The Night Stalker: "Satanists Don't Wear Gold" (The marriage of Richard Ramirez and Doreen Lioy)
The bride wore a calf-length, white wedding dress with long lace sleeves. The groom wore a starched set of prison blues, the pants a little too long, the shirt tails hanging out. She was glowing; he was nervous. The ceremony took place on October 3, 1996, in the large, gray-walled main visiting room of California's San Quentin Prison. According to Jim Doyle writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, the bride, Doreen Lioy, age 41, was a freelance magazine editor with a bachelor's degree in English and an I.Q. of 152. The groom, serial killer and rapist Richard Ramirez, was on Death Row, awaiting execution.
Richard Ramirez and new wife Doreen Lioy Richard Ramirez and new wife Doreen Lioy
Seven years earlier in 1989, Ramirez had been convicted on 43 counts, including 13 murders, and the authorities have good reason to believe that he had committed several others. For over a year starting in the spring of 1985, the residents of Los Angeles County lived in fear of the anonymous "Night Stalker" as he was called, forcing many to alter their nighttime habits, install better locks on their doors and windows, and invest in electronic security systems. The newspapers dubbed him the Night Stalker because he always attacked at night like a vampire.
Richard Ramirez at his first arraignment Richard Ramirez at his first arraignment
The visiting room at San Quentin with its rows of orange plastic seats bolted to the floor and assorted vending machines lined up against one wall, was crowded that day with other prisoners and family members who had come on their appointed visiting day. Many of them stared at the infamous inmate and kept their distance even though the Night Stalker seemed considerably less ferocious than he had been when he had spooked the courtroom at his lengthy trial back in 1989. Instead of his signature dark glasses, Ramirez, now age 36, wore round prescription glasses. He moved a bit hesitantly and seemed ill-at-ease.
The long-haired brunette who longed to be the Night Stalker's bride had first contacted Ramirez after his arrest in 1985 and had written him nearly 75 letters during his incarceration. He finally proposed to her in 1988, but prison rules delayed their wedding. Other women tried to steal him away from her, visiting him in prison and lavished him with all kinds of attention. Doreen often ran into them when she came to for her visits, and at least one woman threatened physical violence if Doreen didn't abandon her claim on the Night Stalker. But Doreen persevered, and in the end she got her man.
She claimed to be a virgin at the time of their wedding, and marrying Ramirez wouldn't change that because conjugal visits are not permitted for death-row inmates. According to Philip Carlo, author of The Night Stalker, Ramirez was drawn to her precisely because she was a virgin. Doreen had been raised a Roman Catholic, but she considered herself an agnostic and could accommodate Ramirez's professed Satanism. When she had purchased their wedding rings, she'd bought a gold band for herself but a platinum band for her husband-to-be. "Satanists don't wear gold," he'd explained to her.
The civil ceremony started at 11:10 a.m. and was performed by Mr. L. Weister, who joined two other inmates to their brides that morning. Ramirez's sister Ruth, his brother Joseph, and Joseph's teenage daughter attended. Ramirez cautioned his niece to pull down her skirt; he knew other inmates were ogling her. As the couple said their vows, Doreen was bursting with joy and happiness. Her long-awaited dream was finally coming true. She was becoming Mrs. Richard Ramirez.
Obviously Doreen chose not to believe the mountain of evidence that had been presented at her husband's trial, especially the testimony that described his gruesome methods. Richard Ramirez typically came in the night, sneaking into his victims' bedrooms. Males were dispatched quickly, usually with a bullet to the head. Females were kept alive to be savored after he ransacked the homes, looking for valuables. After raping and degrading the women, sometimes repeatedly, he would most often kill them, or at least try to. Amazingly, some of his victims managed to survive his vicious attacks.
Of all the serial killers who have plagued the modern world, the Night Stalker was perhaps the most sensational in the way he committed his crimes. He was a living nightmare, a boogey man who invaded bedrooms and tore innocent people from their dreams. His method was worthy of a grade-B Hollywood horror movie. He was a killer tailor-made for his prime hunting ground, Los Angeles.
"A Good Boy" (How Ramirez became the Night Salker)
In 1978, eighteen-year-old Ricardo Leyva a.k.a. "Richard" Ramirez moved to southern California from El Paso, Texas, his hometown. He'd dropped out of the ninth grade and had been living the life of a slacker, smoking marijuana and living on convenience store junk food, according to UPI reporters Aurelio Rojas and K. Mack Sisk. His diet was so rich in sugar, his teeth eventually started to rot, which made his breath foul and offensive, buthis halitosis fit in with the demonic personality he was intentionally cultivating. His habitual pot-smoking led to several arrests for possession as well as a misdemeanor theft charge. In California he was twice arrested for auto theft, in Pasadena in 1981 and Los Angeles in 1984.
Cover of AC/DC's Highway to Hell Cover of AC/DC's Highway to Hell
Michael D. Harris, reporting for UPI, wrote that years later his father would maintain that Richard was a "good boy" whose marijuana consumption "put him out of control," but it would be hard to pinpoint exactly what influences sent Richard Ramirez in the direction of devil worship. He often drew the five-point pentagram, the symbol of the devil, on his own body, and at his trial he would shout "Hail Satan!" in open court. He was a big fan of rock bands who sang about Satanism, particularly the Australian heavy-metal band AC/DC whose album, Highway to Hell, was Ramirez's absolute favorite. One song on that album, "Night Prowler," contains the lyrics, "Was that a noise outside your window?/ What's that shadow on the blind?/ As you lie there naked like a body in a tomb/ suspended animation as I slip into your room..." But it's hard to believe that rock songs and marijuana alone would turn a misdirected youth into one of the most heinous serial rapists and murderers in modern history.
Richard Ramirez displaying the pentagram on his hand Richard Ramirez displaying the pentagram on his hand
The turning point in Ramirez's life might well have been the night he witnessed his cousin Mike murder his wife. Mike had fought as a Green Beret in Vietnam, but the war had changed him. After he'd returned home, he boasted of torturing and mutilating the enemy, and had brought back Polaroids to prove it. He and his thirteen-year-old cousin Richard would hang out all day, getting high, which is just what they were doing when Mike's wife started to nag him about getting his life together and finding a job. To shut her up, Mike pulled out a gun and shot her in the face, killing her. Author Philip Carlo, speaking on CNBC's Rivera Live, revealed that Ramirez was spattered with the woman's blood. Mike's lawyer pointed to the incredible stress of his horrible war experiences as a mitigating factor. He was ultimately convicted, but the judge was lenient in his sentencing. Mike had been a big influence on Richard, who became fascinated with the horrible photographs of Mike's war victims. It was after the murder of Mike's wife that Richard, the epileptic youngest child in a family of three boys and two sisters, started skipping school and smoking pot as much as he could every day. He soon took to stealing to support his drug use .
The police have no evidence that Richard Ramirez killed at anytime before he reached Los Angeles, and little is known about his activities in the first few years he lived there. . No doubt his crimes were escalating during this period. Simple theft led him to breaking and entering, and eventually he must have become adept at it. Initially he probably stole whatever valuables he could find, then quickly left before he was caught. But as he grew more proficient, he also grew bolder, staying longer in the houses that he burglarized. Perhaps he stayed to watch the inhabitants sleeping in their beds. Perhaps he took souvenirs, particularly items that belonged to the female residents. Like his cousin Mike, he might have even taken photographs that he could relish later. This no doubt excited him and helped him develop the depraved fantasies that took over his thinking.
But eventually he felt compelled to do more. The horrible scenes that ran through his mind like a horror movie on a continuous loop weren't satisfying him anymore. They had to emerge from his mind and become reality. When Richard Ramirez finally crossed that line and started to play out his fantasies, the Night Stalker was born. Whether by conscious decision or inevitable evolution, Ramirez began to insert himself into his depraved fantasies and actively participate in their reenactment for his own gratification.
His first known victim was a seventy-nine-year old Glassel Park resident named Jennie Vincow. On June 28, 1984, she had apparently left a window open because it had been hot that evening. Ramirez simply removed the screen and climbed in. Vincow's son, who lived in the apartment over her ground floor apartment, discovered her body sprawled out on the bed. She had been stabbed repeatedly, and her throat was slashed so savagely she was nearly decapitated. The intruder also ransacked her apartment and helped himself to her valuables. Fingerprints were recovered from the window sill, and the autopsy revealed signs of sexual assault. The Night Stalker's fantasy had finally become reality.
It would be eight months before he struck again.
No doubt Richard Ramirez, like most budding serial killers, fed off the memory of his first victim, reliving the experience of rape and murder over and over again in his mind. If he had taken what criminal profilers call a souvenir—a hair brush, a piece of underwear, eyeglasses, any object intimately connect with the victim—he might have used that to stoke his recollections and help him elaborate on his fantasy. But eventually the mental reenactment of that initial crime wouldn't be as satisfying as it had once been. The killer would need a new experience to replenish the fantasy. He might have tried to control himself for a period, but the pressure within him was mounting. Eventually he would give in to his compulsion and do it again.
On March 17, 1985, at 11:30 p.m., twenty-year-old Angela Barrios was just returning home from a long day at work. She lived in a condominium that she shared with a roommate in Rosemead, a middle-class town north-east of Los Angeles. She pulled her car into the driveway and opened the garage door with a remote control. She was tired and hadn't had dinner yet. All she wanted to do was get inside and unwind. But as she got out of her car, she heard something behind her. A dark figure suddenly rushed up to her. He was tall and dressed entirely in black. A navy blue baseball cap was pulled down low over his brow. He was holding a gun.
He pointed the gun in her face, holding it just inches from her nose. She pleaded with him not to kill her. She tried not to look at his face, hoping that he might spare her, but she couldn't help but look. His eyes were cold and hard.
She continued to beg for mercy, but he ignored her—perhaps he was angered by her pleading—and he pulled the trigger. The sound of the gunshot was like an explosion in the enclosed garage. Angela collapsed on the concrete floor. She was alive but too afraid to move. The gunman stepped over her and went to the door that led to her condo, kicking her body out of the way so he could open it.
Angela lay perfectly still, playing dead. After a while—she didn't know how long—she realized that her hand was bleeding. Her keys were still in that hand. She'd raised her hands instinctively when the man had menaced her with the gun, and the bullet had miraculously hit the keys and ricocheted away. Angela collected herself and got to her feet. She had started to run out of the garage when she heard another gunshot behind her. She kept running, just hoping to escape, but she ran into the man in black as he was coming out the front door of her condo.
She tried to get away from him, but her legs were shaky. She stumbled back toward her car in the garage, convinced that he was going to finish her off. But instead of pursuing her, the man shoved the gun into his belt and fled. Angela Barrios was saved from this madman.
Her roommate, Dayle Okazaki, age 34, wasn't so lucky. Angela found her face down on the kitchen floor in a pool of her own blood. There was blood everywhere, on the walls, furniture and appliances. Angela ran to her side to check for signs of life, but Okazaki had been shot through the forehead. Angela grabbed the phone and called 911. Later, when the police searched the crime scene, they found the killer's baseball cap in the garage.
What exactly happened inside the condominium is unknown, but for some reason killing Dayle Okazaki was apparently not the experience Richard Ramirez had hoped for. Incredibly, that same night he struck again in nearby Monterey Park.
According to author Clifford L. Linedecker, a policeman was dispatched to investigate an empty yellow Chevrolet parked with its motor running. The transmission was in reverse; the car parked behind it was keeping it from moving any farther. When the officer got out of his patrol car to check inside the car, he found an unconscious woman lying on the ground nearby. The officer ran to her and immediately checked her vital signs. He noticed that her stockings were ripped, and there was an ugly bruise on her leg. She was alive, but just barely. He ran back to his car and radioed for an ambulance. When he returned to the woman, he discovered a metal medallion and a torn section of a twenty-dollar bill on the pavement. He tried to revive her, hoping she could tell him what had happened, but her breathing was labored. He could tell she was in trouble and needed immediate medical attention, but in the dim light he hadn't noticed that she had been shot several times. The woman, a thirty-year-old Taiwanese native named Tsia-Lian Yu, who was known to her friends as Victoria, died before the ambulance arrived.
The killer was in a frenzy. Killing Dayle Okazaki had not satisfied his need, so on the spur of the moment, he had attacked Tsia-Lian Yu. But murdering and assaulting her might not have done it for him because three days later he murdered an eight-year-old girl in Eagle Rock, California.
A week later, on March 27, 1984, he emerged again, and this time he found an MO that worked for him
"If You Look At Me Again, I'll Shoot You!"
On the morning of March 27, 1984, Peter Zazzara arrived at his parents' home in Whittier, California. His sixty-four-year old father Vincent had retired from investment counseling and now operated his own pizzeria. His mother Maxine, 44, was an attorney. Peter rang the bell several times, but no one answered, so he let himself in. What he found was horrifying.
His father's body was on the sofa in the den. He'd been shot through the left temple. He appeared to have died instantly.
Mrs. Zazzara was found stretched out in bed, face up and naked. Her eyes had been gouged out, the bloody sockets empty. She'd been stabbed repeatedly around the face, neck, abdomen, and groin. There was a large T-shaped knife wound in her left breast. An autopsy later revealed that like her husband, she'd first been shot in the head and had probably died instantly. The stabbing and mutilation were done post-mortem. The house had been ransacked, valuables taken.
With these killings, Richard Ramirez had discovered a method that accomplished his goals and satisfied his fantasy, for he repeated it many times: Dispatch the male quickly to get him out of the way so that he could have his perverse way with the woman in the house. The man was just an impediment and not part of the fantasy; the woman was the real object of desire.
Six weeks later Richard Ramirez returned to Monterey Park and broke into the home of Harold and Jean Wu, waking them from a sound sleep. Ramirez took care of Mr. Wu first, shooting the sixty-six-year-old man through the head. He pummeled Mrs. Wu, 63, viciously with his fists, demanding to know where she kept her money. She was too worried about her husband to be coherent, so he bound her hands together behind her back with thumb cuffs to keep her still as he searched the house. After he found what he wanted, he returned to the bedroom, dragged the tiny woman to the side of the bed, and raped her. When he was finished, he left.
Mr. Wu, however, was not dead. Despite his terrible head wound, he managed to crawl to the den where he dialed 911. He was unable to tell the dispatcher what the problem was, but the call was traced, and an ambulance and patrol car were dispatched to the Wu's address . Harold Wu was rushed to the hospital but died later that night. Jean Wu was treated for her injuries. She was able to give the police a physical description of her attacker.
Two weeks later on May 30, Ruth Wilson, 41, was awakened in the middle of the night by a flashlight shining in her face. Ramirez had silently broken into her Burbank home and was holding a gun to her head. He ordered her to get out of bed and go to her twelve-year-old son's room. Ramirez jumped on the boy's bed and put the gun to the child's head, warning Ruth Wilson not to make a sound. He handcuffed the boy and locked him in a closet.
"Don't look at me," he snarled at Ruth. "If you look at me again, I'll shoot you."
Assuming that he was a burglar, she offered to give him her most valuable possession, a gold-and-diamond necklace. She led him to the dresser in her bedroom where she kept it, hoping that this would placate him. But it didn't. After rummaging through the house, he ordered her to turn around and put her hands together. He tied her up behind her back with a pair of pantyhose. He then shoved her onto the bed as she pleaded with him. After tearing off her pink nightgown, he raped and sodomized her. His breath was so hot and foul as he lay on her she nearly gagged.
According to Clifford L. Linedecker in his book Nightstalker, Ruth Wilson told Ramirez he must have had a "very unhappy life" to have done this to her. He told her she looked pretty good for her age and said he was going to let her live even though he had killed many others. When she complained that the pantyhose around her wrists were cutting off her circulation, he loosened them for her and brought her a robe before taking her son out of the closet and handcuffing them side by side. Ramirez left them there. Later the boy was able to get to a phone and call 911. When the police asked Ruth describe her attacker, she told them that he was a tall Hispanic with long dark hair.
Police composite sketch Police composite sketch
The attacks continued, throwing the city of Los Angeles into a state of panic. One police official referred to the killer-rapist as the "Valley Intruder." The newspapers dubbed him the "Midnight Stalker," conjuring up images of a modern-day Dracula or Jack the Ripper. But Ramirez was just getting started. In the spring of 1985 he was going through a period of escalation. By the summer he was on a full-blown rampage.
On May 29, Malvia Keller, 83, and her invalid sister Blanche Wolfe, 80, were found in Keller's Monrovia home. Both women had been beaten so severely with a hammer that when the police found it, the handle was split. Blanche had a puncture wound above one ear. An inverted pentagram with the tip pointing down had been drawn in lipstick on Malvia's inner thigh. A second pentagram was found on the bedroom wall over Blanche's comatose body. Ramirez had apparently tried to rape Malvia, the older sister. Police experts estimated that the sisters had been there about two days after the attack before being discovered. Doctors were able to revive Blanche, but Malvia soon died of her injuries.
One month later, on June 27 the Night Stalker raped a six-year-old girl in Arcadia.
A day later the body of thirty-two-year-old Patty Elaine Higgins was found in her Arcadia home, her throat slit.
Five days later on July 2, the body of seventy-five-year old Mary Louise Cannon was found in her Arcadia home. Like Patty Higgins, she had been beaten, her throat slit. The house had been ransacked.
On July 5 Ramirez returned to Arcadia beat sixteen-year-old Deidre Palmer savagely with a tire iron. She survived her injuries.
Two days later on July 7, the body of Joyce Lucille Nelson was found in her home in Monterey Park. The sixty-one-year-old had been beaten to death with a blunt object.
Later that same night in Monterey Park, Linda Fortuna, a sixty-three-year-old registered nurse, was awakened at around 3:30 a.m. by a "tall, bony man dressed in black." The man, who fit the description of Night Stalker, was pointing a gun at her. He ordered her out of bed and into the bathroom, warning her to be quiet. After ransacking the house, he returned to her, forcing her back onto her bed. He attempted to rape and sodomize her but could not maintain an erection. He was frustrated and humiliated, and she was sure he would kill her. He screamed at her furiously, but then gathered up the valuables he wanted and left. She was astounded that he had spared her life.
Less than two weeks later, on July 20, the Night Stalker chose a new location in the Los Angeles area, Glendale. Maxson Kneiling and his wife Lela, both 66, were found in their bed, both shot in the head and horribly slashed with a knife. Maxson had been butchered so brutally his head was barely attached to his body. Police experts had difficulty recreating the attack based on the evidence. It's possible that the Stalker killed them both quickly with his gun, then mutilated them post-mortem. But given his developing MO, it's also possible that he kept Mrs. Kneiling alive to play out his perverse fantasy.
But he also might have failed to perform sexually with Mrs. Kneiling, just as he had with Linda Fortuna, and so he turned July 20 into a double header, striking again, this time in Sun Valley. Chitat Assawahem, 32, was shot in his sleep. His wife Sakima, 29, was raped, forced to perform oral sex on the intruder, then beaten mercilessly. He then sodomized the couple's eight-year-old son. Ramirez tied Mrs. Assawahem in her bedroom and left, but not before taking $30,000 in cash and jewelry.
On August 6, Ramirez targeted another couple, Christopher and Virginia Petersen, ages 38 and 27. Following his pattern, Ramirez broke into the Petersen's Northridge bedroom and shot them both in the head. But they didn't die. In fact, Mr. Petersen, a powerfully built truck driver, got out of bed and chased the intruder away despite having a bullet lodged in his brain. Miraculously, the Petersens survived their wounds.
Two nights after the attack on the Petersens, Ramirez lashed out again, this time in Diamond Bar, California, and this time he had it his way. Ahmed Zia, 35, was shot in the head and killed while he slept. With the husband out of the way, Ramirez was free to play out his fantasy with Zia's wife, Suu Kyi Zia, 28. The Night Stalker raped her, sodomized her, and forced her to perform fellatio on him. This was Ramirez's MO played out the way he liked it, and the experts who profiled him believed that this was the way he would attack again and again, probably adding a little something more each time, a new perversion, a twist on an old predilection, and most likely increasing the physical brutality.
Los Angeles County was terrified. The Night Stalker's crimes were becoming more frequent. The cooling-off periods were shortening, and his rage was escalating. There was little doubt that he would strike again. The only question was where and when. But as it turned out, Ramirez decided to abandon his familiar territory. After the attack on the Zias, he headed north.
"I Love Satan"
On August 18, 1985, Peter and Barbara Pan were found in their blood-soaked bed in Lake Merced, a suburb of San Francisco. Both had been shot in the head. Mr. Pan, a sixty-six-year-old accountant, was pronounced dead at the scene. Mrs. Pan, 64, survived but would be an invalid for the rest of her life. Scrawled on the wall in lipstick were an inverted pentagram and the words "Jack the Knife," which is from a song called "The Ripper" by the heavy-metal band, Judas Priest. Local police determined that the killer had come in through an open window. Fearing that L.A.'s Night Stalker had moved to their precinct, homicide investigators sent a bullet removed from Mr. Pan to a forensic team in Los Angeles. The bullet matched others recovered from two of the Night Stalker's Los Angeles County crime scenes.
Police in San Francisco searched their unsolved homicide files and came up with two incidents that fit the Stalker's MO. On February 20, 1985, sisters Mary and Christina Caldwell, ages 70 and 50, had been stabbed to death in their Telegraph Hill apartment. If this was indeed the work of the Night Stalker, he had committed this crime about a month before the night he killed Dale Okazaki and Tsai-Lian Yu and wounded Angela Barrios.
The police also discovered that on June 2, the day after the murders of the elderly sisters Blanche Wolfe and Malvia Keller, Theodore Wildings, 25, was shot in the head while he slept in his apartment in the Cow Hollow section of San Francisco. His girlfriend, Nancy Brien, 25, was then brutally raped by the killer.
Could the Night Stalker have been active in San Francisco as well as Los Angeles throughout 1985 and the police in San Francisco didn't realize it?
Panic spread through the city by the Bay. To quell fears, Mayor Diane Feinstein talked publicly about the hunt for the Night Stalker, but in so doing angered detectives by giving away too many details of his crimes, thus impeding their investigation. They did not want a repeat of the situation Los Angeles had just gone through. Fifteen unanswered attacks, including fourteen murders and five rapes, had been committed by a maddeningly elusive perpetrator.
But the San Francisco police caught a break when the manager of a flophouse in the Tenderloin district came forward and claimed that a young man who fit the Stalker's description had stayed at his establishment from time to time over the past year and a half. The manager remembered that the man had rotten teeth and smelled badly. The police check the room he had last stayed in. On the bathroom door they found a drawn pentagram. The man had checked out during the day on August 17. Mr. and Mrs. Pan had been attacked that night.
Investigators then located a man from the El Sobrante district who said he had purchased some jewelry—a diamond ring and a pair of cufflinks—from a young man who fit the Stalker's description. Further investigation revealed that these items had belonged to Mr. Pan.
On August 24, while the police in San Francisco were scrambling to find the mysterious young man with rotten teeth, the Night Stalker had found another couple whom he could use to play out his violent fantasy—except this couple was not in the Bay Area. They were asleep in bed in Mission Viejo, fifty miles south of Los Angeles.
A computer engineer and his 29-year-old fiancée had just drifted off to sleep when they were suddenly awakened by loud gunshots in the room. Instinctively she reached out to her fiance, but he had been seriously wounded. Before she realized what was happening, the intruder grabbed her by the hair and hauled her into another bedroom where he tied her ankles and wrists with neckties. The man then asked her if she knew who he was, admitting that he was the killer who was getting all the coverage in the press and on television. He rummaged through the house, looking for valuables, but there was nothing small enough to steal easily. Angry that the couple had so little, he returned to her and raped her, not once but twice. The horrible stink of his breath made her gag.
The man was still angry that there was nothing worth stealing. Afraid of what he might do next, she told him to look in a drawer where she knew her fiance kept some money.
"Swear to Satan," he bellowed at her.
Out of fright, she did what he wanted and swore to Satan that she was telling the truth. The Stalker found the money, and as he counted it, he mocked her, telling her that this was what she was worth. It was what saved her, he said.
She prayed that this was the end of it, that he would just leave now that he had the cash. But he wasn't through with her yet.
"Swear your love for Satan," he demanded.
Afraid of what he might do next, she did as he asked. "I love Satan," she mumbled.
He ordered her to say it again and again. He yanked her by the hair and made her kneel, then forced her to perform oral sex on him. When he was finished, he stepped back and stared at her. Still bound by the neckties, she was certain that he was going to shoot her just as he had shot her fiancé. But he didn't. He laughed at her, then suddenly he was gone.
She quickly worked herself free of the neckties and went to the window in time to see him getting into an old orange-colored Toyota station wagon. She immediately called 911.
Earlier that night a teenager who had been working on his motorcycle in his parents' garage had noticed the orange Toyota driving into the neighborhood, and he noticed it again as it was leaving. It struck him as suspicious, so he jotted down the license plate number. The next morning he called the police about the car.
Los Angeles skyline Los Angeles skyline
With the plate number, the police were able to determine that the 1976 orange Toyota had been stolen in L.A.'s Chinatown while the owner was dining at a restaurant. An alert was put out for the car, and two days later it was located in the Rampart section of Los Angeles. The police kept the car under surveillance for nearly 24 hours in the hope that the Night Stalker would return for it, but he didn't.
Mugshot of Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker Mugshot of Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker
A forensics team scoured the car for evidence and came up with one good fingerprint which they sent to Sacramento for analysis. Hours later the computer had found a match. The print belonged to Ricardo "Richard" Leyva Ramirez. Further analysis revealed that this print matched a print taken from a window sill at the Pans' house near San Francisco. At long last the police knew who their suspect was. Now they had to find him before he struck again.
"I Love to Kill People"
Seven days after the attack on the computer engineer and his fiancee in Mission Viejo, Ramirez was on the prowl for another vehicle he could steal. Unfortunately for him, he chose the wrong neighborhood to go "shopping" for cars. The 3700 block of East Hubbard Street in Los Angeles is in a largely Hispanic area. Perhaps Ramirez felt that he would blend in there. But he had no idea how fiercely these residents would protect their property.
Ramirez's first mistake was trying to steal Faustino Pinon's prized red Mustang. Ramirez, who was wearing a black Jack Daniels tee shirt, had been hopping fences between yards, searching for a car he could steal easily. He'd been chased off the property next door to Pinon's home and wound up in Pinon's yard. Ramirez must have thought luck was with him because the Mustang parked in the driveway was unlocked and the keys were in the ignition. He jumped in and started the engine. But he hadn't noticed that the car's owner was underneath the car on his back working on the transmission.
As soon as Pinon, 56, heard the engine starting, he rolled out from under the car. Incensed that anyone would dare touch his prized possession, Pinon reached through the window and grabbed Ramirez around the neck.
"I've got a gun," Ramirez warned, but Pinon didn't care. No one was going to take his car.
Ramirez put the car into gear and tried to drive away, but Pinon wouldn't let go of him. The car crashed into a fence, then into the garage. Pinon got the door open, hauled Ramirez out, and threw him to the ground.
Ramirez scrambled to his feet and ran across the street just as twenty-eight-year-old Angelina de la Torres was getting into her Ford Granada. He ran up to her car and stuck his head through the driver's window, demanding that she give him the keys, threatening in Spanish to kill her if she didn't. She screamed for help, and her husband Manuel, 32, came running from the backyard. According to Nancy Skelton in the Los Angeles Times, he grabbed a length of metal fence post as he passed through the gate along the side of the house.
Jamie & Julio Burgoin Jamie & Julio Burgoin
In the meantime Jose Burgoin, who had heard the ruckus in Faustino Pinon's driveway, had called the police. He ran outside to help Pinon, and when he heard Angelina scream, he called to his sons— Jaime, 21, and Julio, 17—to come quick. As the brothers ran to help Mrs. De la Torres, they saw the skinny stranger scrambling across the front seat of her car. Jaime recognized him from photographs that had been published in the newspapers and broadcast on television. He yelled that this was the killer, the Night Stalker!
Richard Ramirez headshot Richard Ramirez headshot
The men made a mad dash to catch him. Ramirez ran for his life, but Manuel de la Torres caught up with him and hit him across the neck with the three-and-a- half-foot metal post. Ramirez kept running, but de la Torres stayed on him, whacking him repeatedly from behind. Jaime Burgoin caught up with Ramirez and punched him. Ramirez stumbled and fell but quickly got up and continued running with de la Torres and the Burgoin brothers on his heels.
D.A. Ira Reiner D.A. Ira Reiner
Then unexpectedly Ramirez stopped and faced them. His eyes flashed as he laughed and stuck out his tongue at them. He was playing the part of the madman, but his pursuers were taken aback for only a moment. They lunged at him, and the chase continued. Finally, a block away from where it all began, de la Torres swung hard and hit Ramirez on the head. The Night Stalker collapsed to the ground. Jaime and Jose Burgoin closed in on him to keep him down until the police arrived. One day after Richard Ramirez's face was made public, the Night Stalker was in custody and behind bars.
Legal Delays By Katherine Ramsland, PhD
Upon his arrest, Ramirez, 26, was charged with fourteen murders and thirty-one other felonies related to his 1985 murder, rape and robbery spree. A fifteenth murder in San Francisco also hung over his head, with the potential for a trial in Orange County for rape and attempted murder.
Richard Ramirez flashing the devil sign Richard Ramirez flashing the "devil sign"
Early in the case, two public defenders were appointed to Richard Ramirez, but he disliked them. Another defense attorney came and went before the Ramirez family retained Daniel and Arturo Hernandez (not related). They had never before tried a death penalty case, but had worked together on homicide cases. Their presentation wasn't helped much when at the arraignment in October 1985, Ramirez flashed a pentagram drawn on his palm and shouted, "Hail Satan!"
Apparently this kind of behavior raised anxiety levels, because on another occasion when the courtroom lights suddenly went out, the deputy marshals drew their pistols and told everyone to hit the floor. They then dragged Ramirez out of the courtroom.
The Hernandezes began their long list of pre-trial motions by filing for a change of venue, insisting that the adverse publicity in Los Angeles County had infected the entire community, and hence, the jury pool. Ramirez could not receive a fair trial, they claimed, because many middleclass people in the area had an image embedded in their consciousness of the Night Stalker breaking into their homes. In fact, a survey they had done indicated that 93% of 300 people polled had heard about Ramirez, and the majority believed that he was guilty.
On January 10, 1987, the Los Angeles Times* reported the decision in this thirteen-day hearing—a taste of things to come. Judge Dion Morrow said that given the substantial pool of potential jurors in the county, he did not believe that argument was sound. "This is the largest community, I think," he stated, "of any court system in the country." As Ramirez was led in chains from the courtroom, he grinned at his growing coterie of female supporters. Some believed in his innocence. Others just thought he was cute.
In another hearing, Judge Elva Soper granted a request for a gag order on both sides.
By May, a trial date was set for the end of September. That proved to be highly optimistic. This case was going to spread into other states and even Mexico, seeking witnesses and evidence. The defense team would also introduce an exhausting round of delays, from appeals to out-of-town interviews to outright disappearances.
Ramirez actually testified in pre-trial proceedings, clad in a three-piece gray suit and red tie. He denied that he had spontaneously told Sergeant Ed Esqueda upon his August 31 arrest, "I did it, you know. You guys got me, the Stalker." His lawyers said that the officer had not recorded the statements and they wanted them stricken. Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan, who would sit for the trial, denied the motion. (Sergeant George Thomas would later testify at the trial that he wrote down that Ramirez had said, "Of course I did it. So what? Shoot me. I deserve to die." Then he had hummed a tune called "Night Prowler.")
Other than that appearance, Ramirez sat through most of his numerous hearings, slouching in his chair, drumming his fingers on the table, and bobbing his head as if listening to rock music. He seemed oblivious to the seriousness of the charges.
When the Hernandezes insisted throughout the final months of 1987 that they needed more time to prepare, the trial date was moved to February. They considered buying more time by pursuing the Orange County trial first.
In November, to avoid an extra trial, one murder and one felony count were dismissed. All the prosecution had for the murder was the delayed statement of a witness who had spotted Ramirez a block from the crime scene. Then Judge Tynan also said that he would not allow Ramirez to leave the county, which meant he could not be arraigned in Orange County. The defense attorneys, seeking another ploy, prepared to ask for at least six separate trials to avoid having cases with little good evidence become stronger by association with those that had it.
By January, it appeared that the trial for case # A 7771272 would be postponed another six months, because an appellate court required that the prosecution team supply defense attorneys with records of all crimes over a period of six months in Los Angeles County of a "similar nature" to those of Ramirez. This was a move by the Hernandezes to link some of those that Ramirez was charged with to other cases and possibly other offenders. Prosecutor Phil Halpin called this an "onerous burden" for the cops and asked the court to reconsider. Both sides took it to the state Supreme Court, which would not hear it.
In March, San Francisco authorities had tentatively linked Ramirez to four homicides, a rape, and ten burglaries, but since they had no physical evidence in most of those crimes, they had narrowed their focus to one killing (Peter Pan), one attempted murder (Pan's wife), and a burglary that had yielded evidence that led to discovering Ramirez's last name. They were awaiting the conclusion of the LA trial to decide on a date.
In July, as the case neared three years since the arrest, the Times reported that Ramirez had decided against entering a plea of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. The judge ordered jury selection to begin. The paper quoted the judge as estimating (correctly) that this alone could take six to eight months. The Hernandezes had sought to have Tynan disqualified based on prejudice against their client. They did not succeed, but once again they claimed they needed more time to prepare.
Impatient with the defense motions (mostly to suppress evidence) that numbered to nearly one hundred, LA County prosecutor Phil Halpin finalized his case and filed the charges, taking the defense by surprise. He claimed he had nearly 1,000 potential witnesses and hundreds of thousands of pages of statements, reports, and photographs. Admitting that it was one of the "most complicated criminal cases" he had seen, he projected a two-year-period for the trial. Thus far, the case had cost over one million dollars and one witness had already died.
The defense asked for yet another extension, but it was time to begin.
*The account of the trial was taken from reports from 1987-1989 in the Los Angeles Times, with special thanks to John Timpane.
The Los Angeles Trial By Katherine Ramsland, PhD
Judge Michael Tynan Judge Michael Tynan
On July 21, 1988, jury selection began. (At the same time in Orange County, the jury was being selected for the trial of Randy Kraft, accused of killing sixteen young men.) Judge Tynan decided that they would need twelve jurors and twelve alternates, all of whom had to be impartial and also willing and able to serve for up to two years—a rather tall order even for that county. Carpenters were hired to enlarge the jury box. Tynan figured that to get what they needed, they might have to interview as many as 2,000 people (it turned out to be just short of 1,600).
Alan Yochelson joined Halpin for the prosecution team, and throughout the voir dire, Halpin and Daniel Hernandez traded so many insults that the judge told them to take their macho posturing into a boxing ring. He called them both unprofessional. He also assigned a public defender, Ray Clark, to assist Daniel Hernandez, since Arturo seemed inclined not to be there at times.
Richard Ramirez in defiance of the judge Richard Ramirez in defiance of the judge
The team had not yet disclosed their strategy and they still had numerous appeals pending, particularly one asking to overturn the decision made by a judge who had refused to remove Tynan from the case. Ramirez, often choosing all-black garb, began to don sunglasses as part of his mysterious persona. Although he remained shaggy-haired throughout, reinforcing his rebellious reputation, he got more involved in the proceedings.
On August 3, the LA Times reported that jail employees had overheard a plan by Ramirez to shoot and kill the prosecutor with a gun that someone was going to slip him in the courtroom. A metal detector was installed outside the courtroom and even the lawyers were searched. Ramirez seemed surprised, and no gun was ever found.
Finally after several months, a jury of twelve, with alternates, was seated. Then one juror was dismissed for making racially biased statements about the death penalty.
In January 1989, a state appeals court found Daniel Hernandez "deficient" in presenting another client in an earlier murder trial. Reportedly, he was "not surprised" by the decision. He also had a record of seeking delays for medical conditions caused by stress. No one knew why the family had hired such an inexperienced attorney. He continued to seek delays.
By the end of the month, January 30, the trial began with Halpin's two-hour opening statement about the thirteen murders and thirty felony charges. He intended to introduce at least four hundred exhibits as evidence, including fingerprints, ballistics evidence, and shoe impressions—one of which had been on the face of one victim. On that same day, the Times reported that in jail in 1985 Ramirez had referred to himself as a "super criminal," claiming he loved to kill and had murdered twenty people. "I love all that blood," a sheriff's deputy quoted him as saying. Halpin hoped to enter these statements as evidence.
Hernandez declined to make an opening statement at this stage. His strategy remained veiled.
Then the case really began. While some witnesses had a difficult time with memory recall four years after the crimes, others were quite certain of their identification of Richard Ramirez. A few offered lengthy descriptions of their ordeal at the hands of Ramirez, sometimes while he leafed through a notebook of bloody crime scene photos. The defendant, when asked, refused to remove his sunglasses.
Halpin used circumstantial evidence to link Ramirez with the Avia shoes that left prints at crime scenes, with his appearance in the vicinity of the crimes, with his shifting MO, and with possession of items removed from the victims or their homes. He also had fingerprints and "signature" evidence. On April 14, after using 137 witnesses and 521 exhibits, the prosecution rested its case. But then, it had become clear that the defense strategy would be that the eight eyewitnesses—some of whom were survivors--had all mistakenly identified Ramirez. Some other guy had done it all. They were granted two weeks to prepare.
One hurdle the defense team had to jump was the numerous pentagrams left at crime scenes, in a car that bore Ramirez's fingerprint, on the thigh of a victim, on Ramirez, and in his cell. This was a means of linking the crimes, especially since Ramirez was a self-proclaimed Satanist. He had allegedly forced one surviving victim to swear allegiance to Satan as he assaulted her and shot her husband. Besides fingerprint and impression evidence from Avia shoes (allegedly worn by Ramirez, though they could not be found), ballistics evidence showed the use of four different guns, one of which was traced to a man who said he had gotten it from Ramirez.
The defense actually began three weeks later, on May 9, in part because on May 2 one of the prosecution's witnesses was ordered to re-testify. He had admitted to withholding information while under oath as he had described jewelry and consumer items linked to the victims and received from Ramirez. Halpin himself had uncovered the deception and said it was not damaging to the case. Hernandez withheld judgment but looked for an appeal opportunity.
On May 4, the Times ran a piece about Ramirez's state of mind, saying he was gloomy and distraught, and that he did not want to put on a defense. The lawyers told the judge that this was a possibility, although they had advised him otherwise. Tynan granted a recess so they could talk further with their client. Ultimately, it was decided to go on with the trial, and they brought in thirty-eight witnesses.
The defense team essentially claimed that the prosecution's evidence was inconclusive or defective. They took note of the fact that there were many fingerprints at the crime scenes that remained unidentified and that hairs and blood samples were found that did not belong to the victims or Ramirez. In a surprise move, they had Ramirez's father, Julian Ramirez-Tapia, take the stand to say that Richard had been in El Paso, Texas, for eight days starting around May 24, 1985. A rape victim had placed him in her home on Memorial Day, and another attack, which had ended in murder, had also occurred between May 29 and June 1. The defense attorneys also found testimony to the effect that police officers had covertly alerted witnesses to Ramirez's position in the line-up after his arrest.
Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, an expert in eyewitness testimony from the University of Washington, testified that the stress of assault may have affected the witnesses' ability to accurately recall details. She also pointed out that errors are more likely when the attacker and victim are of different races. Yet she conceded under cross-examination that those victims who had more than a fleeting exposure to Ramirez were likely to be more accurate.
On May 25, defense witness Sandra Hotchkiss claimed to have been Ramirez's accomplice in numerous daytime burglaries in 1985, some of which had occurred during his alleged murder spree, and she said that none of these incidents was violent. She added that he was jumpy and amateurish. She broke off with him but was eventually arrested and convicted of other burglaries.
Throughout this phase of the trial, several disturbances occurred, such as charts falling from easels, Daniel Hernandez perspiring profusely, and evidence being erroneously represented. The newspapers pointed out that not once had the defense attorneys claimed their client was innocent. Hernandez commented in the paper that they merely wanted to prove that the prosecution's case was faulty.
Rebuttal witnesses for the prosecution contradicted the testimony of Ramirez's father by showing that Ramirez was in fact in Los Angeles having dental work done at the time that his father said he was in El Paso. A comparison of Ramirez's teeth to the charts left no doubt, though Ramirez had used an alias. A newspaper reporter, David Hancock, also contradicted the alibi by indicating that he had interviewed Ramirez-Tapia in August 1985, at which time the man had claimed he had not seen his son in at least two years.
Daniel Hernandez was allowed to fly to Texas to seek out more witnesses who might have seen Ramirez. The jury was allowed to go on vacation until July 10. Hernandez found two witnesses, but Halpin made the point that if he'd gone by plane, Ramirez could still have made it back in time to commit both attacks. One survivor had identified a piece of jewelry as hers that had admittedly been found in the El Paso home of Ramirez's sister, yet relatives of the woman murdered in May 1985 had photos of appliances from her home that had been in Ramirez's possession.
In closing arguments that lasted from July 12-25, each side emphasized the weakness in the other side's case and the strengths in it's own. Halpin pointed out that Hernandez had raised issues that he never substantiated, throwing them at the jury as mere diversions. When he was finished, Ramirez turned to the courtroom and smirked.
The judge took two days to instruct the jury, letting them know that a handgun was missing from the evidence inventory, but they had a photograph of it. After nearly a year, the jury finally started deliberations on July 26, with 8,000 pages of trial transcripts and 655 exhibits to consider.
Within a week, one juror who kept falling asleep was replaced. Then on August 14, Phyllis Singletary did not arrive. The judge summoned the jury and told them they could not continue without her, and the court was recessed for the day.
Yet the papers reported that Ms. Singletary had been shot to death in her apartment, and this news passed through the jury and eight remaining alternates like wildfire. They could not help but wonder if Ramirez had managed this from his prison cell and if he might do something similar to another of them. He certainly had plenty of black-clad groupies who came to court each day to show their support. They recalled the Charles Manson cult from 1969.
Judge Tynan called them into court the next day and told them that Ms. Singletary had been shot by an abusive boyfriend. He assured them the incident was unrelated to the case. An alternate was chosen to replace her, although the woman was so overcome with fear she could not walk to her place. Yet more news was forthcoming. Ms. Singletary's boyfriend used the same weapon with which he'd killed her to commit suicide in a hotel. He left behind his written confession. They had been arguing over the Ramirez case and he had become enraged by her disapproval of Ramirez's lawyers.
The defense team tried hard to get a mistrial declared, which Halpin opposed. "The case must not go down the drain," he insisted. Debates emerged in the newspapers over the issue, with one psychologist believing the shooting would unconsciously influence the jury against the defendant. However, the jury foreman assured the judge that they could continue. When Ramirez heard this in court, he shouted that it was all "fucked up" and had to be restrained. He continued to act out during the rest of the deliberations, saying that the trial had not been fair, and he was allowed to waive his right to be present in court. Whenever brief hearings were needed, the proceedings were piped into his holding cell.
On September 20, almost two months after they had begun, the jury announced that they had reached a unanimous decision. Ramirez elected not to attend the reading. Neither did his coterie of girlfriends. On each of the forty-three counts, the jury had voted guilty and had affirmed nineteen "special circumstances" that made him eligible for the death penalty. Upon leaving his cell, Ramirez flashed a devil sign—two finger for horns--at photographers and made a single comment: "Evil."
The defense team asked Ramirez to assist with the penalty phase, because without mitigating factors, he surely would be condemned to death.
"Dying doesn't scare me," he responded. "I'll be in hell. With Satan." He told his lawyers that he would not beg. So to everyone's surprise, they offered no witnesses and did not call him to plead for his life. Halpin said later that this decision had caught him "flat-footed." Clark simply argued before the jury that something was obviously wrong with Ramirez and they should be compassionate—sympathy even for the devil. Halpin reviewed his arguments from the trial and urged them to give him his "just desserts."
On October 3, 1989, after four days of deliberations, the jury said they had voted for death for Richard Ramirez. The female members were crying. Ramirez, who was present for this, was led from the courtroom smiling. "Big Deal," he said. "Death always went with the territory." Later as he was led in shackles back to the county jail, he added for reporters, "I'll see you in Disneyland."
Richard Ramirez prison ID Richard Ramirez prison ID
On November 9, he was officially sentenced to death nineteen times. Ramirez chatted with his attorneys throughout. Afterward he added to his dark image with his rather incomprehensible speech to the court: "You do not understand me. I do not expect you to. You are not capable of it. I am beyond your experience. I am beyond good and evil. Legions of the night, night breed, repeat not the errors of night prowler and show no mercy. I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells within us all."
He denounced the court officials as liars, haters, and parasitic worms. He said that he'd been misunderstood. As he was led away to eventually join the 262 inmates already on death row in San Quentin—including Freeway Killer Randy Kraft, sentenced a month before--he asked, "Where are the women?" He then flashed his two-fingered devil symbol at a busload of female prisoners, who called out, "Killer!" That made him smile.
Ramirez and Satan: Perfect Together? By Katherine Ramsland, PhD
To understand Richard Ramirez and his passion for the devil, we need to examine more than just his life; we must also look at the times.
Ramirez committed his murder spree in 1985, in the midst of the "satanic panics" that swept the country throughout the decade. Anxiety over Satanists and evil conspiracies mounted on a cultural scale, and narratives told by people in therapy about ritual abuse by secret Satanic rings showed many common elements—and no evidence. Whole masses of people developed similar physical symptoms that were primarily emotional in origin, and the idea of ritual abuse was heavily promoted by journalists, therapists, physicians, drug companies, and whoever else might find some stake in them.
Serial killers, too, adopted satanic robes. During that decade, Robert Berdella killed six men in Missouri for satanic purposes, Antone Costa killed four women in Cape Cod in rituals, Thomas Creech admitted to 47 satanic sacrifices, and Larry Eyler buried four of his 23 victims under a barn marked with an inverted pentagram. Nurse Donald Harvey, suspected in the deaths of 47 patients, admitted to a fascination with black magic, and Leonard Lake, who had teamed up with Charles Ng for a series of torture-murders, was affiliated with a coven of witches. One killer targeted homeless men, ringing his victims with a circle of salt. A teenager who wanted to follow the devil murdered his parents in their beds.
Also during the 1980s, a former associate of John Wayne Gacy named Robin Gecht inspired a group of three other men known as the Ripper Crew in killing an estimated eighteen women. They would murder a victim, sever her left breast with a thin wire, clean it out to use for sexual gratification, and then cut it into pieces to consume. Ostensibly, they were worshipping Satan, and eating the flesh was a form of demonic communion.
The Night Stalker had the same devilish persuasion. He'd creep up in the night, dressed in black, and enter homes surreptitiously. Sometimes he removed the eyes of his victims, as if for a ritual. He bludgeoned two elderly sisters and left Satanic symbols on the thigh of the one who died in the form of a pentagram. He also drew pentagrams on the walls in lipstick. When he was arrested, Ramirez reportedly said he was a minion of Satan sent to commit the Dark One's dirty work.
Was this admission some kind of preparation for an insanity defense or something he truly believed? If he believed it, did it inspire more savagery? Did it cause him to kill? Let's review some of the influential factors of his life that have been commonly linked to the development of a violent temperament.
He was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1960, the youngest of five children. He was a quiet boy, according to neighbors, with hard-working parents. However, Richard's father had a temper and sometimes beat the kids. The model of abuse in the form of a parent can often be a bad start for a child, especially a boy watching his father. Add to that, possible abuse from a male teacher, and Richard had two role models who demonstrated how to use others for their own frustrated ends. Richard was afraid of his father, and he would leave home to hang out in a nearby cemetery, even spending the night. He found peace among the dead, and this may have been where he first developed an attraction to the macabre.
Forensic psychologist Dr. N. G. Berrill, from John College of Criminal Justice, pointed out on Court TV's Mugshots that a means for getting over one's fears is "to identify with what's frightening you. One way to do that is to become a frightening person yourself."
More than one criminal has become the very thing that scared him, turning from victim into victimizer. Yet Ramirez would take this transformation another step. It would become more than just frightening people. He would want to mutilate them, degrade them, and radiate their fear in larger ripples at others.
Ramirez also suffered from epileptic seizures—possibly viewed as a weakness in that south-Texas culture, since it forced him to give up football--and he became something of a loner in school. He was thin and girlish in appearance, so he may have been ridiculed. Yet he had ambitions to become famous. He wanted people to know him. He wanted to make a difference.
He looked up to an older cousin named Mike, who may have become something of a father substitute. Mike loved to prove how tough he was, especially by fighting. As Richard hung out with him day after day, absorbing Mike's life philosophies, he learned a new outlook. Mike had survived the rigors of Vietnam, and when he returned, even more hardened and covered in tattoos, he became larger-than-life in Richard's eyes. He'd come through an ordeal and he had secrets from an exotic place. That was pretty exciting, but even better were the photographs that Mike liked to show Richard of the butchered dead—including women. He said that killing made him feel like a god, and there was nothing more powerful. Mike bragged that he had raped and murdered a number of women, and he had the photos to prove it. While Richard may have been shocked at first, eventually he got used to such sights, especially since it was important to show Mike that he could handle it. Mike might have been testing young Richard, not yet even an adolescent, but Richard was up to the test. He took it in and wanted more.
The key insight here is that Richard's exposure to Mike's atrocities occurred at a time in his life when he was also becoming a young man, and often when things get associated with physical excitement and intrigue during early sexual development, they also become eroticized. Thus they become a part of the mental landscape as well. Sexual fantasies can develop from the associated images, and those fantasies become repetitive and more detailed throughout one's life and may lay the groundwork for later acts. Richard supposedly had viewed Polaroids of Mike in sexual activity in which the woman was a helpless victim and of Mike murdering these same women. He saw how his idol could do these things without a qualm, no doubt got excited by the naked women in sexual positions, and probably learned that women could be easily used as objects for degradation. It was all part of being a real man, yet it was also forbidden, which gave Mike's macho realm an added allure.
In addition to that, Mike also taught Richard the art of hunting as a predator. They would go into the desert at night to observe and sneak up on animals. Mike then would show Richard how to kill an animal with a knife or gun, and it's likely they indulged in some bloody aspects of this sport.
As Richard developed, Mike became his role model and whatever Mike did without fear, Richard wanted to do. That set him up for one more incident that would prove everything that Mike had demonstrated thus far.
One day, Mike got into a fight with his wife, who wanted him to get a job, and decided to end her harassment. He drew a revolver and shot her. Then he told Richard to leave. For this crime, Mike went to a mental institution, judged to have been temporarily insane. Yet right after the incident, Richard went into the home with his father and saw and smelled the blood. He felt a connection with the dead, he confessed later to author Philip Carlo (The Night Stalker), which bordered on the mystical.
Some psychologists pinpoint this killing as the turning point for him, but it's more likely that he had already become inured to death, especially with women, via the photographs Mike had shown him, and by killing animals up close. This incident was probably not as traumatic for him as it might have been, given what he'd already been exposed to. The numbness had already developed in him. Otherwise, we might expect that he'd have run from the apartment and gone to the police, or gone into a depression and avoided his cousin thereafter. In fact, he told no one that he had witnessed the crime.
What may have been just as instrumental in his development is that he did attend church, so to be able to worship and also accept his cousin's violent attitudes indicated that he'd already begun to compartmentalize—to act and think differently in different contexts. That's the most dangerous kind of person, because it becomes difficult for others to recognize the violent side, and difficult for the person to stop his own violent acts. He may not even view them as bad.
Eventually, Richard discovered the Church of Satan, and that seemed to draw all the threads of his temperament together in the right way. The themes of dominance, control, and power called to him, as did the idea of something sacred, even if it was evil. All of this might have made him able to erase his feelings of weakness.
Then when he was 18, he moved to California. He had nothing much to do there, so he stole cars, listened to music, and looked for opportunities, whatever they may be. He would steal without compunction and buy drugs. He still sought something that might make him significant.
Richard Ramirez had perceived in the culture around him---he was not far from where teachers had been arrested in 1983 at the McMartin pre-school and accused as a ring of Satanists corrupting children---that people were afraid of Satan, and to him that probably meant that aligning himself with the Prince of Darkness would empower him in a unique way. People would actually fear him. So he cultivated the trappings of Satanism that were popular during the 1970s and 80s—pentagrams, black clothing, demonic eyes, stealthy ways, and a penchant for the night. He took his cue from the song, "Night Prowler," noting how the person who made others afraid was the person in control.
So he went on his murder spree, was caught, and went through a trial. He was certainly making a name for himself, but it wasn't enough just to be another serial killer. There were plenty of those by the 1980s—even a trial in Orange County at the same time. He perceived that he had set himself apart with his satanic incarnation, and he played that up for the press.
At a preliminary hearing, Ramirez flashed a pentagram that he'd had tattooed onto the palm of his hand. When he was convicted and his lawyers warned him that he could get the death sentence. "I'll be in hell, then," he said, "with Satan." He saw the newspaper articles talking about him as the devil and understood that he was a celebrity now. The more he flashed the pentagram or talked about serving Satan, the more he was quoted in the papers. He adopted sunglasses to enhance his mystique. He apparently embraced the idea that he was a "monster." Even during his trial, when one juror was murdered, the incident made other jurors wonder if Ramirez had called forth demons to attack that person. They were fearful that he might pick them off. He'd often tried to intimidate them individually with his stares.
He was sentenced to death and sent to Death Row in San Quentin. When talking to police officers, he was quite curious as to whether there would now be books about him as there were about Ted Bundy and Jack the Ripper. He loved the idea that someone had made a movie.
During the 1990s, Jason Moss wrote to Ramirez as part of his project to write to serial killers, and Ramirez reportedly wanted him to become a Satanist.
Since Ramirez's beliefs seem fundamental to his desire to be notorious and unique, it's difficult to know to what degree he was sincerely devoted to Satan. Yet it's likely that his desire to kill and the manner in which he committed his crimes had more to do with his cousin Mike's psychological influence, coupled with his notion that killing makes one a god.