Richard Ramirez: "The Night Stalker"
There have been many theories offered as to what makes a person kill. Some say it’s because they experienced extreme trauma or abuse during their formative years. Others have ideas such as home environment and early childhood associations. Perhaps it was this that turned Ricardo Leyva a.k.a. Richard Ramirez into the person who would later become known as “The Night Stalker.”
Richard was described by his father as being "a good boy" up until about the age of 12. It was about that time his cousin, Mike, a Green Beret just back from the Vietnam War, came into his life. Young Richard became enthralled with Mike’s exciting war stories and pictures he showed him. But the real clincher was probably when Mike shot his wife in his presence after she complained of his laziness. He was sentenced to only seven years because of his exemplary war record.
By the age of 18 the El Paso, Texas native was an addicted substance abuser and had already established a long rap sheet and so decided to move to the Los Angeles area and start anew.
In California he graduated to breaking and entering. As time went on he became ever bolder and began lingering a while in homes he had burglarized. Soon, even the thrill he experienced at the prospect of getting caught faded.
In June of 1984, he found another way to get his rush of adrenaline. Richard broke into the home of 79 year old Jennie Vincow. When he couldn’t find anything worth stealing he became angry. Finding the elderly lady asleep in her room he murdered her.
For the better part of a year, Ramirez didn’t commit anymore crimes. But, then his period of inactivity came to an end. In March of 1985, Ramirez attacked Angela Barrio, 22, outside her home. He shot her and thinking she was dead barged on into her home. By a miracle Barrio survived the attack. As she raised her arms to protect herself the bullet had struck the keys she was holding and ricocheted harmlessly away. Inside the home he found Barrio’s roommate, 34 year old Dayle Okazaki who he immediately shot and killed.
But Ramirez wasn’t finished yet. In less than an hour he was in Monterey Park where he yanked a 30 year old woman out of her car and shot her several times. A policeman stumbled across her barely clinging to life, but she died before the ambulance arrived. Three days later he killed a young girl from Eagle Rock.
Richard’s murders now began to take on an even more grisly aspect…body mutilation. On March 27, Ramirez shot and killed 64 year old Vincent Zazarra and his 44 year old wife Maxine. Maxine’s body was found mutilated out. The police found footprints which they photographed and cast. Bullets found at the scene matched those found in other recent attacks and the police realized they had a serial killer on their hands.
Richard stayed low for about two months before his next attack. Harold Wu, age 66, was shot and killed. His wife, Jean, age 63, was beaten, but for reasons unknown, was allowed to live. By now the media was calling Richard “The Night Stalker.” Those lucky enough to have encountered Ramirez and lived to tell about it described him as “Hispanic, with long dark hair.”
Richard’s attacks became ever more gruesome with time. In May of 1985, Malvial Keller, 83, and her invalid sister, Blanche Wolfe, 80, were beaten with a hammer by Ramirez. Blanche survived the attack, but before he left he drew a pentagram on Malvial’s thigh and bedroom wall with lipstick. The following day, Ruth Wilson, 41, became Ramirez's next victim while her 12-year old son was locked in a closet.
The Los Angeles Police were being pressured to put an end to the Night Stalker’s reign of terror but so far every lead investigated came up empty as Ramirez's murderous spree continued:
· June 27: Six year old girl in Acadia.
· June 28: Patty Higgins, age 32
· July 2: Mary Cannon, age 75
· July 5: Deidre Palmer, age 16
· July 7 - Joyce Lucille Nelson, 61
· July 7: Linda Fortuna, 63
· July 20: Maxson Kneiling, 66, and wife Lela, 66,
· July 20: Chitat Assawahem, 31and wife Sakima, 29
· August 6: Christopher Petersen, 38, and wife, Virginia, 27, shot , but survived.
· August 8: Ahmed Zia, 35, and wife Suu Kyi, 28
· August 24: Bill Carns, 29, fiancée, Inez Erickson, 27 survived attack
However, with the last attack Erickson managed to crawl to a window and caught the license plate number as Ramirez drove off. It was the beginning of the end for “The Night Stalker.”
The police located the car, now abandoned, and were able to get fingerprints. The identity of “The Night Stalker” was now known and a warrant for his arrest made. His photo was immediately released to the media.
However, Richard was unaware his face was now plastered on the front page of every major newspaper in the country. As he was in a liquor store, the clerk recognized him and began yelling he was “The Night Stalker.” Ramirez fled with a small mob following close on his heels.
Ramirez attempted to steal a car not knowing the owner was underneath making repairs. He now had one more citizen in pursuit. The mob, which had been increasing in number and now armed with steel rods caught up with him. If the police hadn’t arrived when they did, taxpayers would have been spared the cost of a lengthy court trial. Reportedly, when the police intervened, Ramirez raised his hands begging for protection. Ironic, since so many had begged for mercy at his hand.
The Ramirez trial lasted over four years mainly due to the number of appeals filed. During the trial, Ramirez attracted several groupies who wrote to him regularly. In 1996 he married one of them, 41 year old Doreen Lioy.
On September, 20, 1989, Richard Ramirez, was found guilty on 43 counts. He was sentenced to death.