The Night Stalker: a satanic serial killer

For 14 months in the mid-80s, Richard Ramirez embarked on a self-proclaimed Satanic reign of terror that left 13 people dead and earned him the nickname, “The Night Stalker.”

Who was Richard Ramirez ?

Ramirez was born in 1960 in El Paso, Texas and grew up in an abusive home. One of his uncles showed him disturbing pictures of women he claimed to have raped and tortured while serving in Vietnam. At 10, he began smoking cannabis before switching to LSD and cocaine as a teenager and eventually becoming a drifter and a thief to feed the habit. It was at this time that he claimed to have cultivated an interest in Satanism. 

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In 1984, he escalated to murder, and would go on to use handguns, knives, a machete, a tire iron, a hammer to commit his crimes. “Most terrifying of all, is the fact that people were being attacked when they were at home, asleep in their bed at their most vulnerable, when you feel you're most safe and suddenly there's somebody that's standing in your house looking to end your life”, said Tiller Russell, Director of “The Hunt for the Night Stalker”.

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By March 1985, after he committed 2 murders and 1 attempted murder on the same night, the media dubbed him “The Walk-in Killer” and “The Valley Intruder.” “You have the beginning of the 24-hour news cycle, where suddenly this is in the papers every day. It's on broadcast television, on the local news every night. And so it becomes this crazy cat and mouse where the public is terrified, the media wants to put out information, the cops only want a certain amount of information. And then there's this quickening that happens as the summer goes on where Ramirez gets into this incredible frenzy”, explains Tiller Russel. 

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Was Richard Ramirez executed ?

Ramirez would strike again, 10 days later, killing the couple, Vincent and Maxine Zazarra. This time, the police found an important clue…  a shell casing that matched ballistic evidence from a previous crime scene. Police began to explore a link with Satanism, when they saw pentagrams drawn on the walls of victims’ homes and heard from surviving victims that Ramirez made them “swear to Satan.” 

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By August 1985, as media coverage and police attention intensified, Ramirez left for San Francisco, but continued his killing spree, allowing police to make a connection with the Los Angeles murders. That night, he threw his distinctive running shoes that had been linked to the crimes over the side of the Golden Gate Bridge, hoping that would help him evade detection. 

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Back in Los Angeles, Ramirez was finally caught after a couple he had attacked was able to provide a detailed description of him to investigators. “The next day, an angry crowd in east Los Angeles, recognizing Ramirez from those photos chased him down and beat him, holding him after he tried to steal a woman’s car. The police arrested him and charged Ramirez with what had become known as “The Night Stalker” murders”. 

The story of the Zodiac killer

By the time of his trial, he had become a sort of celebrity with women writing him letters and visiting him in prison. In September 1989, Ramirez was convicted of all charges : 13 counts of murder, 5 counts of attempted murder, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries, and was sentenced to die in California’s gas chamber. After 20 years on death row, in 2009, DNA evidence linked Ramirez to another murder, the April 1984 killing of 9-year-old Mei Leung. Ramirez died in prison in 2013 after 23 years on death row. 

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