In the spring and summer of 1985, at least 13 people were killed, and others raped, in Southern California. The violence occurred mostly before dawn. A man would break into a home. He might immediately kill a man in sight. He might rape a woman in the home. He would ransack the house and then leave. He was called “Night Stalker.”
Netflix’s new documentary, Night Stalker: the Hunt for a Serial Killer, chronicles the events of 1985 and the police search for the killer later identified as Richard Ramirez.
Ramirez has enjoyed some recent pop culture fame, appearing as a character in AHS: 1984. The new Netflix doc, however, reminds us how real, how chilling, and how traumatic Ramirez was for Southern California residents during the summer of his terror and for many years after.
In 1989, after he was convicted of 13 murders, five attempts, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries, and after he was sentenced to death, Ramirez addressed the courtroom saying, “I am beyond good and evil. I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells in us all. That’s it.” He was 29 at the time.
Here’s what to know about Ramirez and his crimes.
Who was Richard Ramirez?
Ramirez was born “Ricardo Leyva Muñoz Ramirez” in 1960 in El Paso, Texas. He was the son of Mexican immigrants, his father working on a railway line and his mother at a boot factory.
According to interviews and court testimonies, Ramirez developed epilepsy as a boy and would spend nights in cemeteries. When he was 13, Ramirez witnessed his cousin shoot and kill his wife. His cousin had before shown Ramirez photos of women he claimed to have raped and killed in Vietnam. Ramirez began burglarizing homes around this time.
He moved to Los Angeles at 15—having dropped out of high school—and developed a cocaine addiction. Ramirez continued to burglarize homes in the area. When he was 25, he committed his first murder.
The killings began in June 1984
On June 28th, Ramirez murdered 79-year-old Jennie Vincow in her apartment after repeatedly stabbing her and then cutting her throat.
Ramirez laid low until the following year. Then the serial attacks began. Between March and August of 1985, Ramirez broke into homes across Los Angeles county, killing, raping, and mutilating at least 13 people. He used a variety of weapons, including guns, knives, and hammers. His victims ranged from ages of 6 to 83. Some victims recounted Ramirez forcing them to declare their love for Satan.
Ramirez eluded capture for months until August 1985.
Rameriz’s capture and conviction
On August 24, 1985, Ramirez traveled to Mission Viejo, broke into the home of Bill Carns and Inez Erickson, killed Carns, raped Erickson, and then left. Erickson, however, was able to catch Ramirez leaving in an orange Toyota station wagon and gave a description of Ramirez and the vehicle to police.
Police soon found the car, lifted Ramirez’s fingerprints, matching them to his criminal record, and then released an image of Ramirez to the public. Ramirez was identified while attempting to steal another car and was descended on by a mob who beat him with an iron. He was soon after taken into custody.
During the trial, Ramirez made Satanic gestures. Eight witnesses testified, identifying him as their assailant and placing him at the crime scenes. In September 1989, Ramirez was convicted of all charges. In November, he was sentenced to die by gas chamber in California.
Richard Ramirez’s death
On Friday June 7, 2013, Ramirez died in California while awaiting execution. The death was determined to be from natural causes. Ramirez was 53. He had spent over two decades awaiting execution.
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