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Top 10 Disturbing Facts About the “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez
Between 1984 and 1985, the terrified people of Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay Area made sure their doors and windows were locked at night as there was a serial killer on the prowl. Known only as “The Night Stalker,” the cold-blooded monster was believed to be responsible for the brutal slayings of 14 people. Most of the victims were killed and attacked in their own homes during the middle of the night where they were sleeping.
Then finally, the police were able to capture 26-year-old Richard Ramirez. Now, he is one of the most widely recognizable serial killers in history as he has become “the face of evil.”
Ramirez was nonchalant and never showed remorse. As he believed, “Serial killers do, on a small scale, what governments do on a large one. They are products of our times and these are bloodthirsty times.”
See Also: Top 10 American Serial Killers
10He Witnessed Severe Violence During His Childhood
In 1960, Ricardo “Richard” Ramirez was born in El Paso, Texas, as the youngest of five children. During his childhood, Ramirez would sleep in a cemetery at night to get away from the violence he suffered at the hands of his father, Julian Ramírez, a former Mexican policeman. At age 10, Ramirez bonded closely with his older cousin, Miguel “Mike” Ramirez. His cousin served during the Vietnam War and showed a young Ramirez many polaroids of the women he had raped and also of him holding a severed head.
Ramirez was also a witness to his cousin killing his wife, Jessie, during a domestic argument, Mike shot her in the head with a .38 caliber rifle. Mike was found not guilty by reason of insanity and he was also never punished for his war crimes. Following the murder of Jessie; Ramirez had become sullen and withdrawn from his family and peers. It was the beginning of his own descent into darkness.
9 He Got Comfortable at His Crime Scenes
Some of Richard Ramirez’s victims suffered greatly. Several murders were truly bloody affairs. He had a pattern—he killed the man in the house and sexually assaulted the woman. And he always made sure he could see the fear in his victim’s eyes. In the early days of his crimes, he knocked on the car hood of Maria Hernandez so she would see him before the attack, and he yanked Tsai-Lian “Veronica” Yu out of her car as opposed to shooting her through the window.
In Whittier, he cut out Maxine Zazzara’s eyes and took them with him. In another of his attacks, Patty Higgins was slashed and stabbed in the throat. Another victim, Florence “Nettie” Lang, 81, was beaten to death with a hammer. Investigators referred to him as an “enraged killer” because of how viciously his victims were killed.
But in several instances, Ramirez didn’t just kill and leave—he stuck around and made himself comfortable in the homes of his victims. When he continued his killing spree in the Bay Area, San Francisco police said that he killed an accountant named Peter Pan and raped his wife, Barbara. Ramirez then ate everything in the fridge, threw up on the kitchen floor, masturbated on the living room floor—and then wrote a satanic symbol on the wall.
A 2021 Netflix docuseries about the Night Stalker included an interview by detective Frank Salerno. He said about Ramirez, “he got comfortable after killing someone—he would take the time to have a snack. That’s a pretty sick individual.” Indeed, he would help himself to food and drinks in the kitchen after his crime.
8He Misunderstood AC/DC Lyrics
On March 17th, 1985, Ramirez hid in the garage of 22-year-old Maria Hernandez at her home in Rosemead, California. He shot at her head with a .22 caliber handgun but luckily she protected her face and the bullet ricocheted off her car keys in her hands. Her roommate, 34-year-old Dayle Yoshie Okazaki, then hid in the kitchen behind a counter. But when she raised her head, Ramirez shot and killed her.
Left behind at the brutal murder scene was an AC/DC hat belonging to Ramirez. Images of the hat were released to the public and this initiated a media frenzy connecting the twisted serial killer to the rock band. It was believed that Ramirez misunderstood the lyrics to a track featured on the band’s Highway To Hell album released five years before the killings began.
The band’s co-founder, Malcolm Young, explained, “That song is not called ‘Night Stalker’. It’s called ‘Night Prowler’—and it’s about things you used to do when you are a kid, like sneaking into a girlfriend’s bedroom when her parents were asleep.” The lyrics are:
“Was that a noise out your window Or a shadow on your blind?
And you lie there naked
Like a body in a tomb; Suspended animation As I slip into your room.”
Lead singer Brian Johnson also added, “It just sickens you, you know. It sickens you to have anything to do with that kind of thing.”
7He Was Not the Original “Night Stalker”
Before Ramirez, there was another serial killer known as “The Night Stalker” who equally terrorized California with his brutal killing spree. In Northern California from 1976 to 1979 and Southern California from 1979 to 1986, authorities were on the hunt for “The Night Stalker,” “The East Area Rapist,” “The Diamond Knot Killer,” and “The Golden State Killer.” Then in 2018, they were able to connect 72-year-old Joseph DeAngelo to 14 murders and 69 cases of sexual assault following DNA breakthroughs.
Similarities between the two serial killers were that they both operated in the state of California, they both invaded the homes of their victims, they both chose to kill at night, and they were both sinisterly known for killing the husbands first before attacking the wife. Their common method of killing was either shooting or bludgeoning the victims.
Later in an interview from behind bars, Ramirez said, “We’ve all got the power in our hands to kill, but most people are afraid to use it. The ones who aren’t afraid, control life itself.”
6 He Is One of the Reasons Hotel Cecil Is So Creepy
There have been many mysterious and disturbing goings-on at the Cecil Hotel (now known as Stay on Main) in Downtown Los Angeles since its opening in 1927. Known as the “Hotel of Horrors,” the 300-bedroom hotel made national news once again when the body of Canadian student Elisa Lam was found in a water tank on the rooftop. Many conspiracies made their way online surrounding Lam’s death and the hotel’s chilling past was discussed widely once again.
In 1985, Ramirez stayed at the hotel during his killing spree. Richard Schave who runs the true crime bus tour that makes a stop right outside the hotel explained the Cecil would have been perfect accommodation for an active serial killer. He said, “The LAPD won’t go into (these places). It was like, ‘If we’re called we’ll go in. But we’re not patrolling.’”
With room prices starting from $14, it was known for housing many junkies. Schave explained that a serial killer could have easily dumped bloody clothes around the back of the hotel and just walked back to the hotel wearing only underwear without raising any eyebrows. He added, “No one wanted to be the person who called the cops.”
5It Took a Mob of Vigilantes to Take Him Down
Finally, on August 31st, 1985, police had the name of their suspect. The name Richard Ramirez was headline news and everyone knew this—but Ramirez himself. The day before, he had boarded a bus to visit his brother in Tucson, Arizona, but realizing he wasn’t at home, he returned back to Los Angeles.
Ramirez walked directly past detectives who were watching the outbound buses as they believed the serial killer would flee. When Ramirez then stopped at a liquor store, a woman cried out “El Maton”—the killer—signaling the end for The Night Stalker once and for all. Ramirez made a mad dash for it but a mob of vigilantes took him down. One man in pursuit of the killer managed to beat him on the head with a pipe, taking him down to the ground.
Andy Ramirez (no relation) was the arresting officer and he managed to bundle the serial killer in his patrol car and call for backup. Later, recalling the tension of the angry mob, which had quickly grown to more than 200 people, he said, “The tone of the crowd changed. You could see the anger. They were getting closer and closer to where Richard Ramirez was seated. I thought, if I lose control of this crowd, they’re going to take him from this car. Richard Ramirez’s safety was in jeopardy.”
4 His Rotten Teeth Were Fixed Before He Appeared in Court
Before physical evidence tied Ramirez to 14 murders, he was identified by a composite sketch that detailed his badly rotting teeth. His surviving victims claimed the killer had “rotten, gapped, and stained” teeth. According to forensic dentists, Ramirez was missing nine teeth from both his lower and upper gums.
Ramirez had his father testify that he was in El Paso, Texas, at the time of the murders; however, his dental records placed him clearly in Los Angeles. Whilst on death row, Ramirez had his teeth fixed which he appeared delighted with as he flashed his new creepy smile at the jurors in the courtroom.
13-year-old James Romero, who assisted the police in creating the composite sketch of the killer, said, “I feel like justice was never served. He was given the death penalty, and then he stayed in there all those years. They ended up fixing his teeth, spending a bunch of money on him. He got taken care of and lived out his life until he died. What a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
3 He Showed Off His Satanism in the Courtroom
A former childhood friend of Ramirez told The San Francisco Examiner that the serial killer was obsessed with satanic themes in AC/DC’s 1979 album Highway to Hell. Pentagrams were also found scrawled at the home of one of his murder victims.
One surviving victim, a 28-year-old woman whose husband was shot and killed in front of her, testified in court, “I said, ‘I swear upon God I’m not going to scream.’ He said, ‘Don’t swear upon God, swear upon Satan.’” Ramirez then accused her of hiding valuables in the home and asked for the location of a diamond ring., she recalled, “I said, ‘I swear upon God I did not.’ Again, at that time, he hit me and he said to swear upon Satan.”
Ramirez also inked a pentagram on his hand and held this up to the spectators in the courtroom gallery to see whilst shouting: “Hail Satan!”
2He Had No Feelings of Remorse
Following his arrest, Ramirez confessed to all his sinister crimes but later retracted his statement and claimed this was in fact a case of mistaken identity. His father also told the court that he could not “in my heart” believe his son was guilty.
The trial was further delayed following the murder of one of the jurors, 30-year-old Phyllis Yvonne Singletary, who was fatally shot following a domestic dispute with her live-in boyfriend. It was the following morning when Singletary failed to show up for juror deliberations that court officials discovered the shocking truth.
On September 20th, 1989, the jury found Ramirez guilty on 13 counts of murder, 5 counts of attempted murder, 11 counts of sexual assault, and 14 burglary charges. Hearing he had received 19 death sentences, Ramirez said, “No big deal. Death always comes with the territory. I’ll see you in Disneyland.”
Ramirez lived out the rest of his years on Death Row at San Quentin State Prison and he never showed any remorse for his crimes.
1He Married Behind Bars On Death Row
Behind bars, Ramirez was inundated with hundreds of letters each month from female admirers. Freelance journalist Doreen Lioy particularly caught his attention and she began to make regular visits to Death Row. Lioy had fallen for Ramirez when she watched a newsfeed of his arrest and saw a certain “vulnerability” in the cold-blooded killer. She believed he was innocent and battled to clear his name of any wrongdoing.
On October 3rd, 1996, Ramirez and Lioy were wed at San Quentin State Prison where witnesses included Ramirez’s siblings and around sixty inmates. When asked how she felt about marrying a man who was known as “The Face of Evil,” Lioy replied, “I can’t help the way the world looks at him. They don’t know him the way I do.”
Lioy eventually began distancing herself from Ramirez around 2010 when her efforts to clear his name were getting nowhere considering the staggering amount of physical evidence against her husband. Then on June 13th, 2013, Ramirez died of liver failure at age 53. He is still considered one of the most twisted serial killers of all time.