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Leonard Lake

1985 mugshot of Lake
Background information
Birth name: Leonard Lake
Also known as: Alan Drey
Randy Jacobsen
Robin S. Stapley
Charles Gunnar
Paul Cosner
Born: October 29, 1945(1945-10-29)
San Francisco, California
Died: June 6, 1985 (aged 39)
Cause of death: suicide by cyanide pill
Number of victims: 11–25
Span of killings: 1983–1985
Country: U.S.
State(s): California
Date apprehended: June 2, 1985

Leonard Lake (October 29, 1945 – June 6, 1985) was an American serial killer. The crimes he committed together with Charles Ng came to light when Lake committed suicide by taking a cyanide pill shortly after being arrested for a firearms offense.



Lake was born in San Francisco, California. When Lake was 6, he and his siblings were sent to live with their grandparents after their parents had separated. He was 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.[1] It was also alleged that Lake extorted sexual favors from his sisters.

In 1965 at age nineteen, Lake joined the Marine Corps and served two tours of duty in the Vietnam War as a radar operator. Diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder, Lake was eventually given a medical discharge in 1971 and underwent psychotherapy. Back in civilian life, he was living in San Jose, California, and briefly attended San Jose State University, however he dropped out after one semester. It is believed that he joined a group of hippies in the early 1970s and settled with them in a hippie commune. In 1975 Lake married, but the marriage dissolved quickly because his wife had found out that he was making and starring in amateur pornographic movies, usually involving bondage or sadomasochism.

In 1980, Lake was released from prison and given a year's probation for car theft. He was married again in 1981 to Claralyn Balasz, a woman he had met while working at a renaissance fair in 1977. However, Balasz soon left him after she got tired of her husband's increasingly erratic behavior and his insistence that she star in pornographic films. Lake was arrested in 1982 for a firearms violation, but he skipped bail and settled into a remote ranch in Wilseyville, Calaveras County, owned by his ex-wife Balasz. In 1982, Lake met a man from Hong Kong named Charles Ng and the two struck up a friendship. Lake and Ng took residence at Lake's remote ranch in Wilseyville where they began abducting, torturing, raping and killing people. Most of Lake and Ng's victims were people who knew them.


On June 2, 1985, an Asian man later identified as Charles Ng was seen shoplifting in South San Francisco. He fled by the time police arrived, but Leonard Lake, who was with him, was arrested when his car was searched and found to contain a .22 revolver illegally equipped with a silencer.

He identified himself as Robin Stapley and had a driver's license in that name. Police were suspicious because, according to the driver's license, Robin Stapley was 26 while the man they had in custody was clearly in his late 30s. While being interviewed at the police station, Lake asked for a glass of water and used it to swallow a cyanide pill hidden in the lapel of his shirt. He collapsed and was rushed to a hospital, where he went into a coma, and survived on life support machines for four days before being pronounced dead.[2]

By then, police had confirmed the true identity of their suspect as Leonard Lake. Furthermore, the man whose identity Lake had taken, Robin Stapley, had been missing for several weeks. Lake's car was found to belong to Paul Cosner, 39, who had gone missing eight months previously in November 1984.

The police searched Lake's ranch in Wilseyville. It was clear Lake was a survivalist, his ranch fitted with a bunker and a stash of weapons. In a diary, Lake had written how he was convinced there was going to be a global nuclear war, and he planned on surviving in his bunker and rebuilding the human race with a collection of female slaves (he named this plan "Operation Miranda" after a character in the book The Collector by John Fowles). The police also found videos showing Lake and Ng torturing and raping women.

The grounds of the ranch were dug up and 12 corpses were uncovered in shallow graves. Among these victims were two families: Harvey Dubs and his wife, Deborah, and baby son, Sean; and Lonnie Bond and Brenda O'Conner 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 — and the 12th was identified as 18-year-old Kathleen Allen, who knew Ng because her boyfriend had once been his cellmate in prison. Police also found 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. It has been postulated the number of unknown murdered persons could be as high as 25.[3]

Lake's younger brother, Donald, had vanished in 1983 and was presumed dead, as had Charles Gunnar, a friend of Lake's from his military days; the latters' remains were discovered at the ranch in September 1992.

In the media

An episode of "Deranged" and an episode of "Wicked Attraction", both aired on the Investigation Discovery channel, were dedicated to the murder spree of Lake and Charles Ng.

In Investigation Discovery's Most Evil, Lake is rated a 22 on Stone's scale of evil – the highest category on the chart.


  1. ^ Newton, Michael (1999). The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. New York, New York: Checkmark Books. p. 134. ISBN 0-8160-3978-X.  
  2. ^ Newton, p135.
  3. ^ Newton, p136.

External links

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