Richard Ramirez, born February 29, 1960, was a burglar, rapist, and eventually, a serial killer. From June of 1984 to August of 1985, Ramirez invaded homes, murdered those inside, and terrorized the LA and San Francisco area. The media dubbed him "The Night Stalker".
Ramirez killed with guns, knives, machetes, a tire iron, or a hammer. A self-proclaimed Satanist, he never expressed any remorse for his crimes, and the judge who upheld his sentence believed him to be one of the most vicious humans he had ever met.
Ramirez had a super creepy childhood that almost certainly explains why he ended up being one of the most notorious serial killers in American history.
CHILDHOOD AND ADOLESCENCE: THE MAKING OF A SERIAL KILLER
Ramirez was born in El Paso, Texas, the youngest of 5 children. Surprise! His father abused him.
As a 12-year-old, Ramirez's older cousin Miguel, who was a decorated U.S. Army combat veteran, who shared his gruesome stories of the Vietnam War. But beyond the gory war stories, he shared Polaroid images of his non-war related exploits: The Vietnamese women he raped. He even shared a photo (with his TWELVE YEAR OLD COUSIN) of him posing with the severed head of a woman he abused and raped.
And as any normal 12-year-old does with his cousin, he began smoking marijuana, learning military skills such as stealthy killing, and sleeping in a cemetery to avoid his father's rage.
As if using drugs and hearing about and seeing images of gruesome war anecdotes and violent rapes wasn't enough, when he was 13, he witnessed an argument between his beloved rapist cousin and his wife, where he pulled out a gun and shot her in the face, killing her. The perfect event for a child to witness.
Unsurprisingly, after this event, he became withdrawn. He didn't speak much to friends or family and had a sullen attitude most of the time. He moved in with his sister, Ruth, and her husband Roberto who was a completely normal man. Oh wait, no, he was an "obsessive peeping Tom" who took his 13-year-old nephew on him during his midnight creep exploits. Around this time, Ramirez began using LSD and became interested in Satanism.
Mike, his cousin, was released from prison in 1977 for murdering his wife, as he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He had spent the 4 years since the murder in the Texas State Mental Hospital. Once out, he was able to continue influencing Ramirez.
As a teen, Ramirez's terrible childhood with terrible influences showed itself as he began to fantasize about sexual violence, including forced bondage and rape. At his job at a local hotel, he used his master key to rob sleeping patrons, and also attempt the rape their wives. He was fired after a hotel guest returned to his room and witnessed Ramirez try to rape his wife. He beat the shit out of Ramirez, but charges were dropped when the couple refused to return to the state to testify against them.
Ramirez barely made it to high school, dropping out during his 9th grade year. There is not much information about him between 9th grade and the age of 22, but when he turned 22, he moved to California to begin his life of murder.
MURDERS, & THE BIRTH OF THE NIGHT STALKER
On April 10, 1984, Ramirez murdered a 9-year-old girl named Mei Leung in the basement of the hotel he was living in, in San Francisco. He raped and beat her before ultimately stabbing her to death and hanging her body from a pipe. Though this was his first murder, it was not considered connected to his later crime spree, as the DNA was not matched to the crime scene until 2009.
A few months later on June 28, a 79-year-old woman named Jennie Vincow was found murdered in her apartment, Ramirez's fingerprint left behind showing that he had removed the screen to crawl into her window.
Both of those murders took place in 1984, and neither brought anyone to believe a serial killer was on the loose. That changed on March 17, 1985, 35 years ago today.
On March 17, 1985 Ramirez attacked a 22-year-old woman named Maria Hernandez outside of her home, shooting her in the face after she pulled into her garage. She survived, miraculously, by lifting her hands to protect her, and the bullet ricocheted off of the keys. Inside, Maria's roommate Dayle heard the gunshot and saw Ramirez in the kitchen. She raised her head to look at the situation, and he shot her in the forehead, killing her instantly.
Within 1 hour, he pulled a 30-year-old woman named Tsai-Lian Yu out of her car and shot her. Now that he had killed 2 people in one day, and attempted to kill 3, the media was on the story. With a description from Hernandez, they got an idea of what he looked like and at that point, dubbed him "The Walk-in Killer".
His crimes only got more brutal from that night. On March 27, he entered a home that he had broken into before, awaking the sleeping husband, Vincent Zazzara, with a gunshot to the head. His wife was beaten and bound as he ravaged the house for valuables. Maxine, the wife, grabbed a shotgun from under the couple's bed, but it was not loaded. In his anger, he shot her 3 times, and got a knife to mutilate her body, stabbing her several times and gouging her eyes out. The coroner was able to determine that all of the mutilation was done after she had died. The bodies of the Zazzara couple were found by their son.
On May 14, he entered the home of the Doi's, 66-year-old Bill and his disabled wife, Lillian. He shot Bill in the face as he reached for his own gun, who survived the initial attack but died later in the hospital. He handcuffed Lillian and raped her after stealing the couple's valuables.
2 weeks later, he stole a car and drove to Monrovia, California, where he broke into the home of sisters Ma Bell, who was 83, and Nettie Lang, who was 81. He used a hammer he found in the kitchen to bludgeon Ma, and then used an electrical cord to shock her. He raped Nettie and drew a pentagram on her thigh, and on both bedroom walls, with lipstick. Both women were found alive but unconscious the next day, but Ma later died of her injuries.
The next day, he broke into the home of Carol Kyle, age 42, and held her and her 11-year-old son at gunpoint while ransacking the house. He sodomized Carole. He bound the 2 together with handcuffs and left the house.
On July 2, he drove yet another stolen car to the home of 75-year-old Mary Louise Cannon, he bludgeoned her with a lamp and stabbed her with a knife from her kitchen. The widowed grandmother was found dead at the crime scene.
A little bit over a month later on July 5, he bludgeoned a 16-year-old girl named Whitney Bennett with a tire iron as she slept. He could not find a knife, so he attempted to strangle her with a telephone cord. When sparks emanated from the cord, he believed that Jesus Christ had intervened to save her, and he ran from the house. After 478 stitches, Bennett survived.
2 days later, he broke into the home of 61-year-old Lucille Nelson, beating her to death punches and kicks. He cruised around and found the home of a 63-year-old woman, Sophie Dickman, who he assaulted and attempted to rape. He left her after she "swore on Satan" that she had allowed him to take everything of value.
On July 20th, he broke into the home of the Kneiding couple, both aged 68, and hacked them with a machete and killed them with gunshots to the head. He mutilated their valuables, mutilated their bodies and left. While driving around through the night and into the morning, he broke into the house of the Khovanath's, where he killed the sleeping husband immediately, and raped and sodomized the wife. Their 8-year-old son watched as he raped and dragged his mother around looking for valuables.
On August 6th, Ramirez broke into the home of Chris ad Virginia Peterson. Though he shot both of them, Chris fought back and Ramirez ran away. They both survived their injuries.
2 days later, Ramirez drove another stolen car (it seems that stealing cars is not very hard?) to Diamond Bar, California, where he broke into the home of the young Abowath couple, killing the husband Elyas immediately, and handcuffing the wife Sakina while being forced to reveal the location of the valuables, while raping and sodomizing her, forcing her to "swear on Satan" that she wouldn't scream. The couple's 3-year-old son came into the room, and he tied him up and continued to rape Sakina. He eventually left, leaving mother and son alive.
Around this time, Ramirez left the Los Angeles area to head to San Francisco, as the media coverage of his crimes was extensive. But his road trip did not stop him from committing more murders, rapes and burglaries.
On August 18, he went into the Pan household, killing husband Peter (yes, Peter Pan, let's move on) and raping and killing wife Barbara. He used lipstick to draw pentagrams on the walls in the bedroom.
At this crime scene, the shoe prints left behind and the ballistics matched other scenes from LA, and then-mayor of San Francisco gave out the information during a press conference, infuriating detectives who new the killer would be watching. He was, and he dropped his shoes over thes side of the Golden Gate Bridge right away.
On August 24, he moved south of LA in yet another stolen car, and headed to the home of James Romero, Jr. Romero's 13-year-old son James Romero III was awake and heard footsteps outside. He went to wake his parents, and Ramirez fled the scene, but not before the family noted the color, make, style, and partial license plate of the car. The police assumed they had just chased off a common thief.
This did not stop Ramirez from committing his crimes. He broke into the home of Bill Carns, 30, and his fiancee, 29-year-old Inez Erickson, shooting Bill in the head 3 times and raping and sodomizing Inez. He told her to tell them "the Night Stalker was here" before leaving. Bill survived his injuries. (It appears gunshot wounds to the head are more survivable than I had previously thought.)
Inez was able to give a detailed description of Ramirez, and police were able to get a fingerprint from his stolen car. They were able to use the fingerprint to match Richard Ramirez, a Texas drifter with a long rap sheet. His image was everywhere, and the police knew who he was.
CAPTURE, TRIAL & CONVICTION
On August 30, 1985, Ramirez took a bus to Tuscon to see his brother, but despite following the media for most of his spree, did not know his face was on the cover of nearly every newspaper and TV program across California. His brother didn't show, and so he returned to LA on August 31. He walked past police officers who were staking out the bus stop, hoping to catch him trying to flee.
A few elderly Mexican women started yelling, calling him "El Matador" or "the Killer", and Ramirez saw his face on the front page of the newspapers nearby. He ran in a panic and tried to carjack a woman, but bystanders chased and pursued him until he was caught and subdued by a group of residents. They beat him until the police arrived and took him into custody.
At his first court appearance, he raised his hand with a pentagram drawn on it and yelled "Hail Satan", obviously trying to prove to the jury how normal and not psychopathic he was. On August 14, the trial was interrupted because one of the jurors didn't show. She was found dead in her home, terrifying all of the jurors on the case who believed that Ramirez had someone on the outside who could kill them. However, it was determined that she was shot and killed by her husband, who later
On September 20, 1989, Ramirez was convicted of 13 counts of murder, 5 attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries. He was sentenced to die in California's gas chamber.
His words after the death sentence were as follows: "Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland."
Ramirez got himself some fans because people are terrible, and he had a long time girlfriend starting in 1985 by the name of Doreen Lioy, who wrote him 75 letters. They married in prison, and she had planned to commit suicide after he was executed, but she ended up leaving him. Wonder why.
He scored 31/40 on Hare's psychopathy checklist, making him a primary psychopath, but it is believed he leaned more towards sociopathy. He also had antisocial personality disorder, and was a sadist with schizoid traits.
He died of secondary B-Cell lymphoma on June 7, 2013 while in his 23rd year on death row.