Courtroom spectators watched in shock Wednesday as the prosecution in the trial of accused serial killer Charles Ng introduced some of the most harrowing evidence in the high-profile case.
Deputy Atty. Gen. Sharlene Honnaka played a video in which murder victim Kathi Allen is seen tied semi-naked to a bed while Leonard Lake, the man authorities say was Ng's partner in a string of 12 murders 14 years ago in Northern California, allegedly threatens her.
Some in the audience covered their eyes, and jurors could be seen cringing through the hourlong tape, whose threatening content was compounded by its almost mundane qualities: a neatly made bed, books on the bookcase and, at one point, a dog peeking into the bedroom and looking at Lake and Allen.
Dian Allen, 29, Kathi's sister, was in court for the first time Wednesday and wept through most of the tape. Allen said her sister, normally a strong person, seemed withdrawn.
"She wasn't going to say anything because she was scared," said Allen, of San Jose. "She was trying to save her life."
According to authorities, Ng and Lake killed their victims and buried their remains in and around Lake's cabin in Wilseyville, a rural town in the Sierra foothills in Calaveras County. Ng is charged with 12 murders, but at least four more bodies were found on the property.
The two allegedly targeted people for their belongings, and in the case of Allen and another woman, to make them their sex slaves. Lake committed suicide shortly after being arrested on suspicion of shoplifting in 1985 in San Francisco. His arrest led investigators to Wilseyville, where they made the grim discoveries. Ng fled to Canada but was returned to California; it has taken seven years for his trial to begin.
The prosecution is arguing that Ng was an active participant in Lake's twisted survivalist plot to use and discard victims. Wednesday's testimony, which was briefly interrupted in the morning to replace two of the jurors with alternates, focused mostly on evidence found buried in and around the Wilseyville property, including the videotape.
In the tape, shown in its entirety, an eerily calm Lake is seen ordering Kathi Allen to strip and pose as he takes snapshots of her. He chides her for trying to flee from a makeshift cell where she was allegedly kept.
"What can I do to you to prove I am serious about this?" Lake threatens her.
In another portion of the tape, Lake and Ng can be seen taunting Brenda O'Connor, also a murder victim. She pleads for her baby son, whom Ng is also accused of killing.
The two men allegedly force O'Connor to strip and go into the shower with Ng.
"Watch out so she doesn't slip in the shower and split her head open," Lake can be heard saying.