Murderpedia

 

 

Juan Ignacio Blanco  

 

  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

 

 
 

Ricardo Muñoz RAMIREZ

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


A.K.A.: "Richard Ramírez" - "The Night Stalker"
 
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape - Robberies - Mutilation
Number of victims: 13 - 16 +
Date of murders: 1984 - 1985
Date of arrest: August 25, 1985
Date of birth: February 29, 1960
Perfil víctimas: Jennie Wincow (79) / Dayle Okazaki (34) / Tsai "Veronica" Lan Yu (30) / Vincent Zazzara (64), and his wife Maxine (44) / William "Bill" Doi (66) / Mable "Ma Bell" Keller (83) / Mary Louise Cannon (75) / Joyce Lucille Nelson (61) / Max (68), and Lela Kneiding (66) / Chainarong Khovananth (32) / Elyas Abowath (35)
Method of murder: Shooting - Stabbing - Beating
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on November 7, 1989. Died in prison on June 7, 2013
 
 
 
 
 
 

photo gallery 1

photo gallery 2

 

photo gallery 3

photo gallery 4

 

photo gallery 5

 
 
 
 
 
 

Ricardo "Richard" Muñoz Ramírez (born February 29, 1960 in El Paso, Texas) is a convicted Mexican American serial killer awaiting execution on California's death row at San Quentin State Prison. Prior to his capture, Ramírez was dubbed the "Night Stalker" by the news media as he terrorized California.

Early life

Ramírez may have been influenced into becoming a murderer by his cousin Mike, a Special Forces Vietnam War veteran who boasted of killing and torturing his Vietnamese enemies and showed him Polaroid pictures of his victims. Ramírez was present the night Mike shot and killed his wife, and her blood splattered on Ramirez's face.

Criminal career

On March 17, 1985, Ramírez attacked 22-year old María Hernández outside her home. He shot her before entering her house. Inside was Dayle Okazaki, age 34, whom Ramírez immediately shot and killed. Hernández survived. The bullet had ricocheted off the keys she held in her hands, as she lifted them to protect herself. Within an hour of killing Okazaki, Ramírez struck again in Monterey Park. He jumped 30-year-old Tsai-Lian Yu and pulled her out of her car onto the road. He shot her several times and fled. A policeman found her still breathing, but she died before the ambulance arrived. The two attacks occurring on the same day bolstered media attention, and in turn caused panic and fear among the public. The news media dubbed the attacker, who was described as having long curly hair, bulging eyes and wide-spaced rotting teeth, "The Walk-in Killer" and "The Valley Intruder".

On March 27, Ramírez shot Vincent Zazarra, age 64, and his wife Maxine, age 44. Mrs. Zazzara's body was mutilated with several stab wounds and a T-carving on her left breast, and her eyes were gouged out. The autopsy determined that the mutilations were post-mortem. Ramírez left footprints in the flower beds, which the police photographed and cast. This was virtually the only evidence that the police had at the time. Bullets found at the scene were matched to those found at previous attacks, and the police realized a serial killer was on the loose. Vincent and Maxine's bodies were discovered in their Whittier home by their son, Peter.

By this time, a multi-county police investigation was in operation. The law enforcement agencies worked through the month of April with no additional attacks by Ramírez. Two months after killing the Zazzara couple, Ramírez attacked a Chinese couple, Harold Wu, age 66, who was shot in the head, and his wife, Jean Wu, age 63, was punched, bound, and then violently raped. For unknown reasons, Ramírez decided to let her live. Ramírez's attacks were now in full throttle. He left behind more clues to his identity, and was named 'The Night Stalker' by the media. Survivors of his attacks provided the police with a description of a tall Hispanic and long dark haired man.

On May 29, 1985, Ramírez attacked Malvial Keller, 83, and her disabled sister, Blanche Wolfe, 80, beating each with a hammer. Ramírez attempted to rape Keller, but failed. Using lipstick, he drew pentagrams on Keller's thigh and on the wall in the bedroom. Blanche survived the attack. The next day, Ruth Wilson, 41, was bound, raped, and sodomized by Ramírez, while her 12-year old son was locked in a closet. Ramírez slashed Wilson once, and then bound her and her son together, and left.

In June and July, three more women were killed. Two had their throats slit, one was beaten to death, and all three had their homes invaded in the process. On July 5 Whitney Bennett, age 16, survived being beaten with a tire iron. On July 7 Linda Fortuna, 63, was attacked and Ramírez tried to rape her, but failed. On July 20 he again struck twice. In Sun Valley he shot and killed a 32-year-old man, Chitat Assawahem, and his wife Sakima, 29, was beaten and forced to perform oral intercourse. Ramírez then collected valuables and proceeded to leave. Later in the same day a Glendale couple, Maxson Kneiding, 66, and his wife Lela, also 66, were shot and their corpses mutilated.

On August 6 Ramírez shot both Christopher Petersen, 38, and his wife, Virginia, 27, in the head. Miraculously, they both survived. On August 8 Ramírez attacked a Diamond Bar couple, fatally shooting Ahmed Zia, 35, before raping, sodomizing, and forcing Zia's wife, Suu Kyi, 28, to perform fellatio on him. The description of their attacker fit the previous ones given for "The Walk-in Killer".

Ramírez then left the Los Angeles area, and on August 17, he shot to death a 66-year-old man in San Francisco, also shooting and beating his wife. The wife survived her wounds and was able to identify her attacker as "The Walk-in Killer" from police sketches. Since "The Walk-in Killer" no longer fit the modus operandi of the attacker, the news media re-dubbed him the "Night Stalker".

The next big break in the case came on August 24, 1985, Ramírez traveled 50 miles south of Los Angeles to Mission Viejo, and broke into the Mediterranean Village apartment of Bill Carns, 29, and his fiancée, Inez Erickson, 27. Ramírez shot Carns in the head and raped Erickson. He demanded she swear her love for Satan and afterwards, forced her to perform oral intercourse on him. He then tied her and left. Erickson struggled to the window and saw the car Ramírez was driving. She was able to give a description of both Ramírez and his orange Toyota station wagon. A teenager later identified the car from news reports and wrote down half its license plate number. The stolen car was found on August 28, and police were able to obtain one fingerprint that was on the mirror of the vehicle. The prints belonged to one Richard Muñoz Ramírez, who was described as a 25-year-old drifter from Texas with a long rap sheet that included many arrests for traffic and illegal drug violations.

Two days later, his mugshots were broadcast on national television and printed on the cover of every major newspaper in California. The next day Ramírez was identified, surrounded, and severely beaten by an angry mob in East Los Angeles as he was trying to steal a car. Police had to break up the mob to prevent them from killing Ramírez.

Trial and conviction

Jury selection for the case started on July 22, 1988, and on September 20, 1989, he was found guilty of 13 counts of murder, 5 attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries. During the penalty phase of the trial on November 7, 1989, he was sentenced to die in California's gas chamber. The trial of Richard Ramírez was one of the most difficult and longest criminal trials in American history. Nearly 1,600 prospective jurors were interviewed. More than one hundred witnesses testified, and while a number of witnesses had a difficult time recalling certain facts four years after the crimes, others were quite certain of the identity of Richard Ramírez.

On August 3, 1988 the Los Angeles Times reported that some jail employees overheard Ramírez planning to shoot the prosecutor with a gun, which Ramírez intended to have smuggled into the courtroom. Consequently, a metal detector was installed outside of the courtroom and intensive searches were conducted on people entering. On August 14, the trial was interrupted because one of the jurors, Phyllis Singletary, did not arrive to the courtroom. Later that day she was found shot to death in her apartment. The jury was terrified; they could not help but wonder if Ramírez had somehow directed this event from inside his prison cell, and if he could reach other jury members. However, Ramírez was not responsible for Singletary's death; she had been shot and killed by her boyfriend, who later killed himself with the same weapon in a hotel. The alternative juror who replaced Singletary was too frightened to return to her home.

By the time of the trial, Ramírez had fans who were writing him letters and paying him visits. Since 1985, freelance magazine editor Doreen Lioy wrote him nearly 75 letters during his incarceration. In 1988 he proposed to her, and on October 3, 1996, they were married in California's San Quentin State Prison. Lioy has stated that she will commit suicide when Ramírez is executed.

Appeals

On August 7, 2006 his first round of state appeals ended unsuccessfully when the California Supreme Court upheld his convictions and death sentence. On September 7, 2006, the California Supreme Court denied his request for a rehearing.

Wikipedia.org


Victims

The following is a list of Richard Ramirez's victims, from the book Night Stalker by Clifforord L. Linedecker.

·         June 28, 1984---Jennie Vincow, 79, Glassell Park. Her throat was slashed. Murder, Burglary.

·         March 17, 1985--Dayle Okazaki, 34, and Maria Hernandez, 20, Rosemead. Dayle was shot to death. Murder, attempted murder, robbery.

·         March 17, 1985--Veronica Yu, 30, Monterey Park. Drug from her car and shot. Murder.

·         March 27, 1985--Vincent Zazzara, 64 and his wife Macine, 44, Whittier. Stabbed and mutilated. Two counts of murder, sexual charges.

·         May 14, 1985----Bill Doi, 66, Monterey Park. Shot to death. Murder, robbery, sexual charges.

·         May 30, 1985----Carol Kyle, 41, Burbank. Rape, Sodomy, oral copulation, burglary. Burglary, sex charges, robbery.

·         June 1, 1985----Mable "Ma Bell" Bell, 83, and sister, Florence "Nettie" Lang, 80, Monrovia. Keller was bludgeoned to death, and satanic symbol were scrawed in various placces. Murder, attempted murder, robbery.

·         July 2, 1985----Mary Louise Cannon, 75, Arcadia. Beaten and throat slashed. Murder, burglary.

·         July 5, 1985----Whitney Bennett, 16, Sierra Madre. Attempted murder, burglary.

·         July 7, 1985----Joyce Lucille Nelson, 61, Monterey Park. Beaten to death. Murder, burglary.

·         July 7, 1985----Sophie Dickman, 63, Monterey Park. Raped and sodomized. Burglary, robbery, sex charges.

·         July 20, 1985---Max, 68, and Lela Kneiding, 66, Glendale. Both shot to death. two counts of murder, robbery.

·         July 20, 1985---Chainarong Khovananth, 32, Sun Valley. Shot to death...his son and wife were both sodomized. Murder, robbery, burglary, sex offenses.

·         August 8, 1985--Elyas Abowath, 35, Diamond Bar. Shot while sleeping. Murder, robbery, burglary, rape


Calif. serial killer Richard Ramirez dies

By Linda Deutsch and Don Thompson - Bighistory.ap.org

June 7, 2013

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Richard Ramirez, the demonic serial killer known as the Night Stalker who left satanic signs at murder scenes and mutilated victims' bodies during a reign of terror in the 1980s, died early Friday in a hospital, a prison official said.

Ramirez, 53, had been taken from San Quentin's death row to a hospital where authorities said he died of liver failure. Prison officials said they could not release further details on the cause of death, citing federal patient privacy laws.

Ramirez had been housed on death row for decades and was awaiting execution, even though it has been years since anyone has been put to death in California.

At his first court appearance, Ramirez raised a hand with a pentagram drawn on it and yelled, "Hail, Satan."

His marathon trial, which ended in 1989, was a horror show in which jurors heard about one dead victim's eyes being gouged out and another's head being nearly severed. Courtroom observers wept when survivors of some of the attacks testified.

Ramirez was convicted of 13 murders that terrorized Southern California in 1984 and 1985 as well as charges of rape, sodomy, oral copulation, burglary and attempted murder.

The killing spree reached its peak in the hot summer of 1985, as the nocturnal killer entered homes through unlocked windows and doors and killed men and women with gunshot blasts to the head or knives to the throat, sexually assaulted female victims, and burglarized the residences.

He was dubbed the Night Stalker by the press while residents were warned to lock their doors and windows at night.

Some of the crimes were grisly beyond imagining: A man was murdered in his bed and his wife was raped beside the dead body. The killer beat a small child and attempted to sodomize him.

There were also signs of devil worship — a pentagram drawn on the wall at one murder scene and survivors' accounts of being ordered to "swear to Satan " by the killer.

Ramirez was finally chased down and beaten in 1985 by residents of a blue-collar East Los Angeles neighborhood as he attempted a carjacking. They recognized him after his picture appeared that day in the news media.

The trial of Ramirez took a year, but the entire case — bogged down in pretrial motions and appeals — lasted four years, making it one of the longest criminal cases in U.S. history.

Because of the notoriety, more than 1,600 prospective jurors were called.

The trial was almost aborted in its final stages when a woman juror was murdered during deliberations. Jurors were 13 days into talks when the juror failed to appear one morning. She was found beaten and shot to death at the home she shared with her boyfriend. The next day, the man committed suicide and left a note saying he killed her in an argument.

Jurors wept when they learned of the tragedy, and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan was faced with one of his most trying legal challenges. Lawyers said there were no legal precedents for the situation.

Defense attorneys argued the jurors were too distraught to resume their talks and noted the murder was similar to the gruesome attacks attributed to the Night Stalker.

Tynan decided to move forward. "We must get on with the task life has given us," he told jurors, ordering them to begin deliberations with an alternate juror.

Jurors later said the death of the juror did not influence their decision.

Tynan said Friday, "The Richard Ramirez case was the most difficult trial I ever handled. It was an experience I will never forget, and I'm glad the ordeal is over."

After the conviction, Ramirez flashed a two-fingered "devil sign" to photographers and muttered a single word: "Evil."

On his way to a jail bus, he sneered in reaction to the verdict, muttering: "Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland."

The black-clad killer, unrepentant to the end, made his comment in an underground garage after the jury recommended the death penalty for his gruesome crimes.

Inexplicably, Ramirez, a native of El Paso, Texas, had a following of young women admirers who came to the courtroom regularly and sent him love notes.

Some visited him in prison, and in 1996 Ramirez was married to 41-year-old freelance magazine editor Doreen Lioy in a visiting room at San Quentin prison.

Relatives called Lioy a recluse who lived in a fantasy world.

Her whereabouts could not be determined on Friday. She was not listed as Ramirez's next of kin, prison spokesman Samuel Robinson said in an email.

"His blood relatives are listed as the next of kin," Robinson said.

In 2006, the California Supreme Court upheld Ramirez's convictions and death sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court refused in 2007 to review the convictions and sentence. Ramirez still had appeals pending when he died.

His lawyers claimed the case should have been moved out of Los Angeles and said Ramirez was incompetent to stand trial.

Two years after his arrest, San Francisco police said DNA linked Ramirez to the April 10, 1984, killing of 9-year-old Mei Leung. She was killed in the basement of a residential hotel in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood where she lived with her family.

Ramirez had been staying at nearby hotels.

Ramirez previously was tied to killings in Northern California. He was charged in the shooting deaths of Peter Pan, 66, and his wife, Barbara, in 1985 just before his arrest in Los Angeles, but he was never tried in that case.

 
 

Richard Ramirez

"Big deal, death comes with the territory......see you in Disneyland."
Richard Ramirez's reaction to receiving 19 death sentences.

"You maggots make me sick, I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells within us all."
Ricky attempts to sound tough.

Richard Ramirez career started in June 1984 when he broke into a house and raped then killed a 79 year old woman, Jennie Vincow, in a suburb of L.A.

In February of 1985 he abducted two girls in separate incidents. The first was a six year old girl, taken from a bus stop near her school in a laundry bag, then molested and dumped at a nearby location. Two weeks later Richard took another girl, a nine year old, from her bedroom and raped, then dumped her, nearby.

On March 17 Ramirez was described by the survivor of the first "Valley Intruder" attack. Dayle Okazaki was murdered and her roommate, Maria Hernandez, was badly injured. While leaving the scene of this first killing Ramirez dragged Tsa Lian Yu from her car and proceeded to shoot her several times. Lian Yu was pronounced dead the next day.

Ramirez seemed so impressed with these attacks that he abducted another young girl 2 days later, raping her repeatedly before allowing her to leave, in what would seem like a celebration of the earlier attacks.

March 27 : The Zazzara murders. Ramirez beat 64-year-old Vincent Zazzara to death, then stabs his wife, Maxine ,44, to death. Ramirez proceeded to carve out her eyes and take them with him. The bodies were found two days later by their son.

On May 14 Ramirez broke into anothe house and killed the owner, William Doi, with a bullet to the head. Doi was able to make it to a phone first though, not allowing enough time for Ramirez to get his wife.

Just two weeks later, on May 29, Ramirez had some fun with an 84-year-old, Mabel Bell, and 81-year-old, Florence Lang(an invalid). Ramirez violently beat them and then scratched satanic symbols over them, and their house. The two were not found until June 2. Bell died on July 15, but Lang survived the attack.

On June 27 Patty Higgins had her throat cut, dying, in another "stalker" attack in her own home. And on July 2, Mary Cannon,77, was killed in similar style. Cannon lived less than two miles from Higgins.

July 7, Joyce Nelson, 61, was beaten to death at her home.

On July 20 Ramirez decided to do a double. First off he killed Chainarong Khovanath, 32, then beat and raped his wife. Not content with that he took their 8-year-old son into the next room with a bottle of baby oil. Mrs. Khovanath was forced to listen as Ramirez raped him, then he stole about $30,000 in cash and jewellery. Ramirez then drove to a neighbouring suburb and murdered Max Kneiding, 69, and his wife Lela, 66. The couple didn't even have time to get out of their bed.

On August 6 Ramirez screwed up and left both his victims wounded. Christopher Peterson,38, and his wife Virginia, 27, where able to give a description of their attacker, which matched that of all other survivors.

August 8, Ramirez strikes again. He kills Elyas Abowath, 35, shooting him then brutally beating his wife. It is after this attack that police announce that they are after a serial killer, linking six of the murders. The press dub Ramirez as "The Night Stalker".

On August 17 Ramirez struck in San Francisco, his first attack outside L.A., killing the amusingly named Peter Pan, 66, and badly beating and then shooting his wife. She survived her wounds and identified the 'stalker' from police sketches taken from the earlier survivors.

August 24, Ramirez wounds Bill Carns, 29, with three bullets to the head. He then raped Carn's fiancee, Inez Erickson, twice. As Ramirez drove away Erickson seen his car. It was an orange Toyota station wagon. A local teenager also noticed the car and it's driver. He took down then number plate and gave it to police. The end was near.

On August 30 police found the car abandoned. From it they lifted a single finger print. Ramirez was identified. They issued a APB for Ramirez and his mug shots were shown on national TV.

The next day Ramirez's picture was on the cover of every major newspaper in the state, and on every TV news bulletin. Ramirez had no idea of this until he walked into a liquor store and seen himself staring at him from that days newspaper. Ramirez panicked as other customers realised that it was him. He ran 2 miles in the next 12 minutes, then decided to steal a car. Unfortunately for Ramirez he was in a particularly tough neighbourhood and ended up being rescue by the police as he was being beaten badly by the local thugs. The 'Night Stalker' was caught.

Quotes and Interesting little bits of Information

Bill Carns and Inez Erickson never married.

"You know who I am, don't you? I'm the one they're writing about in the newspapers and on TV" - As said to Inez Erickson prior to the first rape.

"I love Satan" - Ramirez made Inez Erickson say this to him as he was raping her for the second time.

"I've killed 20 people, man. I love all that blood." - Bragging in jail.

"I love to kill people. I love watching them die. I would shoot them in the head and they would wiggle and squirm all over the place, and then just stop. Or I would cut them with a knife and watch their faces turn real white. I love all that blood. I told one lady to give me all her money. She said no. So I cut her and pulled her eyes out."
Told to Deputy Sheriff Jim Ellis.

"It's nothing you'd understand, but I do have something to say. In fact, I have a lot to say, but now is not the time or place. I don't know why I'm wasting my time or breath. But what the hell? As for what is said of my life, there have been lies in the past and there will be lies in the future. I don't believe in the hypocritical, moralistic dogma of this so-called civilized society. I need not look beyond this room to see all the liars, hater, the killers, the crooks, the paranoid cowards--truly trematodes of the Earth, each one in his own legal profession. You maggots make me sick-- hypocrites one and all. And no one knows that better than those who kill for policy, clandestinely or openly, as do the governments of the world, which kill in the name of God and country or for whatever reason they deem appropriate. I don't need to hear all of society's rationalizations, I've heard them all before and the fact remains that what is, is."

This questionnaire with Richard appeared in Answer Me! Issue 4:

Favourite Sports : Rugby, Football, Boxing
Favourite Music : Heavy Metal
Favourite Actress : Samantha Strong
Favourite Vacation Spot : URANUS
Favourite Food : Women's feet
Favourite Color : Red
Pastimes / Hobbies : Traveling and measuring coffins
Biggest Like : Cocaine
Biggest Dislike : Hypocrites, Authority
Make a Wish : To have my finger on a nuclear trigger device
What do you look for in a girl : Nice Ass, Good Legs
Perfect way to spend a date : Moonlit night drinking rum at a cemetary
Describe Yourself : Asshole - and proud of it
Motto : Live each day as if it's your last.
If you like a girl, how do you get a girl to notice you? : I pull out my gun
What's one thing you'd change about yourself? : Not a damn thing, except where I'm at.
How has your life changed as a result of your success? : Privacy is a thing of the past.
What's your message to your fans? : Keep your spirit strong.

The Wacky World of Murder


RAMIREZ, Richard Leyva

Los Angeles is the serial murder capital of the world.  It takes a special "twist" to capture headlines in a city where, by autumn 1983, five random slayers were at large and killing independently of one another.  In the summer months of 1985, reporters found their twist and filled front pages with accounts of the sinister "Night Stalker," a sadistic home invader with a preference for unlocked windows and a taste for savage mutilation.  As the story broke, the Stalker had three weeks of freedom left, but he was bent on making every moment count, and he would claim a minimum of 16 lives before the bitter end.

Unrecognized, the terror had begun a fuil year earlier with the murder of a 79-year-old woman at her home in suburban Glassell Park in june 1984.  Police lifted fingerprints from a window screen at the site, but without a suspect for comparison, the clue led them nowhere.

By February 1985, police had two more murders on their hands, but they were keeping details to themselves.  They saw no link, at first, with the abduction of a six-year-old Montebello girl, snatched from a bus stop near her school and carried away in a laundry bag, sexually abused before she was dropped off in Silver Lake on February 25.  Two weeks later, on March 1 1, a nineyear-old girl was kidnapped from her bedroom in Monterey Park, raped by her abductor, and dumped in Elysian Park.

The Night Stalker reverted from child molestation to murder on March 17, shooting 34-year-old Dayle Okazaki to death in her Rosemead condominium and wounding roommate Maria Hernandez before he fled.  Hernandez provided police with their first description of a long-faced intruder, notable for his curly hair, bulging eyes, and wide-spaced, rotting teeth.

Another victim on March 17 was 30-year-old Tsa Lian Yu, ambushed near her home in Monterey Park, dragged from her car, and shot severas times by the attacker.  She died the following day, and her killer celebrated his new score by abducting an Eagle Rock girl from her home on the night of March 20, sexually abusing her before he let her go.

The action moved to Whittier on March 27, with 64year-old Vincent Zazzara beaten to death in his home.  Zazzaras wife, 44-year-old Maxine, was fatally stabbed in the same attack, her eyes carved out and carried from the scene by her assailant.  The Zazzaras had been dead two days before their bodies were discovered on March 29, and homicide detectives launched a futile search for clues.

On May 14, 65-year-old William Do¡ was shot in the head by a man who invaded his home in Monterey Park.  Dying, Do¡ staggered to the telephone and dialed an emergency number before he collapsed, thus saving his wife from a lethal assault by the Stalker.  Two weeks later, on May 29, 84-year-old Mabel Bell and her invalid sister, 81-year-old Florence Lang, were savagely beaten in their Monrovia home.  The attacker paused to ink satanic pentagrams on Bell's body, drawing more on the walls before he departed.  Found by a gardener on june 2, Lang survived her injuries, but Mabel Bell died on july 15.

In the meantime, the Night Stalker seemed intent on running up his score.  On june 27, 32-year-old Patty Higgins was killed in her home at Arcadia, her throat slashed, and 77-year-old Mary Cannon was slain in identical style less than two miles away on july 2. Five days later, 61-year-old joyce Nelson was beaten to death at her home in Monterey Park.  The killer struck twice on july 20, first invading a Sun Valley home where he killed 32~year-old Chainarong Khovanath, beat and raped the dead mans wife, and battered their eight-year-old son before escaping with $30,000 worth of cash and jewelry.  A short time later, 69-year-old Max Kneidlng and his wlfe Lela, 66, were shot to death in their Glendale home.

Police were still maintaining silence on the subject of their latest maniac at large, but they began to feel the heat on August 6 after 38-year-old Christopher Peterson and his wife Virginia, age 27, were wounded by gunshots in their Northridge home.  Descriptions matched the Stalker, and he struck again on August 8, shooting 35-year-old Elyas Abowath dead in his Diamond Bar home and brutally beating the victim's wife.  That night, authorities announced their manhunt for a killer linked to a half-dozen recent homicides, a toll that nearly tripled in the next three weeks with fresh assaults and a new evaluation of outstanding cases.

On August 17, the Night Stalker deserted his normal hunting ground, gunning down 66-year-old Peter Pan at his home in San Francisco.  Pans wife was shot and beaten, but she managed to survive her wounds, identifying suspect sketches of the homicidas prowler.

By August 22, police had credited the Night Stalker with a total of 14 murders in California.  Three weeks later, in Mission Viejo, he wounded 29-year-old Bill Carns with a shot to the head, then raped Carns's fiancée before escaping in a stolen car.  The vehicle was recovered on August 28, complete with a cicar set of fingerprints belonging to Richard Ramirez, a 25-yearold drifter from Texas whose Los Angeles rap sheet included numerous arrests for traffic and drug violations.  Acquaintances describes Ramirez as an ardent Satanist and longtime drug abuser, obsessed with the mock-satanic rock band ACIDC.  According to reports, Ramirez had adopted one of the group's songs-"Night Prowler"-as his personal anthem, playing ¡t repeatedly, sometimes for hours on end.

An all-points bulletin was issued for Ramirez on August 30, his mug shots were broadcast on TV, and he was captured by civilians in East Los Angeles the following day, mobbed and beaten as he tried to steal a car.  Police arrived in time to save his life, and by September 29, Ramirez was facing a total of 68 felony charges, including 14 counts of murder and 22 counts of sexual assault.  One of the murder counts was dropped prior to trial, but eight new felonies-including two more rapes and one attempted murder-were added to the list in December 1985.

A sister of Ramirez told the press he wanted to plead guilty, a desire frustrated by his attorneys, but the suspect made no public display of repentance.  Sporting a pentagram on the palm of one hand, Ramirez waved to photographers and shouted "Hail Satan!  " during a preliminary court appearance.  Back in jail, he told a fellow inmate, "I've killed twenty people, man. I love all that blood."

The Night Stalkers trial was another Los Angeles marathon. jury selection began on july 22, 1988, but ¡t was September 20, 1989, before jurors convicted him on 13 murder counts and 30 related felonies. Two weeks later, on October 4, the panel recommended execution for Ramirez, and he was formally sentenced to death on November 7, 1989. "You maggots make me sick," he told the court. "You don't understand me. 1 am beyond good and evil. 1 will be avenged. Lucifer dwells in us all." Outside the courtroom, he told reporters, "Big deal. Death always went with the territory. I'Il see you at Disneyland."

Subsequently shipped to San Francisco for trial in the Peter Pan slaying, Ramirez was besieged by female GROUPIES lining up to visit him in jail.  The competition for his time, including brawls among his young admirers, so disrupted jailhouse routines that Ramirez was moved to San Quentin in September 1993, awaiting his trial on death row.  Upon admission to "Q," Ramirez was found to have a metal canister hidden in his rectum containing a key and a needle and syringe.  In june 1995, the San Francisco prosecution was postponed indefinitely, pending an appellate ruling on his prior conviction, expected sometime in the next millennium.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans


"Night Stalker" Richard Ramirez: From the Bowels of Hell

by Joseph Geringer

Crescendo of Terror

Late in the 20th Century, Hell glutted on humanity. Its first bloodletting of that season of the Devil occurred on the warm evening of June 28, 1984, when an earth-bound Lucifer found his way into the small Glassel Park apartment of 79-year-old Jennie Vincow. Throughout the Los Angeles area a damp humidity had oppressed the air that day, and when the evening came and the temperature slightly cooled, Jennie left her window open to invite what little breeze there might be into her flat. Like a fallen leaf, decayed and tossed from its source, a fallen angel, dark, angry and also decaying, blew across the sill of that open window. When the demon departed through that same window, he left behind Jennie Vincow, raped, beaten and nearly decapitated.

"Her body was found by her son, who lived above her ground-floor apartment, just south of...Forest Lawn Park," reports the Los Angeles Times. "Her throat had been slashed and she had been stabbed repeatedly."

The police were baffled. But, in the months to come, they were to encounter a madman whose lust for killing and depravity equaled, if not surpassed, that of Jack the Ripper or, more contemporary, the Hillside Strangler. Soon to be named the "Night Stalker" by the press, this madman bore, according to true crime author Richard L. Linedecker, "the horror in his soul of a Stephen King or a Clive Barker fright novel - and more." A Freddy Kruger. For real.

Less than a year later, the monster reappeared. This time, he waited in the shadows of an upscale condominium outside LA. The date was March 17, 1985, time 11:30 p.m., when pretty-faced Maria Hernandez pulled her auto into the security garage, unaware the monster was watching her from behind a pillar. When she alighted from her car, the killer stepped from the darkness, gun upraised and, despite her pleadings, he pressed the trigger. She stumbled. And the killer, thinking she was dead, stepped over her to enter the side door of the condo. But, Maria had been lucky - very lucky - for the bullet had deflected off the car keys she held in her hand, causing a hand wound, but nothing more.

Inside the building, Maria's roommate was less fortunate. For, when Maria finally made her way to the safety of her place, breathless, she discovered that her friend, Dayle Okazaki, had also encountered the killer. And this time, his bullet had found its mark. Thirty-three-year-old Okazaki lay in a pool of her own blood, her skull smashed by a missile fired at extremely close range.

The demon vanished just as quickly as he had appeared. The police were stumped.

All they knew of him was what Hernandez was able to tell them: He was tall, gaunt, dark, maybe Hispanic.

This time, the killer didn't wait nearly a year to murder again. He struck within the hour. His next victim that same evening was petite Taiwanese-born Tsai-Lian Yu, who, driving her yellow Chevrolet down North Alhambra Avenue in nearby Monterey Park, withered when someone with the eyes of a madman forced his way into her car and shot her. He had thrown his own car into idle, simply entered hers, pushed her onto the pavement, called her bitch, then blew her into eternity at point-blank range.

Fast. Neat. Clean.

Then dematerialized into the darkness from whence he came.

Child's play.

The police were beginning to realize they might have a problem on their hands, but they remained stumped. Eyewitnesses who thought they had seen the killer described him as tall, gaunt, dark, maybe Hispanic.

Ten days later, this elusive phantom -- whose physical description could fit any one of thousands of males in the Greater Los Angeles area -- required more blood. This time, shooting his prey didn't quite satisfy the urge; the demon must have been hungry, he must have been frantic, for when he entered the home of the sleeping Zazzara couple, he produced a bloodbath.

The couple's bodies were discovered by their son the following morning. Vincent Zazzara had been shot in the head as he dozed on the sofa. He had died quickly --  unlike his wife who suffered the percussion of the killer's frenzy. On her face he had carved the embodiment of his hate, molding her physicality into something representative of how he viewed humankind - as something made to splice and cut and gouge, to bend, to twist, to reshape to suit his own wantonness.

Clifford L. Linedecker, in his well-researched Night Stalker, describes what the police found at the crime scene: "They (the police) would never forget the sight of Maxine Zazzara's mutilated face. Her eyes were gouged out, and the empty sockets were ringed with blackened gobs of blood and tissue...The killer had plunged a knife through her left breast, leaving a large, ragged T-shaped wound. There were other cruel injuries to her neck, face, abdomen, and around the pubic area. She had been butchered..."

Investigators found footprints - visible signs of a tennis shoe -- in the service area and in the flowerbed - indicating his means of entry into the Zazzara home. There were no witnesses this time around, but a modus operandi was becoming loosely apparent. Nevertheless stumped, the law determined to put an end to this savage that had crawled up from the mud up and within their midst. That they believed this latest crime to have been committed by the same creature that had slain Vincow, Okazaki and Yu was, at this point, not much more than a hunch. But, if they were correct, the madman was becoming bolder and more sanguine; an inner lust seemed to be growing and, now fed and apparently well fed, who knows what would come next! Scouring the neighborhoods where he had already struck, blue uniforms questioned strangers, stopped midnight strollers, clambered for witnesses. But, there proved little to go on.

Deep inside, the police feared, he -It! - would strike again.

Tension of the wait was short. Elderly Harold and Jean Wu did not hear the intruder slipping into their residence through a window at pre-dawn, May 14. The first intimation Mrs. Wu had of his presence was the loud bang that stirred her awake. She woke to find the figure, smoking gun in hand, standing over her. Beside her, husband Harold groaned, shot in the head. Then - the killer's huge fists unloosened on the woman. He pummeled her, slapped her, kicked her, and demanded that she turn over loose cash to him. Binding her hands together behind her with thumbscrews, he tossed her across her bed over her dying spouse, then rampaged through the home's drawers and cabinets for money. Terrified, lying on her mattress, Jean Wu could hear three things - Harold's furtive gasps for life, furniture being invaded, and the madman's curses as he found nothing of great value.

Having rampaged through their belongings, the tall, thin, dark man returned to the Wu's bedroom and, as she lay across her fading husband, violently raped the 63-year-old woman. Satisfied, he zippered up, grinning. Then left. Another trophy his.

Mrs. Wu, after recovering from shock, told police her attacker was tall, gaunt, dark, Hispanic.

The symphony of terror played on, its next discordant notes sounded in the dark hours before May 30, at the home of attractive 41-year-old Ruth Wilson. The woman awoke in her bed to the blinding beam of a flashlight and the distinct silhouette of a pistol barrel across her gaze; behind the illumination a gruff voice demanded, "Where's your money?" Before she could muster words, the intruder yanked her by the sleeve of her negligee off her bed and led her to her 12-year-old son's room down the hall. Using the frightened boy as bait, he insisted that she produce something of value. She told him where an expensive piece of jewelry was hidden. He seemed satisfied as he studied the diamond necklace in his hands, and Wilson figured he would abscond without harming her or her boy.

She was wrong.

Locking her son in a closet, he took his pent-up emotions out on the woman in the pink negligee who stood before him. Shoving her back to her own bedroom, he tore her gown off her and, despite her protestations, had his way with her. First he bound her hands behind her with a pair of pantyhose, then fell upon her. As he raped and sodomized her, his foul breath and body odor overcame and sickened her, adding to the humiliation.

Miraculously, he let her live. He was gone...all but in her night dreams that would haunt her over and over and over for months to come.

When the police later interviewed her, she gave her description of the devil:

He was tall, gaunt, dark, definitely Hispanic.


Stalking with Satan

Police composites had been produced of the killer, compiled from descriptions from those few who lived to tell of their attack and from witnesses who had seen the shooting of Tsai-Lian Yu on Alhambra Avenue. With minor variations, the suspect was of Hispanic descent, about 25 to 30 years old, wore long, unkempt black hair that hung in greasy strands over a high forehead and which straggled down across a skeletally thin, pock-marked face; cheekbones were sunken, lips thick, chin square. According to Ruth Wilson, his teeth were jagged and rotten. The description wasn't a pretty one, and it fit the face of the monster he was. Each testimony had him dressed in all-black.

Squads continued to roll throughout the city and accompanying suburbs; policemen watched steadfastly night and day for anyone even closely fitting that description - but didn't find their man. And, in the meantime, his crimes continued without a sign of let-up, his ferocity building.

The nature of the next attack, which occurred on June 1, the day after the assault on Wilson, added another and an alarmingly new perspective to the suspect. He suddenly took on the role of a Satanist and his deeds as sacrificial rituals to the Lord Master of Evil. It would be his most aggressive and horrific action to date.

Retired schoolteacher Malvia Keller and invalid sister Blanche Wolfe, 83- and 79-years old respectively, were viciously beaten in their small house in suburban Monrovia, off one of the central state freeways. When found by their gardener the following morning, both elderly women had been beaten across the head with a hammer. Wolfe lay near the point of death, oozing blood from a head wound; she had been raped. Keller, who had succumbed, had had her legs and arms bound and had been crushed by a heavy table which the killer had turned over across her ribs.

"Police found a pentagram - an encircled five-pointed star often linked to Satanic worship drawn in lipstick on Malvia Keller's thigh," writes Clifford L. Linedecker in his Night Stalker. "Another pentagram had been crudely scrawled in lipstick on the bedroom wall where Blanche Wolfe lay in a comatose state. The tip of the pentagram was inverted, pointing down, an indication of evil. Of Satan."

This indication of devil-worship was no surprise to Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block who had, for some time, suspected the crimes to be of that origin. A black baseball-style cap bearing the emblem of the hard-rock group AC/DC found at the scene of Dayle Okazaki's murder had given him that impression. That music group was known for having produced some lyrics with cultist overtones.

Reads the Los Angeles Times, "Authorities focused on AC/DC's 1979 Highway to Hell album and its six-minute 'Night Prowler' cut, which says, in part, 'What's the noise outside your window? What's the shadow on the blind? As you lay there naked like a body in a tomb, suspended animation as I slip into your room.'"

Block had seen enough murder in his years as a police officer to recognize the differences between homicides of various degrees - drug-related, love-triangle, cultist, and so on. This string of killings was the most bizarre in his years of law enforcement experience. Dispiritedly, all he and his men had to go on at this stage of the game was a generic description of the assailant and the flimsy roots of motive. The devil's own remained elusive, and that's all that mattered, unfortunately. It had now become apparent that, like a vampire of folklore, the demon had grown and was growing stronger by the moment, more degenerate with every sip of blood.

Over the next six weeks, the Los Angeles area would endure a series of killings so brutal that the city was thrown into a panic that took on the appearance of a cataclysm. Many sleepless nights were had by citizens, especially by women who lived alone. No lock was sufficient in the minds of the frightened public. No door bolt thick enough. No window latch secure enough.

Because the killer's victims ranged all ages, no one, man or woman, child or spinster, felt safe. Some of his victims were of Oriental culture, others were Caucasian, and the city wondered: Who the hell next? Some writers claimed that the killer, who by all eyewitness testimony was believed to be Hispanic, had not picked on his own -- yet they forgot Maria Hernandez whose key ring had saved her life on a mid-March morning. The killer had not exhibited a rabid preference for any particular culture, age group, sex or even geographic area (his killings spanned a forty mile range encircling Greater LA). He was, as Linedecker observes, "an equal opportunity killer".

His modus operandi remained consistent and his motives inexplicable. His break-ins, while well-orchestrated, even ritualistic, had, at the same time, earmarks of sexual spontaneity -- as if a single spark of impure thought caused havoc so hot in his brain that, to ease the torture, he needed to torture others.

Between June 1 (immediately following the Monrovia affair) and mid-August, 1985, nine more bloody rampages were attributed to what the newspapers were calling, for lack of a better name, the "Valley Intruder". The toll of his victims included:

* Patty Higgins, 32 years old, Arcadia. (June 27)    Killed in her home, her throat slashed.

* Mary Louise Cannon, 75 years old, Arcadia. (July 2)   Found in her home, beaten, throat slashed.

* Diedre Palmer, 16 years old, Arcadia. (July 5)   Beaten at home with a tire iron. Survived.

* Joyce Lucille Nelson, 61 years old, Monterey Park (July 7)   Bludgeoned to death and mutilated in her house.

* Linda Fortuna, 63 years old, Monterey Park (also July 7)   Survived rape and sodomy attempts when attacker could not get an erection; he robbed her home and, fortunately, let her live.

* Maxson and Lela Kneiding, husband and wife, 66 and 64 years old respectively, Glendale (July 20)   Shot in their beds while they slept; mutilated after death. Maxson's head was nearly decapitated.

* Assawahem Family, Sun Valley (also July 20)    Husband Chitat (32 years old) shot in bed at point-blank range, his 29-year-old wife Sakima dragged from bed, beaten, twice raped and made to perform oral sex. While bound, Sakima was forced to listen as killer slapped her eight-year-old son in his bed. Afterwards, intruder departed with family cash.

* Christopher and Virginia Petersen, husband and wife, 38 and 27 years old respectively, Northridge (August 5)   Both shot in head while they were in bed; both somehow survived despite a bullet that penetrated a section of Christopher's brain and another that blew away Virginia's face.

* Ahmed and Suu Kya Zia, husband and wife, 35 and 28 years old respectively, Diamond Bar (August 8)   Ahmed shot in the temple and killed in the couple's bed; wife Suu handcuffed, slapped, punched, raped, and forced to perform fellatio on intruder. She survived.

*****

Horrified columnists had been referring to the mystery murderer in a number of ways; nicknames abounded, all of them colorful, the "Valley Intruder" and the "Walk-In Killer" enjoying the longest run. But, it was not until the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner started calling him the "Night Stalker" that the city had found his true idiom. The moniker, simple and sharp - like a knife - stabbed the bull's eye. It frightened, and it numbed. And the name stuck. Like a lump in the throat.

It penetrated like a shiv in the guts of those who heard it, especially those who lived in the communities where the Stalker stalked.

Los Angeles was terrified.


Police Pressure

In Los Angeles County, both the county and municipal police were anything but idle. They recognized and admitted to the enormity of the problem they had as long as the Night Stalker was free to roam. No one was safe - but how, they wondered, leash a mad dog that seems to be invisible?

More than any other lawman, Detective Sergeant Frank Salerno of the county department's homicide squad was the man most apropos to answering that riddle. He knew how tricky the mind of a homicidal maniac could be to box and tag, having played a large role in tracking down LA's Hillside Stranger a decade earlier. He was, for that matter, the first to sense that the valley had another serial killer on the loose.

In June, 1985, not long after the killings began, Salerno took it upon himself to list similarities in the up-to-then six murders in suburban Los Angeles. Certain things matched. Collected fingerprints, recovered cartridge shells (.22 caliber) and even a distinct method of breaking and entry - all the same. Imprints of the same design tennis shoe (identified as Reebok high-tops, size 11) told a startling tale. But, more revealing still, the description of the killer himself was nearly identical in each case where a living person had been left to talk: tall, gaunt, dark, Hispanic, in his late 20s/early 30s. Downright ugly.

And now signs of devil worship were surfacing in many of the killings. Apart from the pentagrams discovered at Malvia Keller's house, the murderer had, according to survivors such as Ruth Wilson, demanded that they mouth such phrases such as "I vow to Satan" or "I love Satan" or he would kill them. Nor had Salerno forgotten the baseball cap with the rock group AC/DC's emblem, found after the Okazaki murder. He recalled that one of the band's songs hinted at Satanism.

He took this evidence to his superior, Captain Robert Grimm, who was impressed. From Grimm, Salerno sought, and gained, permission to check with the LA city forces to compare notes. Perhaps, he thought, they had been encountering like cases, unsolved, which might compare to the elusive killer's track record.

"Grimm recognized the wisdom in Salerno's suggestion to check with LAPD," reports Clifford L. Linedecker in Night Stalker. "No one wanted a situation similar to the Hillside Strangler case, when both the LAPD and the Los Angeles sheriff's deputies worked their investigations alone and independent of each other. The result for the police agencies had been missed opportunities, confusion and embarrassment."

Salerno and Grimm envisioned a task force comprised of the top police investigators throughout the county and the city of Los Angeles. After discussion with the LAPD, the latter decided that it would invest in its own separate task force but promised to work around-the-clock and closely with Salerno, who had already been given a squad of detectives dedicated to finding the Night Stalker. While separate entities, both investigative teams operated, as committed, as one, feeding information back and forth and partnering in any activities to maintain a single direction.

Salerno, in the meantime, conferred with two of his top men who had directed the investigative efforts in two of the Stalker's previous crimes. They proved invaluable in formatting the investigative team and in keeping its work strategic.

Detective Gil Carillo had been one of the first plainclothesmen introduced to the Night Stalker's handiwork when he was assigned to the Okazaki shooting. Besides being familiar with the history of this latest serial killer, Salerno called on Carillo's intrinsic knowledge of computers, a technical expertise Salerno lacked, to create a database for incoming and outgoing information.

On the other hand, Detective Russell Uloth helped Salerno determine the kind of psychopath they were dealing with. His study of the Zazzara butchery showed that the mutilations ravaged on Mrs. Zazzara were done after she was dead. The gouging out of the eyes - the eyes that the killer evidently took with him - was enacted as a sort of Satanic cult act.

But, while his formidable adversaries were seeding the roots of war against him, the Night Stalker managed to slip by them in the cover of darkness to commit the murders of Higgins, Cannon, Nelson, Kneiding and Assawahem.

This series of tragedies necessitated that, by early August, the task force more directly include the suburban law enforcement agencies around Los Angeles where the devil continued to hunt. With a manpower of 200 investigators, it was the largest operation of its kind ever created. Beside the full-time force, Salerno called in subject experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's criminal-profiling unit who presented their views of known types of serial killers, then narrowed the types to which the Night Stalker came closest. Not leaving a stone unturned, the task force even consulted personalities with knowledge on devil worship and cultist torture rituals.

Investigators, following the Satan cult theory, fell on places where such groups assembled. They questioned followers of these leagues about their membership, hoping that they might uncover the identity of the killer in their company. While they could not uncover a suspect, they did find something very interesting on the floor of an East Los Angeles cult hall. They found a shoe print that matched the imprint of the Reebok tennis shoes - size 11 --  located at many of the murder scenes.

Salerno wanted the killer to feel the heat, to panic and blunder into the open through his own hysteria. The detective had seen it happen many times; criminals, feeling the pressure, leap before looking and announce their guilt hands-up by doing something stupid. To meet this end, he made sure that the task force started feeding the media pieces of evidence they uncovered, large and small, even unfounded information, to give the killer the impression they were closing in.

Simultaneous to the big squeeze -- in August -- the task force announced its formation at a press conference, keynoted by representatives from the County Sheriff's office. At the conference, which was heavily attended by an anxious press, the speakers officially confirmed the existence of a dangerous serial killer wandering at will in the Los Angeles valley.

"We are concerned there is an individual who is responsible for more than one murder, multiple murders," admitted Robert A. Edmonds, Los Angeles County assistant sheriff.

County Sheriff Sherman Block assured the public, however, that all surrounding police agencies were combing the streets to end the spree. Authorities asked for the public to keep calm, to keep doors locked, and to report any suspicious activities or persons in their neighborhoods as soon as they manifested.

The press conference kicked off a campaign to make the public more aware of - and to make it more active in the apprehension of - the Night Stalker. Salerno's task force distributed flyers, leaflets and wanted posters bearing the composite sketch of the killer. Posters soon hung in every visible passage in every public byway and thoroughfare and market within and around Los Angeles. A citizen couldn't take a stroll to the corner store or drive their kids to school without coming face to face with the large sketched ugly face of the Night Stalker.

And things began to pop. Telephone calls from men and women, some calling anonymously, poured in; faceless voices and unsigned letters of concern led police to strange goings-on in their neighborhood or to oddball neighborhood characters who fit the Night Stalker's description. Not a lead was overlooked. Transients, vagrants and vagabonds were questioned, as were those "oddball neighborhood characters".

Terror that had gripped the people of Los Angeles had now, prompted by the police, turned to obstinacy. The populace transformed from a group of frightened individuals into a committee of daring hunters, begging for their chance to catch the night-time ghoul. If he wanted to prey on them, well, they cried, let him prey - because now they were waiting. The family man and the businessman and the housewife - they had bought guns, and loaded them. Or they had as their weapons shovels, or pickaxes, or kitchen knives, or any one of dozens of homemade utensils pointing their way to a night stalker's heart.

Suddenly, the Night Stalker realized that things had changed. He found their lights burning at night, a silhouette in the window. Suddenly he found apartment buildings with hired guards pacing the lobby. Suddenly he found citizens' committees strolling roundabout and in and out in the alleys, the parks, the streets. Suddenly he found their windows nailed shut, porch lights left on, back yards illumined by safety beams. Suddenly he found defiance.

The civic forces, too, were out in droves. Patrol cars were everywhere, marked and unmarked vehicles. Townsfolk volunteers had been deputized, as well, to drive in the dark, licensed to throw their search beams at anything that moved or crept or crawled - and if it resembled the Night Stalker, to step on it.

The devil, the ghost, the ghoul, the phantom, the stalker. It was time for him to leave Los Angeles.

He shrugged. After all, no matter. He would go elsewhere. He could kill anywhere.


Richard Ramirez

As the sun descended over San Francisco on the evening of August 17, 1985, a beat-up brownish-red 1978 Pontiac Grand Prix pulled off Highway 80 and began to cruise the adjacent suburbs that bordered it. Within the next couple of hours, the car found its way into the upper-scale neighborhood of Lake Merced. It was well after dark, the time of evil. Parking his car in the darkest spot he could find, the Night Stalker emerged and, checking for the .22 calibre handgun in his belt, headed to one particular two-story home where, he felt, the devil was directing him.

Tall, gaunt, dark, ugly 25-year-old Richard Ramirez paused. He turned to look back at the Pontiac he had been driving these last few weeks. He ruminated a moment, and decided after tonight he'd better play it safe and ditch this auto. It was time to steal another one, perhaps before the sun rose. But - first things first - he drew the revolver - so tight, so hard, so metallic in the moonlight - and strolled nonchalantly to the unlit gangway beside the home of elderly Chinese couple, Mr. & Mrs. Pan.

Houses like these were so easy to penetrate, Ramirez knew...windows low to the ground, removable screens...a snap, a slight push, and he was in. Of course, Satan was guiding his every move, he knew that! Why fret about getting caught? All these homes, all these homes, and yet not once had the resident heard him entering. The devil silenced their ears while they slept. And he, Richard Ramirez, then took it a step further: He silenced them, forever. More blood to feed Hell, to keep its furnaces burning.

Inside the house, Ramirez looked at his watch: Midnight. A good time to kill. He checked his weapon once more - yes, cylinder loaded. These homes were all laid out pretty much the same; he knew where the bedrooms were by instinct. Without pause, he walked to where the couple slept, found them snoring, and pulled the trigger. He loved the way their bodies jerked upon impact.

His senses tingled...watching them rattle in death, hearing their throats beg for air, watching as their pillows darkened with life's liquid underneath what was left of their skulls. But, there was no time to admire his latest artwork; there was much more work to do here before he left. Time now for a little home decorating - so that the police would know that the Night Stalker was far, far from trapped.

*****

When the Pans' son visited his parents the next morning, he walked into the aftermath of doomsday. His father was dead in bed, his mother next to him, seriously injured. The walls of the home were etched with lipstick diagrams of devil worship, cursing and alien messages such as "Jack the Knife." Drawers were ransacked. A side window had been pried open and dirty footprints, bearing a Reebok design, trailed hastily from the windowsill across the carpet, in and out of the parents' bedroom.

Mrs. Alberta Pan survived, but remained an invalid; her husband Peter was pronounced dead at General Hospital.

San Francisco police knew immediately that the Horror of Los Angeles, the Night Stalker, had come to their city. Certainly, the modus operandi bore his logo: breaking and entry, the assassination of the male first where a couple was involved, and the cultist signatures left on the scene.

Bullets retrieved from the victims, when matched with those in the possession of the Los Angeles task force, confirmed it. So did the shoe prints. Comparing notes with Detective Salerno, San Francisco homicide detective Frank Kowalski also learned that a brown 1978 Pontiac, which had been reported prowling the streets of Lake Merced the night of the Pan killing, matched the description of an auto seen in the vicinity of the most recent murders in the LA area. Undoubtedly, the same car, the same maniac.

Authorities began wondering if the same man who perhaps traveled between LA and San Francisco might have committed four other recent unsolved homicides in San Francisco. In retrospect, they now seemed to have been.

"On February 1, police discovered the mutilated bodies of Christina Caldwell, 58, and her sister, Mary, 70. They were stabbed dozens of times," reports the San Francisco Chronicle. "A coroner's report said a window of their ransacked flat was left open. Bloody fingerprints, palm prints and shoe prints were left behind, although (Detective) Kowalski said most of the prints turned out to be those of neighbors.

"Another slaying being checked is that of Masataka Kobayaki, 45, part owner and chef of Masa's, a fashionable restaurant on Nob Hill," the Chronicle continues. "The fourth murder involved Edward F. Wildgans, 29, who was shot June 2 through the right temple by a late-night intruder. He died two days later. His girlfriend fought off the attacker (but was raped)."

After interviewing the girlfriend, Nancy Brien, her description of her tormentor coincided with the image of the Night Stalker.

Without delay, law enforcers in the City by the Bay disseminated wanted posters and leaflets. "The whole department has been mobilized to apprehend the suspect," promised Richard Klapp, police commissioner. Patrols were doubled at night, particularly in Hispanic neighborhoods where one of that nationality might easily blend in. According to the Los Angeles Times, investigators quickly learned that a male resembling the Night Stalker had stayed at the Bristol, a transient hotel at 56 Mason Street, during the week of the Pan murder. Manager Alex Melnikov remembered the lodger as dressing in all black and reeking of body odor. The stranger had signed out the afternoon of the said crime. Melnikov, said the paper, "had found an inverted five-pointed star, known as a pentagram, inscribed on the door of a room adjacent to one occupied by (the boarder)... A similar star was found in the Pans' home."

*****

Richard Ramirez had abandoned the Pontiac; and he had abandoned San Francisco. In haste. He chuckled, huddled behind the wheel of a stolen 1976 orange Toyota, thinking about why he had to make a quick departure: How that mayor of San Francisco - what's her name? Dianne Feinstein - mouthed off to those news station people about the police feeling like they were closing in on the Night Stalker; then how that county sheriff had a fit because she had screwed up the whole dragnet! Locos! Crazy people they! Now, turning the Toyota's grille off the Golden State Freeway towards the entrance to the community known as Mission Viejo, he determined to show them locos just who is the smartest one! The devil protected him! But, they had no one! Tonight, someone would die - not in San Francisco as the police suspected - but here in this rich-boy community so near to Los Angeles!

The date was August 25, just after midnight.

William Carns and his fiancée Renata Gunther dreamed well tonight in the home on Chrisanta Drive. Parking his car in shadow, Ramirez entered their fine stucco home and sought out the bedroom to see who slept there. He smiled when he saw the couple sound asleep. Both looked young, in their late twenties, and the beautiful Renata tingled his senses. Beauty for the sacrificial altar! For Lucifer! Out came his revolver, the .22, and he flashed its barrel toward the cranium of the male. Carns twitched, and gagged.

Renata awoke to the dark, skinny, grinning Ramirez who leaned over her, panting, calling her bitch, shaking her and laughing in her face. His breath stank, his teeth - she could see them in the umbrage-were crooked and stained. His eyes blazed.

Forcing her from her bed, he threw himself over her and raped her. Snarling in her face, he promised to shoot her unless she "Swear to Satan". Begging for her life, she did as he asked. But, before he released her from his grasp, he thrust her head to where he unzipped his trousers. Having performed, he left her alive, but in pain and nauseated.

He had repaired back into the darkness from whence he came.

*****

A middle-aged woman named Donna Myers and her friend, Serafin Arredondo, who lived in the El Sobrante district of San Francisco had come forth in the meantime with a fascinating tale. Myers, who let out her home occasionally as a boarding house, had from time to time rented a room to a man she knew only as "Ricky". She told police he was tall, gaunt, Hispanic and, in a word, strange. What's more, he closely resembled the police sketch of the Night Stalker that appeared in the Chronicle. Ricky was from El Paso, Texas, she explained, and traveled throughout California -- mostly between San Francisco and Los Angeles. To her he often addressed his interest in the black arts.

She related that one day, during a recent stay, she happened to come into her TV room when Ricky was viewing a news report about a Night Stalker victim. He seemed greatly interested in the program. Noticing her behind him, Ricky suddenly turned to her from his chair, grinned with a mouthful of crooked teeth, and whispered, "Now wouldn't you be surprised if I turned out to be the Stalker?" She thought at the time it was just a sick bit of whimsy, until she noticed the composite in the newspaper shortly thereafter. The memory chilled her.

Arredondo, a friend of the Myers family who often visited the woman, displayed some men's jewelry - a diamond ring and cufflinks -- he had bought from this Ricky one afternoon not long ago. Ricky had claimed he was strapped for cash and was selling these items at a discount; he gave Arredondo a good deal. Since then, the buyer had read that the Night Stalker was known for robbing his victims as well as slaying them, and wondered if...well, just maybe...

The police nodded; they understood completely. Taking the goods that Arredondo offered, they in turn handed them over to the investigative team for possible identification. That evening, the ring and links were labeled as stolen property that once belonged to one of the killer's male victims.

Never knowing when this Ricky might turn up at Myers' doorstep, plainclothesmen began surveillance on her home night and day.

A rhythm of lucky breaks was in full tempo. While this was occurring in the Bay area, eyewitnesses in the Mission Viejo neighborhood near LA had reported seeing an orange, older make of Toyota prowling their streets immediately prior to the attack on Carns and Gunther. On April 27, the book Night Stalker tells us, "the orange Toyota station wagon was found in a parking lot in the Rampart area of Los Angeles. Detectives watched the car for almost twenty-four hours before deciding it had indeed been abandoned and the Stalker was not going to return for it."

But, the discovery of the auto would prove fruitful. Dusting the car for fingerprints, city investigators delivered the prints to the Orange County Sheriff's Office whose forensic laboratory was testing a brand new Department of Justice-created system for tracking prints in record time.

The prints matched those of a small-time thief and miscreant from Texas named Ricardo Ramirez.

Lauded the Los Angeles Times, "(The system picked) Ramirez's fingerprints out of 380,000 other sets, only three minutes after the system was fed a partial print lifted from (the Toyota)...The need to capture the Night Stalker was so urgent that the installation of the new 'Cal-ID' computer system, which is still in progress, was interrupted so the system could be reprogrammed to search for the Night Stalker's prints."

The police had a name. Now they needed to research the suspect, to find out more about him. And, most importantly, they needed to find him before he slew again.

*****

Ricardo Ramirez was born in the barrio (Hispanic section) of El Paso, Texas, on February 28, 1960. His childhood was one of poverty and of hanging with youth gangs. Parents Julian (an illegal alien who worked in the rail yard) and Mercedes had, in all, seven children; Ricardo - who later Americanized the name to Richard - was the youngest. Roman Catholics, Mercedes tried as best she could to lead her familia onto a straight and God-like path. She succeeded with six of her brood. But, Ricardo went astray.

Grade school teachers claimed he could have been a good pupil, had he proffered a little interest. He failed ninth grade twice, spending more time in the video arcades than at school. At an early age, he took to breaking into homes. Police caught him in the act of burglary several times, each time being shipped off to a work program - until the oft-time loser was sentenced in his youth to a disciplinarian hall.

He had but three interests in junior high - and cared about little else - martial arts, marijuana and heavy metal. "He loved Black Sabbath and Judas Priest," remarks a friend from his teen years.

Another interest grew from, say boyhood friends, the sort of music he listened to - that which glorified cultist practices. He seemed preoccupied with Satanism and stories about black magic, demons and dragons. While his mother sent him to Bible studies, hoping he'd learn the Christian ways of life, Richard took the lessons to heart - but learned them in reverse. That is, after class he would go to the library and read up on Satan and the fallen angels, the characters that his teachers merely skipped over while exemplifying Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles.

Richard, in his teens, had been suspected of thievery, but the police could not prove their accusations. His first formal arrest as an adult was for possession of marijuana. Slapped with a small fine, he was then hit with another when pinched months later for the same offense. On his third arrest -- for reckless driving (a friend's car) - he avoided prison by agreeing to do neighborhood youth work while on three years' probation.

At 20 years old, his probation ended, Richard Ramirez left El Paso.

Between the time he departed his native Texas and the time he took up killing innocent people, Richard Ramirez encountered minor run-ins with the law. In 1984, he was taken into custody and photographed while suspected of driving a stolen car, a charge that came to nothing.

"Ramirez is known to have gone by several aliases," accounts a retrospective article in the Los Angeles Times, "including Richard Moreno, Noah Jimenez, Nicolaus Adame, Richard Munoz and Richard Mona." But, in all, aside from simple infractions, he did little more than waste away slowly in the drug and booze bars of southern California - wearing black, always black -- salivating over Satan and freaking out on the flimsy, filmy veils of burning dragon weed.


Citizen's Arrest

No matter how evil, no matter how hideous, all things can be destroyed. Caliban shrinks from his own reflection; Prometheus scalds from the fire he created; warlocks recoil from the Druid stone; werewolves perish with a silver bullet; and vampires whither under sunlight. Richard Ramirez, closest to the latter, should have known better than to step out from under the blood-moon into the broad daylight. He was a creature of the night. But, the shadows would no longer hide him.

On the bright morning of Saturday, August 31, 1985, Ramirez stepped from a Greyhound bus that had just pulled into the Los Angeles depot from Phoenix, Arizona. He had gone there immediately following the Carns killing to buy cocaine from a seller he knew there. Still somewhat depleted from its effects, he returned to LA, the scene of his crimes - probably already scheming his next foray into depravity. He did not know that the police in the meantime had learned his identity nor that his face and name appeared for the first time in print in that morning's newspapers across the nation. He strutted past the depot's newsstand, oblivious to his own black and white visage scowling into the world, and grabbed a rapid transit to the East Side barrio.

"The man suspected of (so many) atrocities was first spotted clad in black jeans and a Jack Daniel's T-shirt at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday when he entered a small liquor store at 819 S. Towne Avenue and picked up a newspaper that had his picture on the first page," the Los Angeles Times relates. According to the store clerk, Ramirez, who was waiting for the cashier to ring up his purchase of whisky, panicked when he realized what he was looking at. He threw the paper down and hotfooted from the store. Citizens in the market had already recognized him and pursued him. They yelled out, "Stop, killer! Halt, el matador!"

Weaving through the Spanish-speaking neighborhood that he knew so well, but which had suddenly turned so foreboding, he made his way circuitously corner after corner to the 800 block of Mott Street. It was the beginning of the Labor Day weekend and residents were out this sunny morning; streets and porches brimmed with early risers, with strollers and shoppers on their way to shopping, and dog-walkers being yanked by their pets to the nearest fire hydrant. All their heads turned in his direction; there seemed to be a neon sign above him, directing their attention to the gaunt, ugly, pock-marked face they had just seen over their cup of java at the breakfast table. And they cried again, "El matador! It's him, the killing one! The killing machine!" When he ran, several of them waved down a passing police car and pointed out the direction of the Night Stalker's flight. When other residents phoned in a few moments later, claiming to have seen the fugitive a few blocks away, at Euclid and Garnet, seven squads were dispatched to the scene. Street after street, the squads fanned out, following residents' leads along a zigzag course.

One, maybe even two or three people might be wrong, the police ascertained, but not an entire neighborhood. The cops knew they had their man, and, he was turned in by his own people.

It was Ramirez's turn to live a nightmare. Finally. About him, the brownstone and slat board walls of the barrio were closing in, so tight that the lack of space squeezed his chest to take his breath away. Under the dirty Jack Daniel's logo he wore on his chest, his heart hammered his bones, and it ached like the devil that had deserted him. No escape from the world now, no escape from this bad dream. He had manufactured this mania, after all, in the night, and in the day it came back to, at last, haunt the hell out of him. Pointing fingers and jeers and twisted faces and taunts and open palms blocked his every move; detours led to other detours; the place he had for so long used to blend in had broken lose, overused and indignant. He had shamed his own people and they were hurling him through a gamut. Police sirens screamed from everywhere, and Richard Ramirez began to sob. His world came tumbling down, blurred in tears and perspiration.

He paused briefly at one woman's screen door. "Por favor, help me!" he implored. She saw the mob of neighbors assembling below her stoop, pointing at the hombre estupido. "Your him!" she shrieked, and slammed the inner door shut in his face.

"Desperate and near exhaustion, Night Stalker Richard Ramirez made a wrong turn when he dashed onto Hubbard Street - unknowingly he had stumbled into a neighborhood of heroes," the Los Angeles Times continues. "Four citizens grabbed and subdued the suspected murderer after a 20-second footrace, one of them pounding at him with a steel rod.

"The heroes who captured Ramirez were Manuel De La Torre, 32, and three of his neighbors across the street, Jose Burgoin, 55, and his sons Jaime, 21, and Julio, 17. Another hero was Faustino Pinon, 56, next-door neighbor of the Burgoins, who had fought off Ramirez when he tried to steal his daughter's car."

By the time the first squad arrived screeching onto the scene, the Burgoin boys had the Night Stalker pinned to the curb; what fight remained in him was subdued with both boy's fists and the steel whip; he was bleeding from the whelps. The man who had killed, maimed and raped without mercy whimpered now, and trembled now, like a scared puppy, dazed by the detonation of events. (Wasn't it only a few moments earlier he had stepped off the Greyhound, independent and carefree?)

Cuffed and shoved into the backseat of the squad car, the Night Stalker, brushing filthy tears from his cheek, made a strange request of the arresting deputy.

"Shoot me now, man! I don't deserve to live."

For once, Los Angeles and Richard Ramirez were of one mind.


Devilish Delays

The nation, in particular the prosecuting District Attorney's office, expected Senor Night Stalker's case to be open and shut, adios, and go to the death chamber quick. After all, the evidence was there and more details were zipping in as collected by the prosecution team's crack head-hunter units.

Little did anyone expect after the Night Stalker's dramatic arrest that his trial was not to commence for nearly two-and-a-half years. Legal manipulations and manoeuvrings would play the largest part in postponing justice. Other factors would be interference from outside sources, such as Ramirez's El Paso family, from hard-headed personal antagonism rampant amongst defense lawyers, and from Ramirez's own behavior and inability to cope with the reality of the judicial system. The defense would chase every loophole. Bias would be shouted, as well as prejudice, and the defense would parade them before a national grandstand, annoying press and public that knew better than to fall for the delays.

"The case appeared to be off to a running start," wrote Clifford L. Linedecker in Night Stalker, "(Los Angeles County District Attorney Ira) Reiner appointed veteran Deputy District Attorney P. Philip Halpin to prosecute the case within hours of Ramirez's arrest."

On Tuesday, Sept. 4, the suspect appeared in court to hear initial charges. "Standing with head bowed, Night Stalker suspect Richard Ramirez was arraigned on a single murder count and seven other charges stemming from two late-night attacks in early May in the San Gabriel Valley," reported the Los Angeles Times. "(He) was charged with murder, burglary, robbery, rape, sodomy and forced oral copulation in the May 14 shooting death (of Harold Wu) and an attack on (Wu's) wife...(He) could face the death penalty."

Simultaneously, San Francisco authorities charged Ramirez with the deaths of Mr. & Mrs. Peter Pan (August 17), and Orange County officials slapped him with murder and rape charges on the attacks on William Carns and Renata Gunther (August 25).

Of the other Los Angeles-area crimes of which he was alleged to have committed, DA Reiner told Times reporters, "Understand that the suspect was arrested just over the weekend. There is a mountain of evidence that has to be collated, has to be analyzed, has to be investigated; there is scientific investigation that is still going on. Within the next couple of weeks, I expect it will all be pulled together and decisions will be made as to which cases will be filed."

As Reiner predicted, during the following month Ramirez garnered 14 allegations of murder, which were accompanied by numerous allegations of attempted murder, robbery, burglary and sexual assault of varying degrees. Investigators had collected physical evidence in the cases involving murder, assault and/or rape on these victims:

* Jennie Vincow (June 28, 1984);

* Dayle Okazaki & Maria Hernandez (March 17, 1985);

* Tsai-Lian Yu (March 17);

* Vincent & Maxine Zazzara (March 27);

* Harold Wu (May 14);

* Ruth Wilson (May 30);

* Malvia Keller & Blanche Wolfe (June 1);

* Patty Higgins (June 28);

* Mary Louise Cannon (July 2);

* Diedre Palmer (July 5);

* Joyce Lucille Nelson (July 7);

* Linda Fortuna (July 7);

* Mason & Lela Kneiding (July 20);

* Chitat Assawahem (July 20);

* Christopher & Virginia Petersen (August 6); and

* Ahmed Zia (August 8).

Additional allegations were filed against Ramirez for crimes that he had not been previously suspected of, but which were recently traced to him: the robbery of an Eagle Rock resident, Thomas Sandova (March 2, 1985); the kidnapping and rape of an eight-year-old child in the same community (March 20); and the burglary of the Monrovia home of Clara Hadsall.

Again, the prosecution expected a lead pipe cinch, but their strategy to move the process along on an even keel was constantly interrupted by professional and not-so-professional shenanigans. What occurred was what Linedecker calls, "a legal circus...a nightmarish marathon that would last four years, cost the state almost $2 million in trial and other legal costs, involve a half-dozen defense attorneys, and almost 3,000 jury interviews."

To begin, there was the series of pyrotechnical relationships between Ramirez's defense lawyers, and between the lawyers and the Ramirez family. Municipal Judge Elva Soper had designated public defender Allen Adashek counsel for the defense, but this move was contrary to the Ramirezes of El Paso who wanted their son and brother to be defended by another attorney, one Manuel Barraza. Adashek claimed he had been appointed chief defense and refused to relinquish the position. After haggling caused delays, Barraza finally backed off, announcing he was not prepared to stay with a trial that he expected to last years.


Lost time

With that matter settled, Ramirez began balking that he did not like Adashek and refused to accept him as his lawyer. It seems to have been a clash of personalities: Adashek was a no-nonsense type who refused to put up with his client's mood swings and bad-boy behavior in court. (At his arraignments, Ramirez threatened the judge, fingered the prosecution, and proved to be an unruly, unacceptable, socially harmful defendant, drawing pentagrams on the palms of his hands and flashing these Satanic symbols into the faces of the media there to cover the proceedings.)

In an effort to keep things rolling and to grant the defendant all the liberties allowed a man on trial - especially a minority -- Judge Soper in October hesitantly accepted Ramirez's request for termination of Adashek and welcomed into court a new counselor hired by Rosa Flores, Ramirez's sister. This latest was a man named Joseph Gallego, a 56-year-old Californian with two decades of legal experience - but, the court discovered, with a very minor police record years earlier. By all indication, he was a talented man who sincerely, personally believed in his client and, very importantly, understood the Latino culture. If given a chance, he probably would have proven quite capable. If given a chance. Flores fired him.

Lost time -- again. In the interim, the defendant still had not answered the court's charges on the alleged felonies, a process that should have occurred immediately after the venue of charges was announced in early September. Months passed and the prosecution was forced to play hold-your-breath until the process could resume.

Flores' new choice of counsel to defend her brother was the team of Daniel and Arturo Hernandez, unrelated despite the matching surnames. Both lawyers had seen little experience in murder trials and certainly had not the grit comparable to upholding the weighty responsibility requested of them by the Ramirez family. Judge Soper herself mediated the court's concern and openly announced her reticence; she clearly pointed out the dangers of procuring inexperienced lawyers to the Ramirez family, but they wouldn't budge. In late October, Soper hesitantly but officially appointed Hernandez & Hernandez as counselors for the defense.

One of their first moves was to try to postpone the preliminary hearing from December, 1986, to April; 1987, vying for six months to adequately prepare their initial defense. The court felt that their request was exaggerated, but not inflexible, postponed the hearing to February 24, after the new year. The prosecution, who felt they had an airtight case and had been raring to go for some time, grumbled. Expressing their disappointment, however, they politely conceded.

In the meantime, the press had noticed the shifting of lawyers, the postponements and, what it considered, the weakness of the court to bend to the new defense counsel's every time-wasting whim. The year 1986 had come and gone and taxpayers were paying for the Night Stalker's bread and board. When Judge Candace Cooper, who would preside over the preliminary hearing, issued a gag order on the hearings, which barred the media from the courtroom, hell broke asunder and the journalism turned blue with curses. The syndicated press appealed the ruling with fervor. As time neared, however, the responsibility of the preliminaries was shifted from Cooper's court to that of jurist James T. Nelson, who, considering the factors, amended all previous decisions and decided to allow the reporters into the courtroom. The media applauded Nelson's recognition of their rights while the Hernandez's, who claimed that their client would be hung by a pack of bloodthirsty newshounds, yelped - but to no avail.

Finally -- the preliminary hearing opened in February, 1987. The purpose of this hearing was to identify which of the many allegations presented against Ramirez should actually come to trial - or, to quote author Linedecker, those charges where "sufficient evidence of crimes had been presented to establish a prima facie case".

Of the 30-plus witnesses who testified during the three-week hearing, they included Jack Vincow, who found his mother's corpse after her brutal slaying in June of 1984; Joseph Duenas, an eyewitness to the Tsai-Lian Yu attack in March, 1985; Maria Hernandez, roommate of the murdered Dayle Okazaki that same night; Ruth Wilson, who was raped on May 30; Renata Gunther, rape victim of August 25; and Esparanza Gonzales, whose boyfriend had unwittingly purchased one of the murder weapons from Ramirez. Throughout, the defense and prosecuting lawyers often became inveigled in vocal squabbles apart from the formal proceedings; the defense accused the court of bias and the prosecution claimed outwardly that the defense's demeanor in court was anything but respectful to the bench.

The defendant himself was totally void of comportment. Judge Nelson repeatedly was forced to warn him to subdue his erratic behavior, his incessant displays of contempt towards opposing counsel and witnesses. Messrs. Hernandez, the court noted, were not supportive of the court, for they often joked and jibed along with Ramirez at the counsel table.

"Ramirez...laughed a lot, and joked with his attorneys, even cackling loudly, during crucial testimony," states Linedecker. "Once he laughed loudly during a young widow's testimony had caused several spectators to cry as she tearfully described how her assailant had raped and beaten her while her slain husband lay nearby...Sometimes, Ramirez sneered openly at the prosecution. (Studying photographs of crime scenes) he smirked...when he came across a death-scene photo he especially liked."

The suspect seemed to enjoy staring down witnesses at the podium in an effort to fluster them, for he realized the power of fear in his Rasputin dark eyes. At one point, the wearied judge, who had had enough of mind games, warned him to stop -stop now!  Ramirez tested the warning and once again set his black pupils on the next witness to take the stand. The judge nodded to the bailiff, and the bailiff physically yanked the defendant's head in the other direction. Ramirez grunted and, leaping to his feet, attacked the bailiff. Within seconds, he was overcome by courtroom guards who dragged him from the chambers back to his holding cell.

Hernandez & Hernandez cried unfair, but everyone else, including the judge, gleefully closed their ears. The press loved the confrontation - finally a little justice was exhibited - and they made the most of it.

The preliminary session ended on May 7. Ramirez would be tried on a total of 41 specific criminal charges - 14 for murder, five for attempted murder, 15 for burglary, four for rape, three for forced oral copulation, and four for sodomy. Ramirez pleaded not guilty to all charges. Trial was set for September 2, 1987.

But - again, the defense sought postponement - and the trial was pushed back to December 2. More delays were forthcoming.

Suffering a workload and backup of cases by this time, the original trial judge relinquished the case to conservative Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan. This move, though necessary, provoked more delays. And, when the Hernandez's suddenly sparked an argument out of the clear blue to have the trial removed from the Los Angeles area - where they said their client would not get a fair hearing - another postponement loomed. Eventually shot down, the Hernandez-initiated filing nevertheless wasted many months.

Trial was rescheduled for February 1, 1988.

And the beat went on. Hollering that they had not been given full access to the LAPD files for scrutiny, Hernandez & Hernandez sought and won more time to browse the police records that they claimed had been shut to them.

Trial was re-set for July, 1988, when jury selection finally began.

For the first time, the lawyers from both sides of the table agreed on something: that, because of the media's attention to the ghastly nature of the crimes, it would not be easy to find impartial jurors. A pool of 3,000 prospective jurors was dwindled to half that number, they were then carefully interviewed by both counsels. Cut by cut, slice by slice, twelve of whom both factions approved were at last chosen. Six of the jurors were Latino. It had been an enormous, monumental, historical example of the American right to fair trial at work.

The trial of Richard Ramirez began on January 29, 1989, the Night Stalker's terror almost a dim memory to the American public -- except for those who lived it. They would always remember. And they were hungry for justice.


Justice

Judge Tynan's courtroom hummed with excitement the day the trial opened in late January. Estimated length of the trial, claimed reporters, was four to six months. Television cameras, allowed to shoot portions of the trial, remained unobtrusively behind the reporters scratching their observations in steno pads; on the public benches lawmen who had taken part in the capture of Ramirez, including Detective Frank Salerno, sat intermingled with random spectators lucky enough to have obtained a seat. Defendant Richard Ramirez sat calmly at the counsel's table; his lawyer had dressed him in a conservative suit and had seen that his stringy hair was styled; sunglasses covered his menacing gaze. A gavel announced the commencement of the proceedings and, as the bailiff called for quiet, only the whir of the ceiling fan could be heard. Then Prosecutor Philip Halpin spoke.

He addressed the jury, reminding them that they were there to try a vicious monster who had no regard for human life or decency, a ghoul who had torture-killed many and had left many alive to face days of pain and deformity. He reminded them that this monster worshiped the devil and fed to him innocent people as sacrificial lambs, their own beds being the chosen bloody altars.

There was no doubt, he said, that Ramirez was guilty. Four different small-caliber handguns that belonged to him were traced down as far away as Texas; ballistic tests already proved they killed the victims. Jewelry belonging to several other victims was located at his sister's home in El Paso where the woman unwittingly accepted them as gifts. Then there were Ramirez's finger and shoe prints found at the crime scenes. And then, of course, there were witnesses - many of them -- ready to come forward to identify Ramirez as their rapist, their assailant, and the killer of their husbands and boyfriends.

He concluded: "We have alleged these murders are in the first degree, were premeditated, and occurred during burglaries or other crimes. We are asking for the death penalty."

Defense lawyer Daniel Hernandez waived his opening remarks until the prosecution fully concluded its forum later in the trial. Halpin had made such a dent that it was obvious that, at this point, there wasn't much one could say in rebuttal. In fact, as the trial progressed, Hernandez's weak start became weaker; not only because the prosecution's evidence was so strong, but because his partner Arturo suspiciously proved to be a no-show. Going it alone against a Goliath, Daniel Hernandez was overwhelmed and exhausted. A month into the trial, Hernandez announced he required medical leave.

In view of all the costly delays that had already occurred, Judge Tynan refused to grant a suspension, but commandeered help for Hernandez. He replaced the invisible Arturo with criminal lawyer Ray Clark, an attorney of merit.

Clark virtually took over the case of the defense with alacrity. He was a well-meaning and clever lawyer who reshaped the defense's platform by trying to show that Ramirez in many instances was a victim of mistaken identity. But, it was all too late for that, and to no avail.

Of the 165 witnesses who addressed the court, most of them brought damaging testimony against the defendant. Witness after witness for the prosecution had sworn under oath, identifying Ramirez; they remembered his exact words, his cursing to the devil, and they were simply unable to forget those pair of dark eyes that, despite the masquerade of sunglasses, were Richard Ramirez's.

The shades, for that matter, concealed absolutely nothing, especially the negatively kinetic Thing that dwelt beneath them. As during his preliminary hearing, Ramirez remained his uncontrollable self throughout the court, defying the judge's orders to keep quiet, muttering under his breath at witnesses and bursting into idiotic laughter during damaging testimony.

"At the trial, the killer played to the press," declares Jay Robert Nash in his crime anthology, Bloodletters and Badmen. "He flashed the palm of his hand where he had drawn a livid sign of the pentagram. On other occasions, as he sat listening to the prosecution condemn him for his crimes, he placed two upturned fingers on either side of his temples to indicate horns and intoned: 'Evil...Evil...Evil...'"

Not the way to befriend a jury.

Closing arguments having ended in July, it was now the jury's turn to summon a verdict.

Delays, a trademark of the Ramirez case, occurred even during jury deliberation. One juror was fired for sleeping and replaced with an alternative. Frighteningly, another was murdered by a jealous boyfriend. She, too, was replaced. But, both these occurrences drew time. Months crawled while the nation awaited a verdict.

On September 20, 1989, Richard Ramirez was brought from his cell to hear what the jury members ultimately decided: Guilty on all counts.

Despite pleas from the defense, the jury recommended death.

When Judge Tynan asked the prisoner if he had anything to say on his own behalf, Ramirez, in true Night Stalker mien, cursed the court, cursed the jurors, cursed the world. "I need not look beyond this room to see all the liars, haters, the killers, the crooks, the paranoid cowards - truly trematodes of the Earth," he rambled. "You maggots make me sick - one and all...I am beyond your experience, I am beyond good and evil..."

But, the nation cared not what he had to say. All it cared was that he was not beyond the gas chamber. In the end, that's all that mattered most.

But, there was one more side to consider, that of the victims who lived, and the victims' families. On November 11, 1989, USA Today quoted Don Nelson who had found the mutilated remains of his mother Joyce in July of 1985. Asked what he thought of his mother's killer's death sentence, Nelson replied, "It doesn't bring my mom back, but he can no longer threaten anybody. I still see what my mom looked like as a result of what he did, and that's something I'm going to have to deal with over the remainder of my life."

*****

Today, Richard Ramirez sits in San Quentin's Death Row, where he was deposited more than a decade ago. Having been tried for the crimes he is known to have committed in Los Angeles, he still has not been tried for the alleged murders that occurred in the San Francisco/Orange County area. In 1995, the then-10-year-old case against Ramirez for the killing of Mr. & Mrs. Pan in Lake Merced, Orange County, was put on indefinite hold pending further investigation.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "The delay in the San Francisco case was sought while appeals of his previous murder conviction are heard...Los Angeles prosecutors have opposed a San Francisco murder trial, fearing it would undermine the earlier convictions and death sentence."

But, there is no way Ramirez will ever again see the light of day.


Bibliography

Fox, James Alan and Jack Levin, Overkill: Mass Murder and Serial Killing Exposed. Dell 1996.

Hickey, Eric W., Serial Murderers and Their Victims.  Wadsworth Publishing, 1997.

Lane, Brian and Wilfred Gregg, The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers.  Berkley Books, 1995.

Linedecker, Clifford L., Night Stalker.  St. Martin's Press, 1991.

Nash, Jay Robert, Bloodletters and Badmen.  M. Evans & Company, 1995.

Wilson, Colin and Donald Seaman, The Serial Killers: A Study in the Psychology of Violence. Virgin Publishing, 1997.

CrimeLibrary.com


The Night Stalker

by John Boston

SATAN'S OWN

It all began the early morning of June 28, 1984, in the small suburban community of Glassel Park.  It wasn't designed to be what it became: the first in a series of murders of escalating brutality that threw the entire Los Angeles area into complete panic. It was a burglary, but the burglar, strung out on cocaine and secure in the belief that Satan would protect him, was a time bomb ready to explode.

He parked his car down the street and walked to the two-story apartment building.  For no particular reason, he selected the home of seventy-nine-year-old Jennie Vincow.  It was such a warm night that she had the window of her first floor apartment open.  The gloved hands carefully removed the screen and opened the window wider.  Quiet as a cat, he got into the apartment and moved toward the bedroom.  

Soundlessly, he looked through the drawers, but found nothing that he could turn into cash for drugs or sex.  He was furious that the old woman had nothing of value for him to steal.  He would take something anyway, something very precious to Jennie -- her life.  The thought of it excited him, so he took out his hunting knife and plunged it into the breast of the sleeping woman.

She screamed and tried to fight him off, but he kept stabbing her.   Finally, with one hand over her mouth, he slit her throat from ear to ear, nearly decapitating her.  He was so energized by the thrill that he stabbed her three more times in the chest.

Rampage

The next afternoon, Jennie Vincow's son went to take her a treat and found her horribly murdered.  His call to LAPD brought two seasoned homicide detectives, Jesse Castillo and Mike Wynn.  The only clues they had to go on were four reasonably good fingerprints to match against any suspect they found.  Manual comparison of fingerprints with the millions of prints already on file at LAPD would have taken years to complete.  Like many homicides, there was a flurry of activity as potential suspects were interviewed and eliminated one by one.  Eventually, the activity on the case slowed to a crawl.

A number of months later, the Night Stalker came back to life on the evening of March 17, 1985.  Maria Hernandez, a pretty dark-haired woman, drove her car into the parking garage of her new Rosemead condominium.  She shared the condo with another very attractive woman, thirty-five-year-old Dayle Okazaki, a traffic supervisor for L.A. County.

She pushed the button to shut the garage door and located her building key.  The lights in the garage stayed on only for a short time after the garage door button was pushed.  Suddenly she was looking at the barrel of a .22-caliber revolver.  She screamed and begged him not to shoot her, but he kept walking toward her.

The garage lights automatically went out as they were programmed to do, leaving Maria alone with a gun pointed at her head.  She reflexively raised her hand to protect her face.  The gun fired and she fell down, but luck was with her and the keys in her hand deflected the bullet.  She played dead while he took her keys and entered her condominium.

Dayle, hearing the shot and someone coming into the apartment ducked down beneath the kitchen counter and waited.  A few minutes later, she peeked and he shot her right in the forehead.  

Maria saw him, all dressed in black, escaping down the front walkway.   He happened to see her and pointed the gun at her again.  She begged him not to shoot her again and she was lucky a second time.  He ran back to his stolen car and left her alive.

Maria ran back in her house and tried to revive her roommate Dayle. Then she called 911 and two L.A. County sheriff's deputies came her house, confirming that Dayle was dead.

The murder of Dayle Okazaki was not enough for one night.  He drove over to Monterey Park and sighted a pretty young woman of Chinese descent.  Veronica Yu noticed that a man in a Toyota was following her.  She pulled her car over and stopped so that she could get a better look at him.  He passed her by, but then she began to follow him.

He stopped the car and walked over to hers, unaware that Jorge Gallegos and his girlfriend Edith Alcaaz were watching from their vehicle down the street.   She demanded to know why he was following her and threatened to call the police with his license plate number.

He grabbed her by the shoulders and tried to pull her out of the window of the car.  Failing that, he got into the car with her, pulled out his revolver and shot her in the side.  She scrambled out the other door and fell on the street, crying for help.

"Bitch!" he yelled and laughed loudly at her.  He got back into his car and sped off, leaving her to die.  Jorge and Edith ran to Veronica Yu.   Edith's cousin phoned the Monterey Police Department.  When the paramedics came they tried to resuscitate her, but with no luck.  Veronica died on the way to the hospital.

Initially, police did not connect these two St. Patrick's Day murders to each other or to the murder of Jennie Vincow months earlier.  The murders occurred in three different jurisdictions.  Criminals, especially burglars, were well aware of the lack of communication and cooperation among the law enforcement agencies in the Greater Los Angeles area and used that fact to their advantage.

It just happened that Maria Hernandez's godmother was the mother of Deputy Gil Carrillo of L.A. Sheriff's Homicide unit.  Coincidentally, Carrillo happened to be randomly assigned to the Hernandez/Okazaki case.  Carrillo was no ordinary cop.  First, he was a giant of a man, six feet four inches tall, weighing in at 280 pounds.  Secondly, he was a very personable man, but extremely tough and experienced.  He was a Medal of Valor and Bronze Star veteran of Vietnam and had worked on more than 300 murder cases.

Carrillo knew from his studies with the FBI's Behavior Sciences group at Quantico, VA, that some killers got their sexual kicks from the murdering of a person.   Carrillo called up Detective Tony Romero of the Monterey Police and they exchanged information about the Hernandez/ Okazaki and Veronica Yu cases.  Carrillo was beginning to think that these two cases were linked by the "man in black."   Both of these crimes seemed to be motiveless and random, indicating the potential of a serial killer on the loose.

Immediately, Carrillo sought the advice of their serial killer expert, Sgt. Frank Salerno who had headed up the task force to bring in the Hillside Strangler.   "Frank was the very best we had," Carrillo said.  "You couldn't find a better homicide detective anywhere than Salerno."  Salerno was the man who used a tiny piece of thread to tie the two culprits to the murder of ten women.

"Bulldog" Salerno was man known for his tenacity.  Also a big man, six foot two inches tall and 220 pounds, he kept himself at perfect shape by swimming in his pool everyday.  He was also a gun aficionado and a crack shot.

Carrillo collected all of the evidence and eyewitness reports that they had and took the information to Frank.  Importantly, several people had seen the killer, including Maria.  "He was five ten, thin, with black hair and dark, real scary, eyes," she said of him.  He dressed in black, possibly the owner of a hat with the emblem of the heavy metal rock group AC/DC that had fallen off in the garage.

Salerno told Carrillo to start looking at the crime reports and released sex criminals.  In all likelihood, the man had killed before and just not been tied to the earlier crimes.  "A man does not become a killer overnight."

The Night Stalker took an eight-day vacation before he began the hunt again.  This time in the early morning of March 26, he visited the well-to-do community of Whittier.  At two in the morning he silently pulled up to the home of Vincent and Maxine Zazzara in his stolen Toyota.  From the outside of the house, he could see the middle-aged Zazzara sleeping on the couch in front of the television.   Through another window, he saw Maxine asleep on her bed.

He tried to get the screen off, but everything was locked up.   Eventually, he hoisted himself up to the laundry room window and pried open the window.  Once inside, he went straight to the den and shot Zazzara in the head with his .22 caliber revolver.  Vincent tried to get up, but the .22 had already done its damage to his brain and he fell over onto the floor.

Then he went right to the bedroom.  The shot had awakened Maxine, but by the time she could collect her thoughts, he had tied her hands together with a necktie.   While he was ransacking the bedroom, she did something very bold.  Knowing that there was a shotgun that her husband kept under the bed, she quietly and quickly rolled off the bed and grabbed the shotgun.

By the time he saw her, he was looking down the barrel of a shotgun.   He reached for the gun in his pants and she immediately pulled the trigger.   No big boom, just a little click.  Vincent had taken all the ammunition out when the grandkids had come over for the weekend.

He shot her three times with the .22.  Then he beat her and kicked her, but it wasn't enough to vent his fury.  He raced into the kitchen, brought back a carving knife with a 10-inch blade, and tried to cut out her heart.  He couldn't cut through her rib cage so he cut out her eyes and put them in a jewelry box.  He pulled up her nightgown with the idea of sexually assaulting her, but he was too keyed up by the episode with the shotgun.  Finally he stabbed her stomach, throat and pubic area.  He took everything he could fence and left by the front door, his clothes drenched in Maxine's blood.

When friends found the Zazzaras later that day, the sheriff's homicide detectives were brought in. They found the killer's shoeprint on the patio and on the large can he used to climb into the laundry room.  The same shoeprints were in the flower bed just under the window the killer had entered.   The shoeprints matched one discovered in the attempted abduction of a young L.A. woman.

At that point, there was not enough reason to tie the Zazzara attack to the attacks on Jennie Vincow, Dayle Okazaki and Veronica Yu. When Carrillo heard of the Zazzara murders, he had a hunch it was the same man, but his colleagues laughed at his suggestion.  "No one suspect did all these crimes," they told him.

Eighteen days after he murdered the Zazzaras, the Night Stalker cruised around Monterery Park where he had killed Veronica Yu.  It was early morning when he parked his car on Trumblower Avenue.  He noticed a woman drive by and look at him.   Her name was Launie Dempster and she delivered the Herald Examiner.   During the day, she worked as a security guard at a college in Whittier.

The killer selected the home of William and Lillian Doi, a retired couple of Japanese descent.  Lillian was wheelchair bound, having suffered a crippling stroke a couple of years earlier. He went around the back of the house and found an open window.  He cut the screen and opened the window wide enough to crawl in.    First he went into Bill's bedroom.  Bill heard him and grabbed one of the handguns he kept around the house for security reasons.  The killer was too fast for him.  Holding the .22 in combat position, he shot Bill just above the upper lip.   Then he beat Bill into unconsciousness.

By this time, Lillian was awake and thoroughly terrified.  The killer went over to her bed, slapped her and warned her not to make any noise.  "Shut up, bitch, or I'll kill you."  He immobilized her hands with thumb cuffs and began to ransack the house.

Bill regained consciousness briefly, so the killer went back in the room and beat him once again until he passed out.  So excited by the violence, he went back into Lillian's bedroom and raped the fifty-six-year-old invalid woman.

After the intruder left, Bill briefly regained consciousness, dragged himself into Lillian's room and summoned up enough strength to call the police.  First came the fire department and then the Monterey Park police.  William Doi was pronounced dead at 5:13 in the morning.

A short time later, Detective Paul Torres found the footprints from a pair of Avia brand shoes on the rear patio and on the screen that the killer had removed.   They made a plaster cast of the shoeprints. 

When Carrillo went over to talk to Torres, he was not welcomed, since it was not his jurisdiction.  Consequently, Carrillo did not hear about the Avia footprints that would have matched the footprints from the Zazzara murders and the attempted abduction of the girl from L.A.   Jurisdictional problems and jealousies have marred the relationships between the Los Angeles area law enforcement agencies for decades.  Sometimes, this lack of communication and cooperation merely slows down the capture of criminals such as in the Charles Manson case, but in the Night Stalker case, lives may have been lost as a consequence.

On the night of May 29, the killer headed northeast of Los Angeles to the town of Monrovia in the San Gabriel Valley.  Randomly, he selected the house of eighty-one-year-old Mabel Bell, who lived with her invalid sister Nettie Lang.  Crime was not something she worried much about, so she habitually left her doors unlocked.

The killer went in the front door very quietly.  He found a hammer in the kitchen and sunk it repeatedly into Nettie's head.  Then he did the same to Mabel until her head was a bloody mess and brain matter scattered all about the room.  He took the cord from her nightstand clock, exposed the wire and used it to send electric currents into the body of the beaten woman.  With her red lipstick, he drew one pentagram on her thigh and one on the wall above her head.

He went back into Nettie's bedroom, all fired up from what he had done, ripped off the nightgown of the elderly woman and raped her.  He decorated Nettie's room with another pentagram, grabbed a softdrink and banana in the kitchen and left.

Before the two women were discovered, he was at it again.  The thrill and sexual high of what he did to Mabel and Nettie was so great that he needed to repeat it again immediately.  Burbank was the location he decided upon for this particular hunt.  The house he selected was locked up tight, so he reached through the dog door and was able to reach up and unlock the back door. 

He saw the sleeping woman and shined a flashlight in her eyes.   "Wake up, bitch!  Don't scream or I'll kill you."  When he asked who else was in the house, a terrified Carol Kyle told him that her eleven-year-old son was in the next room.  He made her lead him to the boy's bedroom door and then lie down on the floor.

He astonished her and her son when he opened the boy's door, turned on the light and jumped on the sleeping boy, putting a gun to his head.  Carol ran into the room and put herself between the killer and her son.  "Please don't hurt him.   Take whatever you want, just don't hurt him, please!"

"Don't look at me," he commanded her while he handcuffed the mother and son together.  He took the two of them and closed them in the hall closet.   Just as he shut the door, he opened it again and said, "You don't have any guns in here, do you?"

She told him that she didn't own any guns, but he went frantically searching the house just in case.  Then he demanded her jewelry.  She promised to give it to him as long as he didn't hurt her children.  He uncuffed the two of them, and then cuffed the son's hands behind him and shut him back up in the closet.   He tied her hands together with pantyhose and threw her on the bed. 

"Do what I say and you'll both be all right," he said as he ripped off her nightgown and panties and forced her to go down on him.  He sodomized her several times roughly.  The more she hurt, the more he was turned on by it.   She described his eyes as absolutely demonic, so she was careful not to do anything to resist him or make him angry.  He was like a bomb ready to explode.

After this assault, he went to get a softdrink from the kitchen and told her that she wasn't bad sexually, considering her age (forty-two).  "You're lucky I'm letting you live.  I've killed a lot of people you know."

Finally, he gave her a nightgown to cover herself and brought her son in the room where he cuffed them both to the bed.  The key to the cuffs he left on the mantel so that when her daughter came home, she could free them.

"You say anything about who I am and I'll have my friends come back here...I know where you live, remember."

When they were finally rescued, nobody at the Burbank police department linked the assault on Carol Kyle to the other attacks and consequently, Carrillo at the sheriff's homicide unit was not called.  The next day, Carol worked with an artist to capture his features, but the composite was not a successful rendering of the man who attacked her.

Night Stalker composite

A few days later, the handyman found Nettie and Mabel.  Remarkably, the two were still alive, but just barely.  They had multiple skull fractures, exposed brain matter and tears around the vagina.  Both elderly women were comatose.  Monrovia police called in the sheriff's homicide detectives to help.   Even though neither woman was dead, the Bell/Lang attack was so life threatening that the small police force needed the sheriff's resources to address the matter.

There was a great deal of evidence for them to collect.  After raping, torturing and beating the old women almost to death, the killer made himself right at home.  They found two half-eaten bananas, a toilet full of urine, and empty softdrink cans.  There was a footstep marked in blood.

If it was one man responsible for all of these attacks, then they had a very unusual serial killer on their hands.  For the most part, a serial killer sticks with one particular type of victim.  If the same man who assaulted Mabel and Nettie killed the Zazzaras, Bill Doi, Dayle Okazaki and Veronica Yu, then they had a unique breed of serial killer on their hands from whom no one was safe.

In early June, the killer selected a house in Pico Rivera, about a half-mile from the Zazzara's home and a few blocks away from the home of Detective Carrillo's mother.  It was just around midnight when he tried the windows, but they were locked, except for the one in the dining room.  He took off the screen, but had trouble raising the window, which was stuck in place by dried paint. A screwdriver loosened it and he opened the window slowly.

Inside the house he heard a woman call out, "John, did you open the window?"

L.A. Sheriff's deputy John Rodriguez got out of bed and went into the living room where his wife Susan was watching the late news.

"Well, it wasn't me, and that window's been sealed for two years -- ever since I painted the house.."

"I heard it go up," she insisted.

With that, the killer wisely abandoned the house and went back to his car, but he left his distinctive Avia footprint right under the dining room window.  The deputy called in the attempted housebreaking immediately and Detective Carrillo was notified.  All of a sudden, this case became intensely personal to Carrillo.   His mother could have become a victim like Nettie Lang or Mabel Bell.

It was a bad night for the killer, too.  He just couldn't find the right house to invade and it made him mad.  He tried to kidnap a girl in Eagle Rock, but someone called the cops and he had to run.  Then, to make matters worse, he ran a red light and was stopped by an LAPD motorcycle cop.

With no driver's license, no registration, and a stolen Toyota, the killer began to get a bit nervous.  But as luck would have it, the motorcycle cop, even though he had heard that the description of the man who had tried to abduct the girl and knew the perpetrator was driving a stolen Toyota, didn't connect the two events.

The officer walked back to the killer to give him a traffic ticket and asked, "Hey...you're not the guy killing people in their homes, are you?"

"No way, man" the killer protested.  "When are you guys going to catch that motherfucker anyway?" When the cop went back to his motorcycle, the killer drew a pentagram on the Toyota's hood and ran away.  The cop tried to catch him, but the killer got away.

The officer went back to the stolen car and found a wallet with a hundred in cash, a dentist's appointment card, and a phone book with half a dozen phone numbers.   The cop didn't think to have the car dusted for prints even though some would have certainly been made when the pentagram was drawn.  When Carrillo heard about the incident and the attempted abduction, he went over to LAPD, but was told that they wouldn't release any information until the higher ups approved.

Carrillo went to the crime lab and told them he needed to know everything about these Avia Aerobic sneakers that were the one link between many of the crimes.   What stores carried them?  How many came to this area?  What means existed to track down the buyers of the very large size sneakers like the killer had?  

That afternoon, Frank Salerno and Gil Carrillo decided to become official partners.  Carrillo was thrilled to be working with a man so worthy of respect.   The two of  them knew it was just a matter of time before the Night Stalker was theirs.

Reign of Terror

In early June, Carrillo and Salerno were called to investigate the murder of Patty Higgins, a pretty twenty-eight-year-old woman who lived in Arcadia.  She had been beaten badly and nearly decapitated.  The wounds to her neck were a combination of a stab and a slash which had been quickly fatal to the attractive young schoolteacher.   It appeared that she had been sodomized.

Their were no Avia prints and no .22 caliber revolver, so they had nothing to tie the murder specifically to the Night Stalker.  But the sheer brutality of the attack pointed in his direction.

The Night Stalker struck again on July 2, going back to the suburb of Arcadia, northeast of the city at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains.  He selected the home of seventy-five-year-old Mary Louise Cannon, who lived alone.  Her ranch-style home was completely dark.  Very sure of himself, he lifted the screen off the front window, pried it open and entered quietly.

He made sure that the sleeping woman was alone and then took a lamp from her dresser and slammed it down on her head, beating  her and choking her into unconsciousness.  Then he took a knife from the kitchen and stabbed her in the throat over and over again.  Finally, he ransacked her house and left by the front door.

When Salerno and Carrillo came to investigate this second brutal murder in Arcadia, they realized that their man had done both killings.  The stab-slashing of the throat on Mary Louise Cannon was identical to the one inflicted on Patty Higgins.   There was something more -- the imprint of a large footprint in the nap of a new rug.  The print was cut from the rug and rushed to the laboratory.  Also, a piece of tissue was found on the floor that clearly bore the unique waffle pattern of the Avia Aerobic sneaker.

At that point, they had the evidence to prove that there was a terrifying new serial killer at work. Salerno and Carrillo met with Captain Bob Grimm and were given the resources and authority to mount a full-scale investigation.

A couple of days later, the killer went back a third time to the upscale community of Arcadia and selected the home of executive Steve Bennett, his wife and children, sixteen-year-old Whitney and eighteen-year-old James.

He got in through the front door and, as was his custom, prowled around the house until he knew exactly how many people were there sleeping.  This time he brought the tire iron from the stolen car so that he could beat the Bennetts to death.   He battered sixteen-year-old Whitney ten times with the tire iron.  Then he took some telephone cord, wrapped it around her neck and tightened it.

For some reason, he left the house without ransacking it or waking the other members of the household.

The next day, a beaten and bruised Whitney awakened in a pool of her own blood with a horrendous headache.  She had no idea what had happened to her.  Later that day, the waffle pattern of the Avia Aerobic shoe was clearly visible on Whitney's comforter, and the mystery was solved.

The next day, Salerno and Carrillo developed a composite description of the Night Stalker.  He was tall, with a shoe size of 11 and 1/2, Hispanic with unkempt black hair, poor teeth and a bad "wet leather" odor about him.  He was a Satanist and a sadist, with a particular interest in sodomy.  Carol Kyle called him a good-looking, light-skinned Mexican, who was very vicious.  

On July 7, the Night Stalker, dressed as he normally was all in black, went back to Monterey Park where he had murdered Bill Doi and Veronica Yu.  He chose the home of sixty-one-year-old Joyce Nelson and entered her home through an unlocked window.  She was sleeping on the couch in front of the television when he put the .22 to her head. 

He grabbed her by the hair and pulled her toward the bedroom.  She tried to fight him off, but it made him even angrier.  He knocked her to the floor and beat her into unconsciousness with his fists.  Then he dragged her into the bedroom, kicked her in the face so hard that the imprint of his Avia shoe was visible on her face.  He beat her to death, robbed her home and walked out the front door to his car.

But that was not enough for one night.  The Night Stalker came back to Monterey Park again around 3 in the morning.  He picked the home of sixty-three-year-old Sophie Dickman, a psychiatric nurse.  All of her doors and windows were locked so, but he was persistent.  He reached inside a pet door and was able to unlock the door from that.

When he was sure that she was alone in the house, he pulled out his revolver, turned on the lights and charged at her bed.  As he held his hand over her mouth, he told her.  "Don't look at me!  Don't make a fucking sound or I'll kill you!"  Then he put the .22 to her head, "Undermotherfuckingstand?"

Sophie knew who he was immediately from reading about him in the newspapers.  Her experience as a psychiatric nurse kept her from doing anything to set him off as he handcuffed her and put a pillowcase over his head. 

"Where's the diamonds and where's the money?"

When she told him she didn't have any, he punched her in the face.   "Liar!  Where's the jewelry or you are fucking dead!"

She told him her jewelry was in a hiding place in the bathroom.  He dragged her in there and she gave him everything she had hidden.   While he was examining her jewelry, she slipped off her diamond ring and hid it, but he caught her at it and punched her again in the face.

He tried unsuccessfully to rape her, but he couldn't get an erection.   Then he demanded to know where her other valuables were hidden.  She swore to him that she had no other jewelry.  He made her swear on Satan that she wasn't hiding anything more from him.

He handcuffed her to the bed and warned her not to scream.   "Remember, I know where you live," he told her and proceeded to ransack the house.   Right opposite Sophie Dickman's house, Sheriff's Deputy Linda Arthur lived.  Mrs. Dickman's calls to her woke her up and she went over in her bathrobe to help her neighbor.

Realizing that the Monterey Park police would not be particularly receptive to Carrillo from the sheriff's office coming to the crime scene, Linda Arthur made sure that they understood that Carrillo was a friend of hers and that she had asked him for help. 

At first, they weren't sure it was the Night Stalker.  The characteristic Avia footprints were not found around Sophie's house.  Sophie described the Stalker as a good-looking, tall, thin man with bad teeth .

But soon, the discovery of Joyce Nelson and the Avia footprint on her face confirmed that the Night Stalker was indeed on a rampage that night.  Carrillo and Salerno raced to Joyce Nelson's home, but the news media beat both of them to the punch.   It was finally clear that a serial killer was at work. 

Philip Carlo in his book The Night Stalker describes the scenario:  "Quickly, word of the incredible brutality, missing eyes, pentagrams, torture, sodomy, and brutal rapes spread among the newspeople like blood on white satin.   There were camera crews from every network, as well as print reporters with photographers from all of the newspapers, Spanish and Japanese included...When the news media learned that the Frank Salerno, of Hillside Strangler fame, was running the task force for this new serial killer...they wouldn't leave him alone.  He, and soon Carrillo as well, were hounded by reporters...from as far away as England, Israel, and Brazil."

The criminalists at the sheriff's office had gathered some very important information on the Avia Aerobic Shoe.  Very few had been made and only six pair had been sold in Los Angeles.  Of those six pair of Avias, only one pair was size 11 and 1/2.  Photos of the unique shoe were rushed to all the police agencies in Los Angeles County.

Finally, LAPD let the sheriff's office have the car that was left behind when the Night Stalker was scared off by the motorcycle cop.  Carrillo and Salerno also found out about the dentist's appointment card and the book with phone numbers that had been left in the car.  After that, the area's law enforcement groups   started to pull together.

They contacted Dr. Leung, who told them that a Richard Mena had made the appointment.  The dentist was sure that the man would need treatment soon because of a very painful condition.  A deputy was stationed in the dentist's office and the task force focused on trying to find a Richard Mena with very large feet.

All of the publicity made things harder for the task force.  Every one seemed to know who the Night Stalker was and the sheriff's office was inundated with tips from both citizens and police alike.  However, one of the few good things that did result   from the publicity was that people in Los Angeles area became very security conscious, making sure that they locked their windows and doors.  Sales of guns, security systems and guard dogs soared.

The biggest downside of the publicity was the effect on the Night Stalker himself.  He was catapulted into celebrity status and his sick ego fed on every scrap.  The publicity validated his power and encouraged him to plan even more brutal attacks.  He, too, became very security conscious now that the police had put their best men on his track.

On July 17, Mabel Bell died from the head wounds the Night Stalker had inflicted on her at the end of May.  Her sister, Nettie Lang, remained alive, but in a coma.

Armed with a new huge machete, the Night Stalker was anxious to get back to work.  On July 20, he selected the upscale city of Glendale and cruised down its streets until he came to the home of Max and Lela Kneidling, both in their sixties.   He sneaked into their bedroom and slammed the machete at Max's neck, but the blade was not sharp enough to decapitate him.  Annoyed, he shot both husband and wife in the face with his revolver.  Afterwards, he used his new machete to cut and stab them.

He had to ransack the house quickly before the gun shots brought the police.  The night was still young and his savagery had not tired him, so he drove to Sun Valley to select another victim.  A little after 4 A.M., he decided upon the home of Chainarong and Somkid Khovananth, immigrants from Thailand, and their two young children..

He gained entry through an unlocked patio door.  As he stepped into the den, he saw the tiny, attractive Somkid sleeping on the couch.  He put a .25 caliber gun to her head.

"Don't make a fucking sound, bitch, or I'll kill you!"

He left her and went to the bedroom where her husband Chainarong was sleeping, put the gun to his head and shot him to death.  He ran back to Somkid and noticed that she had taken off her wedding ring.  He slapped her.

"Don't play no fucking games, bitch!  Where's the ring?"

She showed him and he pocketed the diamond.  Then he ripped off her nightgown and dragged her into the bathroom where he cut the cord on the hairdryer and used it to tie her hands behind her back.  He took her back into the bedroom where he raped her in the presence of her dead husband.

Their boy's alarm clock went off, so he left Somkid  momentarily to tie up the boy and gag him with a sock.

He forced her to go down on him and sodomized her.  Then he told her he'd kill her and the kids if she didn't give him all of their cash and valuables.   She gave him the diamonds and other precious stones she had gotten from her brother who was a jeweler.

"And where's the money?"

"No money, no money! I swear, I swear to God!" she cried.

"No! Swear to Satan!"

He raped her again, tied her ankles together, finished ransacking her home and left.

Again, the lack of cooperation among the police jurisdictions interfered with the case.  Neither Sun Valley nor Glendale police notified the sheriff's office about the murders.  It wasn't until the next day that Carrillo and Salerno found out about them. 

The Avia shoe print was in evidence at the scene of the Sun Valley attack, but not at the Glendale murders.  Somkid worked with a police artist to create a composite.  "He is dangerous beyond words," she told them.  "So brutal; so mean, so cruel.  His eyes were like an animal's, not human."   The composite was given to the press and every cop in the area had it taped to the dashboard of the police car.

Los Angeles was in a state of panic.  No one was safe from this brutal monster.  Philip Carlo described the effect the Night Stalker had on everyone in the area:  "All over L.A., the police were getting reports of a suspicious man in black.  Elderly women were terrified of being alone.  Girls had to be home early from dates.  Husbands sat up all night standing guard with bats and guns at the ready.  Children insisted on sleeping in their parents' beds; many people couldn't sleep at all.  Communities pooled their resources and set up patrols that walked the streets until dawn."

The Stalker's next hit was in the lovely community of Northridge.  He chose the home of thirty-eight-year-old Chris Petersen, his wife Virginia and their young daughter.  All the windows and doors were locked except for the sliding glass door.   He went into Chris and Virginia's bedroom and cocked the .25 automatic that he was carrying.

"Who the hell are you?  Get out!" Virginia shouted at him.

"Shut up, bitch!" he yelled and shot her just under the left eye.  Chris woke up to find half of his wife's face gone and her covered in blood.   The stalker shot him in the right temple and laughed.  Then he fired another shot at Virginia, but missed.  Their daughter started screaming in the next room.  

Chris fought with the Stalker, who shot at him, but missed.  With his empty gun, the Stalker ran out the sliding glass doors, while Chris called for help.   Both of them had been very lucky.  The ammunition the Stalker had been using was defective and didn't go through Chris's skull.  Virginia's bullet had missed her brain entirely and had exited the back of her neck.

After the Petersen attack, the Stalker decided that he needed to beef up his defenses just in case he had a run-in with the police.  He bought an Uzi machine gun to add to his .38 pistol, his .25 automatic and his handcuffs.

On August 8, he drove to the town of Diamond Bar, far enough east of L.A. that they wouldn't be expecting him.  He selected the home of Elyas and Sakina Abowath, their three-year-old boy and infant son.  The Stalker gained entrance by a sliding glass door and went straight to Elyas and Sakina's bedroom.  He walked over to the bed and shot Elyas to death with the .25 automatic. 

Then he jumped over Elyas' body and straddled Sakina, punching her in the face and the stomach.  "Don't scream, bitch, or I'll kill your kids," he said and slapped her again.  He kicked her with such ferocity that she landed on the floor. 

"Where's the jewelry, bitch?"  He slammed his fist into her face when she didn't answer fast enough.  Finally, he found a briefcase with her jewelry.  "Don't make a motherfucking sound, understand, bitch?"

"I swear to God I won't scream."

He slammed his fist into her face again.  "No! Swear to Satan!" he bellowed.

He ripped off her nightie and her nursing bra and forced her to go down on him.  Then he raped her and sodomized her, excited by her pain and humiliation.

She heard her young son crying in the next room.  "Please let me go to him," she begged.

"Swear on Satan you won't scream."

She did as he demanded and went into the child's bedroom to calm him down.   When the child went back to sleep, the Stalker dragged her in the bedroom, punching and slapping her.  He was raping her again, when the little boy opened the bedroom door and walked in.  The Stalker tied the boy to the bed and put a pillow over his head to shut him up.  Sakina tried to help her son, but he punched her. 

It was only after he raped and sodomized her again, that he let her comfort her son.  Then he went to the refrigerator and helped himself to some melon.   Finally he left, taking all of their valuables with him stashed in a pillowcase, leaving her widowed, handcuffed and nude. 

While there were no Avia shoe prints this time, the shoe prints that were found were the same large size as the Avia.  There was no doubt that this was the Stalker again.  Elyas had been shot in the head exactly where Chainarong Khovananth had been shot.

Despite his painful dental condition, the Stalker never returned to Dr. Leung.  However, the sheriff's task force sent out the Stalker's dental X-rays, along with the composite sketch to every dentist in the L.A. area.

The Night Stalker began to worry about getting caught.  True, he believed that Satan was protecting him from the police, but there was no point in being careless.  Now that the composite sketch had been published, along with numerous physical descriptions of him, he felt like people were staring at him.  Then there was his fence, who wouldn't think twice about turning him in for the $80,000 reward.

Time to take a visit to San Francisco.  Nobody would be expecting him there.  It would be so much easier to get into houses when people were not on their guard like they were in Los Angeles.  He stole a car and drove north to San Francisco.   As soon as he arrived, he drove into Chinatown, followed an elderly woman home and beat her senseless.

Early in the morning of August 8, the Stalker invaded the home of Peter and Barbara Pan, well-to-do immigrants from Hong Kong.  When he entered Peter's bedroom, he put the .25 automatic to Peter's head and shot him dead.  He tried to rape Barbara, but she fought him off and he shot her.

Taking her lipstick, he wrote on the wall of the bedroom "Jack the Knife" and sketched a pentagram.  He ransacked the house and left.

When Salerno and Carrillo heard about the assault on the Pans in San Francisco, they contacted the police.  A short conversation on the shell casing found at the Pan home convinced them that the Stalker had indeed moved to San Francisco.   The two men took a plane to San Francisco and laid out all of the information that they had collected from the Stalker investigation in Los Angeles.

Amazingly enough, then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein held a news conference in which she told the press about all of the evidence that the L.A. task force had assembled with special attention to the Avia shoe footprints and ballistics evidence.  Back in Los Angeles, Salerno and Carrillo were aghast at the mayor had essentially tipped off the Stalker about the most important evidence they had, giving him the opportunity to get rid of the Avia sneakers and the guns.   

On August 25, the Stalker may have been starting to get  paranoid again.  San Francisco was no safer than L.A., so he took his stolen car and headed back home.

He took his stolen Toyota and headed toward Mission Viejo.   When he cruised down the street with his lights off at 1 A.M., he didn't notice the teenager fixing his motor scooter.  The teenager, James Romero III, noticed the Stalker.  The intensely evil expression on the driver's face left an impression on the young man's mind.

He selected the home of twenty-nine-year-old Bill Carns, who lived with his good-looking blond fiancée, Carole Smith.  The Stalker got into their home through an unlocked rear window and went straight to the master bedroom.  When he got into the bedroom, he cocked the automatic.  Bill woke up immediately.  The Stalker shot him in the head three times.

"You know who I am?" he asked with a laugh.

Carole Smith was terrified.  "No, who are you?"

"I'm the Night Stalker!"  He laughed again.

"Oh, God, noooo!"

"Don't say 'God,' say 'Satan.'  Say you love Satan!"  He slapped her hard across the face.

"I love Satan!" she said.

He punched her in the face.  "Louder!"

"I love Satan!  Please don't kill me! Please, please!"

He threw her on the bed and tied her up and demanded money and jewelry, constantly slapping and kicking her.  Then, after he ransacked the bedroom, he dragged her into a second bedroom where he raped and sodomized her.  Then at the end of the brutal assault, a gentle kiss.

His tenderness changed into brutality instantly when he demanded that she give him money.  She gave him the $400 that Bill had stashed in the bedroom.  "You know, this is all that saved you.  This is all your life is worth.  I would have killed you if it weren't for this money."

"Tell them the Night Stalker was here."

"I will," she promised.

"Say you love Satan!"

"I love Satan," she said.  He laughed and then he left.

On his way back down the street, James Romero III saw the car again and wrote down three digits of the license plate.  Later, when he heard of the attack on Bill Carns and Carole Smith, he called the police.

When she felt safe, Carole ran next door and had the neighbor call the police.  They got Bill to the hospital where two of the three bullets were removed.    Removal of the third bullet would have caused too much damage to Bill's already traumatized skull.  The man was lucky and survived it all.

The Stalker always wore gloves, but this time, he was sweating so much that he removed them for awhile.  When he ditched the Toyota, he wiped down the car as he always did, just in case there was a print or two.   This time, he was not vigilant enough and missed a fingerprint on the rearview mirror.

The Stalker's streak of excellent luck was coming to an end.  Jesse Perez had confided in his daughter that he thought one of his shady contacts was the Stalker.  He fit the physical description, was a Satanist and he had bad teeth.

Perez's daughter didn't want her father to get into trouble, so she called Homicide Detective Louie Danoff.  Once Danoff heard her story, he assured her that her father would be protected.

"He's a loner and always talking about how great Satan is."   Salerno showed him the composite sketch and he said it looked like the man he knew as Rick.  Perez told them about Rick's fence, Felipe Solano.

Solano admitted knowing Rick, but didn't know his full name or where he lived.  When they confiscated all of the stolen goods in Solano's apartment, the police had a storehouse of potential evidence.

A real break in the case occurred when the owner of the stolen Toyota called the police and provided them with the missing digits in the license plate.   The car was later recovered and dusted for prints.  The criminalist found the one fingerprint that the Stalker had missed.

Another break came when they found a friend of Rick's who had seen him with the silver .25 automatic.  Donna Meyer said that Rick was a burglar from El Paso and had given her some jewelry to hold for him.  They had become suspicious of him after reading the descriptions of the Night Stalker, which fit Rick so well.  Through the leads that Donna Meyer gave the police, they put a last name to Rick.  It was Ramirez.

The police went to every flophouse in the Los Angeles area, taking with them the composite sketch.  Finally, they got to the Bristol Hotel where there was a tenant in room 315 that fit the description.  Up in room 315 was a pentagram on the bathroom door that was almost identical to the one drawn at the homes of Mabel Bell and Peter and Barbara Pan.  The criminalists were called in to dust for prints.

They matched the prints and the name to Richard Munoz Ramirez, a two-bit burglar and car thief from El Paso.  He fit the description perfectly.  His mugshot went out to everyone:  police and press.  Everyone was looking for Richard Ramirez.

Richard

Richard Ramirez was born February 29, 1960, to Julian and Mercedes Ramirez, two hard working Mexican immigrants.  He was their fifth and last child with three brothers and a sister who preceded him.  Initially, the family settled in El Paso where Julian had a job laying track for the Santa Fe Railroad.  Mercedes had a job at the Tony Lama boot factory where she mixed chemicals and pigments for the boot leather.

Mercedes was carrying Richard while she worked at the boot factory, but had to quit in her fifth month of pregnancy.  The fumes from the pigments and poor ventilation made her weak, light-headed and nauseous.  While Richard was not planned, he was adored as the baby of the family.  His older sister Ruth, who frequently took care of him, was devoted to him.

Julian and Mercedes had very high hopes for their children and constantly sacrificed to provide a good home for them.  Their oldest son Joseph had been plagued from childhood by poor health and serious orthopedic problems that were believed to have resulted from his parents' exposure to nuclear fallout and radioactivity from New Mexico.  With their limited resources, they paid for fifteen operations to help Joseph try to lead a normal life.  Two other boys, Ruben and Robert, had learning disabilities and behavioral problems in school.

It looked as though Richard, the baby, might escape some of the difficulties his older brothers had experienced:  "Richard continued to be Ruth's personal doll.  For hours she'd play house with him like he was her child, talking to him softly in both English and Spanish.  Richard was a good baby, didn't cry much, and ate and slept well.  He was particularly good looking, with a well-formed face and big, round, long-lashed eyes....Richard loved music." (Philip Carlo)

Life was not easy in the Ramirez family, but they all worked hard to make ends meet.  Julian and Mercedes loved their children and provided for them to the best of their ability.  The boys, who were rebellious natured and hot-tempered like their father, could have benefited from more supervision, but Julian had to travel to lay track for the railroad and was away from home frequently.

Ruben and Robert started to get into trouble with the law.  They were sniffing glue, stealing cars, burglarizing homes and hanging around with the wrong kids.   Julian flew into a rage.  He was so ashamed that his boys had become so wild.   The boys were punished, but it didn't do any good.

When Richard was in the fifth grade, the family realized that he was epileptic.  Sometimes he would have grand mal seizures and other times he would just stare off into space as he experienced petite mal seizures.  The doctors told Mercedes that he would grow out of it and eventually he did.  Up to the age of thirteen, Richard did comparatively well in school with better than average grades.   In the seventh grade, things started to go downhill.

According to his sister, when Richard was arbitrarily thrown off the football team, his pride was very hurt.  Richard had been very proud of being a good quarterback and felt it was very unfair of the coach to drop him from the team because he had an occasional blackout from the epilepsy.

Shortly afterwards when he was twelve, Richard found a new mentor, one that would heavily influence his behavior.  His cousin Mike had been a Green Beret in Vietnam and had returned from two tours of duty with four medals on his chest.  He also brought with him a Polaroid odyssey of rape, torture and mutilation that made a huge impression on young Richard.

This highly successful killer and sadist took Richard under his wing and taught him how to kill and fight.  Mike's wife Jessie was alarmed at what Mike had become during the war.  She didn't need a husband who did nothing but brag about his wartime brutalities and sexual conquests, smoke pot and hang around with Richard.

Disagreements between the two became more and more heated and one day, in front of Richard, Mike shot his wife in the face.  Mike went to trial for the murder, but plead temporary insanity.  With his impressive war record, Mike was dealt with leniently and was committed to a mental hospital.

Mike's influence on Richard was indelible.  His interest in school had vanished and all the thirteen-year-old boy cared about was getting high on pot.   He went to Los Angeles to live for the summer with his brother Ruben who was a heroin addict and a burglar.  There was only one objective now -- stealing money to get high.

When he went back to El Paso, the clashes with his father became more prevalent.  Julian was heartbroken to see his youngest son going down the wrong path.   Richard saw his father as a tyrant.  Both of them, like all of the Ramirez men, had terrible, explosive tempers.  Eventually, he moved in with his sister Ruth and her husband Roberto.

The problem with Roberto was that he was over-sexed.  Roberto and Richard would entertain themselves at night by going to selected homes in the neighborhood and peeping in the windows at unsuspecting women as they undressed.

Richard had always been somewhat hyperactive and required very little rest. "My brother never slept," Ruth said.  "He was up all night all the time.  He was one of those people who functioned with only a few hours of sleep."

During this period of his life, Richard started taking LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs.  At the same time, he started imagining that he was becoming one with Satan.  He saw himself as a disciple of Satan.

While he was in high school,  he got a job with a hotel and had access to a master key.  He began breaking into the rooms while the guests were sleeping so that he could steal their valuables.  He was careful enough so that no one connected the occasional thefts with his access to the passkey.

He became obsessed with the beautiful women in the hotel.  Often, he would sneak into the room and hide behind the heavy curtains so that he could watch them undress.  He fantasized about sex with these women until his fantasies erupted into an assault.

He went into the woman's room, surprised her from behind, tied her up and proceeded to rape her when her husband came into the room and knocked Richard to the ground.  He gave Richard a well deserved beating and turned him over to the police.   Richard's parents were in denial.  There was no way that their baby Richie could have assaulted that woman.  Richard convinced his family that the woman had lured him to have sex and her husband simply came back unexpectedly.

Richard was only fifteen and the judge was lenient.  He got away without any probation.  Even his parents believed his story.

Cousin Mike got out of the mental hospital at the end of 1977 and started hanging around with Richard again.  By that time, Richard had become a very effective burglar and thief.  From Mike he learned survival tactics and how to be tough.   Aside from his cousin, he saw himself as a loner in a hostile unfair world.

When Richard turned eighteen in 1978, he left his home in El Paso and headed for Los Angeles.  His only interests were drugs, sexual fantasies and the heavy metal music which he listened to continuously.  Philip Carlo describes the dangerous young man that he had become:  "He was drawn to musical groups whose rhythms were hard-driving and whose lyrics had something to do with his innermost thoughts on religion and sex.  He no longer believed in the Catholic Church....Intense sadistic sexual images filled Richard's head...For such thoughts, Jesus Christ, he knew, would scorn him and make sure he went to hell and stayed there forever...Unlike Jesus, Satan would not scorn him, but embrace him and give him solace, protection and understanding."

Once in Los Angeles, Richard initially stayed with his brother Ruben until the two of them had a falling out over Ruben's wife.  Richard became a cocaine addict and supported himself by burglary.  When he was stealing to support his habit, he sat around fantasizing about sadistic sexual relationships.  He had no normal relationships with women.  The only sex he had was with prostitutes.

Eventually, Richard started substituting P.C.P or "angel dust" for cocaine.  It did nothing but deepen his aggressive and psychotic episodes.    One day, he vented his aggression on another addict.  He tied her up, ripped off her clothes and raped her several times, thrilled by his power over her.   It was a profound moment in his fantasy life and he hungered for more.

At this time, Richard started reading about Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan in San Francisco.  He felt compelled to join their rituals, but eventually shunned the organized cult and preferred to be what he termed a "lone practitioner."  This belief in Satan was not just a whimsy, but a deep-seated belief in the power of Lucifer to protect and empower his disciples.

He tried to explain it to his sister when she visited him in L.A. and was alarmed at the changes in him.

"Why Satan, Richie?" she wanted to know.

"Because Satan represents what I feel.  I'm not like other people.  I'm different...I've got a trade.  I'm a thief, Ruth...and a good one...I'm not going to any jail.  I'm protected."

At the end of August, Richard was buying some coffee at a liquor store.   He became aware of a couple of elderly Mexican women pointing at him.   "El Matador," he heard one say -- "the killer."

Then he saw his face in the newspaper and ran out of the store, but the store owner had notified the police and cruisers were arriving from every direction.   Everywhere he went, people recognized him immediately.

He tried to pull a woman out of her car, but was stopped by Carmello Robles and Arthur Benavedes.  Richard jumped a fence and landed in the backyard of Luis Munoz who was grilling meat.  Luis hit Richard and Richard went over the fence again.   This time into the yard of Faustino Pinon, whose daughter's car was sitting in the driveway with the engine running. 

"Get away, I'm taking the car.  I have a gun and I'll kill you!"

Faustino grabbed Richard by the neck.  "You are not taking this car."  He grabbed the wheel of the car and steered it into the chimney.

Richard ran off and tried to take the car of Angela De La Torre, whose car was parked in front of her home.  She saw him running at her and recognized him from the newspapers.  When she refused to give him her keys, he punched her in the stomach.  "El Matador!" she screamed.

Her husband Manuel heard her screams and understood immediately what was happening.  He picked up a metal bar from his front gate, opened the door to the car and whacked Richard on the head.  Richard escaped from the car and ran up the street with Manuel and others chasing him.

Manuel struck out at Richard again and missed, but the next time he was dead on and Richard went down.  They held him there until the sheriff's deputies and LAPD arrived.  The Night Stalker had been captured by the Mexican community.

Later, when he they put him in jail, Richard said to Sgt. George Thomas:   "I want the electric chair.  They should have shot me on the street.   I did it, you know.  You guys got me -- the Night Stalker.  Hey, let me have a gun to play Russian roulette.  I'd rather die than spend the rest of my life in prison."

Salerno and Carrillo were exceptionally relieved to have Richard in custody, but then another break came their way.  Richard's leather bag had been found at the bus terminal.  Inside were the special .25-caliber shells that he had used on several of his victims.

The Trial

Phil Halpin from the Los Angeles district attorney's office was chosen to lead the prosecution of this very high profile case.  He was a fine trial lawyer and felt confident that with the evidence and eye witness accounts that a conviction would be obtained.  He believed that Ramirez deserved the gas chamber and was intent on making sure he got what was due him.  He didn't see that Ramirez had much chance of using an insanity plea because the crimes were too well organized, planned and executed to convince any jury that he was insane.

From the very beginning of the legal proceedings, it was clear that both the press and the opposite sex were fascinated with Richard.  His defiant, dangerous demeanor was thrilling to a growing number of groupies that were present at every public outing.  He was inundated with letters, mostly from women who either thought he was innocent and wanted to help him or thought he was exciting and wanted sex with him.   Satanists from all over made him their poster boy.

Philip Carlo describes the impact all of this attention had on Richard:   "For the first time, he realized that to people like him, people of the night, he was a hero;  he was somebody.  He liked that.  For his whole life he'd been a tall, lanky nobody, just another angry-eyed hungry face in a hungry crowd, but now people stopped -- people paid attention, stared and pointed....He figured no matter what he did they were going to convict him and kill him, so he decided to take control."

Richard had to stand in a lineup with five other men of similar build and coloring.  Each man had to say "Don't look at me, bitch, or I'll kill you."   There were so many witnesses and victims that they had to do the lineup a second time.  Almost all of them picked out Richard from the lineup.  Most of them were very shaken by having to see him again and hear him say that terrible command.

When the lineup was over, the victims were led to a room where all of the items taken from the home of Richard's fence were spread out on large tables.  Some 2,000 items, mostly jewelry.  They proceeded to identify their stolen goods.

The next time Richard was taken to the courthouse, he was angry and defiant, like a powerful wild animal in chains.  Initially, Alan Adashek, a public defender, represented Richard.  Richard planned to plead guilty, but Adashek was doing everything in his power to prevent that.  Richard was enraged at suggestions that he try an insanity plea.  He was following the dictates of his lord, Satan, and no intention of renouncing them to save his skin.

Finding a top notch defense lawyer for Richard was not in the cards.   Marvin Belli declined, as did a couple other capable men.  Richard finally insisted on having two fairly inexperienced lawyers, Arturo and Daniel Hernandez, represent him.   Daniel felt they could win the case for Richard.

Despite the lack of experience in capital cases, Judge Soper allowed the Hernandez brothers to handle Richard's defense.  In a show of defiant victory, Richard raised his hand up for the reporters to see.  He had drawn a pentagram on the palm of his hand and shouted, "Hail, Satan!"  It seemed almost like an admission of guilt, since the media had so heavily covered the fact that pentagrams had been found at the murder sites.

It took until March 6, 1986, for the scheduling of the preliminary hearing.   When the sheriff's deputy described the mutilation of Maxine Zazzara and the removal of her eyes, Richard let out a frightening high-pitched cackle.  It began to look as though Richard had reconsidered the insanity plea.

Deputy Jim Ellis was sworn in and described a statement that Richard had made to him in jail:  "He stated that he killed twenty people in California, that he was a supercriminal, that no one could catch him until he fucked up.  He said he left one fingerprint behind, and that's how he got caught.  He made the statement that he went to San Francisco and killed Peter Pan....I told one lady to give me all her money.  She said no.  I cut her and pulled her eyes out..."  The statements were admissible as evidence because they were voluntary and Richard had already been read his rights and had consulted with attorneys.

Richard plead not guilty to the mountain of charges against him.

The case was finally given to California Supreme Court Judge Michael Tynan in November of 1986 after the lawyers for the defense had succeeded in delaying the trial as much as possible.  After many reschedulings, jury selection began on July 21, 1988, more than two years after the preliminary hearing.  Finally, on January 10, 1989, a jury of six Hispanics and six Afro-Americans were sworn in along with twelve alternate jurors.

Halpin did an excellent job of presenting a very powerful case with much physical evidence and eye witness accounts.  Richard's fingerprints, footprints, guns, face and voice identified him as the psychopath who brutally murdered, robbed and sexually assaulted men and women in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.

Virtually everyone in the court was on the verge of tears as they listened to the particularly heartbreaking story that Somkid Khovananth told of being raped and humiliated in front of her young children and then finding her husband had been murdered.   She pointed to Richard as the murderer.  He laughed at her.

Shortly afterwards, the court heard an equally terrible story from Sakina Abowath who had been widowed and raped as Somkid had.  She, also, was positive in her identification of Richard.

Deputy Daniel Laws was the final prosecution witness.  He had guarded Richard in jail for more than a year.  On October 30, Richard had called him over to his cell to show him photos of a homicide victim.  Deputy Laws said, "The first picture was of a woman [Maxine Zazzara].  The photograph showed from the face down.   She was nude.  And the second photograph had the same woman lying on the bed with her head turned away from the camera."

"Did you ask him why he was showing you the pictures?"   Prosecutor Halpin asked the deputy.

"Yes, I did."

"What did he say?"

"He [Richard] said, 'People come up here and call me a punk and I show them the photographs and tell them there is blood behind the Night Stalker and they go away all pale'."

Things were not going particularly well for the defense.  On March 6, Daniel Hernandez admitted that he needed some expert help.  With that in mind, he introduced Ray Clark, a very experienced trial lawyer.  Clark did the best he could with an impossible situation where he had no input, cooperation or support from Richard.

The defense tried to throw doubt on the evidence and eye witness accounts on a case-by-case basis, but with almost no success.  They did, however, have a few good cards.  One was the alibi given to Richard by his father and several family friends:  that Richard was in El Paso at the time of the Bell/Lang and Kyle assaults.

The other ace up their sleeve was alternate juror Cynthia Haden, who had developed an obvious crush on Richard.  Eventually, Cynthia replaced one of the other jurors and the defense felt sure that she would not vote for conviction.

The jury began deliberations on July 26, but had been interrupted when one of the jurors had been murdered by her boyfriend.  They reached a unanimous decision on September 20:  Richard Ramirez was guilty on every one of the forty-six counts.  On October 3, they had voted for the death penalty.

On the day of sentencing, Richard insisted reading a statement he had prepared.  His voice was loud and angry:  "You don't understand me.   You are not expected to.  You are not capable.  I am beyond your experience.  I am beyond good and evil.  I will be avenged.  Lucifer dwells in all of us...I don't believe in the hypocritical, moralistic dogma of this so-called civilized society....You maggots make me sick!  Hypocrites one and all...I don't need to hear all of society's rationalizations.  I've heard them all before...legions of the night, night breed, repeat not the errors of the night prowler and show no mercy."

Judge Tynan responded by giving Richard the death sentence nineteen times.   

Afterwards

Today, Richard Ramirez is still waiting to serve the first of his nineteen death sentences. Appeals can take many years to exhaust.  He currently lives on San Quentin's Death Row. He is not afraid of dying because -- as a devout Satanist --he believes that he will have an honored place in Satan's kingdom, along with Ted Bundy, Jack the Ripper and others with similar accomplishments.

Richard has a great deal of time on his hands and uses it to read.  His favorite subject is killers, particularly serial killers.  

One of the women who stood by him through his trial and afterwards was Doreen Lioy who was twenty-five when Richard was captured.  Unlike most of Richard's admirers, she is an intelligent, very literate woman who works as an editor for various magazines.  She found him very attractive and wanted to protect him from unfair treatment. Over a period of years, their relationship deepened and they married in 1996.

Bibliography

There is only one author whose books on the Night Stalker are still in print, but his books are very detailed and thorough.  The Crime Library recommends Philip Carlo's Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez. 1996

Carlo has also produced a 2-cassette audio package which includes a fascinating  interview with Ramirez on his theories, beliefs, drug abuse problem and what it is like to live on Death Row.  The audio tapes are titled Night Stalker.

Another book on the Night Stalker and Ramirez is Night StalkerNight Stalker by Clifford L. Linedecker.  It is not particularly easy to find.

Good sources of  information on the murders are the contemporary issues of the Los Angeles Times, which are frequently available on microfilm at major public and university libraries, and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.

 
 

RICHARD RAMIREZ

Late in the 20th Century, Hell glutted on humanity. Its first bloodletting of that season of the Devil occurred on the warm evening of June 28, 1984, when an earth-bound Lucifer found his way into the small Glassel Park apartment of 79-year-old Jennie Vincow. Throughout the Los Angeles area a damp humidity had oppressed the air that day, and when the evening came and the temperature slightly cooled, Jennie left her window open to invite what little breeze there might be into her flat. Like a fallen leaf, decayed and tossed from its source, a fallen angel, dark, angry and also decaying, blew across the sill of that open window. When the demon departed through that same window, he left behind Jennie Vincow, raped, beaten and nearly decapitated.

"Her body was found by her son, who lived above her ground-floor apartment, just south of...Forest Lawn Park," reports the Los Angeles Times . "Her throat had been slashed and she had been stabbed repeatedly."

The police were baffled. But, in the months to come, they were to encounter a madman whose lust for killing and depravity equaled, if not surpassed, that of Jack the Ripper or, more contemporary, the Hillside Strangler. Soon to be named the "Night Stalker" by the press, this madman bore, according to true crime author Richard L. Linedecker, "the horror in his soul of a Stephen King or a Clive Barker fright novel ? and more." A Freddy Kruger. For real.

Less than a year later, the monster reappeared. This time, he waited in the shadows of an upscale condominium outside LA. The date was March 17, 1985, time 11:30 p.m., when pretty-faced Maria Hernandez pulled her auto into the security garage, unaware the monster was watching her from behind a pillar. When she alighted from her car, the killer stepped from the darkness, gun upraised and, despite her pleadings, he pressed the trigger. She stumbled. And the killer, thinking she was dead, stepped over her to enter the side door of the condo. But, Maria had been lucky ? very lucky ? for the bullet had deflected off the car keys she held in her hand, causing a hand wound, but nothing more.

Inside the building, Maria's roommate was less fortunate. For, when Maria finally made her way to the safety of her place, breathless, she discovered that her friend, Dayle Okazaki, had also encountered the killer. And this time, his bullet had found its mark. Thirty-three-year-old Okazaki lay in a pool of her own blood, her skull smashed by a missile fired at extremely close range.

The demon vanished just as quickly as he had appeared. The police were stumped.

All they knew of him was what Hernandez was able to tell them: He was tall, gaunt, dark, maybe Hispanic.

This time, the killer didn't wait nearly a year to murder again. He struck within the hour. His next victim that same evening was petite Taiwanese-born Tsai-Lian Yu, who, driving her yellow Chevrolet down North Alhambra Avenue in nearby Monterey Park, withered when someone with the eyes of a madman forced his way into her car and shot her. He had thrown his own car into idle, simply entered hers, pushed her onto the pavement, called her bitch, then blew her into eternity at point-blank range.

Fast. Neat. Clean.

Then dematerialized into the darkness from whence he came.

Child's play.

The police were beginning to realize they might have a problem on their hands, but they remained stumped. Eyewitnesses who thought they had seen the killer described him as tall, gaunt, dark, maybe Hispanic.

Ten days later, this elusive phantom -- whose physical description could fit any one of thousands of males in the Greater Los Angeles area -- required more blood. This time, shooting his prey didn't quite satisfy the urge; the demon must have been hungry, he must have been frantic, for when he entered the home of the sleeping Zazzara couple, he produced a bloodbath.

The couple's bodies were discovered by their son the following morning. Vincent Zazzara had been shot in the head as he dozed on the sofa. He had died quickly --  unlike his wife who suffered the percussion of the killer's frenzy. On her face he had carved the embodiment of his hate, molding her physicality into something representative of how he viewed humankind ? as something made to splice and cut and gouge, to bend, to twist, to reshape to suit his own wantonness.

Clifford L. Linedecker, in his well-researched Night Stalker , describes what the police found at the crime scene: "They (the police) would never forget the sight of Maxine Zazzara's mutilated face. Her eyes were gouged out, and the empty sockets were ringed with blackened gobs of blood and tissue...The killer had plunged a knife through her left breast, leaving a large, ragged T-shaped wound. There were other cruel injuries to her neck, face, abdomen, and around the pubic area. She had been butchered..."

Investigators found footprints ? visible signs of a tennis shoe -- in the service area and in the flowerbed ? indicating his means of entry into the Zazzara home. There were no witnesses this time around, but a modus operandi was becoming loosely apparent. Nevertheless stumped, the law determined to put an end to this savage that had crawled up from the mud up and within their midst. That they believed this latest crime to have been committed by the same creature that had slain Vincow, Okazaki and Yu was, at this point, not much more than a hunch. But, if they were correct, the madman was becoming bolder and more sanguine; an inner lust seemed to be growing and, now fed and apparently well fed, who knows what would come next! Scouring the neighborhoods where he had already struck, blue uniforms questioned strangers, stopped midnight strollers, clambered for witnesses. But, there proved little to go on.

Deep inside, the police feared, he ?It! ? would strike again.

Tension of the wait was short. Elderly Harold and Jean Wu did not hear the intruder slipping into their residence through a window at pre-dawn, May 14. The first intimation Mrs. Wu had of his presence was the loud bang that stirred her awake. She woke to find the figure, smoking gun in hand, standing over her. Beside her, husband Harold groaned, shot in the head. Then ? the killer's huge fists unloosened on the woman. He pummeled her, slapped her, kicked her, and demanded that she turn over loose cash to him. Binding her hands together behind her with thumbscrews, he tossed her across her bed over her dying spouse, then rampaged through the home's drawers and cabinets for money. Terrified, lying on her mattress, Jean Wu could hear three things ? Harold's furtive gasps for life, furniture being invaded, and the madman's curses as he found nothing of great value.

Having rampaged through their belongings, the tall, thin, dark man returned to the Wu's bedroom and, as she lay across her fading husband, violently raped the 63-year-old woman. Satisfied, he zippered up, grinning. Then left. Another trophy his.

Mrs. Wu, after recovering from shock, told police her attacker was tall, gaunt, dark, Hispanic.

The symphony of terror played on, its next discordant notes sounded in the dark hours before May 30, at the home of attractive 41-year-old Ruth Wilson. The woman awoke in her bed to the blinding beam of a flashlight and the distinct silhouette of a pistol barrel across her gaze; behind the illumination a gruff voice demanded, "Where's your money?" Before she could muster words, the intruder yanked her by the sleeve of her negligee off her bed and led her to her 12-year-old son's room down the hall. Using the frightened boy as bait, he insisted that she produce something of value. She told him where an expensive piece of jewelry was hidden. He seemed satisfied as he studied the diamond necklace in his hands, and Wilson figured he would abscond without harming her or her boy.

She was wrong.

Locking her son in a closet, he took his pent-up emotions out on the woman in the pink negligee who stood before him. Shoving her back to her own bedroom, he tore her gown off her and, despite her protestations, had his way with her. First he bound her hands behind her with a pair of pantyhose, then fell upon her. As he raped and sodomized her, his foul breath and body odor overcame and sickened her, adding to the humiliation.

Miraculously, he let her live. He was gone...all but in her night dreams that would haunt her over and over and over for months to come.

When the police later interviewed her, she gave her description of the devil:

He was tall, gaunt, dark, definitely Hispanic.

In 1978, eighteen-year-old Ricardo Leyva a.k.a. "Richard" Ramirez moved to southern California from El Paso , Texas , his hometown. He'd dropped out of the ninth grade and had been living the life of a slacker, smoking marijuana and living on convenience store junk food, according to UPI reporters Aurelio Rojas and K. Mack Sisk. His diet was so rich in sugar, his teeth eventually started to rot, which made his breath foul and offensive, buthis halitosis fit in with the demonic personality he was intentionally cultivating. His habitual pot-smoking led to several arrests for possession as well as a misdemeanor theft charge. In California he was twice arrested for auto theft, in Pasadena in 1981 and Los Angeles in 1984.

Michael D. Harris, reporting for UPI, wrote that years later his father would maintain that Richard was a "good boy" whose marijuana consumption "put him out of control," but it would be hard to pinpoint exactly what influences sent Richard Ramirez in the direction of devil worship. He often drew the five-point pentagram, the symbol of the devil, on his own body, and at his trial he would shout "Hail Satan!" in open court. He was a big fan of rock bands who sang about Satanism, particularly the Australian heavy-metal band AC/DC whose album, Highway to Hell, was Ramirez's absolute favorite. One song on that album, "Night Prowler," contains the lyrics, "Was that a noise outside your window?/ What's that shadow on the blind?/ As you lie there naked like a body in a tomb/ suspended animation as I slip into your room..." But it's hard to believe that rock songs and marijuana alone would turn a misdirected youth into one of the most heinous serial rapists and murderers in modern history.

The turning point in Ramirez's life might well have been the night he witnessed his cousin Mike murder his wife. Mike had fought as a Green Beret in Vietnam , but the war had changed him. After he'd returned home, he boasted of torturing and mutilating the enemy, and had brought back Polaroids to prove it. He and his thirteen-year-old cousin Richard would hang out all day, getting high, which is just what they were doing when Mike's wife started to nag him about getting his life together and finding a job. To shut her up, Mike pulled out a gun and shot her in the face, killing her. Author Philip Carlo, speaking on CNBC's Rivera Live, revealed that Ramirez was spattered with the woman's blood. Mike's lawyer pointed to the incredible stress of his horrible war experiences as a mitigating factor. He was ultimately convicted, but the judge was lenient in his sentencing. Mike had been a big influence on Richard, who became fascinated with the horrible photographs of Mike's war victims. It was after the murder of Mike's wife that Richard, the epileptic youngest child in a family of three boys and two sisters, started skipping school and smoking pot as much as he could every day. He soon took to stealing to support his drug use .

The police have no evidence that Richard Ramirez killed at anytime before he reached Los Angeles , and little is known about his activities in the first few years he lived there. . No doubt his crimes were escalating during this period. Simple theft led him to breaking and entering, and eventually he must have become adept at it. Initially he probably stole whatever valuables he could find, then quickly left before he was caught. But as he grew more proficient, he also grew bolder, staying longer in the houses that he burglarized. Perhaps he stayed to watch the inhabitants sleeping in their beds. Perhaps he took souvenirs, particularly items that belonged to the female residents. Like his cousin Mike, he might have even taken photographs that he could relish later. This no doubt excited him and helped him develop the depraved fantasies that took over his thinking.

But eventually he felt compelled to do more. The horrible scenes that ran through his mind like a horror movie on a continuous loop weren't satisfying him anymore. They had to emerge from his mind and become reality. When Richard Ramirez finally crossed that line and started to play out his fantasies, the Night Stalker was born. Whether by conscious decision or inevitable evolution, Ramirez began to insert himself into his depraved fantasies and actively participate in their reenactment for his own gratification.

His first known victim was a seventy-nine-year old Glassel Park resident named Jennie Vincow. On June 28, 1984 , she had apparently left a window open because it had been hot that evening. Ramirez simply removed the screen and climbed in. Vincow's son, who lived in the apartment over her ground floor apartment, discovered her body sprawled out on the bed. She had been stabbed repeatedly, and her throat was slashed so savagely she was nearly decapitated. The intruder also ransacked her apartment and helped himself to her valuables. Fingerprints were recovered from the window sill, and the autopsy revealed signs of sexual assault. The Night Stalker's fantasy had finally become reality.

It would be eight months before he struck again.

No doubt Richard Ramirez, like most budding serial killers, fed off the memory of his first victim, reliving the experience of rape and murder over and over again in his mind. If he had taken what criminal profilers call a souvenir ?a hair brush, a piece of underwear, eyeglasses, any object intimately connect with the victim?he might have used that to stoke his recollections and help him elaborate on his fantasy. But eventually the mental reenactment of that initial crime wouldn't be as satisfying as it had once been. The killer would need a new experience to replenish the fantasy. He might have tried to control himself for a period, but the pressure within him was mounting. Eventually he would give in to his compulsion and do it again.

On March 17, 1985 , at 11:30 p.m. , twenty-year-old Angela Barrios was just returning home from a long day at work. She lived in a condominium that she shared with a roommate in Rosemead , a middle-class town north-east of Los Angeles . She pulled her car into the driveway and opened the garage door with a remote control. She was tired and hadn't had dinner yet. All she wanted to do was get inside and unwind. But as she got out of her car, she heard something behind her. A dark figure suddenly rushed up to her. He was tall and dressed entirely in black. A navy blue baseball cap was pulled down low over his brow. He was holding a gun.

He pointed the gun in her face, holding it just inches from her nose. She pleaded with him not to kill her. She tried not to look at his face, hoping that he might spare her, but she couldn't help but look. His eyes were cold and hard.

She continued to beg for mercy, but he ignored her?perhaps he was angered by her pleading?and he pulled the trigger. The sound of the gunshot was like an explosion in the enclosed garage. Angela collapsed on the concrete floor. She was alive but too afraid to move. The gunman stepped over her and went to the door that led to her condo, kicking her body out of the way so he could open it.

Angela lay perfectly still, playing dead. After a while?she didn't know how long?she realized that her hand was bleeding. Her keys were still in that hand. She'd raised her hands instinctively when the man had menaced her with the gun, and the bullet had miraculously hit the keys and ricocheted away. Angela collected herself and got to her feet. She had started to run out of the garage when she heard another gunshot behind her. She kept running, just hoping to escape, but she ran into the man in black as he was coming out the front door of her condo.

She tried to get away from him, but her legs were shaky. She stumbled back toward her car in the garage, convinced that he was going to finish her off. But instead of pursuing her, the man shoved the gun into his belt and fled. Angela Barrios was saved from this madman.

Her roommate, Dayle Okazaki, age 34, wasn't so lucky. Angela found her face down on the kitchen floor in a pool of her own blood. There was blood everywhere, on the walls, furniture and appliances. Angela ran to her side to check for signs of life, but Okazaki had been shot through the forehead. Angela grabbed the phone and called 911. Later, when the police searched the crime scene, they found the killer's baseball cap in the garage.

What exactly happened inside the condominium is unknown, but for some reason killing Dayle Okazaki was apparently not the experience Richard Ramirez had hoped for. Incredibly, that same night he struck again in nearby Monterey Park .

According to author Clifford L. Linedecker, a policeman was dispatched to investigate an empty yellow Chevrolet parked with its motor running. The transmission was in reverse; the car parked behind it was keeping it from moving any farther. When the officer got out of his patrol car to check inside the car, he found an unconscious woman lying on the ground nearby. The officer ran to her and immediately checked her vital signs. He noticed that her stockings were ripped, and there was an ugly bruise on her leg. She was alive, but just barely. He ran back to his car and radioed for an ambulance. When he returned to the woman, he discovered a metal medallion and a torn section of a twenty-dollar bill on the pavement. He tried to revive her, hoping she could tell him what had happened, but her breathing was labored. He could tell she was in trouble and needed immediate medical attention, but in the dim light he hadn't noticed that she had been shot several times. The woman, a thirty-year-old Taiwanese native named Tsia-Lian Yu, who was known to her friends as Victoria , died before the ambulance arrived.

The killer was in a frenzy. Killing Dayle Okazaki had not satisfied his need, so on the spur of the moment, he had attacked Tsia-Lian Yu. But murdering and assaulting her might not have done it for him because three days later he murdered an eight-year-old girl in Eagle Rock, California .

A week later, on March 27, 1984 , he emerged again, and this time he found an MO that worked for him.

On the morning of March 27, 1984 , Peter Zazzara arrived at his parents' home in Whittier , California . His sixty-four-year old father Vincent had retired from investment counseling and now operated his own pizzeria. His mother Maxine, 44, was an attorney. Peter rang the bell several times, but no one answered, so he let himself in. What he found was horrifying.

His father's body was on the sofa in the den. He'd been shot through the left temple. He appeared to have died instantly.

Mrs. Zazzara was found stretched out in bed, face up and naked. Her eyes had been gouged out, the bloody sockets empty. She'd been stabbed repeatedly around the face, neck, abdomen, and groin. There was a large T-shaped knife wound in her left breast. An autopsy later revealed that like her husband, she'd first been shot in the head and had probably died instantly. The stabbing and mutilation were done post-mortem. The house had been ransacked, valuables taken.

With these killings, Richard Ramirez had discovered a method that accomplished his goals and satisfied his fantasy, for he repeated it many times: Dispatch the male quickly to get him out of the way so that he could have his perverse way with the woman in the house. The man was just an impediment and not part of the fantasy; the woman was the real object of desire.

Six weeks later Richard Ramirez returned to Monterey Park and broke into the home of Harold and Jean Wu, waking them from a sound sleep. Ramirez took care of Mr. Wu first, shooting the sixty-six-year-old man through the head. He pummeled Mrs. Wu, 63, viciously with his fists, demanding to know where she kept her money. She was too worried about her husband to be coherent, so he bound her hands together behind her back with thumb cuffs to keep her still as he searched the house. After he found what he wanted, he returned to the bedroom, dragged the tiny woman to the side of the bed, and raped her. When he was finished, he left.

Mr. Wu, however, was not dead. Despite his terrible head wound, he managed to crawl to the den where he dialed 911. He was unable to tell the dispatcher what the problem was, but the call was traced, and an ambulance and patrol car were dispatched to the Wu's address . Harold Wu was rushed to the hospital but died later that night. Jean Wu was treated for her injuries. She was able to give the police a physical description of her attacker.

Two weeks later on May 30, Ruth Wilson, 41, was awakened in the middle of the night by a flashlight shining in her face. Ramirez had silently broken into her Burbank home and was holding a gun to her head. He ordered her to get out of bed and go to her twelve-year-old son's room. Ramirez jumped on the boy's bed and put the gun to the child's head, warning Ruth Wilson not to make a sound. He handcuffed the boy and locked him in a closet.

"Don't look at me," he snarled at Ruth. "If you look at me again, I'll shoot you."

Assuming that he was a burglar, she offered to give him her most valuable possession, a gold-and-diamond necklace. She led him to the dresser in her bedroom where she kept it, hoping that this would placate him. But it didn't. After rummaging through the house, he ordered her to turn around and put her hands together. He tied her up behind her back with a pair of pantyhose. He then shoved her onto the bed as she pleaded with him. After tearing off her pink nightgown, he raped and sodomized her. His breath was so hot and foul as he lay on her she nearly gagged.

According to Clifford L. Linedecker in his book Nightstalker, Ruth Wilson told Ramirez he must have had a "very unhappy life" to have done this to her. He told her she looked pretty good for her age and said he was going to let her live even though he had killed many others. When she complained that the pantyhose around her wrists were cutting off her circulation, he loosened them for her and brought her a robe before taking her son out of the closet and handcuffing them side by side. Ramirez left them there. Later the boy was able to get to a phone and call 911. When the police asked Ruth describe her attacker, she told them that he was a tall Hispanic with long dark hair.

The attacks continued, throwing the city of Los Angeles into a state of panic. One police official referred to the killer-rapist as the "Valley Intruder." The newspapers dubbed him the "Midnight Stalker," conjuring up images of a modern-day Dracula or Jack the Ripper. But Ramirez was just getting started. In the spring of 1985 he was going through a period of escalation. By the summer he was on a full-blown rampage.

On May 29, Malvia Keller, 83, and her invalid sister Blanche Wolfe, 80, were found in Keller's Monrovia home. Both women had been beaten so severely with a hammer that when the police found it, the handle was split. Blanche had a puncture wound above one ear. An inverted pentagram with the tip pointing down had been drawn in lipstick on Malvia's inner thigh. A second pentagram was found on the bedroom wall over Blanche's comatose body. Ramirez had apparently tried to rape Malvia, the older sister. Police experts estimated that the sisters had been there about two days after the attack before being discovered. Doctors were able to revive Blanche, but Malvia soon died of her injuries.

One month later, on June 27 the Night Stalker raped a six-year-old girl in Arcadia .

A day later the body of thirty-two-year-old Patty Elaine Higgins was found in her Arcadia home, her throat slit.

Five days later on July 2, the body of seventy-five-year old Mary Louise Cannon was found in her Arcadia home. Like Patty Higgins, she had been beaten, her throat slit. The house had been ransacked.

On July 5 Ramirez returned to Arcadia beat sixteen-year-old Deidre Palmer savagely with a tire iron. She survived her injuries.

Two days later on July 7, the body of Joyce Lucille Nelson was found in her home in Monterey Park . The sixty-one-year-old had been beaten to death with a blunt object.

Later that same night in Monterey Park , Linda Fortuna, a sixty-three-year-old registered nurse, was awakened at around 3:30 a.m. by a "tall, bony man dressed in black." The man, who fit the description of Night Stalker, was pointing a gun at her. He ordered her out of bed and into the bathroom, warning her to be quiet. After ransacking the house, he returned to her, forcing her back onto her bed. He attempted to rape and sodomize her but could not maintain an erection. He was frustrated and humiliated, and she was sure he would kill her. He screamed at her furiously, but then gathered up the valuables he wanted and left. She was astounded that he had spared her life.

Less than two weeks later, on July 20, the Night Stalker chose a new location in the Los Angeles area, Glendale . Maxson Kneiling and his wife Lela, both 66, were found in their bed, both shot in the head and horribly slashed with a knife. Maxson had been butchered so brutally his head was barely attached to his body. Police experts had difficulty recreating the attack based on the evidence. It's possible that the Stalker killed them both quickly with his gun, then mutilated them post-mortem. But given his developing MO, it's also possible that he kept Mrs. Kneiling alive to play out his perverse fantasy.

But he also might have failed to perform sexually with Mrs. Kneiling, just as he had with Linda Fortuna, and so he turned July 20 into a double header, striking again, this time in Sun Valley . Chitat Assawahem, 32, was shot in his sleep. His wife Sakima, 29, was raped, forced to perform oral sex on the intruder, then beaten mercilessly. He then sodomized the couple's eight-year-old son. Ramirez tied Mrs. Assawahem in her bedroom and left, but not before taking $30,000 in cash and jewelry.

On August 6, Ramirez targeted another couple, Christopher and Virginia Petersen, ages 38 and 27. Following his pattern, Ramirez broke into the Petersen's Northridge bedroom and shot them both in the head. But they didn't die. In fact, Mr. Petersen, a powerfully built truck driver, got out of bed and chased the intruder away despite having a bullet lodged in his brain. Miraculously, the Petersens survived their wounds.

Two nights after the attack on the Petersens, Ramirez lashed out again, this time in Diamond Bar , California , and this time he had it his way. Ahmed Zia, 35, was shot in the head and killed while he slept. With the husband out of the way, Ramirez was free to play out his fantasy with Zia's wife, Suu Kyi Zia, 28. The Night Stalker raped her, sodomized her, and forced her to perform fellatio on him. This was Ramirez's MO played out the way he liked it, and the experts who profiled him believed that this was the way he would attack again and again, probably adding a little something more each time, a new perversion, a twist on an old predilection, and most likely increasing the physical brutality.

Los Angeles County was terrified. The Night Stalker's crimes were becoming more frequent. The cooling-off periods were shortening, and his rage was escalating. There was little doubt that he would strike again. The only question was where and when. But as it turned out, Ramirez decided to abandon his familiar territory. After the attack on the Zias, he headed north.

On August 18, 1985 , Peter and Barbara Pan were found in their blood-soaked bed in Lake Merced , a suburb of San Francisco . Both had been shot in the head. Mr. Pan, a sixty-six-year-old accountant, was pronounced dead at the scene. Mrs. Pan, 64, survived but would be an invalid for the rest of her life. Scrawled on the wall in lipstick were an inverted pentagram and the words "Jack the Knife," which is from a song called "The Ripper" by the heavy-metal band, Judas Priest. Local police determined that the killer had come in through an open window. Fearing that L.A. 's Night Stalker had moved to their precinct, homicide investigators sent a bullet removed from Mr. Pan to a forensic team in Los Angeles . The bullet matched others recovered from two of the Night Stalker's Los Angeles County crime scenes.

Police in San Francisco searched their unsolved homicide files and came up with two incidents that fit the Stalker's MO. On February 20, 1985 , sisters Mary and Christina Caldwell, ages 70 and 50, had been stabbed to death in their Telegraph Hill apartment. If this was indeed the work of the Night Stalker, he had committed this crime about a month before the night he killed Dale Okazaki and Tsai-Lian Yu and wounded Angela Barrios.

The police also discovered that on June 2, the day after the murders of the elderly sisters Blanche Wolfe and Malvia Keller, Theodore Wildings, 25, was shot in the head while he slept in his apartment in the Cow Hollow section of San Francisco . His girlfriend, Nancy Brien, 25, was then brutally raped by the killer.

Could the Night Stalker have been active in San Francisco as well as Los Angeles throughout 1985 and the police in San Francisco didn't realize it?

Panic spread through the city by the Bay. To quell fears, Mayor Diane Feinstein talked publicly about the hunt for the Night Stalker, but in so doing angered detectives by giving away too many details of his crimes, thus impeding their investigation. They did not want a repeat of the situation Los Angeles had just gone through. Fifteen unanswered attacks, including fourteen murders and five rapes, had been committed by a maddeningly elusive perpetrator.

But the San Francisco police caught a break when the manager of a flophouse in the Tenderloin district came forward and claimed that a young man who fit the Stalker's description had stayed at his establishment from time to time over the past year and a half. The manager remembered that the man had rotten teeth and smelled badly. The police check the room he had last stayed in. On the bathroom door they found a drawn pentagram. The man had checked out during the day on August 17. Mr. and Mrs. Pan had been attacked that night.

Investigators then located a man from the El Sobrante district who said he had purchased some jewelry?a diamond ring and a pair of cufflinks?from a young man who fit the Stalker's description. Further investigation revealed that these items had belonged to Mr. Pan.

On August 24, while the police in San Francisco were scrambling to find the mysterious young man with rotten teeth, the Night Stalker had found another couple whom he could use to play out his violent fantasy?except this couple was not in the Bay Area. They were asleep in bed in Mission Viejo , fifty miles south of Los Angeles .

A computer engineer and his 29-year-old fianc?had just drifted off to sleep when they were suddenly awakened by loud gunshots in the room. Instinctively she reached out to her fiance, but he had been seriously wounded. Before she realized what was happening, the intruder grabbed her by the hair and hauled her into another bedroom where he tied her ankles and wrists with neckties. The man then asked her if she knew who he was, admitting that he was the killer who was getting all the coverage in the press and on television. He rummaged through the house, looking for valuables, but there was nothing small enough to steal easily. Angry that the couple had so little, he returned to her and raped her, not once but twice. The horrible stink of his breath made her gag.

The man was still angry that there was nothing worth stealing. Afraid of what he might do next, she told him to look in a drawer where she knew her fiance kept some money.

"Swear to Satan," he bellowed at her.

Out of fright, she did what he wanted and swore to Satan that she was telling the truth. The Stalker found the money, and as he counted it, he mocked her, telling her that this was what she was worth. It was what saved her, he said.

She prayed that this was the end of it, that he would just leave now that he had the cash. But he wasn't through with her yet.

"Swear your love for Satan," he demanded.

Afraid of what he might do next, she did as he asked. "I love Satan," she mumbled.

He ordered her to say it again and again. He yanked her by the hair and made her kneel, then forced her to perform oral sex on him. When he was finished, he stepped back and stared at her. Still bound by the neckties, she was certain that he was going to shoot her just as he had shot her fianc? But he didn't. He laughed at her, then suddenly he was gone.

She quickly worked herself free of the neckties and went to the window in time to see him getting into an old orange-colored Toyota station wagon. She immediately called 911.

Earlier that night a teenager who had been working on his motorcycle in his parents' garage had noticed the orange Toyota driving into the neighborhood, and he noticed it again as it was leaving. It struck him as suspicious, so he jotted down the license plate number. The next morning he called the police about the car.

With the plate number, the police were able to determine that the 1976 orange Toyota had been stolen in L.A.'s Chinatown while the owner was dining at a restaurant. An alert was put out for the car, and two days later it was located in the Rampart section of Los Angeles . The police kept the car under surveillance for nearly 24 hours in the hope that the Night Stalker would return for it, but he didn't.

A forensics team scoured the car for evidence and came up with one good fingerprint which they sent to Sacramento for analysis. Hours later the computer had found a match. The print belonged to Ricardo "Richard" Leyva Ramirez. Further analysis revealed that this print matched a print taken from a window sill at the Pans' house near San Francisco . At long last the police knew who their suspect was. Now they had to find him before he struck again.

Seven days after the attack on the computer engineer and his fiancee in Mission Viejo, Ramirez was on the prowl for another vehicle he could steal. Unfortunately for him, he chose the wrong neighborhood to go "shopping" for cars. The 3700 block of East Hubbard Street in Los Angeles is in a largely Hispanic area. Perhaps Ramirez felt that he would blend in there. But he had no idea how fiercely these residents would protect their property.

Ramirez's first mistake was trying to steal Faustino Pinon's prized red Mustang. Ramirez, who was wearing a black Jack Daniels tee shirt, had been hopping fences between yards, searching for a car he could steal easily. He'd been chased off the property next door to Pinon's home and wound up in Pinon's yard. Ramirez must have thought luck was with him because the Mustang parked in the driveway was unlocked and the keys were in the ignition. He jumped in and started the engine. But he hadn't noticed that the car's owner was underneath the car on his back working on the transmission.

As soon as Pinon, 56, heard the engine starting, he rolled out from under the car. Incensed that anyone would dare touch his prized possession, Pinon reached through the window and grabbed Ramirez around the neck.

"I've got a gun," Ramirez warned, but Pinon didn't care. No one was going to take his car.

Ramirez put the car into gear and tried to drive away, but Pinon wouldn't let go of him. The car crashed into a fence, then into the garage. Pinon got the door open, hauled Ramirez out, and threw him to the ground.

Ramirez scrambled to his feet and ran across the street just as twenty-eight-year-old Angelina de la Torres was getting into her Ford Granada. He ran up to her car and stuck his head through the driver's window, demanding that she give him the keys, threatening in Spanish to kill her if she didn't. She screamed for help, and her husband Manuel, 32, came running from the backyard. According to Nancy Skelton in the Los Angeles Times, he grabbed a length of metal fence post as he passed through the gate along the side of the house.

In the meantime Jose Burgoin, who had heard the ruckus in Faustino Pinon's driveway, had called the police. He ran outside to help Pinon, and when he heard Angelina scream, he called to his sons? Jaime, 21, and Julio, 17?to come quick. As the brothers ran to help Mrs. De la Torres, they saw the skinny stranger scrambling across the front seat of her car. Jaime recognized him from photographs that had been published in the newspapers and broadcast on television. He yelled that this was the killer, the Night Stalker!

The men made a mad dash to catch him. Ramirez ran for his life, but Manuel de la Torres caught up with him and hit him across the neck with the three-and-a- half-foot metal post. Ramirez kept running, but de la Torres stayed on him, whacking him repeatedly from behind. Jaime Burgoin caught up with Ramirez and punched him. Ramirez stumbled and fell but quickly got up and continued running with de la Torres and the Burgoin brothers on his heels.

Then unexpectedly Ramirez stopped and faced them. His eyes flashed as he laughed and stuck out his tongue at them. He was playing the part of the madman, but his pursuers were taken aback for only a moment. They lunged at him, and the chase continued. Finally, a block away from where it all began, de la Torres swung hard and hit Ramirez on the head. The Night Stalker collapsed to the ground. Jaime and Jose Burgoin closed in on him to keep him down until the police arrived. One day after Richard Ramirez's face was made public, the Night Stalker was in custody and behind bars.

Upon his arrest, Ramirez, 26, was charged with fourteen murders and thirty-one other felonies related to his 1985 murder, rape and robbery spree. A fifteenth murder in San Francisco also hung over his head, with the potential for a trial in Orange County for rape and attempted murder.

Early in the case, two public defenders were appointed to Richard Ramirez, but he disliked them. Another defense attorney came and went before the Ramirez family retained Daniel and Arturo Hernandez (not related). They had never before tried a death penalty case, but had worked together on homicide cases. Their presentation wasn't helped much when at the arraignment in October 1985, Ramirez flashed a pentagram drawn on his palm and shouted, "Hail Satan!"

Apparently this kind of behavior raised anxiety levels, because on another occasion when the courtroom lights suddenly went out, the deputy marshals drew their pistols and told everyone to hit the floor. They then dragged Ramirez out of the courtroom.

The Hernandezes began their long list of pre-trial motions by filing for a change of venue, insisting that the adverse publicity in Los Angeles County had infected the entire community, and hence, the jury pool. Ramirez could not receive a fair trial, they claimed, because many middleclass people in the area had an image embedded in their consciousness of the Night Stalker breaking into their homes. In fact, a survey they had done indicated that 93% of 300 people polled had heard about Ramirez, and the majority believed that he was guilty.

On January 10, 1987 , the Los Angeles Times * reported the decision in this thirteen-day hearing?a taste of things to come. Judge Dion Morrow said that given the substantial pool of potential jurors in the county, he did not believe that argument was sound. "This is the largest community, I think," he stated, "of any court system in the country." As Ramirez was led in chains from the courtroom, he grinned at his growing coterie of female supporters. Some believed in his innocence. Others just thought he was cute.

In another hearing, Judge Elva Soper granted a request for a gag order on both sides.

By May, a trial date was set for the end of September. That proved to be highly optimistic. This case was going to spread into other states and even Mexico , seeking witnesses and evidence. The defense team would also introduce an exhausting round of delays, from appeals to out-of-town interviews to outright disappearances.

Ramirez actually testified in pre-trial proceedings, clad in a three-piece gray suit and red tie. He denied that he had spontaneously told Sergeant Ed Esqueda upon his August 31 arrest, "I did it, you know. You guys got me, the Stalker." His lawyers said that the officer had not recorded the statements and they wanted them stricken. Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan, who would sit for the trial, denied the motion. (Sergeant George Thomas would later testify at the trial that he wrote down that Ramirez had said, "Of course I did it. So what? Shoot me. I deserve to die." Then he had hummed a tune called "Night Prowler.")

Other than that appearance, Ramirez sat through most of his numerous hearings, slouching in his chair, drumming his fingers on the table, and bobbing his head as if listening to rock music. He seemed oblivious to the seriousness of the charges.

When the Hernandezes insisted throughout the final months of 1987 that they needed more time to prepare, the trial date was moved to February. They considered buying more time by pursuing the Orange County trial first.

In November, to avoid an extra trial, one murder and one felony count were dismissed. All the prosecution had for the murder was the delayed statement of a witness who had spotted Ramirez a block from the crime scene. Then Judge Tynan also said that he would not allow Ramirez to leave the county, which meant he could not be arraigned in Orange County . The defense attorneys, seeking another ploy, prepared to ask for at least six separate trials to avoid having cases with little good evidence become stronger by association with those that had it.

By January, it appeared that the trial for case # A 7771272 would be postponed another six months, because an appellate court required that the prosecution team supply defense attorneys with records of all crimes over a period of six months in Los Angeles County of a "similar nature" to those of Ramirez. This was a move by the Hernandezes to link some of those that Ramirez was charged with to other cases and possibly other offenders. Prosecutor Phil Halpin called this an "onerous burden" for the cops and asked the court to reconsider. Both sides took it to the state Supreme Court, which would not hear it.

In March, San Francisco authorities had tentatively linked Ramirez to four homicides, a rape, and ten burglaries, but since they had no physical evidence in most of those crimes, they had narrowed their focus to one killing (Peter Pan), one attempted murder (Pan's wife), and a burglary that had yielded evidence that led to discovering Ramirez's last name. They were awaiting the conclusion of the LA trial to decide on a date.

In July, as the case neared three years since the arrest, the Times reported that Ramirez had decided against entering a plea of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. The judge ordered jury selection to begin. The paper quoted the judge as estimating (correctly) that this alone could take six to eight months. The Hernandezes had sought to have Tynan disqualified based on prejudice against their client. They did not succeed, but once again they claimed they needed more time to prepare.

Impatient with the defense motions (mostly to suppress evidence) that numbered to nearly one hundred, LA County prosecutor Phil Halpin finalized his case and filed the charges, taking the defense by surprise. He claimed he had nearly 1,000 potential witnesses and hundreds of thousands of pages of statements, reports, and photographs. Admitting that it was one of the "most complicated criminal cases" he had seen, he projected a two-year-period for the trial. Thus far, the case had cost over one million dollars and one witness had already died.

The defense asked for yet another extension, but it was time to begin.

On July 21, 1988 , jury selection began. (At the same time in Orange County , the jury was being selected for the trial of Randy Kraft, accused of killing sixteen young men.) Judge Tynan decided that they would need twelve jurors and twelve alternates, all of whom had to be impartial and also willing and able to serve for up to two years?a rather tall order even for that county. Carpenters were hired to enlarge the jury box. Tynan figured that to get what they needed, they might have to interview as many as 2,000 people (it turned out to be just short of 1,600).

Alan Yochelson joined Halpin for the prosecution team, and throughout the voir dire , Halpin and Daniel Hernandez traded so many insults that the judge told them to take their macho posturing into a boxing ring. He called them both unprofessional. He also assigned a public defender, Ray Clark, to assist Daniel Hernandez, since Arturo seemed inclined not to be there at times.

The team had not yet disclosed their strategy and they still had numerous appeals pending, particularly one asking to overturn the decision made by a judge who had refused to remove Tynan from the case. Ramirez, often choosing all-black garb, began to don sunglasses as part of his mysterious persona. Although he remained shaggy-haired throughout, reinforcing his rebellious reputation, he got more involved in the proceedings.

On August 3, the LA Times reported that jail employees had overheard a plan by Ramirez to shoot and kill the prosecutor with a gun that someone was going to slip him in the courtroom. A metal detector was installed outside the courtroom and even the lawyers were searched. Ramirez seemed surprised, and no gun was ever found.

Finally after several months, a jury of twelve, with alternates, was seated. Then one juror was dismissed for making racially biased statements about the death penalty.

In January 1989, a state appeals court found Daniel Hernandez "deficient" in presenting another client in an earlier murder trial. Reportedly, he was "not surprised" by the decision. He also had a record of seeking delays for medical conditions caused by stress. No one knew why the family had hired such an inexperienced attorney. He continued to seek delays.

By the end of the month, January 30, the trial began with Halpin's two-hour opening statement about the thirteen murders and thirty felony charges. He intended to introduce at least four hundred exhibits as evidence, including fingerprints, ballistics evidence, and shoe impressions?one of which had been on the face of one victim. On that same day, the Times reported that in jail in 1985 Ramirez had referred to himself as a "super criminal," claiming he loved to kill and had murdered twenty people. "I love all that blood," a sheriff's deputy quoted him as saying. Halpin hoped to enter these statements as evidence.

Hernandez declined to make an opening statement at this stage. His strategy remained veiled.

Then the case really began. While some witnesses had a difficult time with memory recall four years after the crimes, others were quite certain of their identification of Richard Ramirez. A few offered lengthy descriptions of their ordeal at the hands of Ramirez, sometimes while he leafed through a notebook of bloody crime scene photos. The defendant, when asked, refused to remove his sunglasses.

Halpin used circumstantial evidence to link Ramirez with the Avia shoes that left prints at crime scenes, with his appearance in the vicinity of the crimes, with his shifting MO, and with possession of items removed from the victims or their homes. He also had fingerprints and "signature" evidence. On April 14, after using 137 witnesses and 521 exhibits, the prosecution rested its case. But then, it had become clear that the defense strategy would be that the eight eyewitnesses?some of whom were survivors--had all mistakenly identified Ramirez. Some other guy had done it all. They were granted two weeks to prepare.

One hurdle the defense team had to jump was the numerous pentagrams left at crime scenes, in a car that bore Ramirez's fingerprint, on the thigh of a victim, on Ramirez, and in his cell. This was a means of linking the crimes, especially since Ramirez was a self-proclaimed Satanist. He had allegedly forced one surviving victim to swear allegiance to Satan as he assaulted her and shot her husband. Besides fingerprint and impression evidence from Avia shoes (allegedly worn by Ramirez, though they could not be found), ballistics evidence showed the use of four different guns, one of which was traced to a man who said he had gotten it from Ramirez.

The defense actually began three weeks later, on May 9, in part because on May 2 one of the prosecution's witnesses was ordered to re-testify. He had admitted to withholding information while under oath as he had described jewelry and consumer items linked to the victims and received from Ramirez. Halpin himself had uncovered the deception and said it was not damaging to the case. Hernandez withheld judgment but looked for an appeal opportunity.

On May 4, the Times ran a piece about Ramirez's state of mind, saying he was gloomy and distraught, and that he did not want to put on a defense. The lawyers told the judge that this was a possibility, although they had advised him otherwise. Tynan granted a recess so they could talk further with their client. Ultimately, it was decided to go on with the trial, and they brought in thirty-eight witnesses.

The defense team essentially claimed that the prosecution's evidence was inconclusive or defective. They took note of the fact that there were many fingerprints at the crime scenes that remained unidentified and that hairs and blood samples were found that did not belong to the victims or Ramirez. In a surprise move, they had Ramirez's father, Julian Ramirez-Tapia, take the stand to say that Richard had been in El Paso , Texas , for eight days starting around May 24, 1985 . A rape victim had placed him in her home on Memorial Day, and another attack, which had ended in murder, had also occurred between May 29 and June 1. The defense attorneys also found testimony to the effect that police officers had covertly alerted witnesses to Ramirez's position in the line-up after his arrest.

Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, an expert in eyewitness testimony from the University of Washington , testified that the stress of assault may have affected the witnesses' ability to accurately recall details. She also pointed out that errors are more likely when the attacker and victim are of different races. Yet she conceded under cross-examination that those victims who had more than a fleeting exposure to Ramirez were likely to be more accurate.

On May 25, defense witness Sandra Hotchkiss claimed to have been Ramirez's accomplice in numerous daytime burglaries in 1985, some of which had occurred during his alleged murder spree, and she said that none of these incidents was violent. She added that he was jumpy and amateurish. She broke off with him but was eventually arrested and convicted of other burglaries.

Throughout this phase of the trial, several disturbances occurred, such as charts falling from easels, Daniel Hernandez perspiring profusely, and evidence being erroneously represented. The newspapers pointed out that not once had the defense attorneys claimed their client was innocent. Hernandez commented in the paper that they merely wanted to prove that the prosecution's case was faulty.

Rebuttal witnesses for the prosecution contradicted the testimony of Ramirez's father by showing that Ramirez was in fact in Los Angeles having dental work done at the time that his father said he was in El Paso . A comparison of Ramirez's teeth to the charts left no doubt, though Ramirez had used an alias. A newspaper reporter, David Hancock, also contradicted the alibi by indicating that he had interviewed Ramirez-Tapia in August 1985, at which time the man had claimed he had not seen his son in at least two years.

Daniel Hernandez was allowed to fly to Texas to seek out more witnesses who might have seen Ramirez. The jury was allowed to go on vacation until July 10. Hernandez found two witnesses, but Halpin made the point that if he'd gone by plane, Ramirez could still have made it back in time to commit both attacks. One survivor had identified a piece of jewelry as hers that had admittedly been found in the El Paso home of Ramirez's sister, yet relatives of the woman murdered in May 1985 had photos of appliances from her home that had been in Ramirez's possession.

In closing arguments that lasted from July 12-25, each side emphasized the weakness in the other side's case and the strengths in it's own. Halpin pointed out that Hernandez had raised issues that he never substantiated, throwing them at the jury as mere diversions. When he was finished, Ramirez turned to the courtroom and smirked.

The judge took two days to instruct the jury, letting them know that a handgun was missing from the evidence inventory, but they had a photograph of it. After nearly a year, the jury finally started deliberations on July 26, with 8,000 pages of trial transcripts and 655 exhibits to consider.

Within a week, one juror who kept falling asleep was replaced. Then on August 14, Phyllis Singletary did not arrive. The judge summoned the jury and told them they could not continue without her, and the court was recessed for the day.

Yet the papers reported that Ms. Singletary had been shot to death in her apartment, and this news passed through the jury and eight remaining alternates like wildfire. They could not help but wonder if Ramirez had managed this from his prison cell and if he might do something similar to another of them. He certainly had plenty of black-clad groupies who came to court each day to show their support. They recalled the Charles Manson cult from 1969.

Judge Tynan called them into court the next day and told them that Ms. Singletary had been shot by an abusive boyfriend. He assured them the incident was unrelated to the case. An alternate was chosen to replace her, although the woman was so overcome with fear she could not walk to her place. Yet more news was forthcoming. Ms. Singletary's boyfriend used the same weapon with which he'd killed her to commit suicide in a hotel. He left behind his written confession. They had been arguing over the Ramirez case and he had become enraged by her disapproval of Ramirez's lawyers.

The defense team tried hard to get a mistrial declared, which Halpin opposed. "The case must not go down the drain," he insisted. Debates emerged in the newspapers over the issue, with one psychologist believing the shooting would unconsciously influence the jury against the defendant. However, the jury foreman assured the judge that they could continue. When Ramirez heard this in court, he shouted that it was all "fucked up" and had to be restrained. He continued to act out during the rest of the deliberations, saying that the trial had not been fair, and he was allowed to waive his right to be present in court. Whenever brief hearings were needed, the proceedings were piped into his holding cell.

On September 20, almost two months after they had begun, the jury announced that they had reached a unanimous decision. Ramirez elected not to attend the reading. Neither did his coterie of girlfriends. On each of the forty-three counts, the jury had voted guilty and had affirmed nineteen "special circumstances" that made him eligible for the death penalty. Upon leaving his cell, Ramirez flashed a devil sign?two finger for horns--at photographers and made a single comment: "Evil."

The defense team asked Ramirez to assist with the penalty phase, because without mitigating factors, he surely would be condemned to death.

"Dying doesn't scare me," he responded. "I'll be in hell. With Satan." He told his lawyers that he would not beg. So to everyone's surprise, they offered no witnesses and did not call him to plead for his life. Halpin said later that this decision had caught him "flat-footed." Clark simply argued before the jury that something was obviously wrong with Ramirez and they should be compassionate?sympathy even for the devil. Halpin reviewed his arguments from the trial and urged them to give him his "just desserts."

On October 3, 1989 , after four days of deliberations, the jury said they had voted for death for Richard Ramirez. The female members were crying. Ramirez, who was present for this, was led from the courtroom smiling. "Big Deal," he said. "Death always went with the territory." Later as he was led in shackles back to the county jail, he added for reporters, "I'll see you in Disneyland ."

On November 9, he was officially sentenced to death nineteen times. Ramirez chatted with his attorneys throughout. Afterward he added to his dark image with his rather incomprehensible speech to the court: "You do not understand me. I do not expect you to. You are not capable of it. I am beyond your experience. I am beyond good and evil. Legions of the night, night breed, repeat not the errors of night prowler and show no mercy. I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells within us all."

He denounced the court officials as liars, haters, and parasitic worms. He said that he'd been misunderstood. As he was led away to eventually join the 262 inmates already on death row in San Quentin?including Freeway Killer Randy Kraft, sentenced a month before--he asked, "Where are the women?" He then flashed his two-fingered devil symbol at a busload of female prisoners, who called out, "Killer!" That made him smile.

To understand Richard Ramirez and his passion for the devil, we need to examine more than just his life; we must also look at the times.

Ramirez committed his murder spree in 1985, in the midst of the "satanic panics" that swept the country throughout the decade. Anxiety over Satanists and evil conspiracies mounted on a cultural scale, and narratives told by people in therapy about ritual abuse by secret Satanic rings showed many common elements?and no evidence. Whole masses of people developed similar physical symptoms that were primarily emotional in origin, and the idea of ritual abuse was heavily promoted by journalists, therapists, physicians, drug companies, and whoever else might find some stake in them.

Serial killers, too, adopted satanic robes. During that decade, Robert Berdella killed six men in Missouri for satanic purposes, Antone Costa killed four women in Cape Cod in rituals, Thomas Creech admitted to 47 satanic sacrifices, and Larry Eyler buried four of his 23 victims under a barn marked with an inverted pentagram. Nurse Donald Harvey, suspected in the deaths of 47 patients, admitted to a fascination with black magic, and Leonard Lake , who had teamed up with Charles Ng for a series of torture-murders, was affiliated with a coven of witches. One killer targeted homeless men, ringing his victims with a circle of salt. A teenager who wanted to follow the devil murdered his parents in their beds.

Also during the 1980s, a former associate of John Wayne Gacy named Robin Gecht inspired a group of three other men known as the Ripper Crew in killing an estimated eighteen women. They would murder a victim, sever her left breast with a thin wire, clean it out to use for sexual gratification, and then cut it into pieces to consume. Ostensibly, they were worshipping Satan, and eating the flesh was a form of demonic communion.

The Night Stalker had the same devilish persuasion. He'd creep up in the night, dressed in black, and enter homes surreptitiously. Sometimes he removed the eyes of his victims, as if for a ritual. He bludgeoned two elderly sisters and left Satanic symbols on the thigh of the one who died in the form of a pentagram. He also drew pentagrams on the walls in lipstick. When he was arrested, Ramirez reportedly said he was a minion of Satan sent to commit the Dark One's dirty work.

Was this admission some kind of preparation for an insanity defense or something he truly believed? If he believed it, did it inspire more savagery? Did it cause him to kill? Let's review some of the influential factors of his life that have been commonly linked to the development of a violent temperament.

He was born in El Paso , Texas , in 1960, the youngest of five children. He was a quiet boy, according to neighbors, with hard-working parents. However, Richard's father had a temper and sometimes beat the kids. The model of abuse in the form of a parent can often be a bad start for a child, especially a boy watching his father. Add to that, possible abuse from a male teacher, and Richard had two role models who demonstrated how to use others for their own frustrated ends. Richard was afraid of his father, and he would leave home to hang out in a nearby cemetery, even spending the night. He found peace among the dead, and this may have been where he first developed an attraction to the macabre.

Forensic psychologist Dr. N. G. Berrill, from John College of Criminal Justice, pointed out on Court TV's Mugshots that a means for getting over one's fears is "to identify with what's frightening you. One way to do that is to become a frightening person yourself."

More than one criminal has become the very thing that scared him, turning from victim into victimizer. Yet Ramirez would take this transformation another step. It would become more than just frightening people. He would want to mutilate them, degrade them, and radiate their fear in larger ripples at others.

Ramirez also suffered from epileptic seizures?possibly viewed as a weakness in that south-Texas culture, since it forced him to give up football--and he became something of a loner in school. He was thin and girlish in appearance, so he may have been ridiculed. Yet he had ambitions to become famous. He wanted people to know him. He wanted to make a difference.

He looked up to an older cousin named Mike, who may have become something of a father substitute. Mike loved to prove how tough he was, especially by fighting. As Richard hung out with him day after day, absorbing Mike's life philosophies, he learned a new outlook. Mike had survived the rigors of Vietnam , and when he returned, even more hardened and covered in tattoos, he became larger-than-life in Richard's eyes. He'd come through an ordeal and he had secrets from an exotic place. That was pretty exciting, but even better were the photographs that Mike liked to show Richard of the butchered dead?including women. He said that killing made him feel like a god, and there was nothing more powerful. Mike bragged that he had raped and murdered a number of women, and he had the photos to prove it. While Richard may have been shocked at first, eventually he got used to such sights, especially since it was important to show Mike that he could handle it. Mike might have been testing young Richard, not yet even an adolescent, but Richard was up to the test. He took it in and wanted more.

The key insight here is that Richard's exposure to Mike's atrocities occurred at a time in his life when he was also becoming a young man, and often when things get associated with physical excitement and intrigue during early sexual development, they also become eroticized. Thus they become a part of the mental landscape as well. Sexual fantasies can develop from the associated images, and those fantasies become repetitive and more detailed throughout one's life and may lay the groundwork for later acts. Richard supposedly had viewed Polaroids of Mike in sexual activity in which the woman was a helpless victim and of Mike murdering these same women. He saw how his idol could do these things without a qualm, no doubt got excited by the naked women in sexual positions, and probably learned that women could be easily used as objects for degradation. It was all part of being a real man, yet it was also forbidden, which gave Mike's macho realm an added allure.

In addition to that, Mike also taught Richard the art of hunting as a predator. They would go into the desert at night to observe and sneak up on animals. Mike then would show Richard how to kill an animal with a knife or gun, and it's likely they indulged in some bloody aspects of this sport.

As Richard developed, Mike became his role model and whatever Mike did without fear, Richard wanted to do. That set him up for one more incident that would prove everything that Mike had demonstrated thus far.

One day, Mike got into a fight with his wife, who wanted him to get a job, and decided to end her harassment. He drew a revolver and shot her. Then he told Richard to leave. For this crime, Mike went to a mental institution, judged to have been temporarily insane. Yet right after the incident, Richard went into the home with his father and saw and smelled the blood. He felt a connection with the dead, he confessed later to author Philip Carlo ( The Night Stalker ), which bordered on the mystical.

Some psychologists pinpoint this killing as the turning point for him, but it's more likely that he had already become inured to death, especially with women, via the photographs Mike had shown him, and by killing animals up close. This incident was probably not as traumatic for him as it might have been, given what he'd already been exposed to. The numbness had already developed in him. Otherwise, we might expect that he'd have run from the apartment and gone to the police, or gone into a depression and avoided his cousin thereafter. In fact, he told no one that he had witnessed the crime.

What may have been just as instrumental in his development is that he did attend church, so to be able to worship and also accept his cousin's violent attitudes indicated that he'd already begun to compartmentalize?to act and think differently in different contexts. That's the most dangerous kind of person, because it becomes difficult for others to recognize the violent side, and difficult for the person to stop his own violent acts. He may not even view them as bad.

Eventually, Richard discovered the Church of Satan , and that seemed to draw all the threads of his temperament together in the right way. The themes of dominance, control, and power called to him, as did the idea of something sacred, even if it was evil. All of this might have made him able to erase his feelings of weakness.

Then when he was 18, he moved to California . He had nothing much to do there, so he stole cars, listened to music, and looked for opportunities, whatever they may be. He would steal without compunction and buy drugs. He still sought something that might make him significant.

Richard Ramirez had perceived in the culture around him---he was not far from where teachers had been arrested in 1983 at the McMartin pre-school and accused as a ring of Satanists corrupting children---that people were afraid of Satan, and to him that probably meant that aligning himself with the Prince of Darkness would empower him in a unique way. People would actually fear him. So he cultivated the trappings of Satanism that were popular during the 1970s and 80s?pentagrams, black clothing, demonic eyes, stealthy ways, and a penchant for the night. He took his cue from the song, "Night Prowler," noting how the person who made others afraid was the person in control.

So he went on his murder spree, was caught, and went through a trial. He was certainly making a name for himself, but it wasn't enough just to be another serial killer. There were plenty of those by the 1980s?even a trial in Orange County at the same time. He perceived that he had set himself apart with his satanic incarnation, and he played that up for the press.

At a preliminary hearing, Ramirez flashed a pentagram that he'd had tattooed onto the palm of his hand. When he was convicted and his lawyers warned him that he could get the death sentence. "I'll be in hell, then," he said, "with Satan." He saw the newspaper articles talking about him as the devil and understood that he was a celebrity now. The more he flashed the pentagram or talked about serving Satan, the more he was quoted in the papers. He adopted sunglasses to enhance his mystique. He apparently embraced the idea that he was a "monster." Even during his trial, when one juror was murdered, the incident made other jurors wonder if Ramirez had called forth demons to attack that person. They were fearful that he might pick them off. He'd often tried to intimidate them individually with his stares.

He was sentenced to death and sent to Death Row in San Quentin. When talking to police officers, he was quite curious as to whether there would now be books about him as there were about Ted Bundy and Jack the Ripper. He loved the idea that someone had made a movie.

During the 1990s, Jason Moss wrote to Ramirez as part of his project to write to serial killers, and Ramirez reportedly wanted him to become a Satanist.

Since Ramirez's beliefs seem fundamental to his desire to be notorious and unique, it's difficult to know to what degree he was sincerely devoted to Satan. Yet it's likely that his desire to kill and the manner in which he committed his crimes had more to do with his cousin Mike's psychological influence, coupled with his notion that killing makes one a god.

All text that appears in this section was provided by www.crimelibrary.com (the very best source for serial killer information on the internet). Serialkillercalendar.com thanks the crime library for their tireless efforts in recording our dark past commends them on the amazing job they have done thus far).

Serialkillercalendar.com

 

 

 
 
 
 
home last updates contact