Top 10 Facts About Richard Ramirez the Night Stalker
Born Ricardo Leyva Muñoz Ramirez in 1960, Richard Ramirez was one of the world’s most sensational serial killers. After an upbringing in poverty in El Paso, Texas, he would eventually move to the West Coast and terrorize Los Angeles and San Francisco in a series of exceptionally violent murders and home invasions. Like fellow serial killer Ted Bundy, Ramirez would attempt to charm his fans with smiles for the camera after his arrest, and he garnered a large following of female admirers.His brutal crimes featured a wide array of weaponry like handguns, tire irons, knives, and even a machete, and he was an avowed Satanist, who never displayed any remorse for his crimes. Ramirez was only 24-years-old when he began murdering people, and his crimes took place over an exceptionally brief few years during which he took the lives of 14 confirmed victims and also committed countless assaults, burglaries, and attempted murders.Here are some of the most fascinating and interesting facts about Richard Ramirez: The Night Stalker.
10. The Same Lead Detective Handled the Hillside Strangler and Night Stalker Investigations
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, California seemed beset with serial killers that included the Hillside Strangler and the Night Stalker. The Hillside Strangler was actually a pair of men who raped, tortured, and killed young women in the hills around Los Angeles. Similarly, Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, would also commit his string of murders in homes around Los Angeles County. The lead detective on both of the cases was a man named Frank Salerno, who was a sergeant at the time.
According to an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 1985, the Hillside Strangler case suffered from a disjointed and scattered investigation. Detectives actually questioned Kenneth Bianchi, one of the Hillside Stranglers, more than once, and none of the detectives realized they were investigating the same man over and over. The panic was so great during the Strangler investigation that the sheriff’s department eventually put more than 160 men on the case to sift through an incredible 10,000 leads. As the trial for the Hillside Stranglers was wrapping up, Richard Ramirez was stalking his victims, having been inspired by the duo’s grisly crimes.
By the time Richard Ramirez started terrorizing Los Angeles residents, Sergeant Salerno was experienced in serial killer cases and didn’t make the same mistakes during the investigation. Incredibly, just a few weeks after Salerno gave his interview to the L.A. Times, Richard Ramirez was arrested in late August of 1985. Although Ramirez had experienced a violent and poverty-stricken childhood and was an adherent of Satanism, would he have committed his string of murders if not for the actions of the Hillside Stranglers?
9. “The Night Stalker” Wasn’t Ramirez’s First Nickname
Reporters who cover sensational crime stories often give the criminals nicknames, and the Night Stalker is no exception. Many people know Richard Ramirez by his given name, as well as his nickname, but the Night Stalker was not the first label the media gave to him. Reporters at an old L.A. newspaper called the Los Angeles Herald Examiner had a brainstorming session one night and eventually came up with the name Night Stalker. Some of the names they came up with before settling on Night Stalker were rather amusing and included “The Walk-in Killer,” and “The Screen Door Intruder.”
In fact, before Ramirez’s arrest, the mystery killer was usually called The Valley Intruder because of how many of his crimes were committed in the San Fernando Valley and the way in which he would invade someone’s house to commit assault and murder. Oddly, Ramirez didn’t kill all of his victims. Some of his victims were beaten and sexually assaulted but survived their attacks. For example, a 63-year-old woman named Linda Fortuna was raped and sexually assaulted, but Ramirez decided to rob her and leave her alive before escaping. Other victims weren’t so lucky and were murdered by gunshots, beatings, and knife wounds.
Interestingly, the reporters at the Herald Examiner didn’t know many of the details about the killer when they decided to name him the Night Stalker. The name was based on a television movie from the early 1970s about a vampire who killed people in Las Vegas. It’s interesting that the reporters would choose to base Ramirez’s nickname off a movie about a vampire since it would eventually come out during his trial that Ramirez was an adherent to Satanism.
8. Richard Ramirez Used a Cornucopia of Weapons to Murder His Victims
When a profiler looks at a serial killer’s crimes, he or she will develop a theory about the killer’s MO, which is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase “modus operandi.” An MO literally means “method of operation” and describes the killer’s method for killing his victims. Most of Ramirez’s attacks occurred at night in the homes of his victims. He’d dress all in black to hide his approach and would then enter the home to perform a variety of attacks that ranged from sexual assault to robbery to murder.
One of the hallmarks of serial killers is the rituals they develop that are connected with their attacks. They’ll use a specific sequence to pull off their murders, and they’ll perform this sequence the same each time. Often, the MO becomes more complex, and the murder become more ritualized over time as the killer becomes more adept at killing his victims. For example, a killer might begin by strangling his victim with his hands, but then he might graduate to using implements to help him, such as rope.
Richard Ramirez is a fascinating serial killer because of the number of different weapons he used to kill his victims, as well as the varied ages, genders, and socioeconomic statuses of those he killed. He often raped women and robbed them, but he also used knives for stabbing and even cut people with a machete. He also used a hammer to bludgeon a victim, as well as a tire iron as his weapon. For many of his attacks, Ramirez would burglarize the house, murder the husband, and then rape the wife. Ramirez even employed a .22 revolver in some of his murders.
7. Richard Ramirez Allegedly Wanted to Shoot His Trial Prosecutor
After The Night Stalker had been arrested in 1985, his zeal for committing crimes was by no means extinguished. He often flirted with the cameras at his trial appearances, and he made bombastic comments whenever he was in earshot of microphones. At the end of his trial, when he was convicted, he was heard to say, “No big deal. Death always comes with the territory. I’ll see you in Disneyland.” In the middle of his trial, law enforcement tasked with keeping the courtroom safe found out about a plot Ramirez had planned to get a gun into the courtroom so he could shoot the prosecutor on the case.
After the plot was discovered, the security teams at the courthouse had metal detectors installed so that everyone who entered the courtroom had to pass through them. After Ramirez was sent to prison, he continued to plot a return to crime. An article in the NY Post published some months after Ramirez’s death suggested he’d hatched two plots to escape prison so that he could continue his murder spree. Ramirez apparently believed that if he could escape, he’d be able to commit a string of additional murders before the police would be able to catch him.
The first of Ramirez’s escape plans was prevented in the fall of 1993 when Ramirez was being brought back to prison and had to pass through a metal detector. The machine beeped as Ramirez walked through, and law enforcement found a key inserted in his rectum that would open his handcuffs. If Ramirez had been successful, he’d planned to steal a car and go on a crime spree. The second escape plan never got out of the planning stages since guards at the prison found out about a potential plot after reading a letter from an obsessed Night Stalker fan.
6. The Night Stalker Got His Trial Delayed for Three Years
Richard Ramirez committed many of his crimes without taking significant breaks, and the city of Los Angeles was in a panic in 1985 during the summer as he was committing his murders, rapes, burglaries, and beatings. In a flurry of activity, law enforcement in L.A. eventually caught Ramirez, and he was arrested on August 31, 1985. He would eventually be charged with 14 homicides, as well as dozens of other felonies connected to those murders and other attacks. Incredibly, it wouldn’t be until July of 1988 that jury selection would begin.
An article published by The Chicago Times in 1989 suggested that the trial could feature up to 1,000 witnesses and could take around two years before the jury would decide a verdict. The presiding judge made his displeasure with the attorneys well known by accusing them of “juvenile antics” in their attempts to get the trial delayed. Apparently, the defense team was routinely without the required information and paperwork during the various hearings that occurred in advance of the start of the trial. Significant delays had come from the legal teams arguing over the race of the jurors. Eventually, a jury of six African Americans and six Latinos would hear the trial.
The deputy district attorney on the case told reporters he was frustrated at the number of motions and appeals the defense team had dumped on the court in an effort to get the trial delayed. The delays were a tactic by the defense to make it more difficult to convict Ramirez. A great length of time between the crimes and the trial makes the prosecutor’s job more difficult because witnesses forget things over time. Despite the delays, the jury would eventually convict Ramirez of the murders on September 20, 1989, more than four years after his initial arrest.