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Thursday, February 25, 1999 Published at 18:54 GMT

World: Americas

Man guilty of 11 murders

Charles Ng avoided trial for 14 years

Fourteen years after authorities uncovered a "virtual killing field" east of San Francisco, a jury has convicted a man of 11 counts of murder.

The jury convicted Charles Ng, a 38-year-old former Marine and son of a wealthy Hong Kong businessman, of all but one of the counts of murder he had been charged with.

Ng was found guilty of killing two babies, three women and six men in a remote cabin 150 miles east of San Francisco in the northern reaches of California's Gold Rush country.

In the punishment phase of the trial set to begin 8 March, the jury will now decide whether to sentence Ng to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Chilling video evidence

The four-month trial and two weeks of jury deliberations ended a grisly 14-year drama. The crimes were uncovered in 1985, but the trial only began last October.

[ image: The case was one of the costliest in California history]
The case was one of the costliest in California history
Ng said he was innocent and testified that while he appeared on videotapes torturing and sexually abusing two women victims, he did not kill anyone.

He blamed his alleged accomplice, fugitive survivalist Leonard Lake. Ng claimed that Lake wanted sex slaves and he followed instructions but harmed no one.

The prosecution showed videotapes of some of the victims during the trial, including 19-year-old Brenda O'Connor.

In the tape, Ng told Ms O'Connor: "You can cry and stuff like the rest of them. It won't do you no good. We're pretty cold-hearted."

Ms O'Connor, her boyfriend and their 1-year-old son were among the victims.

It is one of the longest and costliest homicide cases in California history. The final bill is estimated to be about $14Mn.

Police discover 'killing field'

In 1985, authorities discovered what they called a "virtual killing field," after arresting Leonard Lake behind the wheel of a car of victim Paul Cosner.

Lake committed suicide shortly after his arrest by swallowing cyanide pills sewn to his lapel.

The killing of Mr Cosner is the only murder charge which Ng was cleared of.

Charred human remains

Authorities searched the area around Lake's rural cabin and found more than 40 pounds of charred human remains. Police estimated at one time that Lake and Ng had killed 25 people.

After Lake's arrest and suicide, Ng fled to Canada where he was arrested two months later in Calgary for shoplifting. He served almost five years in prison in Canada.

The US tried to extradite Ng, but Canada resisted.

The northern neighbour of the US does not have a death penalty and is hesitant to extradite suspects to countries that do.

After pressure from both sides of the border, the Canadian Supreme Court relented in 1992.

Ng was able to delay the trial for several years through a series of legal manoeuvres.

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