Families Recall Ng’s Victims
Family members of victims murdered by convicted serial killer Charles Ng took the witness stand Monday, recounting memories of loved ones in emotional testimony that left some jurors wiping away tears.
Prosecutors hope the testimony will persuade the jury to return a death sentence against Ng, whom they convicted last month of murdering 11 people during a Northern California killing spree 14 years ago.
The 38-year-old former Marine became eligible for the death penalty because he was found guilty of multiple murders, a special circumstance that permits capital punishment. If allowed to live, he would spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors plan to call 10 witnesses--three of whom appeared Monday--to make victim impact statements during the penalty phase of the trial. The court is taking a month off starting Wednesday, and the defense is scheduled to present its side April 12.
During Monday’s hearing, Ng showed no emotion and did not look up from his seat as family members took the stand.
“I loved her very much and she loved me,” said a teary-eyed Sharon O’Connor, the 61-year-old mother of Brenda O’Connor, who disappeared along with her son in 1985. “It’s been very hard. It about tore my whole family apart.”
O’Connor said it pained her that her daughter and 2-year-old grandson, whose bodies were never recovered, did not have a formal burial. Her family, she said, erected a memorial in their Michigan backyard and planted pink roses nearby because they were her daughter’s favorite flower.
Prosecutors showed pictures of O’Connor and her husband surrounded by family members at a wedding anniversary party. Her grandson--"the sweetest little guy,” she said--was seated near her in a red pajama suit. Brenda was the baby of her family, the last of seven children.
“I did it for them,” Sharon O’Connor told jurors. “They were my babies.”
Many of the family members traveled from across the country to participate in the hearing, which continues today. Most had not attended the four-month trial, but said they felt compelled to testify so Ng would be held fully responsible for his crimes.
Sandy Bond, one of Brenda O’Connor’s sisters, told jurors that her and her sister’s sons were the same age and were “supposed to grow up together.”
After testifying, Bond said she couldn’t bring herself to look at Ng during the hearing: “I didn’t want to see the last thing my sister saw.”
Robert McCourt of Philadelphia said his brother, Clifford Peranteau, an Ng co-worker who disappeared in January 1985, was a kind person who tried to keep his far-flung family of 11 siblings together by gift-giving and regular phone calls.
“He was a nice guy,” McCourt said, choking back tears. “He liked anybody and everybody.”
Speaking about his older brother brought back many painful memories, he said. During his testimony, he often broke down and had to pause to regain his composure.
“I put it out of my mind all these years, until now, because it’s much easier not to talk about it,” McCourt said.
The jury convicted Ng on 11 of 12 murder counts, deadlocking on one. On Monday, prosecutors asked the judge to set a date for a retrial on the deadlocked count, saying they are unwilling to drop the charge that Ng murdered Paul Cosner, a San Francisco car dealer.
Prosecutors said Ng and Leonard Lake carried out the killings at a remote Calaveras County cabin during 1984 and 1985. Most of the victims came from the San Francisco Bay area and were killed for financial gain.
In the case of two female victims, including O’Connor, the prosecution contended that Ng and Lake used them as sex slaves before killing them. More than 40 pounds of charred human remains were buried around the property, and most of the victims’ bodies were never recovered.