Written by: Jenae
Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Necrophilia, Sexual Assault of Children, Murder, Sodomy, and Mutilation.
Richard “Ritchie” Ramirez was born on February 29th, 1960. He was born and grew up in El Paso, TX. He was one of five children born to Mercedes and Julian Ramirez. Richard grew up poor and experienced abuse in the home, as his father used to be a police officer in Juarez, Mexico before moving to the US. Mercedes, gave birth to five children in total, Richard being the youngest. She spent her pregnancies working in a factory where chemicals were used often and there were not yet regulations for the workplace bringing some to wonder if this had contributed to Ramirez's outcome.
Beginning around age 10, due to his shitty home life, Ramirez spent a lot of time sleeping in cemeteries and smoking marijuana to avoid his father’s abuse and anger. Though he looked up to his father, he soon found a new role model, around age 12 Ramirez started spending time around his cousin Mike. Mike was twice Richard’s age and had recently returned from his deployment as a U.S. Army Green Beret in the Vietnam war. Mike loved to share these stories with Richard, so much so that he’d share photos with him. These photos included the women he had raped in Vietnam, people he had killed, and even photos of Mike posing with the severed head of a woman he had killed. These were common conversations between 12 year old Richard and 24 year old Mike, usually shared over joints. Not only did he share stories with Richard, Mike showed Richard some of his military training, the two main things he taught him were how to kill someone and how to sneak. Teaching Richard these skills would prove to be a mistake.
At the age of 13, Richard was with Mike when he shot and murdered his wife, Jessie. They had been arguing over Mike's laziness, smoking weed, and sharing war stories with Richard. Mike was found not guilty by reason of insanity and he was released in 1977 after four years in the mental hospital. After this experience, Richard withdrew from everyone around him. Since he had been staying with Mike mostly, Richard moved in with his sister Ruth and his brother-in-law Roberto. Roberto was no better than Mike as he liked to look through people’s windows at night and began taking 13 year old Richard with him on his nightly peeping. Soon, Ramirez began experimenting with LSD and developing an interest in Satanism. (A/N: Just want to point out that Richard's version or idea of Satanism is not Satanism, he was a stupid fuck who was trying to draw attention to himself. Real Satanism doesn’t look like this.) These weren’t the only things that interested Richard, he was fascinated and aroused by the idea of rape and forced bondage. Many people claim this is the turning point for Richard Ramirez. That, similar to Bundy, Ramirez’s mind had melded sex and violence together, which led to his crimes later. His job with a local hotel ended quickly once they found out Ramirez was stealing from the rooms and attempted to rape a guest’s wife when the husband walked in. The husband beat up Ramirez easily before alerting his employer and the police. This charge was never explored because the couple declined to testify and the case was dropped.
By 14, Ramirez had dropped out of school. He reconnected with his cousin, Mike, once he got out of the hospital. By this point, he was in and out of jail for petty crimes like theft and possession of marijuana. By 22, Ramirez was sick of Texas and moved to California where he lived in a variety of areas including Skid Row, LA: a neighborhood known for poverty, homelessness, crime, and drug use. Once he arrived, he continued to get addressed for petty crimes like possession of cocaine, theft, and auto theft. But no one in California was prepared for what was to come.
LA Area Crimes:
Once in California, Richard decided to take his crimes to another level. He began breaking into people’s homes to steal things. He soon escalated to the famous Night Stalker murders, something that none of California was prepared for.
Richard began his string of rapes and murders with an attack that wouldn’t be connected to him until 2009; On April 10th, 1984, 9-year old Mei Leung was walking with her 8-year old brother when she lost the dollar she had. She wandered off on her own, and Ramirez stuffed her in a duffel bag, sexually assaulted her, beat and stabbed her, before hanging her body and the basement of her own apartment complex. For years the case was cold. In 2009, advances in forensic science allowed investigators to test some DNA. The DNA belonged to none other than Richard Ramirez. Charges were never brought up due to a lack of evidence.
By this point, Richard consistently used heavy drugs and ate terribly. He loved eating a copious amount of sugar, candy and the like. Because of this his teeth began to rot and since Richard didn’t brush his teeth, he developed halitosis. This is important later on because many victims remembered his smell and speech to them. His breath straight up smelled like shit from some of the accounts and reports about it.
Until 2009, 79-year-old Jenny Vincow was considered Ramirez’ first victim. He entered Jenny’s home through an open window on June 28th, 1984 in LA. He removed the screen and climbed into her home. Reportedly, he entered the home to steal valuables. When he was unable to find valuables, he began stabbing Jenny in a rage. He ended up slitting her throat ear to ear, almost decapitating the body. He became aroused during this act and sexually assaulted the body. He left a fingerprint on the screen, which would later be used against him. This kill only sustained Ramirez for eight months before he struck again.
On St. Patrick’s Day 1981, Ramirez shot at 22-year-old Maria Hernandez as she returned home in Rosemead, CA. Luckily, she raised her arm as Ramirez shot and the bullet bounced off her keys. Though it still hit her arm, this was a much less fatal injury than her head, where Ramirez had been aiming. Once Maria fell to the ground from the shock of being shot, Ramirez entered the home. Maria’s roommate, 34-year-old Dayle Okazaki heard the gunshot and was hiding behind a counter in the kitchen. As Ramirez entered the kitchen, Dayle raised her head to locate him and that’s when he shot her in the head, killing her. He then fled, but not before peeking in the garage, where he left Maria. He dropped the gun and fled the scene. Maria lived to testify in court.
Within an hour of the attack on Maria and her roommate, Ramirez struck again. This time in Monterey Park, CA. Ramirez pulled 30-year-old Veronica Yu out of her car and shot her twice. She was DOA.
These first few attacks put investigators and communities on edge, the media began coverage on a scary man with curly dark hair, with large bulging eyes, and terrible breath. They dubbed him the Walk In Killer or the Valley Intruder.
Ten days later, he struck again. On March 27th, 1985, Ramirez entered the home of Vincent and Maxine Zazzara, a home he had burglarized about a year prior. Ramirez entered the home at 2am and shot Vincent in his sleep. Maxine was awoken by the gun noises, so Ramirez tied her up and beat her, demanding to know where the valuables were. As he was searching the house, Maxine got free from his ties, and found the shotgun her and Vincent kept in the home. She finds Ramirez, aims the gun, pulls the trigger, just to find that there were no bullets in the gun. Ramirez then shot her three times in the head. In a rage, he grabbed a knife from the kitchen. He then stabbed her corpse multiple times, gouged her eyes out, and put them in a box to take them with him. It’s reported that the Zazzara’s shotgun didn’t have bullets in it because Vincent’s grandchildren had been visiting the few days before and he was practicing good gun safety by removing the bullets that could’ve saved Maxine’s life. Unfortunately, the bodies would be discovered by their son. At the scene, investigators found a foot print from an Avia tennis shoe left in the garden, the foot print and eye witness accounts were all police had on the Valley Intruder. Bullets found from other attacks and this one lead investigators to realize they were dealing with a serial killer.
All this added heat didn’t stop Ramirez though. He struck again on May 14th, 1985 when he entered the home of Bill and Lillian Doi. Richard shot Bill in the face as he entered the home. Lillian, who was confined to a hospital bed due to health issues, was in the other room. While Bill fought for his life, Ramirez bound and raped Lillian. Lillian survived the attack but Bill later died in the hospital.
Two weeks later, on May 29th, 1985, Ramirez stole a Mercedes Benz and sought out more victims. This time, he settled on Mabel Bell and Nettie Lang, two sisters in their 80s. Ramirez found a hammer in the kitchen that he used to bludgeon both women. He then bound and raped Nettie, and shocked Mabel with electrical cords. He used lipstick to draw pentagrams on the bedroom walls and on Nettie’s thigh. The women laid there for two days, still alive, before receiving medical attention. Mabel died from her injuries.
The following day, Ramirez broke into the home of Carol Kyle and her 11 year old son. He tied up Carol and her son at gunpoint. He released Carol to have her show him where the valuables were, except this was a lie that Ramirez used to sodomize Carol repeatedly in the other room. After this, he bound Carol and her son together before fleeing the home.
July 2nd, 1985, Ramirez broke into the home of 75 year old Mary Louise Cannon. He entered her bedroom and beat her with a lamp while she slept before stabbing her multiple times with a 10-inch knife, killing her.
Three days later, on July 5th, Ramirez entered the home of 16-year old Whitney Bennett. He bludgeoned her with a tire iron in her sleep. Ramirez intended to stab her, but couldn’t find knives in the kitchen. Instead, he used a telephone wire to begin strangling her. Sparks flew from the cord and Whitney began breathing. Ramirez, a "Satanist", believed this to be, “an act of Jesus”, and fled the scene. (A/N: Which makes zero sense cause Satanists don’t believe in Satan and God. It’s more, you’re your own god.)
Two days later, Ramirez broke into the home of Joyce Nelson. She was asleep on the couch when Ramirez beat her to death with his fists and feet. He even left that same Avia footprint on her forehead. The same night, Ramirez broke into the home of a nearby neighbor. This time, it was the home of Sophie Dickman. He assaulted her, attempted to rape her, and tried to steal any jewelry in the home. He made her, “swear on Satan”, that he had all the valuables in the home before he fled.
On July 20th, 1985, Ramirez entered the home of Lela and Maxon Kneiding with a newly purchased machete. He used this to hack them up, before shooting them both in the head, further mutilating the bodies and robbing the home. Ramirez then drove to another neighborhood, where he entered the Khovananth home. He shot the man of the house, Chainarong, in the head while he slept. Ramirez then raped, sodomized, and beat Somkid (mother). He made her lead him around the house for valuables. When her eight age old son was awoken, Ramirez, bound him in a room. Ramirez only left after making Somkid, “swear to Satan”, that she had given him all the valuables.
On August 6th, Ramirez broke into the home of Chris and Virginia Peterson. He shot Virginia in the face and Chris in the temple. Chris managed to fight him off, as he shot multiple rounds at him. Ramirez fled and the couple survived their injuries.
August 8th, Ramirez broke into the Abowath family home. He shot Elyas Abowath in the head while he slept. He then handcuffed Sakina Abowath and forced her to disclose where valuables were. He made her, “swear on Satan”, that she wouldn’t scream and then raped and sodomized her. The couple’s three year old son then entered the room, Ramirez bound him and continued to assault his mother. After Ramirez fled, Sakina untied her son and sent him to get help.
San Fran/Other Area Crimes:
With swelling media coverage about his crimes in LA, Ramirez moved to the San Fran area. On August 18th, Ramirez broke into the home of Peter and Barbara Pan. He shot Peter in the head, then assaulted Barbara before shooting her in the head as well. He then used lipstick to draw a pentagram and write, “jack the knife”, on the wall. At the scene, more Avia footprints and ballistic evidence was found. In a press conference, the San Francisco mayor discussed the Avia footprints, something investigators had purposefully been withholding from the public in the investigation. That night, Ramirez threw his shoes over the Golden Gate Bridge.
On August 24th, Ramirez took a road trip to Mission Viejo (about 75 miles south of LA). There, he broke into the home of James Romero III. When James’s 13 year old son heard Ramirez outside the house, he woke his parents. James chased off Ramirez, but got the model, make, color, and partial license plate of the car.
The same evening, Ramirez entered the home of Bill Carnes and Inez Erickson. Ramirez shot Bill three times in the head, before addressing Inez. He told her he was the Night Stalker and begun beating her while he made her say she loved Satan. He then took her to another room, raped and sodomized her, then made her swear to Satan that there were no more valuables. Then he said, “Tell them the Night Stalker was here”, before leaving. Inez broke free of the ties and got assistance for Bill who went on to survive his injuries.
Police were soon involved, taking statements from Inez and James. They were able to locate the car, which had been wiped down except for a fingerprint on the rear view mirror. They were able to match this fingerprint to 25-year-old drifter, Richard Ramirez. Now, they just had to find him. His mug shot and a sketch of Ramirez were released to the media.
On August 30th, Ramirez made a bus trip to Tucson, AZ to visit his brother. During this time, the photos of him had been released to CA media and they were everywhere, every major newspaper and news outlet were reporting on Ramirez and he was totally unaware. When he didn’t meet up with his brother, he returned to LA on the 31st. He managed to bypass officers who had been staking out the bus terminal and entered a convenience store in LA where he was identified by a group of elderly Latina women who point him out saying, "el matador", ("the killer") which is when Ramirez realized that his face was on all of the front pages. He makes a run for it and dashes across the Santa Ana freeway, attempting to car jack a woman in the process but was stopped and chased away by civilians. Now the community was chasing after Ramirez in a mob as he attempted to flee through a neighbor hood but was eventually taken down by a resident who hit him in the head with a metal bar. The angry group held Ramirez down and beat him until police arrived. The brutality of this beating was to the extent that when the police arrested him, Ramirez thanked them and said, "Thank God you are here to save me!"
In Ramirez' first court appearance he plays up his "Satanist" image with the infamous pentagram on his palm and yelling, "Hail Satan", in the court room. August 3rd, 1988 Jail officers overhear Ramirez speaking to other inmates about his plan to shoot the prosecutor with a gun that would be smuggled into the courtroom. This caused a metal detector to be placed at the entrance of the courtroom and searches were done of attendees which was an unusual practice for the time period.
On September 20th, 1989, Ramirez was convicted of all charges, 13 counts of murder, 5 attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults,and 14 burglaries. On November 7th he was sentenced to death via Florida's gas chamber. He stated to reporters, "Big deal, death always came with the territory, see you in Disneyland."
The trial of Richard Ramirez cost $1.8 million ($3.7 million today), making it California's most expensive court case until the OJ Simpson trial in 1994.
Ramirez unsuccessfully attempted to appeal his case in 2006 and later died on June 7th, 2013 from B-Cell Lymphoma at the age of 53 and had be on death row for 23 years.
Wikipedia, Thought Co, Crime Museum.org , SFgate.com, Book: The Night Stalker by Philip Carlo, LA Times, All Things Interesting