Richard Ramirez’s name was enough to make the blood run cold in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Dubbed the Night Stalker by the press, he had a long history of burglaries, rape, and murder. When he was caught, he had killed 14 people.
Surprisingly, not everyone he raped he murdered and vice versa. While Ramirez was a sexual sadist, he was also prone to fits of rage. The rage often overshadowed his sexual proclivities. His first known victim was a 9 year old girl that he raped and murdered in the basement of the apartment building where he lived in San Francisco. However, the young girl would not be linked to Ramirez until 2009 when DNA from her cold case was retested, long after his conviction and incarceration.
The first of his Night Stalker crimes was committed two months after the murder of the young girl. He broke into an apartment of an elderly woman in 1984. There he slashed her throat so deep, she was nearly decapitated and stabbed her repeatedly. He would lay low until March of 1985, when the Night Stalker would began his savage reign of terror on the citizens of California. Ramirez was willing to travel and no one was safe. Between March 1985 and August 1985, he would kill 12 people and leave several others injured.
The survivors were able to give a description of their attacker. However, it was a teenaged boy that put a name to the face. In Mission Viejo, Ramirez was driving a stolen orange Toyota and cruising for victims. A teenager noticed the car and the person inside and decided they looked suspicious. He wrote down as much of the license plate as he could remember. When the teen learned of the attack on Bill Cairns and his fiance, Inez Erickson, the boy told his parents and the information was passed to police. Police found the abandoned car and a single fingerprint that matched Richard Munoz Ramirez, a 25 year old man from Texas with a long rap sheet. His picture was released to the media.
Part of the problem with connecting all of Ramirez’s crimes was that he didn’t always use a gun. Some of his victims were shot, some were stabbed with a knife, and others were beaten with different objects that were handy (including a tire iron and a hammer). However, survivors often mentioned that Ramirez made them “swear to Satan,” since not many serial killers request something so specific, the crimes were linked using that statement and his penchant for drawing pentagrams at crime scenes.
His capture was no less weird and spectacular than his crimes. Ramirez saw his picture in a newspaper and took off running. He attempted to carjack a woman on a freeway, but bystanders intervened and even gave chase. They thwarted two more attempted carjackings and managed to subdue him (one man hit him in the head with a pipe) until police arrived. He was taken into custody without further incident.
His confession was mostly a rambling monologue of his love of Satan. He sort of confessed to a few of his crimes, retracted the statements, made different statements, retracted those statements, then made another round of statements and retracted those. In all, Ramirez confessed and retracted his confessions to more than 100 crimes total. Some of them were definitely Night Stalker crimes, some were crimes that didn’t have any suspects (but did once Ramirez started talking about them), and some were crimes Ramirez couldn’t have committed.
Ramirez claimed the murders were sacrifices to the Dark Lord. However, it seems they were really about money as almost everyone was robbed. A few experts have said that Ramirez’s dedication to Satanism was more to get an insanity plea than an actual devotion.
*My thoughts: After doing some research on Ramirez, I kind of shoved him to the side. Yes, he did unspeakable things, but he was inept. Despite what news sources (and Wikipedia) says, he left quite a bit of forensic evidence at crime scenes; not just shoe prints and bullet casings, but semen, hair, skin that his victims scraped from his body, handwriting samples, and witnesses. If the case had happened fifteen years later, DNA would have linked him to the crimes much faster and computer facial recognition software would have identified him quicker. However, interest in the Night Stalker case doesn’t stem from his ability to remain at large for a year, it was the randomness of the crimes. Anyone could have been a target, add in his claims that he was a Satanist and it made for a media feeding frenzy.