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Richard Ramirez, born Ricardo Leyva Munoz Ramirez, was a serial killer, serial rapist, burglar, and pedophile in Los Angeles, California. He terrorized the city from 1984 to 1985, when he was caught. Though he only spent two years committing murder, at least 13 people were killed and many more were injured and/or raped. He committed several different crimes, such as burglary, murder, rape, and assault. He came to be known as The Night Stalker, the Valley Intruder, and the Walk-In Killer as his nighttime acts of terror became more and more notable.
Ramirez’s victims varied in age from young adults to several older and elderly individuals, with the exception of his first murder victim, a nine-year-old girl. His selection of homes to burgle was random, but he typically ended up choosing homes of middle-aged to elderly couples. Being particularly fond of valuable items, he would select a house with expensive cars or other signs of wealth. He would also often steal the cars to get away or to live in for a short time before stealing another vehicle. He struck at night, when his victims were more easily subdued and in a sleepy state. This is how he was given the name “The Night Stalker.”
In 1984, Ramirez was a twenty-four-year-old man of Mexican descent. At six feet and one inch tall, he towered over most of his victims. His profile follows the guidelines for being classified as a disorganized killer. He killed at random when the opportunity arose and did not take extra time to cover his tracks. After a short time of committing murder or attempted murder and/or rape, he would travel to a different city in California to avoid getting caught by the police. He was a high school dropout and had below average intelligence, in addition to exhibiting antisocial behavior. He did not have close friends and he had left his family behind in El Paso, Texas. In one instance, his sister visited him in Los Angeles to convince him to go back with her to his childhood home, but he declined and made her leave. Another major factor that binds him to the classification of being a disorganized killer was the chaotic crime scenes in which he committed the murders. Some key characteristics of his crime scenes that matched that of a disorganized killer are as follows: they were random offenses, there was little conversation or interaction, sexual acts occurred before or after death, and the bodies were left at the scene of the crime. Wearing all black, he usually broke into houses in the middle of the night to steal valuables. His preferred style of homicide was to enter the victims’ homes undetected, kill the husbands (or other male figure), rape the wives (or female figure), and sometimes kill the woman after he was done with her. In one instance early on in his year of crime, he committed necrophilia, which is sexual intercourse with a corpse.
Richard Ramirez was born in El Paso, Texas in 1960 as the fifth child of two Mexican-American immigrants. He was very quiet as a child and was often described as a “loner.” In infancy and young childhood, he experienced many head wound incidents, including a dresser falling on his head at the age of two and getting hit by a swing. In the fifth grade, doctors discovered he had epilepsy, but told him and his family that it would fade over time. By middle school, his grades were dropping severely, and he began sniffing glue. Soon after, he started smoking marijuana. When he was twelve years old, his cousin Miguel, also known as Mike, returned from fighting in the Vietnam War and they spent a lot of time together. Mike showed Ramirez pictures of Vietnamese women he had raped and murdered and later taught him how to kill a person quickly and quietly. When Ramirez was thirteen, he witnessed Mike murder his wife by shooting her with a gun. Before and after this event, he became involved with burglarizing people’s homes, skipping school, petty theft, and immersed himself in the world of drugs. He dropped out of high school in El Paso after less than a year. Either with or without his family, he enjoyed hunting animals. He especially liked to stab and gut them. The torture of small animals is a strong warning sign of potential serial killers and Ramirez is no exception. He began attending Jehovah’s Witness meetings and developed an interest in Satan. At the age of fifteen, he briefly had a job at a hotel, but was fired after a few months for attempting to rape a woman in her hotel room. Luckily, her husband was able to stop him from succeeding. The couple was from another state and wanted the leave as quickly as possible, so they dropped the charges against him. By sixteen, he was skilled in the practice of burglary and had already attempted to rape a woman. After turning eighteen, he moved to Los Angeles, where his life of crime continued at a new level.
In L.A., he sold marijuana to make money for food and hotel stays. Sometimes he would steal cars, live in them for a few days, steal the valuables inside, and then leave them. He sold the stolen items to afford cocaine, which developed into an addiction; he also became involved with other drugs, such as PCP. His obsession with Satan led him to join the Church of Satan. Because of his deep involvement in this church, Ramirez’s later signature mark on his victims was a satanic pentagram.
In 1984, Ramirez’s first murder victim was a nine-year-old girl, however it was not discovered that he was the killer until 2009, after he was incarcerated; because he was already awaiting execution, he was not charged with her murder. On June 28, 1984, while high on cocaine, he burglarized a 79-year-old woman’s home, raped her, and killed her with a knife. At one point in his career of homicide, he purchased a .22 handgun that would later be used to kill several people in the future. Over the next year, Ramirez killed twelve more people and raped or attempted to murder several others throughout the state of California. His final murder was committed on August 24, 1985. He killed a man and raped his fiancée, but left her alive. After raping her, he forced her to declare her love for Satan aloud. She was able to see his face and the car he was driving, an orange Toyota. When police found the car near a shopping center in Los Angeles, they found a fingerprint on the rearview mirror, despite his meticulous efforts to never leave fingerprints. The Night Stalker task-force published his mugshot in the media and on August 31, when he was later recognized by people at a convenience store, nearby witnesses were able to hold him down, not gently, while they waited for police to arrive.
Ramirez was tried for 13 counts of murder, 5 attempted murders, and 11 sexual assaults with countless pieces of evidence piled against him. Ramirez waited in jail until his trial finally commenced in 1989. During his trial, he attracted a group of cult-like followers, mostly people who worshipped Satan. When his trial began and he first walked into the courtroom, he held up his hand with a pentagram on it towards reporters; it is also reported that he yelled “Hail, Satan.” He was found guilty on all counts on October 3rd, 1989 and he was sentenced to die in the gas chamber. After he was sentenced, he said to reporters “Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland.” This statement was not meant to be taken literally; he meant to tell the world that his actions were of little importance and that death is of no consequence. He made light of the murders he had committed and also challenged death itself.
Exactly seven years after he was sentenced, Ramirez married one of his female followers, Doreen Lioy. They remained married until 2013, when they divorced. Later that same year, he died from B-cell lymphoma while on death row. He spent more than half of his life in prison and lived to be fifty-three years old.
Richard Ramirez’s trial cost $1.8 million, and at the time it was the most expensive trail in California. This amount was surpassed by millions when the O.J. Simpson murder trial was commenced in 1994. Ramirez was a notable serial killer in the Los Angeles area and his effects on the community are still remembered today.