Richard Ramirez, The Night Stalker Explained

Richard Ramirez did not see the gathering of police officers on the street or the stacks of newspapers on the racks outside a grocery store in Los Angeles in August 1985. He didn’t know the face on the front of these publications was his own until he peered out the window and saw a group of elderly people pointing at him frantically while speaking with a police officer. Ramirez ran as fast as he could.

This would be the last time that Ramirez would flee.

Seven police cruisers and a chopper followed Ramirez through the streets and alleyways of Los Angeles in the subsequent manhunt. Ultimately, a group of onlookers cornered Ramirez, seized him, and beat him with a metal pipe. Richard Ramirez praised the cops for apprehending him when they finally caught up with him.

The Night Stalker, a ruthless serial murderer and rapist who had plagued Los Angeles communities for almost a year, had just been apprehended after a spectacular chase with an even more thrilling finale.

Richard Ramirez, called Night Stalker by local news media, had been on the loose for 14 months until he was apprehended. During this period, he assassinated 13 individuals, attempted to murder five others, and assaulted a large number of others. He was also charged with burglary and petty theft in addition to his violent offences. His existence as a criminal started when he was just 13 years old, despite the fact that his killings barely spanned a year.

Richard Ramirez grew up in the Texas city of El Paso. His father was reported to have assaulted him frequently. According to records Ramirez  even sustained two significant brain injuries, which resulted in his having recurrent epileptic seizures. Ramirez began conversing with his elder cousin Miguel, a distinguished Vietnam soldier, to get away from his harsh father.

Miguel’s impact, however, would not be much different than that of his dad. Miguel had acquired a tendency of tormenting women during his time in Vietnam. Miguel frequently showed Ramirez images of the women’s ordeals, including one in which he posed with one of the women’s dismembered heads. Miguel afterwards shot and killed his own spouse in front of the 13-year-old.

Richard Ramirez went from being a scared, tortured youngster to a jaded, angry man after the shooting. He started using LSD and became interested in Satanism, which he continued to pursue throughout his lifetime.

Miguel, who was still under the spell of his violent elder cousin, was judged not guilty of the crime and served just four years in a mental institution before being freed. Ramirez became obsessed with the same type of sexual brutality that Miguel had perpetrated on Vietnamese women.

Shortly after, Richard Ramirez’s sexual infatuation became more intense. Ramirez was detained for attempting to rape a woman. When the lady declined to testify against him, the charges were dismissed, but the harm had already been done. Ramirez had gained a sense of depravity and was aggressively pursuing his perverted desires.

Evolving to a Killer.

Ramirez had discovered his evolution from pervert to full homicidal maniac on June 28, 1984, in the shape of 79-year-old Jennie Vincow. Authorities discovered the woman’s body in her bed, severely raped and with her neck nearly severed. Her home had been broken into, and missing goods had been discovered. It would take a few months for Richard Ramirez to strike again after the Vincow assassination.

Ramirez’s murder spree began on March 17, 1985, when he attacked Maria Hernandez in her residence. Her friend Dayle Okazaki, however, was not so fortunate, and he became Ramirez’s second known murder victim. Richard Ramirez’s bloodlust was still unquenched later that night, and he shot and killed Tsai-Lian Yu. For over 14 months, he would persecute and murder his victims, instilling fear in the minds of Californians.

Richard Ramirez created the pattern that would characterise his killings ten days later when he assaulted Vincent Zazzara, 64, and his wife, Maxine Zazzara, 44. He began by shooting and killing Vincent, then proceeded to assault Maxine before stabbing her to death with a knife. Richard also hollowed out her eyes, as if that wasn’t bad enough.

The Satanic Panic

Residents from Los Angeles to San Francisco went to bed fearful that “The Night Stalker,” as the tabloids dubbed him, would break into their houses and commit a satanic ritual of rape, pain, and murder as they slept.

During his campaign of terror, he attacked apparently at random as he went from Los Angeles to San Francisco, never staying in one spot for far too long.

The victims ranged in age from 22 to 80 years old and came from all throughout Southern California. All of the crime scenes had one thing in common: a satanic ritual had taken place.

When word of the Nightstalker got out, no one felt safe. Consequently, public worry resulted in an upsurge in guns sales, extra lock installations, and window bars in August 1985.

The police presence on the streets was raised tenfold, and the FBI formed a special task team to find the perpetrator.

A police witness was soon able to give a licence plate for a car thought to be Ramirez’s. They discovered a partial fingerprint in the vehicle while tracking it down, which they were able to locate in the Los Angeles Police Department’s new fingerprint database.

Other suggestions had poured in, and the name Ramirez had become familiar to the cops, but with such a popular name in California, they couldn’t be sure they’d uncover anything relevant. They checked the fingerprints against everyone in the system named Ramirez in the digital database.

The LAPD was able to locate Richard Ramirez in its database by chance. After an arrest for minor offences in February 1960, his fingerprints were obtained; the police database had no fingerprints prior to January 1960.

One of Ramirez’s surviving victims was soon able to offer a thorough enough description for a sketch artist to create an image for the press. The Nightstalker’s photograph was published in every Southern California publication in the hopes that someone would notice it and recognise Ramirez.

The Night Stalker Brought to the Light

Richard Ramirez, however, was the only one who was unaware of his own celebrity, which ultimately contributed to his tragedy.

As he returned to Los Angeles, he was quickly recognised on the street, ran away from the cops, and collapsed when a vigilant crowd recognised him and the cops approached him.

Richard Ramirez was convicted of all counts against him after his arrest, including 13 murders, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries, in the most costly trial the state of California had ever seen.

He yelled at the jury that had just condemned him after the decision was read out in court: “I am beyond the realms of good and evil. I will be retaliated upon. Lucifer resides within everyone of us. That is all there is to it.”

He was condemned to death by asphyxia in a gas chamber and imprisoned on death row at San Quentin Prison.

Because of the enormity of his case – which included 50,000 pages of trial papers – the Court of Appeal would be unable to consider his appeal for several years, as it was until 2006. His execution was postponed indefinitely due to this delay.

During this time of waiting, Richard Ramirez met an admirer with whom he had exchanged letters, and they married in 1996.

That was, however, a really unusual scenario. Ramirez was no different than the demons he adored for the millions of Californians who lived in fear for more than a year in the mid-1980s.

The Court of Appeal affirmed the original judgement and verdict after its first round of appeals in 2006. Richard Ramirez, on the other hand, filed more requests for further appeals, delaying his execution for the next seven years.

Following his diagnosis of B-cell lymphoma, many people speculated about who would kill Richard Ramirez first: the state of California or disease.

Richard Ramirez would succumb to cancer in the end. After 23 years on death row, he died in jail in 2013 at the age of 53. He has never confessed guilt or showed regret in those 23 years. When the Nightstalker received his verdict, he really grinned.