After escaping lock-up by the military police for stealing weapons from his Marine base in Hawaii, Charles hooked up with Leonard Lake, another ex-Marine. Lake had been treated for "psychological problems" at Oakland Veterans Administration Hospital following his seven year tour of Vietnam. Together they kidnapped, tortured, raped and murdered 6 men, 3 women and 2 baby boys. Their goal was to live out Leonard's fantasy of owning a series of bunkers stocked with weapons and female sex slaves from which they would repopulate the world in case of a nuclear holocaust.
The son of a wealthy Hong Kong businessman, Charles was expelled from a number of schools for stealing. He dropped out of Notre Dame College in California in 1979 and later enlisted in the Marines, listing Bloomfield, Indiana as his place of birth.