Thriller Thursday: The Vampire of Sacramento

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Every rational person knows vampires aren't real. There are no undead cursed to walk the earth for eternity searching for their next victim. And delicious-smelling, sparkly vampires who don't feast on humans are certainly the stuff of an overactive imagination.

But individuals with blood cravings do live among us. We just have a scientific term for them: cannibals. Of course there have been cultures that have accepted cannibalism, but we're not talking about those. Eating people is pretty taboo here in the States, but that didn't stop Richard Trenton Chase.

Nicknamed "The Vampire of Sacramento," Richard Chase went on a month-long killing spree in December, 1977 that resulted in six deaths. Chase earned the creepy nicknamed because he drank his victim's blood and cannibalized their remains.

Richard Trenton Chase mugshot, 1978

Like many of history's horrific murderers, Chase claimed he was abused by his mother. His parents fought a lot and were divorced by the time he was twelve. By then, Chase exhibited the core ingredients of the MacDonald Triad (the behavioral characteristics associated with sociopaths) and was an alcoholic and drug abuser by the time he was in his teens.

Chase was a hypochondriac, worrying about his heart ceasing to beat or that someone had "stolen an artery." He held oranges to his head so the Vitamin C would be absorbed via the brain, and he also believed his cranial bones had separated and moved around. He shaved his head in order to watch.

Throughout his life, Chase was terrified he would simply disappear. He believed the Nazi's, FBI, and space aliens were after him. The soap dish was his tormenters weapon of choice. Chase believed it held a secret poison that slowly turned his blood to powder. He knew only fresh blood could save him.

Chase's roommates complained about his drug use and his love of walking around the apartment nude. He refused to move out, so they left and Chase was on his own.

Like many sociopathic serial killers, Chase tortured animals, but he took it a step farther. He disemboweled the animals and ate them raw, often mixing the organs with Coke and making a gruesome milkshake. He believed eating the animals kept his heart from shrinking.

Blenders used by Chase.

In 1975, Chase injected rabbit blood and wound up in the hospital. The mental institution soon followed. He was discovered drinking blood of birds - their corpses were throw out of the window. Witty hospital staff dubbed him Dracula.

Chase had a strong addiction to blood. At the insituation, he stole blood from the therapy dog after stealing syringes from boxes left in the doctor's offices. He was also known to defecate himself and then paint with the feces.

Totally disgusted yet?

For some amazing reason, doctors decided Chase's was no longer a danger to society after a round of psychotropic drugs, and he was released in 1976 under the care of his mother. Evidently his mother thought she knew more than the doctors—she took him off the antipsychotic meds because the drugs made him "a zombie." She also got Chase his own apartment. Smart. In the months that followed, Chase refused to allow his mother to enter his apartment. She did nothing but continue to pay his rent.

Neighborhood pets, including his mother's cat, fell victim to Chase's bloodlust. Still, his animal blood-and-guts cocktails weren't enough to sustain him.

Chase's first human sacrifice was discovered on Jan. 23, 1978. David Wallin returned to his North Sacramento home to discover his pregnant wife, Terry, murdered. Her torso was slit open; parts of her body had been eaten. Chase had used a yogurt container to drink Terry's blood. The only picture of Terry I could find was extremely graphic.

The FBI behavioral science unit was in its infancy, and police worked closely with the group to come up with a profile to catch the unknown killer. Robert Ressler and Russ Vorpagel sketched an eerily close likeness of Chase, dubbing the suspect a scrawny, young loner, unkempt, dirty, and unorganized, subsisting on someone else's money.

Police sketch of Chase (I couldn't verify if this was the one Ressler created).

Chase 1971 Mug shot.

Accurate as the profile was, it didn't prevent further murders by Chase. Four days later, Evelyn Miroth, her friend Daniel Meredith, and Evelyn's son, Jason, were found shot with a .22 and slashed open. David was only six. Miroth's twenty-two-month old nephew David Ferreira had disappeared after being left in Evelyn's care that day. His crib contained a telltale bloodstain, and the baby's decapitated corpse was discovered four months later.

Evelyn Miroth

Jason Miroth

Evelyn lie naked on the bed, her legs open. Her abdomen had been slashed and her intestines pulled out. Two red-stained carving knives were nearby. Evelyne had been sodomized with the knife at least six times. Her neck had been severely slashed, and bloody ringlets on the carpet indicated the killer had again used something to collect blood. Several internal organs had been stabbed as well. The coroner later said this would help blood pool in the abdomen.

Ressler and Vorpagel believed the killer would be disorganized, with clues pointing to psychosis. The crimes weren't planned, and the killer likely did very little to hide the evidence. He left footprints and fingerprints at the scenes and had probably been seen walking in daylight with bloody clothes. Because he'd walked to at least one crime scene, the FBI believed he lived in the vicinity of the crimes. They were also sure he would keep killing until caught.

Crime scene photo.

A chance encounter turned out to be Chase's downfall. A young woman named Nancy Holen was shopping when a strange man approached her. He appeared confused, and Nancy tried to avoid him.

"Were you on the motorcycle when Kurt was killed?" the man asked.

Nancy was shocked. Ten years earlier, her boyfriend Kurt had been been killed on a motorcycle. Suddenly she noticed something familiar about the strange man. When he told her he was Rick Chase, she was shocked. She remembered Rick as a clean-cut, studious high school kid. The man before her was dirty, his clothes were stained, and he was agitated. She managed to get out of the store while Chase was distracted, but he followed her into the parking lot and asked for a ride. Nancy jumped into her car, rolled up the windows, locked the doors, and booked it out of the parking lot before he could stop her. When she saw the police sketch, she was positive Chase was the man police sought.


When Chase showed up on the police's radar, everything added up: the history of mental illness, the physical decline, his reliance on his mother. When Chase was apprehended, he wore an orange parka with blood stains on it. A .22 semiautomatic with bloodstains was taken from him, as well as Dan Meredith's wallet. Chase had been carrying a box when police grabbed him, and it contained bloodstained paper and rags. At the station, Chase admitted to killing dogs but refused to discuss the murders.

The search of Chase's apartment was horrifying. Nearly all of his possessions were stained with blood—including food and glasses. Small pieces of bone were found in the kitchen; the refrigerator held dishes with body parts. One container had human brain tissue. A blender was stained and reeked. Three pet collars were found but there were no animals to match. Pictures of human organs lay on a table along with newspaper ads selling dogs. The ads were circled.

A calendar had the inscription "today" on the dates of the Wallin and Miroth murders, and the same word was written on forty-four future dates.

Chase on his way to court.

Chase was eventually linked to another murder, the Dec. 29, 1977 drive-by of Ambrose Griffin. Chase confessed Griffin's was his first human victim. He said he chose his victims simply because their doors had been unlocked.

Prosecutors wanted the death penalty, and the defense argued not guilty by reason of insanity. This is one time that defense might have an ounce of merit. I don't know how much Chase plotted in advance, but there's no doubt he neither understood or cared about the consequences of his actions. The jury agreed with the prosecution and found Chase guilty of six counts of murder. He was given the death sentence.

Chase hid the anti-depressants offered to calm him, and on December 26, 1980, he committed suicide like a true coward.

In all my research of serial killers, Richard Trenton Chase is one of the very worst. I do believe he was in a different frame of mind than someone like Dahmer, who was much calculating and controlling. Had Chase been on meds and under careful care, his victims might have stood a chance.

What do you think? Was Chase destined to be a killer? Would meds have helped? Is there really such a thing as not guilty by reason of insanity?




18 comments:

Ruth Hartman Berge said...

Disturbing and fascinating at the same time. Great job on the research. Since being at FSU when Teddy Bundy attacked the sorority house, I've read a lot about serial killers. The conclusion I've reached is that they are born with certain inclinations, but they are "pushed" one way or the other based on their environment. Very frightening.

Halli Gomez said...

Chase is like Jack the Ripper. Would have been interesting to see what Jack's house was like if they ever caught him.
I too believe that they are born with certain inclinations. I don't think some one could hurt you so bad (his mother for example) that you are made to do this if it wasn't in your brain before.

As for medication, if he was on medication, it would have been a temporary solution at best. That is just my opinion.
Fascinating story!

Stacy said...

Ruth
WOW. I can't imagine the shock and fear you experienced. Ted Bundy is still the most fascinating of all of them to me. And I think you're right, it's a combination of genetics and environment. Thanks for commenting!

Stacy said...

Halli
That's so true. I would not be surprise if Jack engaged in some sort of cannibalism. I think you're right - some of it HAS to be genetics. The key is the trigger and how powerful it is. And I agree, meds would have been a temp solution because even if his mother hadn't taken him off, he would have stopped taking at some point.

Thanks for stopping by!

Kelly Hashway said...

I'm really grossed out right now. I kind of think you have to be crazy to do things like this, but I don't think that should give people a way out of being punished for their crimes.

Stacy said...

Kelly
It's pretty gross, that's for sure. I agree, you definitely have to be crazy, but with very few exceptions, most people are sane enough to know right from wrong. I would say that because Chase lied and sought to hide his apartment from his mother, he had at least some understanding.

Thanks!

donna galanti said...

Stacy, OMG - how gruesome. Chills and shudders abound reading this one!! What could be inside someone's make up to inspire them to do such horrific things?? I love these Thriller Thursday posts, the badder the better...really makes me wonder about true evil - it has a face.

Stacy said...

Donna
I really don't know. This man is definitely a great case study. I wonder how he would have progressed had he not killed himself. And I agree, true evil definitely has a face.

Thanks!

Julie Glover said...

I believe your true crime stories are so interesting, Stacy, because (1) you research and present the information so well and (2) we wonder what happens to someone to make them become like this. Chase is of the same human species as the rest of us, but he doesn't think or behave human at all. We wonder what could possibly occur to cause such a downfall. Genetics, environment, choice? I think it's all there in some proportion. My heart goes out to these victims. I can't imagine having a loved one so brutally murdered and their body desecrated.

Stacy said...

Julie
Thank you so much. I spend a lot of time on Thriller Thursdays, so I appreciate that. Very good points about Chase. And I agree, it's all there somewhere, and because he already had some genetic issues, his parents fighting and possible abuse were strong triggers.

Thanks for commenting.

catierhodes.com said...

Very interesting and well written. It really does sound like Richard Chase was mentally ill; however, I wonder if there was any help for him. For some people, I really believe there is no help.

And there's no excuse. Even the death penalty would have been too kind for him. Much more satisfying would have been the idea that he fell victim to someone like himself--a sadistic killer.

This was a totally gross installment of Thriller Thursday. I loved it!

Stacy said...

Thanks, Catie. I doubt there was any hope for a cure for Chase. He probably would have always had major issues about paranoia, etc. But surely he could have been better controlled, and better off, in an institution - a decent one, that is. Very true - and eye for an eye.

Glad you enjoyed it:)

Jill Kemerer said...

This was horrible--yet I couldn't stop reading! I get frightened that people like him exist. And I'm no doctor, but I really don't know how much medication could help that level of sadism. It seemed pretty severe.

Have a great weekend, Stacy!

Stacy said...

Thanks, Jill!
This was definitely one of my more gruesome Thriller Thursdays, but still fascinating. You're right, it was severe. It's hard to say whether or not there was ever any hope for Chase.

Thanks for commenting - have a great weekend as well!

Liz said...

This is fascinating. I have never heard of this guy. Thank you for sharing. I'm a sucker for this stuff.

Stacy said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Liz. Thanks for stopping by:)

Jessica R. Patch said...

This could possibly be the coolest post ever. I'm a huge nut for vampires and those who actually think they are. Fascinating post, Stacy. You're so cool1

Stacy said...

Thanks, Jessica! Yes, the whole "vampire culture" is fascinating to me. That would be a great TT topic. Glad you enjoyed the post!

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