Written by Jennifer Wlost
It is February 29, 1960. The US-American news is filled with a Soviet ice hockey player helping their domestic team win, and the same day, the city of Agadir, Morocco will be shaken by an earthquake measuring almost 6 on the Richter scale.
But Mercedes Ramírez could not care less about all of that. The El Paso, Texas resident is about to give birth to her fifth child, another son. She has been praying for a healthy child since she found out it was on its way. The deeply religious parents often looked to the Bible for guidance.
Mrs Ramírez immigrated to the US from Mexico and has been working at a boot factory to feed herself and her increasing number of offspring. As you may have guessed, the working conditions in the factory were far from safe, especially for women carrying children.
Her existing children Robert, Ruth, Ruben and Joseph had all entered this world with birth defects caused by the toxic chemical fumes their mother was exposed to while working at the factory.
But her prayers were answered and Ricardo Leyva Muñoz Ramírez was born without any complications or visible disabilities.
– Making a Monster –
Now, shortly after the subject of today’s episode was born, we already are entering familiar Casual Criminalist territory. Remember the one single thing you should never inflict on your children if you do not want them to become horrible people, or if you want to be a decent human being yourself? Abuse of any kind.
Ricardo’s father Julián Ramírez was a Mexican immigrant as well, having been a policeman in Ciudad Juárez until leaving the country for the United States, like many others of his countrymen.
However, his qualifications were not recognized in his new home, so he was doomed to work as a mere labourer on the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe railway. “What a dishonour!”, he would often growl when returning home from work. But mere complaints were on the tolerable side of the spectrum.
Julián Ramírez was incredibly prone to violent outbursts and fits of rage. In addition to that, his perceived failure in finding a job similar to the one he had back in Mexico drove him to alcoholism.
As we all know, alcohol acts as a mood amplifier. It can cause euphoria and a calming sense of carefreeness. This is why so many unhappy people fall victim to it and begin to abuse its effects. But not only the good emotions are reinforced. This is also true for sadness (many people who commit suicide are under the influence of alcohol during their final moments) and, in this case, anger and frustration.
One day, Ruben Ramírez, one of this sons, was arrested for stealing a car. That was one of the moments his father Julián snapped. He became enraged and therefore turned to unprecedented violence to punish his son. The only detail that we know of is that Ruben developed a glue-sniffing habit shortly afterwards. His other brother Robert was also battling an unspecified drug addiction at that time.
When the senior Ramírez was drunk, his anger was particularly bad. He himself had been beaten by his father and grandfather, so it is safe (and sad) to assume that violence ran in the family. Julián Ramírez had sworn not to treat his five children the same way… But this did not include his wife, Mercedes.
She was beaten by her husband, and while losing his temper with her, he also abused his children. Understandably, little Ricardo – or “Richard”, as he was often affectionately called – became extremely scared of his father.
When he was just two years old, Richard Ramírez was also hit on the head by a cupboard which was in the process of falling over, causing a large laceration on his forehead. At the age of five, he was hit on the back of his head by a swing. These two are part of a series of injuries that are more closely described by family members who would later speak to the media. Yes, he had been quite literally hit on the head as a child, which ended up causing him to experience many epileptic seizures.
His family’s history of issues such as head injuries and drug addiction did not end with Richard’s epilepsy. His father Julián Ramírez was not only violent toward his family and loved ones, but also toward himself.
Ruth Ramírez, Richard’s only sister remembers one particular incident to this day. Her father was attempting to install a kitchen sink all by himself. Even though he was not a bad craftsman and quite familiar with all sorts of tools due to his work at the railway, he failed to connect the sink to their home’s drainage pipe.
Eventually becoming frustrated by his many unsuccessful attempts, Mr Ramírez lifted a hammer from his toolbox to his head. He hit himself repeatedly on the head with it until blood began to run down his face and trickle down onto the kitchen floor.
“He had a history of self-harm”, Ruth Ramírez also recalls, “but this time it was so bad that my youngest brother Ricky (Richard) resorted to sleeping on the grounds of the nearby cemetery at night. He was always up during nighttime anyways. I heard him sneak around the house during all hours.”
A little bit of foreshadowing on the sister’s part?
In the year 1972, when Richard Ramírez was 12 years old, his cousin Miguel “Mike” Ramírez returned from serving in the Vietnam War. He was a decorated Green Beret and had a close bond with Richard. Now you might think that Richard would share some of his bad experiences and trauma with his cousin to receive help and experience some sort of stability, oh, how wrong we all are.
Mike Ramírez bonded with Richard, but not over advice or shared issues. Richard had been smoking cannabis since the age of 10, so they shared many joints and countless bottles of beer. But it was not only his drug supply that Mike shared with his young, impressionable cousin. You see, unsurprisingly, Miguel Ramírez, as evident by his last name, was the child of notorious abuser Julián Ramírez’s brother, making the two men related by blood.
Now, what does this mean for young Richard?
His cousin loved the war. He came home with four medals and was considered a hero by some. The reason for this? At one point, his platoon of 20 men faced a large group of Vietcong; they were without a doubt outnumbered and surrounded.
The Vietcong did not show any mercy, and Miguel Ramírez and another unnamed soldier were the only ones to survive the ambush.
This “brave action”, as he referred to it, and the following praise, however, was not the sole reason for his evident enjoyment of the sheer brutality of the Vietnam War.
Mike Ramírez had brought polaroids with him which he often showed to his cousin Richard, telling the various stories that were attached to them. “What did these polaroids depict?”, you may be inclined to ask, “Pictures of his fellow soldiers? Proof of loyalty, patriotism and friendship during harsh times?”
While the polaroids did show harsh times indeed, it was not Mike who suffered.
Actually, “harsh times” is probably the understatement of the century.
Etched onto the many polaroid films were the dead bodies of women. They were no doubt Vietnamese civilians, and all of them are missing parts of their corpses. Ramírez told his cousin in vivid detail about how he raped, tortured and murdered them. The child did not even flinch.
“The Vietnamese are all very superstitious”, Mike informed his obviously intrigued cousin, “If you lose a limb after death, you cannot go to heaven.” According to him, that was the reason he mutilated his many victims post mortem. He considered it his duty as an American soldier. His duty was to torture, dishonour, humiliate and “punish” the people his country was waging a brutal war against, both in life and after they passed away through the sheer violence he enacted on them. He did not even want to grant them the peace of death after countless hours of agony. „Having power over life and death was a high, an incredible rush. You controlled who lived and who died. It was like being God.”
If we believe Mike’s words, he kept the shrunken heads of eight of his victims and proceeded to sleep on them for the remainder of his stay in Vietnam. It should be clear by now that Miguel Ramírez desired to inflict as much harm on his victims as possible, a behaviour his cousin seems to have copied from him and would later also exhibit. In his eyes, Miguel could do nothing wrong. He was an authority figure to his younger cousin.
Richard Ramírez would later recount those conversations with his cousin while in custody. “I was not shocked by the pictures Cousin Mike showed me. I was fascinated.”
Good ol’ „Cousin Mike” also trained the 12-year-old Richard in jungle warfare, including how to murder silently, blend into your surroundings to become invisible, and how to burglarize all sorts of homes.
“It’s us, the poor and downtrodden, against them the rich and influential.”, he would tell his young cousin after most of their so-called „exercise sessions”, clearly to justify what he was teaching Richard.
But Miguel Ramírez’ violent tendencies did not stop after he returned from war. The then 13-year-old Richard Ramírez was staying at Miguel’s house when the latter fatally shot his wife Jessie, the mother of his two young sons, in the face with a revolver for entirely unknown reasons.
Again, Richard was not even remotely disgusted. Mike told him he should never say a word about what he saw. The child just nodded. „I swear.”
The same evening, Richard would silently sit at the dinner table with his family, keeping his promise to his cousin.
When Miguel took Richard back to the murder scene in order to clean up the many large bloodstains left behind by the vicious attack, the young teenager was once again not experiencing negative feelings of any kind. No shock caused by the blood, gore and brain matter, not a single uncomfortable sensation.
“That day I went back to that apartment, it was like some kind of mystical experience. You could smell the dried blood. I looked at the place where Jessie had fallen and died, and I got this kind of tingly feeling”, Richard Ramírez would later state in court.
In the ensuing trial, the jury sympathised with Miguel Ramírez because of his status as a war hero, so he was declared not guilty due to insanity and simply sent to a mental health facility.
While Richard used to follow Miguel everywhere, he did not follow him into treatment – which could have reversed at least some of the damage the environment during his upbringing and youth caused, and let him onto a better path in life.
Around that time, Richard Ramírez started getting sexually aroused by extreme violence, which was without a doubt a product of the gruesome sights he was confronted with since birth.
While the brain damage he suffered as a toddler probably also played a part in what Richard Ramírez would later become, all sources agree on the fact that not only the abuse he was exposed to since the very beginning of his life desensitized him to violence and killing but also the cruelty his cousin Miguel would so often enthuse about.
His world view as a teenager was as simple as it was dogmatic: It was the poor against the rich (with him being some sort of messed-up Robin Hood), never talk about your dark and frankly sick ideas with anyone except maybe like-minded individuals, and most importantly, brutality is completely justified if it is considered a duty by the culprit. Murder, torture, rape and the like also turn you into a God, or at least, make you equal to one. Richard had not quite decided about that one yet.
When cousin Miguel got taken away from him and therefore also his only social escape from his father’s abuse, he decided to move in with his sister Ruth and her husband Roberto.
If you hope that this change in environment would be a turning point for the still 13-years-old Richard, I’m sorry to disappoint you. By the time he turned 14 in their household, he had already discovered LSD and was using it frequently.
His sexual perversions were only furthered as well. His brother-in-law was an obsessive „peeping tom” who proceeded to take the teenage Richard on late-night walks to indulge in their (shared) voyeuristic interests.
Unsurprisingly, he would soon begin to seek the “superior” feeling of bloodshed and sexual domination for himself.
– First Blood –
We are pretty much picking up where we left off. Richard Ramírez is still a 14-years-old 9th grader and about to get his first job. Shortly after receiving employment, the patrons of the El Paso Holiday Inn became his first victims.
Not having forgotten what his now incarcerated cousin Miguel had told him about the rich and the poor, he proceeded to use his master key to enter hotel rooms and clear them of all valuables.
He not only used his newfound occupation for both legal and illegal monetary gain though, as he would soon molest two children in the hotel’s elevator. He was never reported for this incident and therefore kept his employment for a while longer.
Funnily enough, the first blood Richard would taste was his own.
One night, he attempted to rape a woman in her hotel room. Through sheer luck, her shocked and infuriated husband returned on time to save his wife and proceeded to beat the teenager senseless.
The couple, who were not Texan citizens, declined to return and testify against him in court, resulting in the criminal charges being dropped. Nevertheless, he was of course fired immediately.
Following this incident, he dropped out of Jefferson High School at 15 and continued to develop a keen interest in Satanism, probably another act of rebellion against his Christian upbringing.
His probably still glue-sniffing brother Ruben had moved to Los Angeles and still committed petty crimes. He became another asset to his youngest brother by teaching him all he knew about burglaries and how to commit them (his knowledge was considered quite extensive).
Soon, Richard made his way back to El Paso and put his newly acquired knowledge to good use. Thanks to the military-grade stealth training he had received years prior, he was never caught.
When Richard Ramírez reached the age of 17 in 1977, a familiar face returned.
Miguel Ramírez was released from the mental hospital after just four years and the two continued sharing drugs, he even accompanied Richard and Roberto on their nocturnal walks, which were still taking place.
A mere year later, just after turning 18 years old, Richard Ramírez moved to Los Angeles, California as well, resuming his criminal career.
After he was briefly arrested for stealing a vehicle (history does repeat itself, huh?), that kind of thrill just was not enough for him anymore.
After a brief and relatively quiet stint in Los Angeles, Ramírez moved to San Francisco when he was 22 years old.
Two years later, on April 10th 1984, in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, the 9-year-old Chinese-American girl Mei Leung and her 8-year-old brother were on their way home. Suddenly, Mei noticed something missing from her pocket. “The money, it is gone”, she told her brother anxiously. Their family was not very wealthy, so little Mei sent her younger brother home, saying she was going to catch up with him once she found the $1 bill.
While she was scanning the surrounding area, a man approached her. “Can I help you?”, he asked her in a friendly manner. “Yes”, the little girl replied, “I have lost a dollar somewhere around here. Have you seen it?”
Richard Ramírez did not hesitate. “I have!”, he lies, “Come with me.”
Mei Leung has evidently not been taught how dangerous it is to blindly trust people on the street, especially for young girls who get approached by much older men.
Richard lead the naive child into the basement of his apartment, where he proceeded to beat and rape little Mei. He hangs Mei from a pipe by tying her blouse to it. Ramírez, now a fully-fledged satanist, then ended her terrible suffering by stabbing her to death with a switchblade knife.
She is later found by the police after not returning home. Police inspector Ronald Schneider, one of the officers who first came upon the gruesome scene, later stated this: “If you can picture Christ on the cross, that’s the way she looked. Her head was drooped and her chin down. It was a sad sight to see. She kind of got to me.”
Michael Mullane, another San Francisco inspector, is still of the opinion that Mei could have had at least a slim chance of survival. “Her feet were only 2 inches from the ground. Had she been a little taller, she could have transferred her weight to her feet on the ground, therefore avoiding suffocation for at least a while, and screamed and somebody could have come and helped her. This was one of the tougher ones. One of the ones you’d like to solve. I had little children at the time.”
The rape and murder of Mei Leung were only attributed to Richard Ramírez in 2009 by a DNA sample analysis. The case had been unsolved for the two prior decades and according to police, there is the possibility of two culprits being responsible for the terrible act. This speculation is due to the fact that the DNA of more than one person had been recovered at the crime scene. The identity of the second suspect, however, was withheld by the investigators because they had themselves been a minor at the time of the murder.
It did not take long for Richard Ramírez to strike again after he left San Francisco and returned to Los Angeles.
On June 28th, 1984, Ramírez was out of money again. His cocaine addiction left his purse empty once more, so he decided to put the burglary skills his cousin Miguel taught him to good use.
He broke into the apartment of 79-year-old Jennie Vincow located in Glassell Park, Northeast Los Angeles. The elderly woman was sleeping in her bed as he began to ransack her home, trying to find her valuables. Frustrated by the apparent lack thereof, he sliced the still asleep Jennie Vincow’s throat. Even though she is dead, he stabs her neck until she is almost decapitated.
Remember how I mentioned that Ramírez got sexually aroused by extreme violence? I know where your thoughts are going. Yes, he proceeded to rape the 79-year-old’s dead body.
Not long afterwards, the victim’s son Jack Vincow went to visit his mother. Surprised by the fact that her apartment door was unlocked, he carefully stepped inside. “I looked around the living room and I saw everything thrown on the floor”, he later testified in court.
When he found his dead and mutilated mother, he yelled out for the manager of the apartment block and told him to call the police. “When I saw she was dead, I shouted out to the manager, ‘My mother’s been murdered!’ I said it several times, ‘My mother’s been murdered, call the police!'”
Ramírez’s fingerprints were later discovered on a mesh screen near his window of entry but did not produce any matches in the police database.
– A Horrifying Spree –
Richard Ramírez laid low for almost nine months after the vicious attack on Jennie Vincow.
He was briefly imprisoned during the latter part of 1984 for stealing a vehicle, having his mugshot and fingerprints taken.
Currently staying in Rosemead, Los Angeles County, he found another target. It is the home of 22-year-old Maria Hernandez and her 12 years older housemate Dayle Yoshie Okazaki.
On March 17, 1985, as Ramírez was sneaking around the property, Maria Hernandez pulled her car into the garage and noticed a bulgy-eyed, defeated-looking man with curly hair and rotting teeth inspecting her house’s windows. To her horror, he had a gun in his hand.
Richard Ramírez did not hesitate and immediately fired at the woman. Maria held up her hands in order to protect her head from the scary-looking man’s bullet, and luckily, it ricocheted off the car keys she still clutched tight. Still, she acted like she was hit and started to play dead. Maria Hernandez must have been a great actress. Ramírez fell for the simple trick, like a coyote in the wilderness being deceived by an opossum determined to stay alive.
Now, he finally attempted to commit the crime he came for (even though I doubt he did not see the “murder” as a pleasant side effect) and broke into the house. Maria’s housemate Dayle had heard the gunshot outside and hid behind a kitchen counter. She wanted to catch a look at the intruder to help the investigation, but as she raised her head, Ramírez shot her in the head with his .22 calibre handgun. She died instantly. Ramírez stripped the house of all its valuables and left, not returning to check on Maria. He only left a size 12 Avia shoe print and a cap on the rock band AC/DC (how dare you dishonour them like that, mate) at the scene.
During the same hour of the Rosemead home invasion, the Taiwanese immigrant Tsai-Lian Yu, who went by “Veronica” as it was an easier to pronounce name, drove her car around Monterey Park. Suddenly, she saw a strange-looking man approach her vehicle. Initially, she guessed he is a homeless guy on the hunt for a little cash. When she had spotted his gun, it was already too late. Richard Ramírez pulled Veronica out of her car, shot her twice, and stole her car. She died from blood loss within minutes.
Of course, two murders and an attempted third one in such close proximity to one another and in such a short time frame alerted the local media. By then, Maria Hernandez had given an extensive description of her friend’s murderer to the local police and the “Walk-In Killer”, also dubbed “The Valley Intruder”, was born.
Reading his description on virtually every newspaper’s front page made Richard Ramírez lay low for at least a comparatively long time.
Ten days later, on the 27th March 1985, at 2:00 am, Vincent Charles Zazzara and his wife Maxine Levenia Zazzara were fast asleep in their home on the outskirts of Whittier, California. Ramírez swiftly entered and immediately shot Vincent in the head with the same .22 calibre handgun from earlier. The 64-year-old was killed instantly.
Startled by the sound, his 2 years younger wife woke up and stared the attacker right in the face. As Ramírez started beating and tying her hands together, she soon recognized him as the wanted man from the newspaper.
“Where are your valuables?”, he demanded, “any cash? Gold? Jewellery?”
Understandably scared, Maxine told Ramírez the locations of anything he might consider worth taking with him. But the 44-year-old woman was not done fighting. Wanting to avenge her dead husband, she freed herself from her bonds while Ramírez was busy ransacking the room. She dove underneath the bed, where the couple kept a handgun of their own. To her horror, she discovered that it was not loaded.
Of course, the assailant noticed her actions, so he shot her three times and went to the couple’s kitchen, scanning it for a knife. He found a large carving knife and was evidently satisfied with it, as he took it back to the murder scene. You probably know what came next. Richard Ramírez mutilated Maxine’s body by stabbing her in multiple places several times. But this time, he went even further. He removed Maxine’s eyes and placed them in an empty jewellery box which he took home as a souvenir. In their front garden’s flower bed, he leaves behind another footprint.
Vincent and Maxine Zazzara were found by their son Peter some twelve hours later.
The footprint in the flower bed became the police’s first “real” evidence as this one, in contrast to the one Ramírez had left in Rosemead, could be cast. They also extracted the five bullets from Vincent and Maxine’s bodies and compared their ballistic markings (which are basically the unique fingerprints of a gun) to the markings of the other bullets they found at crime scenes with similar or identical Avia footprints.
Since Ramírez had always used the same gun in every crime, the LAPD immediately came to the conclusion that a serial killer was at large.
Pretty rad police work for Casual Criminalist standards, I must say.
This time, Richard Ramírez let just over six weeks pass by before choosing his next victims.
On May 14th, 1985, Ramírez returned to Monterey Park where he had already murdered Veronica Yu and broke into the home of Bill Doi and his disabled wife Lillian. He surprised Bill in his bedroom and fired his gun at him. A single shot connected. The 66-year old, however, survived the bullet to his face and attempted to retrieve his own pistol, determined to fight back.
Of course, his unwounded assailant easily overpowered Bill and beat him into unconsciousness, thinking he had killed him.
Richard Ramírez then turned his attention to Lillian Doi, who was sleeping in another bedroom. He did not shoot her immediately, but instead, he bound her with thumb cuffs and made her watch as he stripped her home of all its valuables. When he was done, he raped her.
Bill Doi was later taken to the hospital but sadly passed away from his injuries. His wife Lillian survived, although severy traumatized.
During the following 15 days, Ramírez stole another car and drove it to Monrovia on May 29, 1985. The same day, he entered the house of Mabel “Ma” Bell and her sister Florence “Nettie” Lang. The two women were 83 and 81 years old.
He bound the two of them and bludgeoned them with a hammer, one after the other. Mabel was shocked with an electrical cord and, probably aroused from the torture he inflicted on the elderly woman, raped Nettie right next to her. He then took one of Mabel’s lipsticks and drew a Satanic pentagram on her thigh. He took whatever he could find to fund his still ongoing drug addiction and left the house.
Two days later, the two women were found comatose and critically injured. They were rushed to a hospital immediately, where Mabel passed away while Nettie survived.
The next day, Richard Ramírez drove the same stolen car to Burbank. His next victim ended up being Carol Kyle, a 42-year-old single mother of an 11-year-old son.
After entering her house, he bound the surprised Carol and her son by their hands and proceeded to ransack their home. After a while, he released Carol so she could show him where the rest of their valuables were and raped her multiple times. Her shocked son could hear his mother’s screams the entire time. He also heard Ramírez order Carol not to look at him repeatedly. “Turn your eyes away or I will cut them out!”, he threatened.
Eventually, he finally left the house and disappeared off the radar until the 2nd of July.
That night, Ramírez chose the Arcadia house of 75-year-old Mary Louise Cannon, whom he bludgeoned with a lamp while she slept. Mary lived alone since her husband had already passed away, so there was nobody who could hear the commotion.
She had already gone unconscious from the beating when Ramírez stabbed her with a ten inches long butcher knife he had found in her kitchen. He continued even after she had passed away and she was found in her burglarized home not long after, leaving behind several children and grandchildren.
On July 5, Richard Ramírez broke into a Sierra Madre home, where he encountered the 16-year old Whitney Bennett sleeping in her bedroom. He had brought a tire iron with him in order to incapacitate the house’s inhabitants, so he promptly used it to bludgeon Whitney.
When she stopped breathing, Ramírez searched for a knife he could use to mutilate her body, as he had done so many times before.
However, he did not manage to find one, so he chose a nearby telephone cord instead. While he was strangling the unconscious woman with it, the cord suddenly began to emit electrical sparks. Ramírez’s victim began to breathe again.
He immediately fled the house without taking any items whatsoever. “Jesus Christ came and saved the girl”, he would later state. Whether through divine intervention or not, Whitney survived the attack, even though 478 stitches were necessary to close the huge lacerations Ramírez had left behind on her scalp.
Two days later, the Monterey Park resident Joyce Lucille Nelson was asleep on her living room couch. The 60-year-old will never wake up again. The reason for this sad circumstance is of course Richard Ramírez, who was already prowling through her home during her slumber. After stealing cash and a few pieces of jewellery, he ended Joyce’s life by repeatedly stomping on her face. He once again left behind his footprint.
After driving his stolen car through two other Los Angeles neighbourhoods, he returned to Monterey Park. Sophie Dickman ended up becoming his next victim.
Once Ramírez had successfully entered her home, he surprised and assaulted the 63-year-old woman. After he handcuffed her, he attempted to rape her. He proceeded to rob the shocked lady’s jewellery and to make sure she was not hiding anything from him, he told her to “swear on Satan”.
On July 20, Ramírez bought a large machete before arriving in Glendale, California. Lela and Maxon Kneiding were next.
He did not even make use of the element of surprise which had been so crucial for him during prior crimes. Ramírez just barged into the elderly couple’s bedroom and attacked them with his machete.
But they were not dying fast enough for him, so he shot them and mutilated their dead bodies before ransacking their home. He quickly fenced the stolen goods and made his way to Sun Valley.
The following night, at approximately 4:15 am, Richard Ramírez paid a visit to the Khovananth family’s house. The father, Chainarong Khovananth was killed instantly by a shot to the head.
His wife Somkid, however, was beaten and raped multiple times before he dragged her around the house, making her point out any valuable items. Her 8-year-old son witnessed all of it while tied up. Somkid had to “swear on Satan” as well.
August 6 was the day of Richard Ramírez’s next attack.
At night, he snuck into the house of Chris and Virginia Peterson in Northridge, Los Angeles area. The 27-year-old Virginia was woken up by the noises he made, so he went into the bedroom and shot her right in the face. Her husband took a bullet in the neck, but still managed to fight back against the assailant. He dodged two more bullets, which evidently scared Ramírez and made him flee their residence. Luckily, Chris and Veronica both survived their injuries.
Two days later, just after 2:30 am, Richard Ramírez broke into a home inhabited by Elyas and Sakina Abowath, as well as their son.
As usual, the husband was killed on the spot by a shot to the head. Sakina was handcuffed and subjected to beatings, as well as sexual abuse. Her 3-year-old son was tied up and forced to watch his mother swear on Satan that she would not scream during the assault.
When Ramírez was done, he left the house and shortly after, Sakina sent her son to the neighbours in order to get help.
Richard Ramírez had followed the news attentively for the last weeks and ultimately decided to leave Los Angeles.
On August 18, 1985, he arrived in San Francisco and entered the house of Barbara and Peter Pan (this is not a joke). Of course, the male was killed instantly by a shot to the temple. Peter Pan died at 66 years of age. Strange, I always thought he was just a little boy, not a married man.
Barbara was sexually assaulted, shot as well, and left for dead. Before Ramírez exited their home, he drew a pentagram and the phrase “Jack the Knife” (sounds like the title of a cheap horror movie to me) on the bedroom wall using one of Barbara’s lipsticks.
The killer did not notice that he left another footprint.
Lead detectives Frank Salerno and Gil Carrillo finally contacted the manufacturer of Ramírez’s shoes and Avia confirmed that only six of the specific model were shipped in size 11 ½. Five of them had been shipped to several locations in Arizona, while a single pair went into a Los Angeles shoe store. Of course, that made it evident that this pair belonged to Ramírez and every crime scene with this specific footprint was his doing.
The police also analysed all of the bullets that were recovered and came to the conclusion that the Pan murders had also been committed by Richard Ramírez, therefore showing that he did not restrict himself to the Los Angeles area.
Following these findings, San Francisco’s then-mayor Dianne Feinstein divulged the information in a full-on televised press conference. The police were understandably infuriated by the careless leak, and their anger was justified. Richard Ramírez threw his size 11 ½ Avia sneakers over the side of the Golden Gate bridge that same evening and left the city again.
Ramírez travelled around 76 miles south of Los Angelos to Mission Viejo, where he planned to burglarize the home of James Romero Jr., who had just returned from a family vacation to Mexico.
His 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 the more careful Ramirez fled the scene. James ran outside and noted the colour, make, and style of the car. He even managed to catch a glimpse of the license plate number.
The boy’s father contacted the police with this information, believing James had chased away a thief. At that point in time, he was not aware that his son had managed to scare off the state’s most wanted man who would have probably murdered them both if the 13-year-old had not been awake.
Not satisfied and still with a need for cash and probably violence, Ramirez broke into the house of Bill Carns, age 30, and his slightly younger fiancée Inez Erickson, utilizing their house’s back door.
Ramirez entered the sleeping couple’s bedroom and awakened Bill when he cocked his new .25 calibre handgun. He shot Carns three times in the head like he did the other men, before turning his attention to Inez.
Ramirez told her that he was the “Night Stalker” and forced her to profess her love for Satan as he beat her with his fists and bound her with neckties from the closet. After stealing every item he could find, Ramirez dragged Inez 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 her, “Tell them the Night Stalker was here.”
Inez untied herself and went to a neighbour’s house to get help for her gravely injured fiancé. Luckily, the surgeons were capable of removing two of the three bullets from his head, and he survived his injuries.
– Arrest and Trial –
Inez Erickson gave a very detailed description of the assailant to the police and they immediately knew who had attacked her and her fiancé. Another car that Ramírez had stolen was found abandoned on August 28 in Koreatown, Los Angeles, and police obtained a single fingerprint from one of the rear-view mirrors. Ramírez had tried to clean the car of all prints but missed one.
The fingerprint was positively identified as belonging to Ramirez, who was described as a drifter in his mid-twenties from Texas, with a long rap sheet that included tons of arrests for traffic and illegal drug violations.
The following day, law enforcement officials decided to release a mug shot of Ramirez from the arrest for his 1984 auto theft to the media, and the “Night Stalker” finally had a face the public could recognize. At the latest police press conference, the following was announced: “We know who you are now, and soon everyone else will. There will be no place you can hide.”
The police’s first opportunity of catching Richard Ramírez went painfully wrong though, despite the rather massive breakthrough in the investigation.
In the early morning of August 31, Ramírez returned to Los Angeles from Tucson, Arizona, where he had been visiting one of his brothers. He arrived by bus, while police officers were monitoring the terminal to prevent any escape attempt by an outbound bus.
Now, it is finally time for Simon to have a long-awaited go at the police because guess what? Richard Ramírez just stepped out of the bus, walked directly past the policemen and into a nearby convenience store.
In said store, a small group of elderly Hispanic women began to whisper avidly as he came near them. Being bilingual due to his Mexican parents, he was able to pick up the words “el matador” (which literally mean “the killer” in Spanish). A second later, he noticed his own face on the front page of La Opinion, a Hispanic newspaper. It is accompanied by a headline calling him “Invaso Nocturno”, or “Night Invader”.
Scared that people who are capable of detaining him might pick up on his similarity to the “Night Invader”, he left the store in a panic. Sure, that’s a great way to not draw any attention to yourself.
He sprinted across the Santa Ana Freeway (Interstate 5) and attempted to carjack an unlocked Ford Mustang to make a quick getaway. An angry resident named Faustino Pinon was able to stop him, though.
But Ramírez was still unwilling to give up. He ran further down the street and tried to violently take the car keys of a woman named Angelina De La Torre. Her husband Manuel bore witness to this event and immediately struck his wife’s attacker over the head with a fence post in the ensuing pursuit.
A group of over 10 residents, who either witnessed the attempts of car theft or recognized the man from the newspaper formed and chased Ramirez down Hubbard Street in Boyle Heights. The group of citizens forced and held Ramirez down and relentlessly beat him.
At around 8 am, police were called over a commotion in the area with few details, but with indications of a fight. Police quickly arrived at the 3700 block of Hubbard and found that Ramirez was severely beaten and unarmed, taking him into custody.
The crowd grew to several hundred people and was becoming unruly toward Ramirez, and responding officer Andy Ramírez (not related to the culprit) stayed behind while officer Jim Kaiser drove Ramirez to the Hollenbeck police station.
His arrest must have been quite a relief for Richard Ramírez, as everyone knew about the extent of his brutal crimes and one barely makes it out of lynch justice alive. This is especially true for rapists and the dickheads who murder elderly people.
Nearly three years later, on July 22 1988, the jury for the high-profile trial started to be selected. Richard Ramírez’s actual trial began half a year later, in early 1989.
During his first court appearance, the first thing Ramírez did was to hold up a pentagram he had drawn on his hand and yell “Hail Satan”.
His trial was not a short one, even though the evidence was beyond damning. On August 14, the trial had to be put on hold because one of the jurors, Phyllis Singletary, had not shown up for court and was later found dead in her apartment. She had been shot.
Of course, Richard Ramirez was immediately suspected, as he had similar threats of gun violence against the prosecutor beforehand.
The rest of the jury were of course terrified that he could somehow reach them as well, but luckily, it soon became clear that the culprit was Phyllis Singletary’s then-boyfriend who had committed a murder-suicide. He had been found dead in a hotel room not long after his girlfriend, killed with the same gun that took Phyllis’ life too. Still, the alternate juror who was set to replace her was too scared to return to her own home when she saw Ramírez for the first time.
On September 20, 1989, Ramirez was naturally convicted of all charges brought against him: thirteen counts of murder, five attempted murders, eleven sexual assaults, and fourteen burglaries. Please note that this does not include the rape and murder of Mei Leung, as this crime could only be attributed to him 20 years later.
During the penalty phase of the trial on November 7, 1989, he received 19 death penalties and was subsequently sentenced to die in California’s gas chamber. Allegedly, Richard Ramírez stated this to the flock of reporters after the death sentences, “Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland.”
Despite his rather apathetic demeanour, he launched several appeals to his sentence. On August 7, 2006, Ramirez’s first round of state appeals ended unsuccessfully when the California Supreme Court upheld his convictions and therefore also his death sentence. On September 7, 2006, the California Supreme Court denied his request for a rehearing of the initial appeal.
Ramírez died on June 7, 2013, died from complications associated with blood cancer, hepatitis C and, of course, substance abuse. He had been on death row for over 23 years and still had several appeals pending at his time of death.
Experts estimate that the death penalty would have been carried out during his 70s due to California’s lengthy and complicated appeals process.
– Conclusion –
Finally, the horrible crime spree of Richard Ramírez has come to an end and we all hope he is currently rotting in Hell with his good buddy and role model Satan.
From the time of his birth onward, he began checking all of the boxes for a future serial killer. An abusive parental figure, head injuries, early exposure to the worst kind of violence, animal cruelty and drug abuse.
The psychiatrist Michael H. Stone describes him as a “made psychopath” as opposed to a “born psychopath”. He also states that his schizoid personality disorder rendered him indifferent to the terrible suffering he inflicted on his victims. Ramírez’s hypersexuality, which no doubt contributed to the many cases of rape, was a side effect of the many head injuries he endured as a child.
Does this make him any less despicable, though?
According to several studies, the death of a person leaves at least six close friends or family members absorbed in grief and mentally affected.
If we use this data on Richard Ramírez’s victims, we have thirteen deaths, 78 grieving loved ones (surviving wives/roommates/children included), and an additional eleven rapes and five cases of violent assault. That is a total of 107 lives ruined by a single person in a single year. That is almost one life per three days.
Yes, his violent tendencies were a product of accidents and an environment he was not at fault for, but even during the 70s and 80s, help would have been available. When his cousin Miguel was sent to a mental institution, the teenage Richard was already aware of his strong arousal from violence. I know it is easy to say, but help is always available.
If you recognize any of the symptoms that have been described in this episode of the Casual Criminalist in yourself or a loved one, please contact a psychologist or call a crisis hotline. If you are not comfortable with speaking on the phone, there are many international services available that offer texting-based advice. You can find many of them here: https://www.psychguides.com/guides/mental-health-hotline/
If you believe that you or someone close to you is in danger or planning to hurt others, please contact your local emergency services immediately.
– Dismembered Appendices –
1. If you’re wondering what his non-abusive mother Mercedes did during his troublesome teenage years, she simply did not care about whatever her weirdo of a son was up to. It is reported that when 11-year-old Richard smashed a neighbour’s window in, all she did was shrug when she was told.
2. Speaking of Ramírez’s mother: While childbirth went well, the pregnancy did not. Allegedly, her body tried to reject the fetus multiple times, which would have caused a miscarriage. Make of that information whatever you will.
3. While Richard Ramírez did not have any children of his own, he sure had a lot of romance going on in his life. No, not during his days of freedom, as he was too busy snorting that sweet Colombian nose candy and ripping apart other people’s families, but during his time on death row.
Admittedly, he did not look too bad for someone with a crippling drug addiction since the age of 10, so he had many fans and admirers who frequently wrote to him and visited him in prison.
Starting in 1985, a woman named Doreen Lioy wrote him nearly 75 letters during his incarceration. In 1988, Ramirez proposed to Lioy, and on October 3, 1996, they were married in California’s San Quentin State Prison.
For many years before Ramirez’s death, Lioy frequently stated that she would commit suicide when Ramirez was due to be executed.
However, Lioy eventually left Ramirez in 2009 after DNA evidence confirmed he had raped and murdered 9-year-old Mei Leung. Well, after all the murders and rapes that had already been proven, this one did seem a little too much to her, I guess.
By the time of his death in 2013, Ramirez was engaged to Christine Lee, a 23-year-old writer.
There is even a name for that type of behaviour; a mental condition by the name of hybristophilia, which causes those affected by it to be inexplicably attracted to criminals. Apparently, the more heinous the crimes, the better.