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Ng Murder Trial Begins in Calif.

October 27, 1998

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ One of California’s longest and costliest homicide cases is finally under way, more than 13 years after Charles Ng’s arrest for shoplifting led to his prosecution for mass murder.

Ng, 37, is charged with 12 murders dating to 1984. Prosecutors allege he and Leonard Lake tortured and raped some of the victims, who were lured to Lake’s cabin in the Sierra Nevada foothills in northern California.

As the trial began Monday, prosecutors showed jurors a videotape of Ng cutting away the shirt and bra of a bound woman identified as Brenda O’Connor. Ms. O’Connor, 19, a neighbor of Ng’s; her boyfriend, Lonnie Bond, 27; and their baby, Lonnie Bond Jr., 1, disappeared in May 1985 and are among the 12 people Ng is accused of killing.

Lake is heard off camera giving her a choice: cooperate by cleaning, cooking and having sex with the two, or be raped and shot immediately.

``You’d better believe us, Brenda, or you’ll be dead,″ Lake says. ``I believe you,″ the woman replies.

The trial was in recess today because a juror came down with the flu.

Lake committed suicide in 1985 by taking cyanide while in police custody in San Francisco. Ng was arrested in Canada, where he fought extradition for six years. He has fought with his court-appointed attorneys and at times acted as his own lawyer. The drawn-out case has cost the state a reported $9.6 million so far.

Defense attorney William Kelley contends that Lake was the killer.

He played a videotape made by Lake in 1983 that shows his plans to build a cell for a sex slave. He also argued that authorities found only one of Ng’s fingerprints _ and that was on a table in the cabin, not the cell.

``It’s a case built on circumstantial evidence,″ the defender said, with no witnesses linking Ng directly to the killings.

Prosecutor Sharlene Honnaka said San Francisco police helped break the case in 1985 when Ng was arrested for shoplifting and Lake offered to pay for the merchandise. On June 4 that year, authorities searched the cabin grounds and found pounds of human remains, mostly teeth and bones.

``They discovered that that property had been used as a killing field and a mass graveyard,″ Honnaka said. A hidden door in a cinderblock ``workshop″ led to a cell about 3 1/2 feet wide and 6 1/2 feet long, she said.

One wall held a one-way mirror, Honnaka said; inside was a bucket of water and a roll of toilet paper.

Dwight Stapley of Garden Grove, whose son Scott’s body was found near the cabin, said he and his wife Lola have traveled to about 80 hearings, including several in Canada.

``For 13 1/2 years we’ve waited to see it come to trial,″ Stapley said. ``I usually don’t have any emotions about it, but this morning, I’m close to tears.″

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