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Judge Orders Death Penalty for Ng in Mid-'80s Murders of 11 People

Courts: Spectators including victims' relatives applaud sentence that ends one of state's longest and most expensive prosecutions. Appeals could take years.

July 01, 1999|DANIEL YI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Charles Ng, convicted of murdering six men, three women and two infant boys in a gruesome killing spree in Northern California 14 years ago, was sentenced to death Wednesday.

"It will never bring us closure, but it will bring justice," the tearful mother of one of Ng's victims told the judge. "May God forgive me, but I want Charles Ng dead."

The sentencing marks the end of one of the longest and most expensive murder prosecutions in state history. It has cost about $13 million so far.

But Calaveras County Dist. Atty. Peter Smith, one of the prosecutors in the case, said the length and cost are not an indication of any shortcomings in the justice system, as some have contended.

"It may have taken longer than usual, but this was an unusual case," Smith said.

The sentencing took place before a Santa Ana courtroom crowded with relatives and friends of the victims, and others. Onlookers erupted into applause as Orange County Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan condemned the Hong Kong emigre and former Marine to die by lethal injection.

Ng, in a light blue shirt and with short-cropped hair, sat motionless through most of the proceeding. Earlier, he interrupted the hearing with a last-ditch effort to fire his attorney, similar to motions he made throughout the lengthy trial.

He complained that he was unable to concentrate because he had been up all night packing and writing last-minute motions. His attorneys also tried to postpone the hearing. But Ryan denied the requests.

Ng will be transported to San Quentin State Prison, where he will await execution. But appeals are likely to take years.

Nonetheless, the sentencing brought a measure of finality to victims' family members, some of whom pleaded for Ng's execution.

"Please put Charles Ng to death so he doesn't have any opportunity to ever hurt anyone else again, outside bars or behind bars," said Dian Allen of San Jose.

Allen's sister Kathi, 18, and another murder victim, Brenda O'Connor, 20, were the focus of one of the most damaging pieces of evidence in the case against Ng.

In a videotape labeled "The M Ladies," Ng and accomplice Leonard Lake threaten to kill the women if they don't submit to becoming sex slaves. Authorities say O'Connor and Allen were held prisoners and then executed.

Ng's victims were killed between 1984 and 1985 at Lake's rustic cabin in Calaveras County near the Sierra Nevada foothills. There, authorities found over 40 pounds of charred human remains scattered around the property, and at one point they estimated that as many as 19 people may have perished.

Lake killed himself by taking poison shortly after being arrested in June of 1985. Ng fled to Canada but was later extradited. The trial was transferred to Orange County because of pretrial publicity. He was convicted in February, and the jury in May recommended that he be sentenced to death.

Many in the audience shed tears as victims' relatives addressed the judge. One of the most poignant was a 70-year-old Garden Grove resident whose son was among Ng's victims.

"My name is Lola Stapley," she told the judge. "My son, Scott Stapley, will never live out his dreams. Scott is dead, killed in a monstrous way. [Ng] has sentenced us all to a sentence of living death without the possibility of parole."

Also in the audience Wednesday were many of the former jurors who recommended the death penalty for Ng. They had come to see the book closed on a trial that had taken nearly nine months of their lives.

"We just felt it would bring some ease. An end," said the former jury foreman, Mauricio Velarde, 32, a Marine sergeant.

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