Richard Ramirez was an American serial killer who murdered a known total 14 people as well as sexually assaulted and tortured at least a dozen people.
Ramirez was heavily influenced as an adolescent by his cousin Miguel who had recently returned home from fighting in the Vietnam War. The two of them would smoke marijuana together, while Miguel would tell stories of how he abused and tortured many of the women in Vietnam. When Ramirez was 13 he witnessed Miguel murder his wife in an argument.
Ramirez’s first arrest was for possession of marijuana after dropping out of high school in ninth grade. He soon moved to California, where he moved to cocaine addiction and theft.
Ramirez’s first known murder at the time was on June 28, 1984. His victim was 79-year-old Jennie Vincow who Ramirez sexually assaulted, stabbed, and killed during a burglary in her home. A spree of brutal assaults, murders, and robberies was to follow.
Nearly nine months later, Ramirez struck again. On March 17, 1989, Ramirez attacked Maria Hernandez who was able to escape, but then went onto killing her roommate, Dayle Okazaki. That same evening, Ramirez attacked again shooting and killing Tsai-Lian Yu, casting a frenzy with the media earning him the name “Valley Intruder”.
On March 27, just 10 days later, Ramirez attacked 64-year-old Vincent Zazzara and his 44-year-old wife, Maxine. The attack style used by Ramirez would later become a pattern for the killer. He shot the husband first, then brutally assaulted and stabbed the wife to death after gouging out Maxine’s eyes.
Over the next few months, Ramirez’s murder rate quickly escalated in a frenzy of burglaries, assault, and brutal violence taking a dozen lives.
The Los Angeles Police Department responded to Ramirez’s attacks by putting together a task force, with the assistance of the FBI.
Ramirez was forced to leave LA after the increased police presence and media pressure. He moved to San Francisco where his unmistakable M.O. was no longer applicable. “Night Stalker” quickly became his new name, due to most of the murders taking place in victims’ homes at night.
On Aug. 24, 1985, Ramirez had his final night of terror ending in his capture. Ramirez was seen outside of a home in Mission Viejo, unwillingly leaving a footprint. The witness was able to take note of Ramirez’s car and license plate.
Ramirez later sexually assaulted a woman in her home, shooting her fiancée. The victim was able to provide a detailed description of her assaulter.
A few days later Ramirez’s car was found abandoned, on the car where there were enough fingerprints to make a match to Ramirez’s criminal record, finally putting a name to the face.
Ramirez was spotted during a carjacking and ran to another car. The driver, Angie De La Torre, fought back. Ramirez punched her in the stomach and was able to secure the car keys.
85-year-old neighbor, Jose Burgoin, witnessed the carjacking and ran out. Ramirez threatened to shoot Burgoin if he came any closer.
“I ran to defend her and he told me don’t get closer or I’ll shoot you, I didn’t see a gun so I opened the door and pulled him out of the car,” Burgoin told the Los Angles Times.
Other witnesses joined to help restrain Ramirez, include De La Torre’s husband, but Ramirez managed to escape their grasp. He ran down the street as the neighbors shouted “El Matador” (The Killer). The chase ended with Ramirez being hit in the head with a metal bar, causing him to fall.
As the crowd beat Ramirez, there are reports that he shouted in Spanish “It’s me! It’s me! It’s me! I’m lucky the cops caught me.”
The geographical spread of the crimes complicated the scope of the trial. A few of the charges against Ramirez were dropped to expedite the trial.
During the trial, Ramierez developed a cult-like following. Many of them were black-clad satan worshippers. Ramirez is often dressed in dark shades or black for his courtroom appearances.
On Aug. 14, 1989, one of the jury members was murdered, causing another delay in the trial. Rumors that Ramierez had orchestrated the murder were proved to be false.
On Sept. 20, 1989, the jury delivered an unanimously guilty verdict on 43 charges. The charges included 13 counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder, 11 counts of sexual assault, and 14 burglary charges.
Two weeks later the same jury recommended the death sentence on 19 counts. As Ramirez was leaving the courtroom he responded, “Hey big deal, death always comes with the territory. I’ll see you in Disneyland”. The convicted murderer was sentenced to death in the gas chamber on Nov. 7, 1989, and was sent to San Quentin Prison in California to spend the remainder of his days.
On June 7, 2013, Ramierez died after 24 years on death row due to complications related to B-cell Lymphoma at the age of 53. Ramirez’s death came shortly after being taken to Martin General Hospital in Greenbrae, California.