Inside Richard Ramirez's Childhood

Richard Ramirez, also known as the Night Stalker, terrorized the city of Los Angeles between 1984 and 1985. During that time, he committed 13 murders, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries. Most of the incidents occurred in the homes of the victims themselves, as Ramirez entered in the dead of night, surprising and terrifying anyone inside.

Are serial killers born violent or are they victims of their environment? Mental health care professionals and law enforcement have asked that age-old question many times, with some leaning toward nature and others toward nurture. In the case of Richard Ramirez, unfortunate incidents, abuse, and improper guidance in his childhood may have shaped his life. By all accounts, his very early life was relatively normal, but the normalcy was short-lived.

Photo: user uploaded image

  • He Was The Youngest Of Five Children
    Photo: By San Quentin State Prison, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    He Was The Youngest Of Five Children

    Richard Ramirez was born to Julian and Mercedes Ramirez, Mexican immigrants, on February 29, 1960. They raised their five children in El Paso, TX; Richard was their youngest.

  • His Father Was Allegedly Physically Abusive

    According to Ramirez, his father had a temper he took out on his family. It was reportedly a family trait, and Ramirez and his brothers also experienced their own explosions. Perhaps to escape his father's outbursts, Ramirez began sleeping in cemeteries.

  • He Had Epilepsy, And His Siblings Also Had Medical Issues

    All five of the Ramirez children had medical difficulties believed to be the result of two things: the US government's nuclear bomb test fallout that the wind carried from nearby New Mexico to El Paso, and Mercedes Ramirez's job mixing pigments and chemicals at a boot factory.

    Richard Ramirez was also struck in the head twice as a young boy - once when a dresser fell on him, and once when a swing knocked him unconscious. Ramirez began having seizures and received a temporal lobe epilepsy diagnosis.

  •  He Reportedly Had A Horrible Temper
    Photo: designsbykari / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    He Reportedly Had A Horrible Temper

    By the time he hit puberty, Ramirez's temper had increased. He hoped to play sports, but due to his epilepsy, he wasn't allowed on fields or courts. With his athletic dreams crushed, he drew into himself and became more prone to aggression and outbursts like his father and brothers.

    He also withdrew from his friends and his family, with very few social outlets.

  • His Vietnam Vet Cousin Shared Graphic War Stories With Him

    Richard Ramirez did have one person he looked up to: his cousin Mike Ramirez. Mike was a decorated Green Beret and Vietnam vet who shared his war stories and weed with the impressionable young boy. Mike also saved photos of his assaults, mutilations, and kills in Vietnam and shared them with Richard.

  • He Witnessed His Cousin Shoot His Own Wife

    Mike Ramirez was married to a woman named Jessie, who wanted him to stop hanging out with Richard and find a job. One day in 1973, Richard noticed Mike's loaded .38-caliber pistol in the couple's refrigerator. Jessie was on her way home with groceries.

    When she entered, she again told Mike to get a job. He calmly walked to the refrigerator, pulled out the pistol, and shot her. From jail, Mike asked Julian Ramirez to go back to the apartment and grab some of Jessie's jewelry. Richard went with his father, and later described the visit:

    That day I went back to that apartment, it was like some kind of mystical experience. It was all quiet and still and hot in there. You could smell the dried blood. Particles of dust just seemed to hover in the air. I looked at the place where Jessie had fallen and died, and I got this kind of tingly feeling...

    Then my father told me to look in her pocketbook for the jewelry my cousin wanted, and I dumped Jessie's pocketbook on the bed and looked through her things. It gave me the weirdest feeling. I mean, I knew her, and these were her things, and she was dead. Murdered. Gone. And I was touching her things. It made me feel... in contact with her.