Richard Trenton Chase (May 23, 1950 December 26, 1980) was an American serial killer who killed six people in the span of a month in California. He earned the nickname The Vampire of Sacramento because he drank the blood of his victims and ate their internal organs. He did this as part of a delusion that he needed to prevent Nazis from turning his blood into powder via poison they had planted beneath his soap dish.
An apparent victim of abuse at the hands of his mother, Chase exhibited by the age of 10 what is known in psychiatric circles as the "triad" of the early signs of a serial killer: He wet the bed, he started fires, and he tortured animals. In his adolescence, he was known as an alcoholic and a chronic drug abuser. He dated many women, but his impotence would always cut the course of his relationships short. It was deemed that his erectile dysfunction was caused by "psychological problems stemming from repressed anger".
This led Chase to believe that something was wrong with him, and he spiraled into hypochondria. He would complain that his heart would occasionally "stop beating", or that "someone had stolen his pulmonary artery". He would also hold oranges on his head, believing the Vitamin C would absorb into his brain via osmosis.
Chase moved into his mother's house, where he began to accuse her of attempting to murder him with poison. Chase's father purchased an apartment for him and forced him to move out of the house.
Chase moved in with friends, and immediately boarded up his bedroom door and created an "escape hatch" through his closet wall. When asked why he did this, Chase responded "so no one can sneak up on me". Chase's roommates complained that he was constantly stoned on alcohol, marijuana, and LSD. Chase would also inexplicably walk around the apartment nude, even in front of company. Chase's roommates demanded that he move out. When he refused, the roommates moved out instead.
Now alone in the apartment, Chase began to capture, kill, and disembowel various animals, which he would then devour raw. He then began to put the entrails of the animals he had killed into a blender in order to make a drinkable paste of them. Chase reasoned that by drinking this drink he was preventing his heart from shrinking; he feared that if it shrank too much it would disappear and then he would die.
In 1975, Chase was involuntarily committed to a mental institution after being taken to a hospital for blood poisoning, which he contracted after injecting rabbit's blood into his veins.
He escaped from the hospital and went home to his mother; he was apprehended and sent to an institution for the criminally insane, where he often shared with the staff fantasies about killing rabbits. He was once found with blood smeared around his mouth; hospital staff discovered that he had captured two birds through the bars on his bedroom windows, snapped their necks, and sucked their blood out. Among themselves, the staff began referring to him as "Dracula."
There were arguments as to whether Chase was schizophrenic, or suffering from a drug-induced psychosis.
After undergoing a battery of treatments involving psychotropic drugs, Chase was deemed no longer a danger to society, and in 1976, he was released into the recognizance of his parents; his mother, deciding that her son did not need to be on the antischizophrenic medication that he had been prescribed, weaned him off it.
Later investigation has uncovered that in mid 1977, Chase had been stopped by an Indian agent on a reservation in the Lake Tahoe area and arrested. He was wearing a blood soaked shirt and driving a truck containing guns and a bucket of blood. No charges were made and he got off free.
The first murder
On December 29, 1977, Chase killed his first victim in a drive-by shooting, in an apparent "warm up" for the crimes he planned on committing. The victim was Ambrose Griffin, a 51-year-old engineer and father of two, who was helping his wife bring groceries into their home. After the shooting, one of Griffin's sons reported seeing a neighbor walking around their East Sacramento neighborhood with a .22 rifle. The neighbor's rifle was seized, but ballistics tests determined that it was not the murder weapon.
The second murder
On January 11, 1978, Chase asked his neighbor for a cigarette and then forcibly restrained her until she gave him an entire pack.
Two weeks later, he attempted to enter the home of another woman but, finding that her doors were locked, went into her backyard and walked away; Chase later told detectives that he took locked doors as a sign that he was not welcome, but that unlocked doors were an invitation to come inside. While wandering around, he encountered a girl named Nancy Holden, with whom he attended high school. He attempted to get a ride from her, but frightened by his appearance, she refused.
He went down the street where he broke into the home of a young married couple, stole some of their valuables, urinated into a drawer of their infant's clothing, and defecated on their son's bed. The couple came home while Chase was still in the house; the husband attacked him, but Chase escaped.
Chase continued to attempt to enter homes until he came across the home of David and Teresa Wallin. David was at work; Teresa, three months pregnant, was in the middle of taking out the garbage and thus had left her front door unlocked. Chase surprised her in the home and shot her three times, once in the hand (a defensive wound) and twice in the head, killing her; it was the same gun used to kill Ambrose Griffin.
Chase then dragged her body to her bedroom and raped it post-mortem while repeatedly stabbing it with a butcher knife. When he had finished, he carved the corpse open and removed several of her internal organs, using a bucket to collect the blood and then taking it in the bathroom to bathe in it. He then sliced off her nipple and drank her blood, using an empty yogurt container as a drinking glass; before leaving, he went into the yard, found a pile of dog feces, and returned to stuff it into the corpse's mouth and throat.
The third murder/mass murder
On January 23, 1978, two days after killing Teresa Wallin, Chase purchased two puppies from a neighbor, which he then killed and drank the blood of, leaving the bodies on the neighbor's front lawn.
On January 27, Chase committed his final murder, which also qualifies as a mass murder. He entered the home of 38-year-old Evelyn Miroth, who was babysitting her 22-month-old nephew, David; also present in the home was Evelyn's six-year-old son Jason, and Dan Meredith, a neighbor who had come over to check on Evelyn. Evelyn was in the bath while Dan watched the children; he went into the front hallway when Chase entered the home, Dan Meredith was shot in the head at point-blank range with Chase's .22 handgun, killing him (again, this was the same gun used in the Griffin and Wallin murders). Chase then turned the corpse over and stole Dan's wallet and car keys. Jason ran to his mother's bedroom, where Chase fatally shot him twice in the head at point-blank range; on the way to killing Jason, Chase also shot David in the head.
Chase then entered the bathroom and fatally shot Evelyn once in the head. He dragged her corpse onto the bed, where he simultaneously sodomized it and drank its blood from a series of slices to the back of the neck. Medical examiners reported an inordinate amount of semen in the corpse's rectum, indicating an "unusual amount" of ejaculations.
When Chase had finished, he stabbed her "at least half a dozen times" in the anus, the knife penetrating her uterus. He stabbed her in a series of vital points on the body, which caused blood from her internal organs to pool into her abdomen, which he then sliced open and drained into a bucket; he then consumed all of the blood. Chase then went to retrieve David's corpse; he took it to the bathroom and split its skull open in the bathtub, and consumed some of the brain matter. Outside, a six-year-old girl with whom Jason Miroth had a playdate knocked on the door, startling Chase; he fled the residence, stealing Dan Meredith's car; the girl alerted a neighbor. The neighbor broke into the Miroth home where he discovered the bodies and contacted the authorities. Upon entering the home, police discovered that Chase had left perfect handprints and perfect imprints of the soles of his shoes in Evelyn's blood.
Chase, meanwhile, took David's corpse home with him, where he chopped off his head and used the neck as a straw through which he sucked the blood out of the body. He then sliced the corpse open and consumed several internal organs and made his grotesque "smoothies" out of others, finally disposing of the corpse at a nearby church.
In 1979, Chase stood trial on six counts of murder. In order to avoid the death penalty, the defense tried to have Chase found guilty of second degree murder, which would result in a life sentence. Their case hinged on Chase's history of mental illness and the lack of planning in his crimes, evidence that they were not premeditated.
On May 8 the jury found Chase guilty of six counts of first degree murder. The defense asked for a clemency hearing, in which a judge determined that Chase was not legally insane; Chase was sentenced to die in the gas chamber. Waiting to die, Chase became a feared presence in prison; the other inmates (including several gang members), aware of the graphic and bizarre nature of his crimes, feared him, and according to prison officials, they often tried to convince Chase to commit suicide, too fearful to get close enough to him to kill him themselves. Chase also granted a series of interviews with Robert Ressler, during which he spoke of his fears of Nazis and UFOs, claiming that although he had killed, it was not his fault; he had been forced to kill to keep himself alive, which he believed any person would do. He asked Ressler to give him access to a radar gun, with which he could apprehend the Nazi UFOs, so that the Nazis could stand trial for the murders. He also handed Ressler a large amount of macaroni and cheese which he had been hoarding in his pants pockets, believing that the prison officials were in league with the Nazis and attempting to kill him.
On December 26, 1980, a guard doing cell checks found Chase lying awkwardly on his bed, not breathing. An autopsy determined that he committed suicide with an overdose of prison doctor-prescribed antidepressants that he had been saving up for the last few weeks.
The 1988 movie Rampage was loosely based on Chase's crimes.
Carey Burtt's underground short subject The Psychotic Odyssey of Richard Chase retells Chase's life story using Barbie dolls, not unlike in Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story.