Richard Trenton Chase had a thing for blood. He also had a fear of disintegrating.
Born May 23, 1950, he liked to set fires as a child and to torment animals. He had a sister, four years younger, and his father was a strict disciplinarian who bickered constantly with his wife. By the time Richard was ten, he was killing cats. As a teenager, he drank and smoked dope, getting into trouble several times but showing no shame over it
He dated several girls, one of whom reported that “Rick” was unable to perform sexually because he could not keep an erection. This problem bothered him and when he was eighteen, he went to see a psychiatrist. He learned that a root cause of impotence was repressed anger. The psychiatrist also thought he might be suffering from a major mental illness, but did not suggest he be committed.
After he moved out of his parents’ home, he went through a series of roommates, many of whom reported his bizarre behavior and heavy drug use. Even the few friends he had considered him weird. Once he nailed shut his bedroom closet door because “people” were invading his space from in there.
Mug shot of Richard Chase in 1971 when arrested for marijuana possession
He was preoccupied with any sign that something was wrong with him, which held true throughout his adult life, and he once entered an emergency room looking for the person who had stolen his pulmonary artery. He also complained that the bones were coming out through the back of his head, that his stomach was backwards, and that his heart often stopped beating. Another psychiatrist diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic, but thought he might actually be suffering from a drug-induced toxic psychosis. He was put under observation for 72 hours, and it was recommended that he stay but he was allowed to leave whenever he wanted without obtaining permission. Eventually he was released.
His life grew increasingly slovenly, and he submersed into hypochondria and drug abuse. He was five foot eleven and weighed only 145 pounds. He lived with his mother for awhile, now divorced, but believed he was being poisoned. His father made him move out and got him an apartment.
Chase soon began to kill and disembowel rabbits that he either caught or bought, and to eat their entrails raw. Sometimes he would put the intestines with the animal’s blood into a blender, liquefy them, and drink this concoction in an effort to keep his heart from shrinking to the point of disappearing from his body. He once injected rabbit blood into his veins and got very ill. He believed this rabbit had ingested battery acid that had seeped into his stomach, but in fact he had a bad case of blood poisoning.
Finally he was committed as a schizophrenic suffering from somatic delusions. The doctors tried anti-psychotic medications, which failed to work, indicating that his psychosis may have been precipitated by his drug abuse. In 1976, he escaped and showed up at his mother’s house. He was returned to the hospital, ending up at Beverly Manor, a facility for mental patients, where he earned the nickname, “Dracula.” He often spoke about killing rabbits and one day he was found with blood around his mouth. Two dead birds, their necks broken, lay outside his window. The classic “Renfield Syndrome.”
Eventually he was released and deemed no longer a danger to anyone. That’s what they believed, anyway. His parents were granted a conservatorship, renewed annually, and his mother paid his rent and shopped for his groceries.
Chase moved into another apartment and began to catch and torture cats, dogs, and rabbits. He killed them to drink their blood. Sometimes he stole neighborhood pets, and he once even called a family whose dog was missing to tell them what he had done to the animal. He bought guns and started to practice with them.
Although he was on psychiatric medication, he remained unsupervised. His mother weaned him from the medications herself, deciding that he did not really need them. In 1977, the court-awarded conservatorship expired, and his parents did nothing to renew it, leaving Chase on his own.
One day he paid his mother a visit. She heard a loud noise and opened the door to see her son holding a dead cat. He threw the animal to the ground and tore it open, smearing the blood all over his face and neck. His mother failed to act and never reported the incident.
On August 3 that same year, police officers found Chase’s Ford Ranchero stuck in sand near Pyramid Lake in Nevada. Two rifles lay on the seat, along with a pile of men’s clothing. Blood smears on the inside and a blood-filled white plastic bucket containing a liver made them suspicious. When they spotted Chase through binoculars, he was nude and covered in blood. He saw them and ran, but they caught up with him and took him back to his pick-up. He claimed that the blood was his. It had “seeped out” of him. The liver, it turned out, was from a cow.
Chase soon became a fan of the Hillside Strangler, operating not far away, and he avidly read the newspaper articles about the killings. He had guns, he had a fear of other people, and he had no sense of boundaries-a lethal combination even without his weird blood fantasies.
Soon he grew bolder.
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