How 'The Night Stalker' Was Brought Down After a Months-Long Reign of Terror
Richard Ramirez sent California into a tailspin of fear in the ‘80s as he raped, killed and burglarized his victims, earning the name “The Night Stalker.”
Ramirez killed his first victim in June 1984 and then went on a spree of killings and assaults throughout the spring and summer of 1985. Ramirez was convicted on multiple charges but never expressed remorse for his crimes.
In 1993, he sat down with Inside Edition for one of his first and only jailhouse interviews.
“I didn’t particularly care for people,” he told Inside Edition in 1993. “I believe in the evil in human nature. This is a wicked world and in a wicked world wicked people are born.”
The Making of a Predator
Ramirez would stalk his victims and watch them from outside of their homes until the late hours of the night. Then, after they were sound asleep, he would break into their homes and turn them into a nightmare, raping, torturing and killing people using guns, knives and his fists.
The Night Stalker killed at least 13 people during his reign of terror in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Fifteen other people survived his brutal attacks.
But during his Inside Edition interview, Ramirez did not want to discuss his crimes. Instead, in a peculiar twist, he talked about his views on the nature of serial killers.
“A serial killer comes about in his circumstances, like a recipe – poverty, drugs, child abuse. These things contribute to a person’s frustration and anger and at some point in life, he explodes,” he said.
Ramirez was born on Feb. 29, 1960 in El Paso, Texas, and was the youngest of five children. He reportedly sustained several head injuries as a child and at 13, Ramirez witnessed his cousin murder his wife. One of Ramirez’s childhood friends, who declined to give his name at the time, told Inside Edition in 1993 that he believes drugs also contributed to Ramirez’s downfall.
The friend said Ramirez initially stole for drug money and then developed a passion for burglary, as well as stalking. He was also known in those days as “Ricky the Thief” and “Fingers.”
But in his interview with Inside Edition, Ramirez said it wasn’t those things that turned him bad.
“I am not going to blame society, my race, or people, or anything. It is up to the individual like myself to keep on knocking into whatever world they want to get into,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez spent time at a juvenile detention center in 1977. By the time Ramirez was 18, he had dropped out of high school and moved to Southern California, where he experienced homelessness.
Ramirez continued to use drugs while in California, bringing his old habits to his new life.
Stalking His Prey
Ramirez killed his first victim, 79-year-old Jennie Vincow, on June 28, 1984. Then, beginning in March 1985, he went on a five-month killing spree, sometimes murdering multiple people on the same day.
His killings were so sadistic and brutal that even experienced detectives were shocked by the crime scenes Ramirez left behind. And his methods of killing were apparently so gruesome and so diverse that experts at the time believed there could be more than one Night Stalker.
Sgt. Frank Salerno, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide investigator, led the search for Ramirez.
Salerno told Inside Edition in 1993 that Ramirez took a woman in her 60s and killed her by stomping on her face so hard, he left a shoe imprint there. Salerno said that Ramirez would execute some of his victims. He also once used a tire iron to strangle a young girl, according to the veteran detective.
Salerno said the Night Stalker’s motive was simply “to kill.” His victims ranged in age from 16 to 79.
When asked by Inside Edition why he wanted to hurt and kill those particular people, Ramirez smiled and said “no comment.”
His victims ranged in age from 16 to 79.
To Catch a Predator
After months of spreading brutality and fear across California, Ramirez was finally caught when Salerno and his partner matched his shoe imprints to the crime scenes.
When Ramirez was brought to trial in 1989, it captivated the country. During the trial, Ramirez would have outbursts, calling the jury “parasites” and displaying his fascination with Satanism.
He told Inside Edition in 1993, “as far as Satan is concerned, I believe in [a] malevolent being. His description alludes me, but I have felt powers that are evil.”
After an eight-month trial, Ramirez was convicted of 13 counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder, 11 sexual assault charges and 14 burglary charges.
Ramirez was sentenced to death on Nov. 7, 1989, and was sent to San Quentin State Prison’s death row. His reaction to the death sentence was flip.
“Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland,” Ramirez said at the time.
He expressed similar sentiments to Inside Edition in 1993.
“I don’t care about myself, really,” Ramirez told Inside Edition. “I don’t care about what happens to me. I never did, really.”
Ramirez spent nearly 24 years on death row, during which time his DNA was linked to the 1984 killing of a 9-year-old girl.
While on death row, Ramirez married one of his most ardent supporters, Doreen Lioy, in 1996.
"He's kind, he's funny, he's charming," Doreen Ramirez told CNN in 1997. "I think he's a really great person. He's my best friend; he's my buddy."
But in the end, Ramirez’s life didn’t end with an execution. He died of complications secondary to B-cell lymphoma at a California hospital when he was 53 years old.
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