Richard Ramirez's murders captured the attention of the entire country and news reports covered his crimes in gory detail. During a time when satanic panic was at its peak, the seemingly devilish crime wave was especially terrifying. It appeared as though the perpetrator was evil personified. He would break into homes in the middle of the night, rob, rape, murder, and finally draw pentagrams on the victims. His murder methods were varied and there was no discernable pattern to describe how he'd pick victims. The elderly, men, women, and even children were prey to his sick machinations.
Most everyone has heard about Ramirez - or the Night Stalker, as he was nicknamed by the media - but there's an interesting and often-overlooked detail regarding his capture. Continue reading to learn more facts about the stalker and how he was eventually arrested for his unspeakable crimes.
Richard Ramirez's Earliest Role Models Were Abusive In The Worst Ways
Richard Ramirez was born in El Paso, Texas on February 29, 1960. He was the youngest of five children born to Mercedes and Julian Ramirez - hardworking and deeply religious Mexican immigrants. The family lived in a modest home in a working-class neighborhood. While his former police officer father was attentive, he was prone to violence and known to have a nasty temper. The Ramirez children were often whooped with belts.
One of the older siblings had a school teacher who'd tutor at the home and molest his student. Family members insist that Richard was left alone with the pedophile on numerous occasions and that he, too, was a victim of molestation. Trying to avoid his father's violent outbursts and the alleged molestation, Ramirez began spending time at a local cemetery, where he would often spend the night.
During his teen years, he developed epilepsy, began having seizures, and was banned from playing football - one of his favorite activities. Because of this, the youth became somewhat of a loner but he admired and enjoyed spending time with his cousin Miguel (or Mike as he liked to be called). Mike had a reputation as the toughest guy in El Paso because of his love for fighting and eventually joined the army during the Vietnam War. While deployed, he raped and murdered Vietnamese women and took polaroids of his victims. Upon return, Mike shared violent war stories and gruesome photographs with his young impressionable cousin. Mike taught Ramirez how to hunt animals and use guns and knives to make kills efficient. One day with Ramirez present, Mike and his wife got into an argument. Mike ended up shooting and killing his wife right in front of his cousin.
He Was Taken Down By A 13-Year-Old
James Romero will forever be credited with helping catch the notorious Night Stalker, even though he was incredibly young. The police were already searching for the Night Stalker and had plastered his police sketch on many news outlets but young Romero was oblivious to the man-hunt.
When hanging out in his garage on August 25, 1985, the boy heard footsteps and noticed a man hiding behind his parents' car. He dashed to the house to inform his father then ran outside in time to see the prowler driving away. Romero took note of the car description and license plate and called police with the information. Within a week, authorities were able to locate the car and get Ramirez's fingerprint off of it.
Romero was hailed a hero and given reward money as well as a car for his actions. He had to testify a few years later during Ramirez's trial and stated that the deranged killer had stared at him in the courtroom and winked at him.
His First Adult Decisions Were Horribly Made
Ramirez eventually got his first job at a Holiday Inn. He had access to the hotel's master key and was known to sneak into guests' rooms and help himself to their belongings. The young criminal started sneaking into rooms and spying on naked women. On one occasion, he spied on a female guest while she showered and attempted to rape her. The guest's husband entered the room, though, and beat the boy off of his wife.
Ramirez was placed under arrest but the case was later dismissed as this was his first offense and the couple didn't want to return to El Paso to press charges. He was thusly fired from the Holiday Inn.
Though Richard Ramirez grew up attending Catholic mass and even served as an alter boy, he denounced the Catholic faith and studied satanism. Shortly after his religious change and arrest, he left his family in El Paso and moved to Los Angeles. There he resided in cheap motels and only ventured out at night when he would steal and buy drugs.
They Called Him The Night Stalker But That Wasn't His First Moniker
Police initially believed that Ramirez began his reign of terror on the night of June 28, 1984 when 79-year-old Jennie Vincow's son discovered her dead in her home. Ramirez broke in by removing the screen from one of the apartment windows but was angered to find nothing of value in the home. He proceeded to violently stab the elderly woman all over her face, back, neck, arms, and torso. Vincow was sexually assaulted and her throat was cut so brutally that she was almost decapitated.
Almost a year later, in March 1985, he would strike again. He spotted Maria Hernandez on the freeway and followed her home. Ramirez crept inside the garage and shot the woman while she closed her automatic garage door but she survived the attack. Ramirez left Hernandez in the garage to enter the apartment where he shot and killed her roommate, Dale Okazaki. Later that evening, Ramirez forced Tsai-Lian Yu off the road and shot her. Yu died from the gunshot wounds in the hospital.
11 days later, Vincent and Maxine Zazzara were found dead in their home. They were both shot in the head by Ramirez but Maxine had been stabbed multiple times all over and her eyes had been cut out. Police were never able to locate them. Police did discover a shoe print outside of the couple's bedroom window that they believed to be made by Ramirez's Avia athletic shoe.
Two months after the Zazarra murders, 66-year-old Bill Doi and his wife 56-year-old Lillian became victims of the Night Stalker. The husband was shot and beaten while the wife was bound and raped. Bill Doi died in the hospital from his injuries.
Ramirez broke into the house of elderly sisters Mabel Bell (83) and Florence Lang (81), that same month. He beat Lang with a hammer and raped her before beating and electrocuting her older sister. He also drew a pentagram on Lang's body and multiple other locations inside the home. Both women initially survived the attack but Bell later died from her injuries.
One day after attacking the sisters, Ramirez broke into the house Carol Kyle shared with her 11-year-old son. He sodomized Kyle repeatedly before robbing them and handcuffing them together. He let the victims live but threatened to kill them if they sought help from authorities.
Police soon began linking the crimes to one person and they referred to the perpetrator as the Valley Intruder.