originally published August 4, 2014
Every so often I like to illuminate the pages of this online repository of phact and phantasy with a story so luminous I can practically hear the creak of my readers’ perfunctory grins as their hearts glow from toasty delight.
This is not one of those days.
Today’s kilograph is a meandering stroll through the most dank and squalid corridors of mental illness and human tragedy. The story herein is so polluted with sadness and horror it could make the Coen Brothers squeamish. The only disclaimer I can offer is that the details of this tale will likely pummel your stomach like pizza dough and send you scrounging for a pick-me-up, be it literary, broadcast or pharmaceutical. This is an ugly one.
This is a story of unchecked insanity, of a man who squirmed through the cracks of a system that never clued in to the demons playing table tennis inside his cranium. This is paranoid schizophrenia, cranked up to ten then breaking off the knob. This is how the world utterly and completely failed Richard Chase and those who were to become his grizzly victims.
At age ten, Richard wholly embodied a phenomenon known as the MacDonald Triad – a trio of symptoms that all but closed the book on a person’s sociopathic bent and/or likelihood of homicidal leanings: he was cruel to animals, he lit stuff on fire and he wet the bed far beyond when a kid should stop. As a teenager, Richard discovered drugs, alcohol and a terrifyingly vivid stew of hypochondria.
Sometimes he felt his heart stop beating. Other times he was convinced someone had stolen his pulmonary artery. Vitamin C might fix him, or so he believed, leading him to hold oranges against his head in order to allow the vitamin to ooze past his skull via diffusion. I’m just guessing, but I doubt Richard scored a lot of high marks in biology class. At one point he became convinced that his cranial bones were shuffling around like drunken salsa dancers, so he shaved his head to keep track of them.
After high school, things started to get ugly. Here is where you’ll want to shoo any kids out of the room, lest they witness the look of quizzical disgust that will surely grace your face over the next few paragraphs.
Believing she was trying to poison him, Richard Chase left his mother’s home and moved in with friends. Before long, his buddies asked him to leave; they were tired of his constant abuse of booze, weed and LSD, as well as the unreasonable amount of casual nudity he displayed, even when company dropped by. Richard didn’t want to move out so his friends left. That’s when things got really weird.
Now free from judging eyeballs, Richard began bringing small animals back to his place, disemboweling them and eating them raw. He felt he needed to absorb the creatures in order to prevent his heart from shrinking. Sometimes, perhaps for a refreshing summertime treat, Richard would toss the animal organs into his blender along with some Coca-Cola and make a smoothie. Or would that be a float?
In 1975, 25-year-old Richard Chase voluntarily admitted himself to a mental institution after having been hospitalized for injecting rabbit blood into himself. Staff once found him with blood around his mouth; Richard had been capturing birds, drinking their blood and tossing the bodies out the window.
This should have been the end of the story. The institution that housed Richard poured psychotropic drugs into Richard’s bloodstream and treated him as a paranoid schizophrenic. Then in 1976 then released him. That was their biggest mistake.
Richard’s mom weaned her son off the drugs – the drugs that could have prevented everything that happened next.
First there was the drive-by shooting in late 1977. The victim was Ambrose Griffin, a father of two who had never even met his killer. A few weeks later, Richard was chased out of a house by a couple who came home to find him sifting through their belongings while urinating and defecating all over the place. On January 23, Richard made his way into the home of Teresa Wallin. What he did to her would crank anyone’s nausea faucet.
Teresa, who was three months pregnant, was shot three times. Richard then had sex with her corpse, drank her blood, then went into the back yard to gather up some dog poop, which he then stuffed down her throat. There is no reasoning why here – Richard believed he was exercising his survival instinct in committing these foul acts. It only took four days for him to strike again.
This time the victim was Evelyn Miroth, a 38-year-old Sacramento woman. Richard shot her, shot her friend, Danny Meredith, then shot Jason, Evelyn’s 6-year-old son. If that wasn’t enough, he next turned the gun on Evelyn’s 22-month-old nephew, David Ferreira. Ankle-deep in blood, Richard once again flexed his penchant for necrophilia and had his way with Evelyn’s body. Just as the cannibalism started to kick in, Richard was startled by a six-year-old girl who rang the doorbell.
She was heading over for a pre-planned playdate with Jason Miroth. While I’m sure Richard contemplated bringing the gun to the door to add her to the body-count, instead he thankfully fled the scene, leaving footprints, handprints, and a crap-ton of evidence behind.
So why did he do it?
In a series of interviews with Robert Ressler, the FBI agent-turned-writer who coined the phrase ‘serial killer’, Richard Chase insisted that he had murdered only because he had to. It was the Nazis, you see. The Nazis aboard their UFOs that had compelled him to do what he did. All he needed was a radar gun and he could pinpoint the Nazis’ location, and they could be brought in to stand trial for the murders they had made him commit. Richard then handed Ressler a heap of macaroni and cheese he’d been concealing in his pants, claiming this would serve as evidence that the prison system was working in tandem with the Nazis, trying to poison him.
Richard’s defense counsel had pushed for a plea of second-degree murder, pointing out the lack of premeditation. The jury rejected the plea for insanity (though how one could deny the presence of insanity in this case is beyond me), and instead convicted Richard on six counts of first-degree murder, for which he was awarded an intimate date with the gas chamber.
Richard never made it to that date. After having hoarded his anti-depressant pills for a few weeks, he gulped them all back in one shot and left this world in a prison-cell suicide on December 26, 1980. In his wake was one of the most gruesome and heinous trails of deviancy and depravity the state of California has ever seen. And the worst part is, there is no lesson, no wisdom we can squeeze from this withered grape of terror, except for this: don’t pull a guy off his meds before it’s time.