Richard Chase killed six people in the span of one month in California from December 1977 to January 1978. He was cannibalistic, necrophilic, and drank the blood of his victims which earned him the nickname the Vampire of Sacramento.
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A ‘Sweet, Young Boy’ To Cold-Blooded Serial Killer
Born May 23rd, 1950, Richard Trenton Chase’s parents were strict disciplinarians. His mother suffered from schizophrenia, she often accused her husband of trying to poison her and infidelity. These arguments were overheard by Chase throughout childhood for ten long years before the couple eventually decided to divorce.
His mother was unable to offer the young boy any love or emotional warmth throughout his childhood; he missed many of his own milestones in emotional development. Later, psychiatrists who interviewed Chase confirmed that he was raised by the typical mother of a serial killer: highly aggressive, hostile, and provocative.
By the age of 10, Chase had already ticked every box on the MacDonald triad – bed wetting, harming small animals, and fire-setting. Yet despite his inner turmoil, Chase was known by those who grew up with him as a sweet and co-operative young boy. He was of ordinary intelligence and possessed an IQ of 95.
Psychiatrists believe it was around his second year in high school that Chase’s mental condition began to deteriorate. He had become “rebellious and defiant, had no ambition and his room was always in a state of disarray.”
From the age of 15, Chase had begun using alcohol, marijuana, and LSD. He eventually moved into an apartment with friends but his constant use of alcohol and drugs was causing many problems; teamed with the fact that Chase preferred to walk around the apartment naked, much to the shock of his roommates’ guests.
Although he engaged in a few relationships with women, they would break off when it was revealed Chase suffered from erectile dysfunction and was unable to have intercourse.
Due to his dysfunctional personality, he struggled to hold down a job for longer than a day or two. His parents then financially supported him most of his adult life.
Now very much alone, Chase began capturing, killing, and dismembering animals. He threw the small animal parts in a blender with Coca-Cola or sometimes, even consumed them raw. Chase later said he believed this disturbing concoction would prevent his heart from shrinking.
Injecting Rabbit’s Blood
In 1975, at the age of 25, Chase was involuntarily institutionalized after he suffered blood poisoning from injecting rabbit’s blood into his veins. Doctors were convinced his heavy drug use had caused these delusions and that he did not suffer from a mental illness.
Hospital staff found his behavior “frightening” as he would often be walking around with blood on his t-shirt. Two nurses actually quit shortly after he arrived. When Chase bit off the heads of two birds he found in a bush and drank their blood; he was quickly moved to a hospital for the criminally insane.
Diagnosed as being a paranoid schizophrenic, he complained that someone had stolen his pulmonary artery, that his stomach was backward and that his heart had stopped beating. He also claimed a Nazi party crime syndicate was after him.
Paranoid schizophrenia usually first manifests itself in the teenage years then it takes around eight to ten years to develop into the full-blown psychosis we see in serial killers like Chase – so typically they will strike in their early to mid-20s.
Despite all of this, he was released back into society after just one year of treatment because the psychiatrists at the institution apparently wanted to make room for more “serious patients”.
One nurse recalled: “When we learned (Chase) was being released, we all raised hell about it, but it didn’t do any good.” The institution and its doctors were later sued by the families of the victims for considerable damages.
Chase was placed back in the care of his mother who encouraged him not to take his anti-psychotic medications because they “dulled” him. Back living in an apartment on his own, his mental health was in rapid decline and there would be fatal results.
“The Most Bizarre, Grotesque, and Senseless Killings”
After leaving the institution for the criminally insane, Chase began killing dogs and cats. He bought rescue dogs and answered ads in the local newspapers for free puppies. Police were swamped with reports of small animals going missing in the local area.
On December 7th, 1977, Chase purchased a .22 automatic revolver. The form required him to answer whether he had ever been a patient in a mental institution and he ticked the box that he had not. Then on December 27th, Chase killed his first known victim; 51-year-old engineer Ambrose Griffin in a drive-by shooting.
In a later interview with criminal profiler Robert K. Ressler, Chase said:
“The first person I killed was sort of an accident. My car was broken down… Mother wouldn’t let me in at Christmas. Always before she let me come in at Christmas, have dinner, and talk to her. That year she wouldn’t let me in and I shot from the car and killed somebody.”
A few weeks later on January 22nd, 1978, Chase produced a crime scene that gave the responding police officers nightmares for many nights to come. They found the victim – 22-year-old Teresa Wallin who was three months pregnant at the time of death – murdered at her home.
Her abdomen had been slashed, the intestines were protruding out of the gaping wound and several of her organs were missing. There was also evidence that the victim’s blood had been collected in a yogurt pot and drunk.
An autopsy revealed Chase had also engaged in necrophilia with her corpse, removed several of her organs, stuffed dog feces in her mouth and throat.
Only days later, on January 27th, Chase committed his bloodiest massacre, killing 38-year-old Evelyn Miroth, her friend, Dan Meredith, and Evelyn’s 6-year-old son, and her 22-month-old nephew.
He shot the victims and then mutilated their corpses; firstly draining their blood then cracking open the skulls to remove the brain matter. He sliced up their organs and then liquidized them in a blender so he could drink the remains.
The baby was missing from the crime scene but the police were fairly certain from the amount of blood in the playpen that he would not be found alive. (The body was not found until six months later).
Sheriff Duane Low said the murders were “The most bizarre, grotesque, and senseless killings I’ve seen in twenty-eight years.”
The press only received a watered-down version of the massacres; the detectives did not believe the public was ready yet to hear all of the gory details. Many residents in the area packed their belongings and left town. Those that stayed behind double-locked their doors and covered the windows at night.
Sacramento became a city of fear and Sheriff Low called upon the experts for help.
Profiling The Devil
Serial killers all have a unique fingerprint but they also have a unique psychological fingerprint and this is left behind at every crime scene. Homicide detectives are able to look at a crime scene and determine what type of serial killer committed the crime. This psychological fingerprint will also reveal if the serial killer is either an organized or disorganized killer.
The theory was first introduced by the original super squad of criminal profiling at the FBI Training Academy at Quantico in Virginia – special agents Robert Ressler, Ann Burgess, and John Douglas in 1986. (Who you will probably be familiar with from the popular ‘Mindhunter’ series on Netflix based on the book by the same name).
This classification of serial murderers still holds up today. In the book ‘Serial Murder’ by Ronald M. Holmes and Stephen T. Holmes they write: “What this approach does do, and it does appear to do this well, is to examine the crime scene characteristics and then, from that information, describe the type of person who may have committed the crime.”
Though profiling was still in its infancy Robert Ressler (pictured above) created the following profile for Richard Chase before the serial killer was apprehended:
“White male aged twenty-five to twenty-seven; thin, undernourished appearance; single; living alone in a location within one mile of abandoned station wagon owned by one of the victims. Residence will be extremely slovenly and unkempt, and evidence of the crimes will be found at the residence. Suspect will have a history of mental illness and use of drugs. Suspect will be an unemployed loner who does not associate with either males or females and will probably spend a great deal of time in his own residence. If he resides with anyone, it will be with his parents. However, this is unlikely. Suspect will have no prior military history; will be a high school or college dropout; probably suffers from one or more forms of paranoid psychosis.”
-Robert K. Ressler’s profile of Richard T. Chase
Chase is a typical example of a disorganized serial killer. With this profile in hand, a team of 65 police officers took the streets and questioned residents if they knew of anyone who would fit this description.
Following the discovery of a dog that had been disemboweled at a local country club, two witnesses reported seeing a red station wagon leave the scene of the crime.
Disorganized serial killers are often a lot easier to catch because they have no issue in leaving a crime scene covered in the victim’s blood. Also, they will live in close proximity to the crime scene. A lack of planning before, during, or after the crime will be reflected in the spontaneous style of the offense and the chaotic state of the crime scene.
That is exactly how Richard Chase was caught. His former classmate spotted him driving a red station wagon; looking thin; disheveled; out of sorts; and with his shirt covered in blood.
Chase lived just one mile from the country club where the dismembered dog was discovered. When police arrived at his home and the serial killer tried to make a run for it, they were finally able to gain entry to his apartment of horrors.
Inside the apartment, there was a bloody twelve-inch knife, bloody boots he had worn at the crime scene, human blood in the food blender, body parts in the refrigerator, and a container that held brain tissue. DNA and shoe-prints tied him to the Miroth house massacre.
Lock Your Doors, Always
Unbelievably, Chase was deemed fit to stand trial. Whilst his defense team was fighting for him to be sent to a mental institution for the rest of his life, the state of California was fighting to send him to the electric chair.
Sacramento Bee reporter Iris Yang described the serial killer’s appearance in court:
“The defendant has a totally lusterless quality. Dull, limp brown hair, sunken opaque eyes, a sallow complexion, and scarcely a spare ounce of flesh clinging to his bony frame. (Chase) sat hunched in his chair, toying with papers in front of him or staring vacantly at the florescent lights in the courtroom.”
Chase was charged with six counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. He was sent to death row at San Quentin State Prison, California, to await the electric chair.
It is believed that the real victim count is much higher. In mid-1977, before these murders, Chase was arrested in Lake Tahoe whilst driving covered in blood. The arresting officer found guns and a bucket of blood but Chase convinced the officer this was due to a hunting trip and no charges were filed.
The day after Christmas in 1980, Chase had saved up his anti-depressant pills in prison and died of a fatal overdose. He was 30 years old.
Before his death, Ressler asked Chase how he had selected the victims. Chase replied if the door was open, he would go inside but if the door was locked, that means he was not welcome. This is why it’s always safest to lock your doors at night.