|“||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.||”|
Richard Ramirez (born Ricardo Leyva Muñoz Ramirez), a.k.a. "The Night Stalker," was an American necrophilic (once) and pedophilic serial killer, serial rapist, robber, and one-time enucleator. He is not to be confused with a serial killer who holds a similar nickname, the Original Night Stalker.
Ramirez was born Ricardo Leyva Muñoz Ramirez in El Paso, Texas, on February 29, 1960. His father Julián, a Mexican national and former Ciudad Juárez policeman who later became a laborer on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, was prone to fits of anger that often resulted in physical abuse. They had a total of five: Ruben, Joseph, Robert, Ruth, and, finally, Richard Ramirez. Mercedes's pregnancy with Ramirez was very difficult because the chemical fumes she inhaled at her job at a boot factory caused her body to try and reject the fetus. At the age of two, he almost died when a dresser fell on him, and he suffered a concussion. Growing up, he was a quiet loner. When he was in fifth grade, it was discovered that he had epilepsy, though doctors said he would grow out of it. It resulted in him being removed from his position as a quarterback on the school's football team. When he was in seventh grade, his grades began slipping and he started sniffing glue. At the age of ten, he began spending nights at cemeteries and also began smoking marijuana. When he was twelve years old, his cousin Miguel returned from his second tour in Vietnam and they began spending time together. He would show Ramirez photos of Vietnamese women he had raped, tortured, and killed, and also taught him how to keep hidden and kill with stealth.
When Ramirez was thirteen, he witnessed Miguel shoot and kill his wife and was affected by it for the rest of his life. Shortly before that, he had begun burglarizing people's homes, committing petty theft, skipping school, and becoming addicted to cannabis. During burglaries, he enjoyed walking around in the homes and going through the residents' personal belongings. During a trip to Los Angeles to see his brother Ruben, a petty criminal, Ramirez was taught more about burglaries from him. After returning to El Paso, he enrolled in the Jefferson High School but dropped out after less than a year. The only subject in which he did well was physical education. He would hunt animals with his family when they were available. If they were not, he would go alone; he particularly enjoyed sneaking up on them and then stabbing and gutting them. He liked watching horror movies and began to attend Jehovah's Witness meetings, where he became interested in Satan. At the age of fifteen, while he was still in high school, he briefly held down a job at a Holiday Inn, but was fired after a few months for entering a woman's room and attempting to rape her, but was stopped by her husband. Because the couple was from out of state and wanted to move on as soon as possible, they wouldn't testify against him and the charges were dropped. At the age of sixteen, he was already a skilled burglar. Shortly after turning eighteen, he moved to Los Angeles permanently.
Killings, Capture, and Incarceration
During his first weeks in L.A., Ramirez mostly lived as a transient. He made a substantial amount of money by selling marijuana that he had bought cheaply in El Paso and brought with him and spent the money on food and stays in hotels. He made a habit of stealing cars, spending a few days in them, stealing anything valuable inside, and then ditching them. He became addicted to cocaine, which was a very popular drug at the time, and could afford the habit by selling items he stole during burglaries. One night in the summer of 1978, he bound a lesbian woman with whom he smoked PCP and raped her repeatedly. His interest in Satanism evolved and he became involved with the Church of Satan. He spent some months in prison for auto theft but was released. In 1983, his sister Ruth went to L.A. and tried to convince Ramirez to come back to El Paso, but he turned her down. On June 28, 1984, after snorting cocaine, Ramirez burglarized the home of 79-year-old Jennie Wilcow, raped her, and stabbed her to death. On March 17 of the next year, he bought a .22 revolver from a dealer and would later use it in several of his killings. Over the course of a little more than a year, Ramirez proceeded to kill twelve additional people, as well as rape and/or attempt to kill multiple others in several different Californian cities. The media eventually nicknamed him "The Night Stalker". On August 24, 1985, Ramirez committed his last known murder, killing a man named William Carns and raping his fiancée, leaving her alive. She got a good look of both him and the orange Toyota he was driving, including its license plates.
On the morning of August 28, the car was found outside a shopping center in Los Angeles County. Though Ramirez was always careful not to leave behind fingerprints, he forgot to wipe off one on the rear-view mirror. When the print was matched to those of his prints that were on file, the Night Stalker task-force released his name and picture to the media. On August 31, 1985, Ramirez tried to steal a Mustang, not noticing that the owner was under the car. When he heard the car start, the man got up and forcibly pulled Ramirez out of the car. Ramirez then ran across the street and tried to steal another car, but the driver called for help; a neighbor heard the noise and called the police. When Ramirez was recognized from the published mugshot, a large number of residents banded together, apprehended him, and managed to hold him down until police arrived and arrested him. His trial for fourteen counts of murder and 31 other felony counts didn't take long and included hundreds of pieces of evidence against him. As it progressed, Ramirez garnered several female "fans" who became utterly devoted to him. On October 3, 1989, the jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to death. On October 3, 1996, seven years to the day after he was found guilty, he married one of his female fans, a freelance magazine editor named Doreen Lioy, after a long relationship in which they wrote letters to each other; she once stated that she would commit suicide if he were executed. They remained married to until the year he died when they divorced. In 2009, Ramirez's DNA was linked to the 1984 murder of nine-year-old Mei Leung, who was beaten, raped, and stabbed, though he was never charged with the killing since he was already awaiting execution. On June 7, 2013, after spending more than half his life on death row, Ramirez died of liver failure in a hospital, at the age of 53.
Ramirez typically struck at night and entered his victims' homes through home invasions. According to several witness reports, he would dress in black, presumably as camouflage. His victims varied in age and race and were often shot with a .22 revolver but were also killed or attacked in a variety of ways, including stabbing, slashing with a machete, and bludgeoning with a hammer or a tire iron. Ramirez sometimes raped his female victims and left Satanic pentagrams as a signature. His generally preferred style of killing was to burglarize the home, kill the husbands, and then rape the wives.
The Original Night Stalker
- Main Article: Joseph DeAngelo
The Original Night Stalker was an unsolved serial murder/rape case that preceded Ramirez's serial killings. The offender was also known as the "East Area Rapist". He targeted women (though he later attacked couples), would strike at night when the victims were asleep, wake them up at gunpoint, tie them up with shoelaces using a so-called diamond knot (his signature) and rape them. When the offender killed, he targeted couples, broke into their houses at night, robbed the place and then killed the couple by bludgeoning them with some object from the house (except for the first couple, who were shot). Most of those victims were also tied up with a diamond knot. In total, 12 murders, including five couples, and over 50 rapes have been attributed to the killer. The two cases were connected by DNA evidence in 2001. In spite of the brutality of the attacks and the high victim count, the case is not as well-known as that of Ramirez. In 2018, the killer was identified as Joseph DeAngelo.
On Criminal Minds
- Intro: Ramirez's mugshot is among the mugshots shown during the show's intro.
- Season One
- "Won't Get Fooled Again" - Ramirez is first referenced when his mugshot is one of several shown.
- Season Three
- "Lucky" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Ramirez appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Floyd Feylinn Ferell - Both were serial killers who had involvements in Satanism (Ramirez believed he served Satan, while Ferell worshiped him and believed he was guided and protected by a demon), committed crimes against females prior to their murders, primarily targeted women (though Ramirez also killed men), and killed victims by slashing them with bladed weaponry (though this was only one of Ramirez's methods). Ferell also appears in Season Thirteen.
- Season Five
- "Outfoxed" - Ramirez was referenced again.
- "Our Darkest Hour" - Ramirez was mentioned again when the BAU compared him to Billy Flynn, who seems to have been inspired by him - Both were serial killers, rapists, and robbers who committed their first murders in California in 1984 (except Ramirez stayed put while Flynn traveled around the U.S. in evenings and nights), both committed home invasions and usually killed their victims with revolvers, had severely discolored teeth (Flynn primarily due to smoking meth, Ramirez due to poor diet and hygiene), killed their victims in the middle of robberies, would lock the children in closets while they committed their crimes, and were given nicknames by the press. The scene in "The Longest Night" where a group of suburbanites rallies together to try and capture or kill Flynn themselves may have also been inspired by Ramirez's violent apprehension by a group of civilians. Also, the scene from the same episode where Flynn kills a motorist who is trying to call the police may have been loosely based on Ramirez's murder of Tsia-Lian Yu, who was pulled over by him and shot twice in the chest next to the car.
- Season Six
- "Corazón" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Ramirez appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Hollis Walker, Jr. - Both were serial killers who were the children of interracial married couples, had religious aspects involved in their crimes, mutilated their victims post-mortem, and would kill their victims in their homes through various means (including slashing with a machete, shooting with revolvers, and bludgeoning).
- "The Stranger" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Ramirez appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Greg Phinney - Both were rapists and serial killers who were given nicknames, dressed in similar black clothing (cap included), broke into their victims' homes at night and killed them by stabbing them to death (though that was only one of Ramirez's killing methods).
- Season Seven
- "Profiling 101" - Ramirez was referenced again when his mugshot was among several mugshots of real-life criminals showcased by the BAU in an online montage to a Criminology class.
- Season Nine
- Season Eleven
- Season Thirteen
- "Lucky Strikes" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Ramirez appears to have been an inspiration for the episode's unsub, Marcus Manning - Both were serial killers (budding at least) who had Satanic influences which compelled them to leave Satanic pentagrams at crime scenes, committed crimes prior to their murders, primarily targeted women (though Ramirez incidentally killed men too), and killed victims by slashing them with sharp bladed weaponry (though this was only one of Ramirez' methods).
- TruTV Crime Library articles about Ramirez
- Evil Beyond Belief's article about Ramirez
- The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez (1996) by Philip Carlo
- A documentary about EAR-ONS
- SF Gate article about Mei Leung
- Associated Press article about Ramirez's death
- Murderpedia's article about Ramirez
- International Business Times article about Ramirez
- Radford University's summary of Ramierez's life
- Personal website article about Ramirez
- Find A Grave article about Ramirez's victims
- Detailed article about Richard Ramirez's Life
- "Fingers" in Spanish