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Wednesday, June 30, 1999 Published at 22:42 GMT 23:42 UK

World: Americas

Serial killer sentenced to die

Ng (right) in custody for 14 years

The serial killer Charles Ng has been sentenced to death for a campaign of sexual torture and murder in rural California.

Ng, a Hong Kong emigre and former US Marine, was convicted in May of murdering six men, three women and two baby boys in 1984 and 1985.

He had tried to stave off sentencing in the 14-year-old case by claiming he was too tired to proceed, and then by trying to fire his lawyers.

Members of the victims' families applauded when Judge John Ryan announced the death sentence at the court in Santa Ana.

Ng sat devoid of expression as the sentence was pronounced. Earlier he had shown no reaction when victims' family members gave tearful speeches about the loss of loved ones.

The judge rejected a motion to reduce the jury's death sentence recommendation, and said that Ng was a willing partner of the man he blames for the killings.

"Mr Ng was not under any duress, nor does the evidence support that he was under the domination of Leonard Lake," the judge said.

Cabin of horror

Ng has spent 14 years fighting murder charges. The jury recommended the death penalty on 3 May.

Prosecutors said his women victims were imprisoned, tortured and raped after being lured to a cabin belonging to Lake.

Charred human remains and the victims' belongings were found at the cabin in the Sierra Nevada foothills 150 miles east of San Francisco.

The spate of killings ended in June 1985 when Lake was arrested for shoplifting in San Francisco.

Ng managed to slip away and Lake later killed himself by swallowing cyanide pills sewn into his clothing.

Ng fled to Canada, where he was arrested and fought extradition for five years.

Once extradited, he was put on trial in southern California because of pretrial publicity, and the case dragged on as he hired and fired attorneys.

Ng denied he killed anyone, and said he did not know Lake planned to kill, either. But jurors watched graphic videotapes in which Lake and Ng were seen tormenting bound women.

The marathon trial is estimated to have cost $14m, making it one of the longest and costliest prosecutions in California.

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