What happens when the brutality of a crime is beyond the realm of imagination? Such was the dilemma facing Lt. Ray Biondi in 1978 when he investigated the scene of Teresa Wallin’s murder. Nothing—not even his veteran expertise—could have prepared Biondi for the depravities committed by “Vampire Killer” Richard Chase. Wallin was Chase's second known victim, but the first that bore the hallmarks of his gruesome handiwork: Body mutilated; organs removed; blood drained and consumed.
Chase was a schizophrenic, a severe hypochondriac, and no stranger to murder. He killed and gutted animals, mixing their innards with Coca-Cola under the delusion it would cure his pulmonary ailments. In December of 1977, he shot 51-year-old Ambrose Griffin before robbing several homes in the Sacramento area. He escalated quickly and radically: By the end of January 1978, Chase had killed six people—his final victims being murdered within days of each other. In A Thirst for Blood, former detective Lt. Ray Biondi and journalist Walt Hecox examine the crimes of a terrifying killer.
Read on for an excerpt from A Thirst for Blood, and then download the book.
In the first block of houses adjacent to Town and Country Village, Patricia Eastwick, of 2371 Tioga Way, saw the bedraggled man wearing an orange jacket walking down her street around noontime.
She was fascinated by his progress because he made a point of veering to the porch of a house across the street and crossing in front of the living room window. The house was of particular interest to Eastwick because her brother-in-law lived there.
He was sitting in his living room at the time and noticed the stranger’s approach.
When her brother-in-law came out of his house Eastwick waved to him.
“He walked right across my porch,” her brother-in-law shouted, more in surprise than anger.
“I know,” she replied, shaking her head.
The interloper was now heading down the street.
What was his story, Patricia Eastwick wondered, and just what in the world was he looking for?
A short distance down the street Richard Chase suddenly turned and headed toward the front door of 2360 Tioga Way—like its neighbors, a modest 1950s tract house.
Why he picked this house on this block none of us ever learned. There was a blue van parked in the driveway, signifying the definite possibility that someone was home. So clearly a daylight burglary was no longer his motive. No, Richard Chase was about to “progress” in his crimes.
Possibly he had noticed, through a window, the young woman alone in her home. Or—as we would later learn—Teresa Wallin, twenty-two, had gone to the Pantry Market an hour earlier to cash a ten-dollar check. Maybe he had spotted the brunette at the store or on her way home, after Nancy Holden had left him in the parking lot.
Chase slipped a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun from a leather shoulder holster that was under his jacket as he moved up the porch.
When he reached the door he cocked the gun, ejecting a bullet. He coolly dropped it into the “mailbox. Then, with his free hand, he reached for the doorknob.
The door was unlocked.
Blue-eyed Teresa Wallin had shoulder-length chestnut hair that she parted in the middle. Carrying a nicely proportioned 120 pounds on her five-foot, five-inch frame, this attractive woman’s most remarkable feature, friends and loved ones concurred, was her smile. It epitomized, all agreed, her guileless charm and sweetness.
She loved her new home and took pride in keeping a neat house. Three bedrooms were really too many for her and her husband David, but they had plans.
As usual, things were tidy inside 2630 Tioga Way. One of the first things the lady of the house did each morning after washing the breakfast dishes was to make the king-size water bed in the master bedroom—no easy chore. But she attended to that, as she did most everything, with a carefree determination.
Teresa Wallin was crazy in love with her husband and with life. She was infectiously happy—right up to the moment that the front door of her house flew open, revealing an armed man in the doorway.
Those of us who later entered the house and saw her death’s-head expression frozen in abject horror would agree that Teresa Wallin knew in those final seconds that she was about to die. She knew, and she fought it.
She had left the kitchen with a sack of garbage and was headed toward the front door. That was the easiest route to the garbage can. In another second or two she would have been at the door. Maybe, seeing the stranger on the porch, she could have slipped the lock in time. Or she could have run outside for help. But it was not to be.
She did not always lock the door when she was home alone during the day. It didn’t seem a vital thing to do, since they lived in a nice neighborhood. But then—without warning—the intruder was in the open doorway.
She stopped in her tracks, dropping the garbage as Richard Chase slammed the door behind him.
When he raised the gun and aimed it at her she brought her hands up defensively. He capped two rounds. One entered the palm of her right hand, traversed up her forearm, and exited at her elbow. Continuing its spiraling but slowed ascent, the bullet nicked her neck. The other slug tore at full velocity through the topmost portion of her skull, entering on one side and exiting on the other.
She collapsed to the floor.
Chase rushed to her, knelt down, and held his smoking weapon less than six inches from her left temple.
It was the coup de grace.
The killer reholstered his weapon and settled down to his task. He picked up her shoulders and dragged her to a bedroom. Dark bloodstains followed him down the hall. He left his victim for a moment and moved into the kitchen. He found what he wanted in a silverware drawer near the sink. He also picked up an empty yogurt cup from the spilled trash on the living room floor.
Then he returned to the bedroom.
He still had a lot of work to do.
David and Teresa Wallin had been married two and a half years, long enough to have settled into a fairly regular routine. Two evenings every week were set aside for bowling together. They had developed friendships with several other young married couples who had blended into an informal social group. Until Teresa took her new job with the state she had attended exercise classes with a girlfriend on Monday and Wednesday evenings.
David Wallin awoke at the crack of dawn on January 23, rose, and tiptoed around the house. It was Teresa’s day off from her new job, and he knew she wanted to sleep late. He left the house at 7:45 and arrived at the linen company where he worked at five minutes to eight.
Employed as a delivery driver for a Sacramento linen company, on that morning he was to begin training a new driver. Together they were scheduled to make a run over the Sierra Nevada to Lake Tahoe.
It was a little before noon by the time they had the panel truck loaded. They drove toward Interstate 80 to start the haul over the mountains, but they didn’t get far. They stalled in a service station at Auburn Boulevard and Fulton Avenue, just down the street from the Wallin house. A maintenance mechanic joined them, worked on the truck, told them everything would be all right, and left. But everything was not all right, and after the first steep grade up Interstate 80 the truck quit again. They were just outside the town of Newcastle at about the thousand-foot elevation. Luckily, a pay phone was nearby.
Once again Wallin called for help. The same maintenance man eventually showed up, bypassed the truck’s electrical system, and got the engine started. The mechanic told Wallin the truck would not run very far, and he’d better head back for the barn. It was five o’clock by the time Wallin and his companion returned to the linen company, with their truck still fully loaded. They had traveled a little less than sixty miles round trip. It had been a bad day. They followed the company drivers’ time-honored tradition and headed for Slick Willy’s Bar at Fulton and Cottage avenues for a pitcher of beer. Then they each went home.
David Wallin parked his car in the driveway, next to the van. He got out and headed for the house, picking up the newspaper on the porch. The front door was unlocked. He opened it.
The house was dark, and that was not normal. He flipped on the light.
Shutting the door behind him, he noticed the bag of spilled garbage on the floor. That was strange, he thought. Very unlike Teresa.
Incongruously, the stereo was playing.
Brutus, the Wallin’s full-grown German shepherd, was waiting just beyond the threshold, but Teresa was not.
That, too, was strange.
David shut the door behind him and called out for Teresa. As he did he flipped the light on and saw what he took for oil on the rug. There were more “oil” spots on the carpet, and a trail leading to the back of the house. Curious and concerned, he followed them down the shadowy hallway toward the master bedroom. The trail ended there.
The scene was cruel, horrible, unmerciful.
Later that day the complexions of veteran homicide investigators would turn ashen when they looked at the sight on the floor of the master bedroom.
It was then Wallin began screaming. The sound climbed across the scale, carrying a message of grief that rocked the neighborhood. People looked out their windows, and some even stepped outside.
There was no need for him to touch his dear Teresa.
She was dead.
Her eyes were open. They were no longer the sparkling, loving windows that had, just that morning, opened the world to his wife’s kind soul. Now they stared upward with a terror that was unimaginable.
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All photos are courtesy of Lt. Ray Biondi and and Walt Hecox