Richard Ramirez – The Night Stalker that worshipped Satan
The Valley Intruder, The Screen-Door Intruder, The Walk-In Killer, The Night Stalker (that is the best name tbf) – based on a 1972 TV movie and short-lived series about a Las Vegas newspaper reporter investigating a series of murders committed by a vampire.
One of 5 kids…..the youngest. His dad wasn’t a US citizen and stayed in Juarez… Richard and his siblings and mum lived in El Paso and was American. While pregnant with Richard she worked in a shoe factory and the chemicals were very strong, and H&S was non-existent. She almost had a miscarriage as a result.
Richard’s older siblings – Robert, Ruth, Joseph, and Ruben – were all born with birth defects
Good baby, but when he was 2 a cabinet fell on his head and he was knocked out and suffered a severe concussion. Would require 35 stitches. When he was 5 a swing hit his head and knocked him out. At 6 he accidentally saw his dad beat up his brother Rueben….it stuck with him. He was a loner and developed temporal lobe epilepsy.
There are strong links between childhood brain injuries and violence/aggression. As a loner he escapes his Dad and possible beatings by hiding out smoking pot in the local cemetery….this is at 10 years old.
The soon to be Night Stalker starts sleeping in cemeteries
- Dysfunctional family
- Smoked pot
- Brain injury x 2
He surprisingly played sports at school….quarterback for the junior school team.
But around 12 years old he appears to ‘chuck it’….he loses interest in most things he did and began to sniff glue. Also, someone very bad appears….Miguel (Mike Ramirez). Richard’s uncle (or cousin?) and a Vietnam vet and quite possibly a psychopath. He showed 12-year-old Richard his photos. These were frankly insane: women being raped and tortured by Miguel. Also dead bodies he had quite possibly murdered (Mike would tell him stories of decapitation, torture, rape etc that he had carried out himself).
The response was unsettling….Young Ramirez admitted he was turned on and became aware of his sexuality at this time. He became sexually aroused by the torture photos. (this is where there is a merging of sexual desires and violence into one singular urge). Perhaps worse Miguel decides to teach the yound boy what he learned in Special Ops in Vietnam: stealth, disguise, knife work, etc.
When Richard was 13 Miguel shot and killed his wife in front of him in their kitchen. At this point, he seems to have decided that any barriers to crime were removed, and he began to skip school and start to commit thefts. He also visited Rueben in LA and he also was a petty thief and he took his kid brother on some jobs!! Rueben also exposed Richard to his porn collection….at 14.
Seeking refuge with family
Shortly after this horrific incident, Ramirez moved in with his older sister named Ruth, mainly because he finally wanted to escape his abusive father. It turned out that her husband Roberto, Richard’s brother-in-law, was a voyeur who roamed around town at night to sneak into people’s houses. On multiple occasions, Richard joined the voyeur on his nightly escapades, which is the exact behaviour he would replicate during his own assaults
He moved back to El Paso and started High School but he dropped out. His social group, such as it was, already knew him as a criminal and thief. He also – at 15 – began to sleep with prostitutes… Ramirez is properly hummin’ of shite – dirty wee rotter with no pals
His family liked hunting but he refined this on his own… and stalked animals. He often trailed, closed in, and stabbed rather than shooting from a distance! He also disembowelled some animals and examined the entrails…not hunting as we know it.
After leaving school at 15 he gets a job in the Holiday Inn…. he enters a guest room and starts to sexually assault a woman. The husband comes back and batters the teenage Ramirez but he is not prosecuted as the couple leave town and they don’t press charges. From 16-17 he hangs about with Miguel again who is released from prison (this is mental – he shot a woman in the face).
At 18 he moves to LA. He drifts to San Fran to try and meet Anton Le Vey – a Satanic leader/author and inspiration for The Night Stalker. They do in fact meet in San Francisco. If you want to read more about “Satanism” – check out our black metal without corpse makeup blog post.
The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth
- Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
- Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
- When in another’s home, show them respect or else do not go there.
- If a guest in your home annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy.
- Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.
- Do not take that which does not belong to you unless it is a burden to the other person and they cry out to be relieved.
- Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.
- Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
- Do not harm little children.
- Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food.
- When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask him to stop. If he does not stop, destroy him
By 23 he is stuck in California: heavily into drugs, Satanism, and crime. His sister tries to get him to move home but he says he is safe due to the protection of Satan. In 2009 this period in SF was horrifically shown to be the scene of his first murder – DNA tying him to the case.
The Satanic panic was a moral panic consisting of over 12,000 unsubstantiated cases of Satanic ritual abuse (SRA, sometimes known as ritual abuse, ritualistic abuse, organized abuse, or sadistic ritual abuse) starting in the United States in the 1980s, spreading throughout many parts of the world by the late 1990s, and persisting today.
His first murder was not confirmed for 25 years
On April 10, 1984, Ramirez murdered 9-year-old Chinese-American girl Mei Leung in the basement of the apartment building where he was living at the time, in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. Leung was with her 8-year-old brother when she reportedly lost a $1 dollar bill and went to look for it when Ramirez approached Leung and told the girl he knew where it was, and to follow him to the basement. The child agreed, and once they were in the basement, Ramirez beat, strangled, and raped Leung before stabbing her to death and hanging her body from a pipe. This murder went unsolved for 25 years.
One survivor recounted being abducted when she was six years old, explaining that Ramirez had lifted her out of her bed in the middle of the night, put her in his car, and driven her to his apartment, where he then made her crawl into a duffle bag before he took her inside and sexually abused her. He released her at a gas station later that night, telling her to call 911 so her family could find her.
The killing spree starts
As this murder was unknown, things seem typical for an uneducated drifter in 70s California….until….in Glassell Park LA, at 24, in 1984, he breaks into the house of 79-year-old Jenny Vincow and stabs her as she sleeps. He then rapes the corpse. He steals from her as he does with many victims – he says later it all went on rent and drugs. Nearly cuts Jenny’s head off.
Shortly afterwards he kidnaps two children (6 and 9) and sexually assaults them but doesn’t kill them….he releases both. This remains a feature: he has no pattern in terms of age, whether he kills them, or whether he even kills the right person. He kills whoever is in the room/house he enters basically – his ‘MO’ is ‘burglar that kills whoever is there. This means it takes a little longer for cops to join the dots – even though he does leave pentagrams at some crime scenes (other serial killers were doing the same at the time so it wasn’t fully enough to connect The Night Stalker to them all). They were also concerned he was a copycat of Charles Manson.
March 1985: Maria Hernandez: sees her and follows her- stunning looking girl. As she opens the apartment he jumps out and points a .22 at her. She resists and fights back so he shoots….she is saved by her car keys which she holds up and which deflect the bullet. She plays dead as there is still blood from the wound….he paces around the house and unfortunately Maria’s roommate Dale Okazaki comes down to see who fired shots….she sees Ramirez and ducks behind a unit. He hears her and stands completely still, and when she peers out to see if he’s gone he shoots her in the forehead and kills her.
Presumably angry at being foiled by Maria Hernandez – within an hour of the Rosemead home invasion, Ramirez pulled 30-year-old Tsai-Lian “Veronica” Yu out of her car in Monterey Park, shot her twice with a .22 calibre handgun, and fled. She was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. The two murders, and attempted third, in a single day attracted extensive coverage from news media, who dubbed the attacker, described as curly-haired with bulging eyes and wide-spaced, rotting teeth, “The Walk-in Killer” and “The Valley Intruder.”
A man named Richard Mena had been in and had gotten X-rays done, which showed he had an infected tooth — so he would be back. Investigators put two officers in the dentist’s office to be ready. But as time went on without a sign of Ramirez, the dentist’s office suggested installing an alarm that employees could press when Ramirez came back, directly alerting the cops, which they did. However, when Ramirez did come in and the alarm was pressed — it didn’t go off.
The shocking spree attracted so much attention as it was so intense and brief. From Jennie Vincow on June 28th 1984 to his last victims on August 24th 1985 (two attacks in the same day, all survived) there were only 14 months and yet 18 ‘home invasions’ and 13 homicides as well several suspected but not proved…there were also the sexual assaults:
Thirteen counts of murder, five attempted murders, eleven sexual assaults, and fourteen burglaries.
More than one of Ramirez’s survivors recalled swearing to God that they would do whatever Ramirez asked if he would spare their life. His response:
“Don’t swear on God — swear on Satan.”
It is hard to discern any pattern other than expanding robbery into murder and/or sexual assault….often without a specific trigger or reason. He sexually assaulted kids, beautiful women, and pensioners. He murdered men and women. He killed without any sexual assault at all, and sexually assaulted and left the victims alive. He crossed racial boundaries too – unusual for serial killers.
Richard would sometimes help himself to food and drinks in the kitchen after his crime – and was sick on occasion
This is part of his mystique: why? Most killers are ‘in a box’ as regards victims, MO, and reason. Ramirez had no type and no cautious planning. He often committed more than one home invasion per night…and often changed MO on the same night. Some died, some lived. The terror spread quickly as the image was formed: “No one is safe….no one”. People saw that it wasn’t based on age, sex, location or wealth….anyone could be a victim.
How Random He Could Be?
On March 27, 1985, Ramirez entered a home that he had burgled a year earlier just outside of Whittier, California, at approximately 2 a.m. and killed the sleeping Vincent Charles Zazzara, age 64, with a gunshot to his head from a .22 calibre handgun. Zazzara’s wife, Maxine Levenia Zazzara, age 44, was awakened by the gunshot, and Ramirez beat her and bound her hands while demanding to know where her valuables were. While he ransacked the room, Maxine escaped her bonds and retrieved a shotgun from under the bed, she aimed and pulled the trigger when he returned, but….click. It was not loaded. The infuriated Ramirez shot her three times with the .22, then fetched a large carving knife from the kitchen. He mutilated her body by stabbing her several times, then removed her eyes with the knife and placed them in a jewellery box, which he took when he left and kept at his apartment as a souvenir until his arrest. He told police he wanted to rape her but couldn’t get erect and that made him “angry” and maybe explained his mutilations. Conversely, shortly afterwards he broke into the Doi family home….Lillian (56) was wheelchair-bound after a severe stroke. So much did Ramirez enjoy beating William he told police later he became sexually aroused and raped Lillian, despite her being an invalid.
After a series of frustrated failed break-ins….including an LAPD detective….and attempted abduction of a young female, Richard Ramirez was pulled over by a traffic cop. (the lead detective, Frank Salerno, on the case slept with a gun under his pillow and sent his family away to stay with family). But despite being aware of the car being looked for in connection with the abduction, and the general description of the killer, the cop left him alone to go to his motorbike to write up a ticket. Richard draw a pentagram on the car windscreen and ran off. The cop never saw where he went.
The police had fingerprints from the first murder but amazingly no match as Richard, for all his many crimes, had never been fingerprinted. Despite being hauled in for burglary and petty theft and even assault…however at that time the various police forces rarely cooperated and had no statewide database.
They also have a footprint from a fairly unusual Avia training shoe – police looked through spreadsheets where the shoes were distributed in the United States, and only size 11.5 black shoes (the ones he was wearing) were manufactured. Evidence of the crime made it all the way up to then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein, which would be a tipping point in the investigation.
Holding a news conference, she held up a police sketch of the killer, and also went on to describe the evidence from all the cases throughout the state — crucial information that hadn’t been made public. And by then, investigators knew Ramirez was watching the news, because he told a surviving victim, “I am the Night Stalker.”
Feinstein gave up the calibre of gun, the type of shoe, and the fact that he left footprints.
Then the last spree provided the final clues
On August 24, 1985, Ramirez travelled 76 miles south of Los Angeles, in a stolen orange Toyota, to Mission Viejo. That night, he arrived at the home of James Romero Jr., who had just returned from a family vacation to Rosarito Beach in Mexico. Romero’s son, 13-year-old James Romero III, happened to be awake and heard Ramirez’s footsteps outside the house. Thinking there was a prowler, James went to wake his parents, and Ramirez fled the scene. James raced outside and noted the colour, make, and style of the car, as well as a partial license plate number. Romero contacted the police with this information, believing James had chased away a thief – partial plate number—482 T.
After this encounter, Ramirez broke into the house of Bill Carns, age 30, and his fiancée, Inez Erickson, age 29, through a back door. Ramirez entered the sleeping couple’s bedroom and awakened Carns when he cocked his .25 calibre handgun. He shot Carns three times in the head before turning his attention to Erickson. Ramirez told her that he was the “Night Stalker” and forced her to swear she loved Satan as he beat her with his fists and bound her with neckties from the closet. After stealing what he could find, Ramirez dragged Erickson to another room before raping her. He then demanded cash and more jewellery, and made her “swear on Satan” there was no more. Before leaving the home, Ramirez told Erickson, “Tell them the Night Stalker was here.” Erickson untied herself and went to a neighbour’s house to get help for her severely injured fiancé. Surgeons removed two of the three bullets from his head, and he survived his injuries.
Inez Erickson gave a detailed description of the assailant to investigators, and police obtained a cast of Ramirez’s footprint from the Romero house. The stolen car was found abandoned on August 28 in Wilshire Center, Los Angeles, and police obtained a single fingerprint from the rear-view mirror despite Ramirez’s careful efforts to wipe the car clean of his prints. The print was positively identified as belonging to Ramirez, who was described as a 25-year-old drifter from Texas, with a long rap sheet that included many arrests for traffic and illegal drug violations. On 29 August 1985, law enforcement officials decided to release a mug shot of Ramirez from a 1984 arrest for auto theft to the media, and the “Night Stalker” finally had a face. At the police press conference, it was announced: “We know who you are now, and soon everyone else will. There will be no place you can hide.”
On August 30, 1985, Ramirez took a bus to Tucson, Arizona, to visit his brother, unaware that he had become the lead story in virtually every major newspaper and television news program across California. After failing to meet his brother, he returned to Los Angeles early on the morning of August 31. He walked past police officers, who were staking out the bus terminal in hopes of catching the killer should he attempt to flee on an outbound bus, and into a convenience store in East Los Angeles.
After noticing a group of elderly Hispanic women fearfully identifying him as “el matador” (literally “the killer” in Spanish), Ramirez saw his face on the front pages on the newspaper rack and fled the store in a panic. After running across the Santa Ana Freeway, he attempted to carjack a woman but was chased away by bystanders, who pursued him. After hopping over several fences and attempting two more carjackings, he was eventually subdued by a group of residents, one of whom had struck him over the head with a fence post in the pursuit. The group of enraged citizens held Ramirez down and relentlessly beat him until the police arrived and took him into custody….in fact Police later reckon they saved him from being beaten to death.
Custody and Trial
Ramirez looked up to The Hillside Strangler — a serial killer Frank Salerno had previously apprehended.
He admits openly that he is guilty and says the electric chair is his choice. He is sent away to prison to await his trial, and in a bizarre twist he becomes a pen pal of sorts with Sean Penn, who he met in prison when Penn was in for punching an extra on set; however, Penn wrote to him declaring he was an evil man and deserved death penalty…
The jury selection didn’t even begin until 1988 – a long wait for justice. Security was tight as it was suspected Ramirez would try and shoot or attack someone…and then more delays when Phyllis Singeltary – a juror – was found shot dead in her apartment. Panic set in among jurors who felt The Night Stalker was behind it… trial was delayed until Police solved the murder and proved it was not Ramirez at all – it was her boyfriend who was caught two days later.
During these delays, and in fact, since his arrest, Ramirez began to receive letters from women…mostly of a sexual nature and some marriage requests!
Ramirez wasn’t a born psychopath at all. Some psychiatrists believe that he became one later on in life due to various elements coming together.
The trial was a formality and he was found guilty on all counts. He is sentenced to death by gas chamber. As he is led out he says to the media:
“Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland.”
While on Death Row he married a pen pal – Doreen Lioy.
The Official Crime Count
On September 20, 1989, Ramirez was convicted of all charges: thirteen counts of murder, five attempted murders, eleven sexual assaults, and fourteen burglaries.
It is widely thought that this was in no way the final total….especially in the San Francisco area.
Ramirez died of complications secondary to B-cell lymphoma at Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, California, on June 7, 2013. He had also been affected by “chronic substance abuse and chronic hepatitis C viral infection”. At 53 years old, he had been on death row for more than 23 years. By some estimates, he would have been in his early 70s before his execution was carried out, due to California’s lengthy appeals process
Why he remains infamous
He was a psychopath, as diagnosed while incarcerated. This led to his being an unusual serial killer: he crossed all the usual boundaries of race, age, and attractiveness. He would kill, attack or rape from 9 years old to 79 years old: white, Hispanic, Asian. He would go out and not kill, and sometimes he killed twice in the same night…again unusual. He also changed murder weapons. This is a new terror: a psycho out there and ANYONE is a target. You can’t say “Great I don’t fit his profile”….and this sent LA into sheer panic. That pure evil rather than an urge is something the human psyche finds terrifying.