Serial Killer: Richard Chase

Ambrose Griffin
Terry Wallin
David Meredith's tombstone
David Ferreira
Evelyn Miroth
Jason Miroth

Richard Chase, also known as “The Vampire of Sacramento,” killed six people over the course of 2 years. He mutilated the victim’s bodies, drank their blood, and ate some of their remains. Chase received a death sentence and committed suicide while incarcerated.

Richard Chase’s Childhood

On May 23, 1950, Richard Chase was born to Richard and Beatrice Chase in California. According to various reports, his father was strict and would sometimes become physical with Chase. In one incident, Richard force fed his son until he threw up. (pg. 24). His mother had periods of being indifferent. The Chase’s experienced marital problems throughout Richard’s childhood, resulting in a divorce in 1972. His father would re-marry while his mother remained single until her death in 1990.

Richard Chase in high school Source: Sacramento News

Chase attended Mira Loma High School, where he was a part of a more popular social circle. He was involved in various high school sports. People who knew him described him as being a handsome young man and dated frequently. In 1965, Chase started dating a young woman. According to The Richard Chase Murders, Chase could not keep an erection, which eventually caused his relationship to end.  

After having several failed sexual experiences, he began drinking alcohol excessively and using marijuana before moving on to heavier drugs, including LSD. In 1965, Chase was arrested for possession of marijuana. Throughout his childhood and adolescence years, he started a fixation with blood. He believed that his own blood was in danger of turning to powder, and that someone had stolen his pulmonary artery. He also struggled with delusions and conspiracy ideals such as the Nazi, FBI, and aliens were after him. These delusions would follow him into adulthood and serve as a catalyst for his destructive behavior.

Richard Chase’s Adulthood

When Chase turned 18-years-old, he sought the help of a psychiatrist due to male impotence. The psychiatrist diagnosed him with schizophrenia. Chase and his mother did not agree, so he never scheduled or attended any further appointments.

Richard Chase's first arrest Source: Vampire: The Richard Chase Murders

Chase’s mental state continued to deteriorate. On April 22, 1973, Chase attended a party, where he attempted to group a woman. Men in the bar forced him to leave. Chase returned and tried to force his way back in. A few men who were attending the party wrestled with him. Chase dropped a gun, and the police were called. Chase was arrested and let go soon after.

Over the next several years, Chase began to have delusions, believing others could control his mind. He started harming the family dog by cutting and squeezing his paws. His mother no longer wanted him to leave with her. Chase moved into his own apartment.

While living along, Chase carried out his fantasies involving blood. He began killing small animals such as rodents, birds, cats, and an occasional dog. A rabbit farm was near his family home, so went onto the farm to kill rabbits for their blood before cannibalizing them.

In April 1976, Chase injected himself with rabbit blood and developed a very severe blood infection. His father, who came to check on him, rushed him to the emergency room. Chase told the hospital staff what he had done and stated he had to drink blood because his heart was weak, causing the medical staff to involuntarily admit him to Beverly Manor Psychiatric Hospital.

While institutionalized, his behavior scared both the medical staff and other patients. They started calling him Dracula because he would catch birds through his room window, bite their heads off, and cannibalize them while also rubbing their blood into his skin.

Richard Chase's arrest mugshot from 1971 Source: Vampire: The Richard Chase Murders

The grounds keeping staff found bird carcasses on the ground underneath his window. The psychiatric team diagnosed him as paranoid schizophrenia. They started Chase on severe doses of psychotic medications, which he responded positively to. Since the medications were appearing remarkably improved, he was released to his mother, Beatrice.

His improvement would only last a short time because his mother weaned him off of his medication, believing that he didn’t need it anymore. Then she helped him secure his own apartment, including paying his monthly rent. Chase welcomed roommates, but that was short lived. He began walking around the apartment naked, in front of guests, as his mental state became more erratic. They became so nervous around him and upset by his actions, they moved out, leaving Chase alone in the apartment. Chase began hunting neighborhoods for small animals. He would kill them and use a blender to turn their organs and blood into supplemental meal shakes while also rubbing their blood into his skin.

Murder of Ambrose Griffin

In December 1977, Ambrose Griffin and his wife had just arrived at their Robertson Ave home. While bringing in groceries from their car, Ambrose was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting. It was first believed that he had dropped to the ground in his driveway as a result of a heart attack. It was later determined that he had been shot with a.22 caliber rifle.

Sacramento investigators would later discover that when Chase had returned from Nevada, he had been upset that his rifle had not been returned when he had been arrested. So, he purchased another.22 caliber firearm, which was used to murder Ambrose Griffin.

Bullet from Ambrose Griffin crime scene Source: Richard Chase's arrest mugshot from 1971 Source: Vampire: The Richard Chase Murders

Attempted Break-ins

On January 23, 1978, Chase left his home, started walking, and wound up at 2909 Burnece Street, where Jeanne Layton lived. Chase walked to the back of the house where he saw Jeanne through the window and stated, “Excuse me!” Jeanne saw Chase and called the police. Chase would sit on Jeanne’s porch for a few minutes while he debated how and if he should break in the home to kill Jeanne. He decided against it and headed down the street.

Chase walked to 2929 Burnece Street and entered the home through a window. He burglarized the home, stealing money and valuables. The family arrived home shortly after, prompting Chase to flee through the back window. The owner of the house ran after Chase but eventually lost him.

Chase went home, changed his jacket, and headed to a nearby Pantry Market. While at Pantry Market, he bumped into a woman he recognized and tried to strike a conversation with her. The woman got in her car and drove away when Chase almost grabbed the passenger door handle. The woman drove away.

Murder of Terry Wallin

Later in the day on January 23, 1978, Richard Chase entered the home of David, 24, and Terry Wallin, 22, through an unlocked backdoor. Terry, 3 months pregnant, had been taking out the trash when Chase had surprised her in the back hallway of the home. Chase killed Terry by shooting her three times. Then he had sex with her body post-mortem (necrophilia) while repeatedly stabbing her. He slit open her torso and her spleen and parts of her pancreas. Chase also cut up parts of her stomach, intestines, and kidneys. He cut off a part of her lung and removed her left nipple after he stabbed her in the chest. After he mutilated Terry, Chase got dog feces from the backyard and placed it in her mouth. Her husband David discovered her body later that day when returned home from work. While processing the scene, investigators noticed a bloody yogurt cup next to her body and several ring impressions on the wood floor. They determined Chase had removed a discarded yogurt container from the trash bag that Terry had been carrying and used it to drink her blood.

Very early in their investigation, local police contacted FBI profiler, Robert Ressler, a member of the FBI’s behavioral science unit, which had just been established. Using profiling techniques, he had recently learned, Ressler put together a profile to aid investigators in finding the perpetrator. One of Ressler’s colleagues, Russ Vorpagel, rendered a sketch of what a probable suspect would look like. Investigators would learn later that Ressler’s profile and Vorpagel’s sketch were nearly one hundred percent accurate.

The Owen’s Dogs

On January 26, 1978, Chase wound up walking to the Owen’s home, where he had previously purchased two puppies. Chase broke into the house and killed the Labrador and disemboweled him. He would remove the dog’s kidneys and drank some of his blood.

Blood rings where the yogurt cup was placed Source: Documenting Reality

The Murders of Evelyn & Jason Miroth, Daniel Meredith, & David Ferreira

On January 27, 1978, just four days after the Wallin murder, Richard Chase committed his next murders.

A neighbor of Evelyn Miroth, 38, had invited her 5-year-old son, Jason, to go sleigh riding with her family. Evelyn was concerned that Jason’s winter boots wouldn’t be warm enough, so the boyfriend, Daniel Meredith, 52, had offered to take Jason for a quick trip to the store to pick up warmer boots.

While they were gone, Chase entered the home and shot and killed Evelyn. The noise startled Miroth’s 22-month-old nephew, David Ferreira, who had been napping in his crib. Chase shot and killed David. Chase would bring the toddler’s body to the bathtub, where he cut out a piece of his brain.

Daniel and Jason returned from the store. When they entered the house, Chase shot and killed both.

Chase returned to Evelyn’s body. He took off her clothes, then raped and sodomized her remains. The autopsy report would reveal Chase severely mutilated and desecrated her remains. He cut a cross into her stomach, disemboweled her, and pulled part of her stomach and intestines out of the wound. He sodomized her with a knife, stabbed her neck, and pulled her right eyeball out of the socket.

At some point, there was a knock on the door, which prompted Chase to leave. He stole Meredith’s wallet and keys. Chase defecated in David’s crib and took the toddler’s body with him. Chase returned to his apartment, decapitated David, and drank some of his blood. He also ate a portion of his brain. Police would dump David’s remains behind a dumpster near his apartment.

A neighbor discovered the family and notified the police. Once on scene, investigators determined they were dealing with the same perpetrator as the Terry Wallin case.  

The Apprehension of Richard Chase

The sketch that FBI profiler, Russ Vorgagel had created, had been circulated to all area police departments. By coincidence, the daughter of a detective noticed the copy in her father’s police car and stated that it looked like Richard Chase, a guy that she had gone to high school with. Following the tip, investigators went to Chase’s last known address. Chase refused to answer the door. When Chase thought the police had left, he attempted to escape. Police instantly apprehended. Police found Meredith’s wallet, vehicle keys, bloody rags in Chase’s coat pocket, and a.22 caliber handgun that Chase had strapped to his chest.

Approximately four months later, the body of 22-month-old David Ferreira was behind an enclosed dumpster area of a church that was less than a mile from Chase’s apartment. His head and body had been placed in a cardboard box. Meredith’s car keys were also in the box.

Richard Chase’s Apartment

Police entered Chase’s apartment to find blood on every single surface, including the couch. The kitchen was covered in blood. In the kitchen, police found a blender that contained what a mixture of organs, blood, and a soft drink. There was blood, brain matter, and organs stored in containers in his refrigerator. Detectives also found brain matter and blood soaking Chase’s bed. Chase also had a wall calendar with 44 future notations of possible planned attacks. On the walls of his apartment were pictures of internal organs.

The Arrest & Trial of Richard Chase

Investigators learn nothing from their interrogation of Chase. The only comment that he made was that Irish Setter (dog) was his favorite. He then asked for an attorney. Later, Chase would confess to also killing Ambrose Griffin, in a fit of rage caused by his mother not allowing him to visit her at Christmas.

Richard Chase’s trial began on January 2, 1979. His legal team’s defense was “not guilty by reason of insanity.” The prosecutors stated he was sane enough to understand what he was doing, which the court agreed with. The trial consisted of five months of testimony. After five hours of deliberation, the jury found Richard Chase guilty of six counts of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to death in the gas chamber. While awaiting his execution day, on death row at San Quentin State Prison, CA, Richard Chase committed suicide by overdose on December 26, 1980. He was 30 years old. His means of overdosing was due to his hoarding of his prison prescribed medication. It was later learned that Chase’s fellow inmates had taunted him and encouraged him to commit suicide. He was buried in the San Quentin Prison Cemetery in San Rafael, Marin County, CaliforniaP3

The Aftermath

The case of Richard Chase has been covered extensively over the years. Books, movies, news reports, articles, and blogs have detailed his crimes. He has been one of the most studied serial killers in history, not only by amateur sleuths but also by government and academic organizations. FBI profiler Robert Ressler talked about the case in a book entitled Whoever Fights Monsters. A notable recount from Ressler and his first introduction to the case can be found here.

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