Richard Chase was a serial killer who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and killed a total of six people, two of them young children over the course of a month. He was called the “Vampire of Sacramento” because he drank two of the victims’ blood in addition to drinking the blood of animals he had killed. He was apprehended by police a day later and taken into custody. He was found guilty on six counts of murder and ultimately committed suicide in prison. Throughout his life, he exhibited multiple signs of severe mental illness and was treated by several doctors and placed in institutions several times. He was treated and released despite his worsening behaviors.
Chase was born in 1950 in Santa Clara, California. It is reported that he was physically abused by his father and/or mother. By his teenage years he became alcoholic and began using drugs, especially marijuana. It is also reported that he started fires and mutilated animals during these years. He did poorly in high school but managed to get accepted to college. He saw a psychiatrist at age 18 due to his erectile dysfunction. The doctor suggested that the erectile dysfunction was a result of suppressed anger, he noted that there could be more issues but further treatment was not sought. At this time, Chase was living with two roommates who thought his behavior was becoming increasingly bizarre, as was his drug use and drinking. The requested that he move out. When he refused, they moved out instead (Storey, Streiter, Tarr & Thorton 2005).
Between 1972 and 1973, Chase went on trip to Utah where he was arrested for a traffic violation. At a party, he fondled a girl and refused to leave. The police were called to escort him out. A gun fell from his person and the police arrested him. His father bailed him out. He moved to Los Angeles to live with his grandmother. After a few months she sent him home due to his bizarre behavior. He began to exhibit what some thought was hypochondria. He complained of headaches and heart problems. In a hospital he told the doctors that someone had stolen his pulmonary artery. The doctors admitted him to the psychiatric unit but his mother signed him out. He lived with his mother for the time who believed that his bizarre behavior was due to drug and alcohol abuse. He moved out but in 1976 was hospitalized again. He had injected himself with rabbit blood. During this time he was killing and mutilating small animals and dog. He would bleed them to drink their blood. He also would eat parts of them and make “smoothies”. He later told doctors he was doing this to remain alive because someone was trying to steal his heart or poison his food (Storey et al 2005).
He was committed again but escaped. He was apprehended at his mother’s and sent to American River Hospital for long term treatment of schizophrenia. The staff began to refer to him as "Dracula" or a “vampire” because of the dead birds that were found outside his window. After treatment he was released again. He went on trip to Washington State. In Nevada his truck was found with a bucket of blood and a cow’s liver. He was released (Storey et al 2005).
He purchases a .22 caliber gun and is forced to wait until December 28, 1977 to pick it up. He kills his first victim, a 51 year old man in a drive by shooting. He continues to kidnap and kill puppies. He begins to try entering homes. He later told police that if the door was locked he was not welcome. If the door was unlocked, that was a sign of welcome. His next victim was a 22 year old woman who is 3 months pregnant. He shoots her, performs sex acts on the body, bleeds her and removes her intestines. Evidence of her blood and intestines are later found in his apartment. Four days later, he enters a home where he kills a 38 year old woman, her 6 year old son, her boyfriend and her 2 year old nephew. He mutilates the woman’s body as he had previously done so and took the two year old’s body with him. He was arrested the next day (Storey et al 2005).
His apartment and person were filthy and covered in blood and pieces of bodies. The young boy’s brains were found in a Tupperware container. He was convicted of the six murders despite the attempt to plead insanity. His interviews with authorities and psychiatrists were disturbing. He claimed that UFOs that were under the direction of Nazis as was he. His prison mates were afraid of him and tried to convince him to kill himself. He committed suicide by overdosing on his antidepressants in December of 1979 (Storey et al 2005).
According to Vazquez (2013), there are two general types of serial killer: organized and disorganized. Chase is a classic example of the disorganized type. Disorganized serial killers are considered Psychotic Personality according to the DSM IV. They do not have social relationships due to their erratic and bizarre behaviors. They often suffer from hallucinations, delusions, unusual speech and inappropriate responses to normal social interactions. Chase exhibited all of the characteristics throughout his adult life. The crimes are not planned but spontaneous. The killer sees an opportunity and seizes it. Sex occurs only after the murder. The crime scene is sloppy and disorganized. In addition the bodies, the weapon and other evidence are all left behind (Vazquez 2013).
Vazquez (2013) notes that Chase exhibited signs of the triad introduced by V.J. Geberth, a criminal investigator. The triad consists of three behaviors that might indicate a developing serial killer: animal mutilation and killing; bed wetting after the age of five and setting fires. Vazquez maintains that research on the triad of behaviors is not conclusive, but most serial killers have admitted to one, two or all three of these behaviors as children. There is evidence that Chase exhibited all three behaviors. He continued to wet the bed up until the age of ten. He began hurting, killing and mutilating small animals as a child and continued this practice throughout his life. He also reportedly set several small fires early in adolescence (Vazquez 2013).
According to the DSM V, the manual for the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders, Schizophrenia is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized speech. Chase admitted to or was observed by several professionals exhibiting these characteristics. His fear of dying from heart problems and the need to ingest the blood or flesh of animals and later humans was a repeated delusion of Chase’s. When he was admitted to the hospital the first time, he told the staff his artery had been stolen. He also was incapable of initiating or maintaining social relationships and the disorder made it impossible for him to obtain employment. His only roommates in his college days and even his parents and grandmother had asked him to move out because of his disturbing behavior. He was on welfare most of his adult life or received financial assistance from his parents (American Psychiatric Association 2014).
Psychiatrists had prescribed anti-schizophrenic medication when he was hospitalized and he showed improvement. Once he was released to his mother, however, she weaned him off the drugs thinking they were the cause of his behavior. She likened them to the alcohol and marijuana he used. Chase also showed the symptoms of Schizotypal disorder. He often made incorrect interpretations of casual events. In the case of the unlocked doors of his victims. He only entered homes and apartments where the doors were unlocked because he considered that and “invitation” to come in. He was unable to maintain relationships socially and with family members. He definitely had very unusual ideas about his body as well. His illnesses and fear of poisoning was why he claims to have mutilated and eaten animals. Eventually he transferred this behavior to humans (American Psychiatric Association 2014).
Richard Chase is not considered the typical serial killer. His crimes were due to opportunity and worsening mental illness. Schizophrenia and Schizotypal disorder were his obvious psychiatric problems. Despite treatment, he was always released and never continued his medication or follow up care. His parents misunderstood his illness and shied away from society as he became worse, culminating in the murders of six innocent people.
American Psychiatric Association (2014). DSM-5 Development. Retrieved from:
Storey, A., Streiter, C., Tarr, C., & Thorton, K. (2005). Richard Trenton Chase, “Vampire
Killer”. Department of Psychology, Radford University. Retrieved from: http://maamodt.
Vazquez, S. (2013). Serial killers: Capital punishment for the most evil crimes. Saint Peter’s