True Crime Cases From The '80s That Still Haunt Us Today

Even though all of these cases took place decades ago, the biggest crimes of the 1980s will not soon be forgotten. These include unsolved cases like the Keddie murders as well as solved cases like the murders committed by Richard Ramirez AKA the Night Stalker. They range from the actions of the Sunset Strip Killers to celebrity assassinations, botched investigations, and the disappearance of Tara Calico.

Moreover, despite the time that has passed since these events occurred, new developments are still being made as more information and updated technology are released - as in the cases of Sherri Rasmussen and Tammy Terrell. They still deserve justice, so it's important to share their stories in hopes of uncovering any information that can be sent to the law enforcement agencies investigating the cases. 

  • Richard Ramirez Was Active, 1984-1985
    Photo: San Quentin State Prison, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    In late June 1984, the body of 79-year-old Jennie Vincow was found in her Los Angeles apartment by her son. She had been pierced with a blade multiple times, including a cut to her throat. This would become one of the earliest events in a series of terrifying incidents that swept California from 1984 to 1985. Countless homes were burglarized, and many victims were assaulted or slain. At the same time, multiple young children were taken, assaulted, and then released. These children described the culprit as a tall man with light skin who smelled bad. He was later dubbed the Night Stalker in the news and was eventually revealed to be a man by the name of Richard Ramirez. 

    Ramirez was born in 1960 and raised in El Paso, TX, under the control of a harmful father and the influence of his cousin Miguel “Mike” Ramirez, a murderer in his own right. After growing up in this rough environment, at the age of 22, Ramirez moved to California, where his spree would soon begin.

    How was he eventually caught? First, there was the series of shoe prints, all from a men's Avia sneaker, found at several of Ramirez's crime scenes. There was a print outside of a murdered couple's home, one left on the face of another target, another found in the wet cement of a construction site where a child had recently been targeted, and several more. Police also found bullet casings matching a 22-caliber gun at multiple scenes, and one witness had spotted a suspicious-looking orange Toyota station wagon prowling around his home. That same vehicle was later reported stolen, and police were able to track it down and recover fingerprints from it. All of these clues pieced together along with witness descriptions and the testimony of one of Ramirez's friends finally led police to their culprit - and they released his name and face to the media. 

    Hours later, upon spotting himself on the front page of a newspaper in public, Ramirez made a run for it. This, however, only drew more attention to himself, and he was quickly surrounded and captured by citizens who recognized him and then detained by police. By the end of his spree, Ramirez was charged with 13 counts of murder, 14 burglaries, 11 sexual assaults, and five counts of attempted murder. He was found guilty of all charges in September 1989 and sentenced with 19 death penalties. He spent the rest of his life in prison, married a fan named Doreen Lioy, and eventually passed in a California hospital in 2013 while still awaiting execution. He was 53. 

  • On the morning of December 8, 1980, famed musician John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono were interviewed about their new album, Double Fantasy. Said Lennon at the time, “I consider that my work won’t be finished until I’m dead… and I hope that’s a long, long time.” Sadly, it wouldn't be. On their way out of their apartment that afternoon, Lennon was approached by a fan and signed a copy of the album for the man who would later be identified as 25-year-old Mark David Chapman - John Lennon's shooter. 

    Chapman had flown from his home in Hawaii to New York City specifically to take the life of a celebrity and had debated between other famous figures including Johnny Carson and Elizabeth Taylor, but ultimately chose Lennon. This was, in part, because Chapman viewed Lennon as a blasphemer due to Lennon’s comments about the Beatles beingmore popular than Jesus.” Later that night, at around 11 pm, Chapman was still standing outside of the apartment when Lennon returned home. Chapman shot Lennon four times in the back.

    Despite being rushed to the hospital, Lennon was pronounced dead soon after. After committing the act, Chapman simply waited for police outside of the apartment building and read one of his favorite books, The Catcher in the Rye. Over the years, Chapman has stated different motives for his actions, from his faith to a desire for fame to a need to promote The Catcher in the Rye by eliminating someone he believed fit book protagonist Holden Caulfield's description of a “phony.”

    Regardless, Chapman was later sentenced to 20 years for the shooting of John Lennon. Chapman has gone through various parole hearings to determine if he is eligible for release. However, due to his history of mental illness and disregard for human life, he remains in prison.

  • The Central Park Five Were Charged, 1989

    The Central Park Five Were Charged, 1989
    Photo: Daily News / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    On April 20, 1989, 28-year-old Trisha Meili was found passed out in Central Park. She had been jogging in the park the night before when she was assaulted and severely beaten with a rock, putting her in a state of lost consciousness for almost two weeks. The next day, a news story stated that a “wolf pack” of teenagers had targeted multiple people in the area on the night of April 19. Five teens were detained that night for unlawful assembly, and the news of what happened to Meili led police to bring them back in for questioning. At the time they were taken into custody, the boys were between the ages of 14 and 16.

    After hours of intense interrogation during which law enforcement had refused them legal counsel and deprived them of water, food, and sleep for more than an entire day, the boys, who became known as the Central Park 5, confessed to the assault of Meili. They soon took back their statements but were still charged. Moreover, the coercive interrogation tactics used by the police were not made known to the public. As a result, there was a media outcry supporting their punishment, exacerbated by the prejudice and racial tensions already present in the case. 

    Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise were all tried separately. During these trials, no eyewitnesses or DNA evidence were presented linking them to Meili's case. Despite this, they were found guilty of various charges including attempted murder, assault, sexual abuse, rape, robbery, and riot. McCray, Salaam, and Richardson were subsequently given sentences of five to 10 years; however, Wise was 16 by the time of the trial and was tried as an adult, giving him a longer sentence. The five had served between six and 13 years when a new confession and DNA evidence in the case were released in 2002.

    Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and rapist, confessed to targeting Meili and matched DNA found at the scene. In December 2002, the convictions of the Central Park 5 were erased. The next year, the five men filed a lawsuit against the city of New York for emotional distress and racial discrimination. The case was finally settled in 2014 for $41 million dollars.

  • The Sunset Strip Killers Were Active, 1980

    31-year-old Douglas Clark and 37-year-old Carol Bundy met in December 1979 before quickly moving into Bundy’s apartment in Van Nuys, an area of LA, together. This is where they committed their first transgression, the assault of an 11-year-old girl. Independently, Clark began to use the Sunset Strip area as his hunting grounds. He first took the life of a sex worker, Marnette Comer, then targeted Cynthia Chandler and Gina Marano, stepsisters who had run away from home. Clark told Bundy of his actions, and they began stalking the Strip together. 

    By June, cadavers began showing up along the highways, including the torso of another sex worker and her friend. Police believed they were dealing with a serial killer and began holding press conferences asking the public for information. In the meantime, Bundy was becoming nervous and even confessed to an ex-boyfriend of hers, John Robert Murray. However, she was fearful he would call the police, so she took his life, as well. Still, she couldn't help but confess again, this time to her fellow nurses at work. 

    They called the police, and Bundy told them of the unlawful acts she and Clark had committed. However, when Clark was hauled in, he insisted that he was innocent and that Bundy had actually hunted her ex, Murray. Bundy pled guilty to assisting in one murder and taking the life of Murray. She was sentenced to 52 years to life and died in prison in 2003. Clark was found guilty of six murders; he still sits on death row today and maintains his innocence.  

  • Four People Perished In The Keddie Murders, 1981

    On April 11, 1981, the lifeless bodies of 36-year-old Glenna “Sue” Sharp, her 15-year-old son John Sharp, and his friend, 17-year-old Dana Wingate, were found in Keddie, CA. They were discovered by Sue's 14-year-old daughter Sheila, who had been at a sleepover the previous night. The three had been variously beaten, pierced with a knife, or strangled, but all were bound with tape. Three young boys were found in the back of the cabin, having slept through the incident, but Sue’s 12-year-old daughter, Tina Sharp, was missing. Her bones would not be found for three more years, when a cranium and mandible were found near a waterfall in the neighboring county of Butte.

    The initial investigation received a large amount of criticism, especially regarding the handling of two suspects. Martin Smartt and John Boubede were staying in a cabin next to the Sharps and had criminal backgrounds. Smartt left the area shortly after the incident; weeks later, he sent his wife a letter stating that he had bought her love with four lives. However, that letter and a confession given to a counselor at the Reno Veterans Administration were never put into evidence. Smartt also told investigators he was missing a hammer; a man later found a hammer in a pond near the scene. In 2016, a knife was also found near a store in Keddie and sent in for testing. 

    While both Smartt and Boubede have since passed, investigators believe more culprits were involved and continue to search for answers in the case. They believe the main target was Tina Sharp, as she was taken from the cabin, unlike the other targets. A reward of $5,000 has been posted for any information that leads to the detainment and prosecution of any culprits in the case. Information can be given anonymously to the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office at 530-283-6360. You can also email the lead investigator, Detective Mike Gamberg, at

  • Tara Calico Vanished, 1988

    Tara Calico Vanished, 1988
    Photo: FBI /

    19-year-old Tara Calico was a student at the University of New Mexico when she disappeared. On September 20, 1988, at 9:15 am, Calico left her home in Belen, NM, to go on her usual 36-mile bike ride and never returned. She was last known to be riding along Highway 47 near the Rio Communities golf course wearing a white T-shirt with green and white striped shorts and turquoise tennis shoes. She was riding a neon pink Huffy mountain bike.

    Calico’s case gained media attention the following June when a Polaroid photo of a woman and young boy was found in a convenience store parking lot in Port St. Joe, FL. In the photo, both the woman and boy were bound, and their mouths were taped shut. People quickly began to wonder if the woman was Calico. Her mother, Patty Doel, believes it was her daughter in the photo. However, it has never been confirmed. The photo was analyzed multiple times by both the FBI and Scotland Yard; the FBI does not believe it is Calico, but Scotland Yard does.

    Despite the case being cold for two decades, new information was released on September 20, 2008 - the 20th anniversary of Calico’s disappearance. The sheriff of Valencia County, Rene Rivera, stated that he knew what had happened to Calico. Rivera said police knew the men, then boys, who were responsible for Calico’s disappearance. He also claimed the boys’ parents knew about it and covered it up. However, no remains have been found.