Some Wishing for Frontier Justice for Alleged Killer
Sep. 30, 1991
SAN ANDREAS, Calif. (AP) _ Some people in this Gold Rush town believe alleged killer Charles Ng should receive the kind of frontier justice handed out in Calaveras County in the 19th century.
''If they were to turn him over to the people, he probably wouldn't last the day,'' said Jack Geary, 77, a San Andreas native raised on tales of highway robberies and public hangings.
Calaveras County got its name - calaveras is Spanish for ''skulls'' - when settlers visited in 1836 and found many skulls and skeletons. The county is now mostly known for its annual Jumping Frog Jubilee, inspired by a Mark Twain story.
Residents last week were reminded of the county's outlaw past when Ng was extradited from Canada, where he was captured in 1985, to face charges in a string of sex-torture killings.
Ng, 30, was arraigned Friday on 11 counts of murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Authorities say Ng (pronounced ING) tortured and killed victims with accomplice Leonard Lake at a rural compound in the Sierra Nevada 25 miles from here.
Lake committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide pill during police questioning following a botched shoplifting attempt in 1985. Evidence found in a stolen car in his possession led police to the compound.
Investigators found evidence there of funeral pyres and more than 40 pounds of human bones. They also found videotapes and Lake's 250-page diary, which depicted sex-torture slayings.
In his diary, Lake said he had ''death in my pocket and fantasy my goal.''
Ng had eluded police.
Rebecca Grimes, 30, of Hathaway Pines, was among those waiting to catch a glimpse of Ng in court.
''I could hardly sleep knowing that he was back here last night,'' she said. ''Just the horrendous things that happened here - it's like being in the same room with the devil.''
Her husband, Ricky, 35, said he hoped Ng's prosecution would send a message to outlaws who hide out in the Sierra Nevada foothills.
''You have to live here to know what I mean,'' he said. ''We have to tell people who live in these hills that you can't get away with this stuff up here.''
Many residents were outraged by the expense of taking Ng to trial. Court proceedings are expected to run into the millions of dollars, though the state will pick up most of the cost under special legislation passed last year.
''As a taxpayer, I think he should go right to jail, without trial,'' said county worker Grace Luck.
''I'd prefer him in Canada,'' she added. ''Since he's here, we'll do the right thing and give him a trial.''
Local legends include highwayman C.E. ''Black Bart'' Boles, who held up the Wells Fargo Co. 27 times.
Despite the county's history of outlaws, residents say the slayings have shaken the community.
''It will probably never be forgotten,'' said Debra Moore, manager of a video store. ''Before you used to be able to walk around and feel safe. ... Now we're a little bit more suspicious.''