr. Carter told officers that when he had recently come to collect rent from his tenants he was greeted by a man claiming his name was Charles Gunnar. The man explained to Carter that the tenants, Lonnie Bond, his partner Brenda O’Connor, their infant son Lonnie Jr. and another man named Robin Stapley had abruptly moved ten days prior. Carter also informed officers that an eroded bank near the boundary between the two properties had been recently dug up.
The officers entered the bunker. The main room was a twenty-foot by twelve-foot workshop area with a range of hand tools and power saws hanging on a plywood wall next to a workbench. The tools were found to be encrusted with a dried brownish substance, possibly blood. They soon found that the plywood tool rack was in fact a door leading to a smaller room. Inside were a double bed, a side table, books and a reading lamp. On one wall was a wooden plaque with the legend “Operation Miranda” carved into it. The room also contained military equipment including uniforms, boots and a vast array of weapons, including assault rifles, shotguns and machine guns. On the floor, police found a work shirt and a baseball cap with the words “Dennis Moving Service” embroidered on them. Forensic technicians recovered several fingerprints from the weapons and tools, prints that were later positively identified as belonging to Ng and Lake.
Outside investigators recovered two bones beside the driveway. Initially unsure if they were human, the question would soon be answered as a deputy found a human foot protruding from the ground. The grounds of the ranch were dug up and 12 corpses were uncovered in shallow graves. With the help of sheriff’s canine dogs they uprooted some fifty pounds of human skeletons and fragmented bones, teeth and partial remains of missing men, women and children. Among these victims were two families: Harvey Dubs and his wife, Deborah, and baby son, Sean; and Lonnie Bond and Brenda O’Connor and their baby son, Lonnie Bond Jr. The women had been sexually abused and killed after their husbands and infants were disposed of. Five of the bodies were of men lured to the ranch to be robbed and killed including Robin Stapley and Paul Cosner. Another corpse was identified as 18-year-old Kathleen Allen, who knew Ng because her boyfriend had once been his cellmate in prison. Investigators continued to uncover one horror after another as more skeletons were sorted out of scattered fragments.
Police also found an incinerator with thick fireproof walls that were capable of withstanding extreme temperatures. Within this apparatus were charred fragments of human bones (in excess of 45 pounds in total), but they were unable to determine the identity of the victims or their number. Additionally, the state attorney urged the public to help identify 15 bodies that had been uprooted on the ranch grounds.
Later, a sealed five gallon bucket was uncovered which contained a check book in the name of Robin Scott Stapley, jewelry, credit cards, driver’s licenses, wallets and two videotapes without labels and a third marked “M. Ladies Kathy/Brenda.” The first two videos were later viewed, the first showing Lake and Balasz at a Thanksgiving dinner. On the second, Lake had been filmed discussing his greatest fantasy – kidnapping a woman and enslaving her. The third video was the most disturbing; it showed a young woman, identified as 18-year-old Kathleen Allen, chained to a chair and later forced to perform a striptease while being taunted by Lake and Ng. In another part of the video, Ng could be seen clearly cavorting on a bed with Kathy while Lake took still photographs. The tape also included footage of Brenda O’Connor begging for information regarding her baby. In answer, Lake tells her “Your baby is sound asleep, like a rock.” Eventually, when the constant barrage of taunts and threats breaks her resolve, Brenda agrees to cooperate. Later in the tape she can be heard taking a shower with both men. On tape, Lake was heard to say, “By cooperating with us, that means you will stay here as a prisoner, you will work for us, you will wash for us, you will fuck for us. Or you can say no, in which case we’ll tie you to the bed, we’ll rape you, and then we’ll take you outside and shoot you. Your choice!”
Inside the cabin, between blood soaked mattresses officers found a diary written by Leonard Lake that described in chilling detail how he and Ng had selected, raped, and murdered numerous victims. His diary was crammed with sexual fantasies involving sex slaves he planned to keep in his bunker after a nuclear holocaust. He wrote: “God meant woman for cooking, cleaning house and sex. And when they are not in use, they should be locked up.” On another page he scribbled, “If you love something, let it go. If it doesn’t come back, hunt it down and kill it.” No one knows how many people Lake killed during his lifetime, but it is thought that his first victim was his brother, Donald.
Leonard Lake escaped prosecution, having died by ingesting the cyanide pill. Ng caught a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Chicago; from there his whereabouts were unknown. His location remained a mystery until July 6, 1985. On that date Ng was arrested while shoplifting food from a market in Calgary, Alberta. On November 29, 1988, a Canadian judge ruled that Ng should be extradited to California for trial. Legal maneuvers stalled his extradition until 1991. By firing and hiring court appointed attorneys, Ng was able to delay the commencement of his trial until August 21, 1998. In the longest and most expensive trial in California history, Charles Ng was convicted of 12 counts of murder in February 1999. On May 3, 1999 Charles Ng was sentenced to death and currently resides on death row at San Quentin State Prison. To date there is no actual count of the victims of Charles Ng and Leonard Lake.
In May, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were rescued after 10+ years of captivity at the hands of Ariel Castro. These three brave women survived despicable torture and unspeakable fear in a house of horrors located at 2207 Seymour Ave for over a decade. Unfortunately, this wasn’t Cleveland’s only house of horrors. Just over five miles away at 12205 Imperial Ave., 11 women lost their lives to convicted sex offender Anthony Sowell, The Cleveland Strangler.
Sowell moved into the home after serving a 15 year sentence for a rape conviction. In 1989, a woman who was three months pregnant went to Sowell’s home voluntarily. When she tried to leave, he bound her hands and feet with a tie and belt, then gagged her with a rag. The victim told police: “He choked me real hard because my body started tingling. I thought I was going to die.” Sowell was charged with kidnapping, rape and attempted rape. He eventually pleaded guilty to the charge of attempted rape, and as a result he served 15 years in prison. He was released in 2005.
A factory worker until 2007, Sowell then lived off of unemployment benefits as well as money from metal recycling. During the period of 2005 -2009, Sowell lured women to his home with drugs and alcohol. The women were all African American mothers who had hit upon hard times. Almost all of them struggled with drug addiction, and had turned to prostitution and stealing to support their habits.
During this period neighbors would constantly complain about the smell of death emanating from the house. Several women, fortunate enough to make it from the house, complained to officials about rape and attempted rapes committed against them by Sowell. In both cases little, if anything at all, was done in response. Anthony Sowell also subscribed to an online dating site that specialized in bondage and fetishes. He set up his account in 2005, just after he got out of prison. Listing himself as 5 feet 10 inches, 160 pounds and with a distinctive facial scar, he described himself as a “master” looking for a “submissive,” and as a partier, a people person. Sowell also formed a friendship of sorts with Lori Frazier, the niece of Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson. Frazier lived with Sowell for a period during 2007 & 2008. She claims to have smelled the stench of decaying bodies and that she was told that the smell was coming from Sowell’s stepmother.
In September 2009 Sowell invited a woman he knew to his home for a drink. On September 22, 2009 she reported to police that after a few drinks, he became angry, hit her, choked her and raped her as she passed out. On October 29, police arrived at his home with a warrant to arrest him for the alleged rape. He was not there, but they found two bodies on the floor in the living room. The bodies of four other women were found throughout the home, buried in a shallow grave in the basement and in crawl spaces in the house. After digging in the backyard, investigators found three more bodies and the remains of a fourth. Police also found a human skull in a bucket inside the house bringing the body count to eleven. Sowell was arrested two days later. Sowell is suspected in many missing persons cases throughout the country as well as overseas during his stint in the marines. On August 12, 2011 Judge Dick Ambrose sentenced Anthony Sowell to death.
How can the unmistakable stench of death be overlooked or explained away? Once again the cries of society’s,”throwaways” again go unheard. Had it not been for the claims of a politician’s niece, would Sowell still be at large today? I definitely don’t want to visit a city where the smell of death can be ignored as day to day aromas.
Jake went over everything in his head,” Go in, get the money, check for valuables and get out, no bloodshed!” Countless times before he had made himself the promise of no blood shed, each time he would find a reason to break this promise. Jake would travel the country, working with the railroad when he could, burglarizing homes during his off time. Jake would stalk the different houses he saw, making mental notes concerning the daily routines of their inhabitants. Initially, it was about the money, plain and simple. However, Jake began to give in to the violent impulses that compelled him. The bitter rage that dwelled within him replaced the basic human need for money. Jake developed a hatred for the people that had hated him ever since his earliest memories.
With the patience of a monk, Jake watched the house at 1007 South 21st Street as he had for the better part of two weeks. Having gathered everything he needed to know he decided that today, October 30th was the time to strike. As he peered into the window of the home, he considered aborting the mission, but that thought soon dissipated as his hunger pangs were clearly audible to himself and anyone else within earshot. While waiting on just the right time, Jake thought of his past victims and laughed to himself. “No, please, no!” The cries of his victims rang loudly in his head. To anyone else these screams of terror would have invoked immediate feelings of remorse, but not to Jake. Jake just laughed and whispered to himself, “I hate them Crackers.”
The time had come for him to act. With the stealth of a cat, he cross the street to his victim’s house, passing the mailbox with Kludt neatly written on it, he ducked into a row of bushes that grew against the house. He thought about the rouse he would use to gain entry. “Deliveryman,” he said out loud. Then suddenly, as if an epiphany had come upon him, Jake stripped down to his underwear. As he disrobed Jake spotted an ax inside of the doorway of the shed. Jake grabbed the ax, dressed in nothing but underwear, preceded to the door of the unsuspecting Kludts.
The house was occupied by Bertha Kludt, age 53 and her 17 year old daughter Beverly June Kludt. Disregarding any previous vows of nonviolence, Jake hacked Bertha & Beverly June to death mercilessly. The unmistakable shrieks of women being killed came from the house and alerted the neighbors. As a result, the police arrived as Jake was attempting to leave through the back door carrying his shoes.
“Freeze,” the officers yelled the familiar command. Unwilling to go without a fight, Jake lunged at one of the officers with a knife, delivering him a superficial wound. The second officer attempted to ease in behind the occupied assailant, but Jake wheeled around and cut this officer also. As back up arrived, the police regained their composure, beat Jake into submission and arrested him.
During the ride to county hospital to have Jake treated for his wounds, the officers began to question him regarding the murder of the Kludt women. At the outset, Jake adamantly proclaimed his innocence. Simultaneously, as if it had been staged, Jake and the police looked down at the prisoner’s soiled apparel. Blood and brain matter covered Jake’s clothing, thereby diminishing any remaining pleas of innocence.
Homicide detectives assigned to the case listened as Jake told them how his only intention was to burglarize the home. He explained that Bertha Kludt appeared suddenly and tried to stop him whereas he hit here with the ax, causing her death. Beverly June came to her mother’s aid, he killed her. While being questioned Jake admitted to police that he had an extensive arrest record. He gave account of a life of incarceration in Michigan, Iowa and Utah that totaled 31 years. Most astonishingly, he told law enforcement how he had actually stalked and killed dozens of white women in dozens of states throughout the 1940s.
Jake’s trial began on November 24th 1947 and lasted almost three days. A request by Jake to defend himself was denied by the judge and a public defender was appointed. Jake attempted to recant his confession as his attorney claimed it was given under duress due to Jake’s accusation that the officers beat the confession out of him. The judge admitted the evidence and on November 26th the jury deliberated for 35 minutes and returned with a guilty verdict. Judge Edward D. Hodge sentenced Jake to death by hanging.
Jake’s execution at the Washington State Penitentiary was scheduled for January 16, 1948. In an effort to gain a reprieve, Jake again brought up facts concerning the murders of 44 others. He had explained to the law enforcement community that he would be willing to help them solve these cases if he were granted this stay of execution. Washington governor Monrad C. Wallgren granted him a 60-day reprieve. Police from other states interviewed Jake, and eleven murders were substantiated. He was knowledgeable enough about the 33 other murders to be considered a prime suspect. The interviews with Jake enabled the police departments of many states to declare many unsolved murders as solved. In addition to his Washington state murders, he apparently had killed people in Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin. He mostly preyed on Caucasian women. In each case, Jake killed his victims with an axe or hatchet
Before being led to the gallows, Jake was given a chance to speak. During this time, he gave a 20 minute monologue. During this time he placed a hex on everyone involved with the trial. Ironically, Judge Hodge died of a heart attack within a month of sentencing him to death. An officer that took his 1st confession as well as one of the officers that took his 2nd confession both experienced untimely deaths. The same fate fell upon the court’s chief clerk, and one of Jake’s prison guards.
The anger and rage that had once fueled this individual was extinguished. With no more stories to tell and no more hexes to throw. The gallows of Washington state prison at Walla Walla saw the depraved life and wicked times of Jake Bird ended by way of the hangman’s noose on July 15, 1949. Thus ends the story of Jake Bird, the original angry bird.