Thursday, November 13, 2014


Christmas had come and gone at San Quentin Penitentiary without much celebration. A correctional officer assigned guard duty on death row greeted Richard Chase at 8:15 AM, where he found him lying on his back and breathing normally. Chase was moody at best and it wasn’t abnormal that he didn’t return the guard’s greeting. He then returned less then three hours later at 11:05 AM to check on him again. Chase was found lying on his stomach with both legs extended off his bunk and his feet on the floor. His head was turned into the mattress and his arms extended upward, into the pillow. The guard knew Chase liked to sleep with a pillow over his head, but this didn’t look right. After calling his name a few times and waiting, the guard realized Chase was not breathing. A coroner arrived and found small amounts of blood soaked into the bedsheet where Chase’s head had been. Some cardboard boxes were found next to the bed, and in them were four sheets of letter-sized paper covered in handwriting. Two pages contained some sort of a graph, the squares filled in with some sort of cryptographic code. The other two pages contained the strangest sort of suicide note. It was a rambling message in which Chase warned that he might take some pills and that his heart might stop beating. Pathologists who autopsied the body diagnosed the cause of death as toxic ingestion. They also found that his heart, despite his life-long concerns, was “of normal size, the coronary arterial tree free of sclerosis,” and all valves in good shape. The lab reports confirmed that the level of doxepin in Chase’s body exceeded the therapeutic range by thirty-six times, and was exactly twelve times greater than the drug’s toxic level. The daily packet of Chase’s antidepressant drug was found untouched in his cell, suggesting he had saved his pills for possibly as long as two or three weeks before ingesting them that morning. Chase’s prison psychiatrist had stated he was “very psychotic and had been since his arrival at San Quentin.” The psychiatrist remembered something else about his patient. “His crimes were committed around the Christmas holidays three years ago. There might well have been an anniversary phenomenon involved in the timing of his suicide.” On December 26th, 1980, Richard Chase died exactly one day short of three years after the Miroth killings. Some called his death a suicide; others continued to believe that it was accidental, and that Richard Trenton Chase had taken all of those pills in an effort to quiet the voices that had driven him to murder and that continued to torment him until he died. 
Christmas had come and gone at San Quentin Penitentiary without much celebration. A correctional officer assigned guard duty on death row greeted Richard Chase at 8:15 AM, where he found him lying on his back and breathing normally. Chase was moody at best and it wasn’t abnormal that he didn’t return the guard’s greeting. He then returned less then three hours later at 11:05 AM to check on him again. Chase was found lying on his stomach with both legs extended off his bunk and his feet on the floor. His head was turned into the mattress and his arms extended upward, into the pillow. The guard knew Chase liked to sleep with a pillow over his head, but this didn’t look right. After calling his name a few times and waiting, the guard realized Chase was not breathing. A coroner arrived and found small amounts of blood soaked into the bedsheet where Chase’s head had been. Some cardboard boxes were found next to the bed, and in them were four sheets of letter-sized paper covered in handwriting. Two pages contained some sort of a graph, the squares filled in with some sort of cryptographic code. The other two pages contained the strangest sort of suicide note. It was a rambling message in which Chase warned that he might take some pills and that his heart might stop beating. Pathologists who autopsied the body diagnosed the cause of death as toxic ingestion. They also found that his heart, despite his life-long concerns, was “of normal size, the coronary arterial tree free of sclerosis,” and all valves in good shape. The lab reports confirmed that the level of doxepin in Chase’s body exceeded the therapeutic range by thirty-six times, and was exactly twelve times greater than the drug’s toxic level. The daily packet of Chase’s antidepressant drug was found untouched in his cell, suggesting he had saved his pills for possibly as long as two or three weeks before ingesting them that morning. Chase’s prison psychiatrist had stated he was “very psychotic and had been since his arrival at San Quentin.” The psychiatrist remembered something else about his patient. “His crimes were committed around the Christmas holidays three years ago. There might well have been an anniversary phenomenon involved in the timing of his suicide.” On December 26th, 1980, Richard Chase died exactly one day short of three years after the Miroth killings. Some called his death a suicide; others continued to believe that it was accidental, and that Richard Trenton Chase had taken all of those pills in an effort to quiet the voices that had driven him to murder and that continued to torment him until he died.

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