Richard Chase was a serial killer whose tendency to drink his victims' blood earned him the nickname Vampire Killer.
Richard Chase was one disturbed serial killer.
Technically, all serial killers are disturbed, but there’s a sliding scale. And Richard Chase, the “Vampire of Sacramento,” is strongly on one side: he lived his life under a series of powerful delusions that had fatal consequences.
Chase made the papers when he killed and mutilated the bodies of six victims in Sacramento, California, in the late 1970s. Given his nickname, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Richard Chase’s trademark was drinking the blood of his victims after he killed them.
But believe it or not, drinking his victims’ blood wasn’t even the Vampire Killer’s most disturbing trait.
Richard Chase, The Vampire Of Sacramento, Rises
Richard Chase showed signs of mental illness at a young age — but his father, a strict and sometimes physically abusive parent — did little to get him help.
Chase was disturbed and unhappy as a child, and his symptoms grew worse in adolescence. He set several small fires, frequently wet the bed, and displayed signs of cruelty toward animals.
These three habits are sometimes called the Macdonald triad, or the triad of sociopathy, proposed by psychiatrist J.M. Macdonald in 1963 as a predictor of sociopathy in a patient.
Chase’s problems grew worse when his father allegedly kicked him out of the house. Without supervision, Chase turned to alcohol and drugs, which quickly turned into substance abuse.
Psychotropic drugs exacerbated the symptoms of his illness.
Like the vampire whose moniker he would soon adopt, he became convinced on several occasions that his heart had stopped; at times, he thought he was a walking corpse.
But being occasionally dead was no reason to neglect his health; fearing that he lacked vitamin C, he reportedly pressed whole oranges to the skin of his forehead, believing that his brain would absorb the nutrients directly.
One of his strangest and most powerful delusions involved his skull: he felt that his cranial bones had split apart and begun to shift beneath his skin, changing places and jumbling like puzzle pieces. He shaved his head in an effort to monitor their movements.
Unsurprisingly, at the age of 25, Chase was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and institutionalized in 1975 to prevent him from becoming a danger to himself.
His fascination with blood earned him the nickname “Dracula” among the psychiatric hospital’s assistants, who witnessed him kill and attempt to drink the blood of several birds in an effort to stave off the effects a poison that was, he imagined, slowly turning his own blood to powder.
It was his attempt to inject himself with rabbit’s blood — which made him violently ill — that had resulted in his institutionalization.
In spite of several similar incidents, the staff believed that they had rehabilitated Chase, and he was released to live with his mother.
It was a fatal decision, as Chase’s condition wasn’t improving — he was growing worse.
Richard Chase Relapses
Though Richard Chase had been released into his mother’s care, there was nothing legally binding that forced him to stay with her. Not long after his release from the psychiatric hospital, he moved out, later saying he thought his mother was poisoning him.
He moved in to an apartment he shared with a group of young men he called friends.
But it seems they didn’t know Chase well, and when he persisted in unusual behavior — notably drug abuse that left him constantly high and a proclivity for walking around the apartment without any clothing — they asked him to leave.
Richard Chase, however, refused, and it seemed the path of least resistance to his sometime roommates to abandon the apartment and find other lodgings.
Chase was once again living on his own — a circumstance that almost always exacerbated the symptoms of his condition.
His fascination with blood resurfaced, and he began capturing and killing small animals.
He would eat them raw or blend their organs with soda and drink the mixture.
In August of 1977, Nevada police found him late one night in the Lake Tahoe area, covered in blood and carrying a bucket with a liver in the back of his pickup.
Since they determined the blood and organ belonged to a cow, not a human, they let Chase go.
Yet again, Richard Chase slipped through the cracks in systems that could have helped him and protected others.
As it was, alone, with no one to watch him or rein him in, he fell more deeply under the power of his delusions — until finally they prompted him to do the unthinkable.
The Vampire of Sacramento Begins To Kill
On December 29, 1977, Richard Chase was frustrated and lonely. His mother hadn’t allowed him to come home for Christmas, he would later recall, and he was mad.
Ambrose Griffin, a 51-year-old man who was helping his wife bring in groceries, became his first victim. While driving by their street, Chase pulled out a .22-caliber pistol and shot him in the chest.
It was the beginning of an obsession.
On January 23, 1978, Chase entered the home of Teresa Wallin, who was pregnant, through her unlocked front door.
He felt, he would say during interrogation, that an unlocked door was a kind of invitation to him, a justification for what happened next. From that time on, all his victims were people who had left their door unlocked.
Richard Chase shot Teresa Wallin three times using the same gun he used to shoot Griffin. Chase proceeded to stab her with a butcher knife before cutting out her organs and drinking her blood. He reportedly used a yogurt container as a cup.
Chase’s final murders were the most gruesome of all.
On January 27, 1978, just four days after Wallin’s murder, Chase found Evelyn Miroth’s door unlocked. Inside were her six-year-old son Jason Miroth, her 22-month-old nephew David Ferreira, and a friend named Dan Meredith.
Meredith was murdered in the hallway, dead by a gunshot wound to the head. Chase subsequently stole his car keys.
Evelyn and Jason were found in Evelyn’s bedroom. The little boy had been shot twice in the head.
Evelyn was partially cannibalized. Her stomach was cut open and she had multiple organs missing. There was also a failed attempt to remove one of her eyes, and her corpse had been sodomized.
The baby, David Ferreira, whom Evelyn Miroth had been babysitting, was missing from the scene of the crime.
The child’s decapitated corpse was found months later behind a church.
The Vampire Hunters Find Their Man
The story of what happened that night emerged during Chase’s trial.
The knock of a visitor had startled Sacramento’s Vampire Killer, who took Ferreira’s body and fled via Meredith’s stolen car.
The visitor alerted a neighbor, who then called the cops. The authorities were able to identify Chase’s prints in Miroth’s blood.
When the police searched Chase’s apartment, they found that all of his utensils were stained with blood and his fridge contained human brains.
Chase was arrested.
The sensational trial of the Vampire of Sacramento began on January 2, 1979, and lasted five months. The defense attorneys rejected the suggested death penalty on the grounds that Chase was not guilty by reason of insanity.
In the end, after five hours of deliberation, the jury took the side of the prosecution. Richard Chase, the Vampire Killer, was found guilty of six counts of murder and sentenced to death by gas chamber.
His fellow inmates, aware of his crimes, were frightened by him. They often encouraged him to kill himself.
Richard Chase did just that, stockpiling the anti-anxiety medicine he was offered by the jail’s staff until he had enough for a fatal overdose. He was found dead in his jail cell the day after Christmas in 1980.
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