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Netflix’s docuseries, "Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer."

“I believe in a malevolent being, his description eludes me but I have felt powers that are evil.” - Ramirez

By Erin BarteskiPublished 2 years ago 10 min read
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“A serial killer comes about by circumstances like a recipe. Poverty, drugs and child abuse. These things contribute to a person’s frustration and anger and at some point in life, he explodes.” - Richard Ramirez

The four-part series features actual crime scene photos and centers on Richard Ramirez, a serial killer known as the Night Stalker who terrorized Southern California in the 1980s. Although, this series left me with goosebumps. I felt that a few important details were left out. His upbringing was briefly touched on, but in order to fully understand one’s psyche, it is paramount in understanding how a person will react to the shit life throws at you.

Ricardo Leyva Muñoz Ramírez, was a 24 year old American serial killer, serial rapist, and burglar. His home invasion crime spree terrorized the residents of the Los Angeles and San Francisco from 1984 until 1985. He used a wide variety of weapons, including handguns, knives, a machete, tire iron, and a hammer. Ramirez never expressed any remorse for his crimes, stating he didn’t particularly care for people.

Ramirez was born in El Paso, Texas on February 29, 1960, the youngest of five children to hard working and strict parents. His father Julian, was a former Mexican policeman and was prone to fits of anger that often resulted in abuse. As a child, Richard hit his head on two different occasions, hard enough to be knocked unconscious and claimed to suffer from seizures afterwards.

Richard looked up to his older cousin, Miguel, a decorated U.S. Army Green Beret combat veteran who often flaunted his gruesome exploits during the Vietnam War. He shared photos of his victims, including the severed head of a woman he had raped and killed. Ramirez had been taught some of his military skills. Around this time, he began to seek escape from his father's temper by sleeping in a local cemetery.

Ramirez witnessed his cousin Miguel fatally shoot his wife, in the face during an argument. He then moved in with his older sister, Ruth, and her husband, an obsessive "peeping Tom" who took Richard along on his nocturnal adventures. Ramirez began experimenting with LSD and cultivated an interest in Satanism.

While still in school, he took a job at a Holiday Inn, where he used his master passkey to rob sleeping patrons. A hotel guest returned to find Richard attempting to rape his wife and beat Ramirez senseless. Ramirez dropped out of High School in the ninth grade. At the age of 22, he moved to California. Richard never seemed to be out of cash because he sold everything he stole and was able to afford his cocaine and acid addiction.

On April 10, 1984, Ramirez murdered 9-year-old Mei Leung in the basement of the hotel where he was living, in San Francisco. He raped and beat the girl before stabbing her to death, and then hung her body from a pipe. This was Ramirez's first known killing.

On June 28, 1984, 79-year-old Jennie Vincow was found brutally murdered in her apartment in Glassell Park, Los Angeles. While asleep, she had been stabbed repeatedly and her throat slashed so deeply that she was nearly decapitated. Ramirez's fingerprint was found on a mesh screen he removed to gain entrance through a window. He would often watch and stalk his victims, wait for them to fall asleep before slipping in.

On March 17, 1985, Ramirez attacked 22-year-old Maria Hernandez outside her home in Rosemead, California, shooting her with a .22 caliber handgun after she pulled into her garage. The bullet ricocheted off the keys she held in her hands as she lifted them to protect herself and survived. Her roommate inside, Dayle Okazaki, 34, who heard the gunshot and ducked behind a counter when she saw Ramirez enter the kitchen. When she raised her head he shot her once in the forehead, killing her.

On March 27, 1985, Ramirez entered a home that he had burglarized a year earlier in Whittier, California, and killed the sleeping Vincent Zazzara, age 64, with a gunshot to his head from a .22 caliber handgun. Zazzara's wife Maxine, age 44, was awakened by the gunshot, and Ramirez beat her and bound her hands. While he looked for valuables, she escaped her bonds to retrieve a shotgun from under the bed, which was not loaded. This infuriated Ramirez and he shot her, then mutilated her body with a large carving knife from the kitchen. He gouged out her eyes and placed them in a jewelry box, which he left with. Ramirez left footprints from a pair of Avia sneakers in the flower beds. This was the only evidence that the police had at the time. Bullets found at the scene were matched to those found at previous attacks, and the police realized a serial killer was at large.

On May 14, 1985, Ramirez returned to Monterey Park and entered the home of Bill Doi, 66, and his disabled wife, Lillian, 56. Surprising Doi in his bedroom, Ramirez shot him in the face with a .22 semi-automatic pistol as he went for his own handgun. After beating the wounded man into unconsciousness, Ramirez entered Lillian's bedroom, bound her with thumb-cuffs, then raped her after he had ransacked the home. Bill later died of his injuries.

On the night of May 29, 1985, Ramirez drove a stolen car to Monrovia, California, and stopped at the house of Mabel Bell, 83, and her disabled sister, Florence Lang, 81. Finding a hammer in the kitchen, he bludgeoned and bound Lang in her bedroom, then bound and bludgeoned Bell before using an electrical cord to shock the woman. After raping Lang, he used Bell's lipstick to draw a pentagram on her thigh as well as on the walls of the bedrooms. The women were found two days later. Bell had succumbed to her injuries.

The next day, Ramirez drove to Burbank, California, and slipped into the home of Carol Kyle, 42. At gunpoint, he bound Kyle and her 11-year-old son with handcuffs. He released Kyle to direct him to where the family's valuables were, he then raped her repeatedly. Ramirez ordered her not to look at him, telling her that he would cut her eyes out.

On the night of July 2, 1985, he drove to Arcadia, California, and randomly selected the house of Mary Louise Cannon, 75. After entering the widowed grandmother's home, he found her asleep in her bedroom. He bludgeoned her into unconsciousness with a lamp and then repeatedly stabbed her using a 10-inch butcher knife. She was found dead at the scene.

On July 5, 1985, Ramirez broke into a home in Sierra Madre, California, and bludgeoned 16-year-old Whitney Bennett with a tire iron as she slept in her bedroom. Ramirez attempted to strangle the girl with a telephone cord. When electrical sparks emanated from the cord, he fled believing that Jesus Christ had intervened. Bennett survived the savage beating.

On July 7, 1985, Ramirez burglarized the home of Joyce Nelson, 61, in Monterey Park. Finding her asleep on her couch, he beat her to death using his fists and kicking her in the head. A shoe print from an Avia sneaker was left imprinted on her face. Then he chose the home of Sophie Dickman, 63. Ramirez assaulted and handcuffed Dickman at gunpoint, attempted to rape her, and stole her jewelry.

On July 20, 1985, Ramirez drove a stolen Toyota to Glendale, California and chose the home of Lela Kneiding, 66, and her husband Maxon, 68. He burst into the couple's bedroom and hacked them with the machete, then killed them with shots from a .22 caliber handgun. He further mutilated their bodies with the machete before robbing the house. After quickly fencing the stolen items, Ramirez drove to Sun Valley.

At approximately 4:15 am, he shot the sleeping Chainarong Khovananth in the head with a .25 caliber handgun, killing him instantly, then repeatedly raped and beat Somkid Khovananth. He bound the couple's terrified 8-year-old son before dragging Somkid around the house to reveal the location of any valuable items.

On August 6, 1985, Ramirez drove to Northridge, California, and broke into the home of Chris and Virginia Peterson. He crept into the bedroom, startled Virginia, 27, and shot her in the face with a .25 caliber semi-automatic handgun. He shot Chris in the neck but he fought back while avoiding being hit by more shots before chasing Ramirez out the door. The couple survived their injuries.

On August 8, 1985, in Diamond Bar, California, at the home of Sakina Abowath, 27, and her husband Elyas Abowath, 31. He went into the master bedroom and instantly killed the sleeping Elyas with a shot to the head from a .25 caliber. He handcuffed and beat Sakina and then brutally raped her. He demanded that she “swear on Satan” that she would not scream. After Ramirez left the home, Sakina untied her son and sent him to the neighbors for help.

Ramirez, who had been following the media coverage of his crimes, left Los Angeles and headed to the San Francisco Bay area. On August 18, 1985, he entered the home of Peter and Barbara Pan. He shot Peter, 66, in the temple with a .25 caliber handgun. He then beat and sexually assaulted Barbara, 62, before shooting her in the head and leaving her for dead. Ramirez used lipstick to scrawl a pentagram and the phrase “Jack the Knife” on the bedroom wall. When it was discovered that the ballistics and shoe print evidence from the Los Angeles crime scenes matched the Pan crime scene, San Francisco's then-mayor Dianne Feinstein divulged the information in a televised press conference. This leak infuriated the detectives on the case, as they knew the killer would be following media coverage, which gave him opportunity to destroy forensic evidence.

Ramirez broke into the house of Bill Carns, 30, and his fiancé, Inez Erickson, 29, through a back door. Ramirez awakened Carns when he cocked his .25 caliber handgun. He shot Carns three times in the head before turning his attention to Erickson. Ramirez forced the woman to swear she loved Satan as he beat her with his fists and bound her with neckties from the closet. After stealing what he could find, he dragged Erickson to another room to rape her. Before leaving the home, Ramirez told Erickson, “Tell them the Night Stalker was here.”

The stolen car was found in L.A., and police obtained a fingerprint from the rear-view mirror despite Ramirez's careful efforts to wipe the car clean. He was described as a drifter from Texas, with a long rap sheet that included many arrests for traffic and illegal drug violations. Law enforcement released a mug shot of Ramirez to the media, and the “Night Stalker” finally had a face. At the police press conference it was announced: “We know who you are now, and soon everyone else will. There will be no place you can hide.”

On August 30, 1985, Ramirez took a bus to Arizona, to visit his brother, unaware that he had become the lead story in every major newspaper and television news program. After failing to meet his brother, he returned to Los Angeles early the next day. He walked past police officers, who were staking out the bus terminal in hopes of catching the killer should he attempt to flee.

After noticing a group of elderly women fearfully identifying him as “el matador” (the killer), Ramirez saw his face on the front pages on the newspaper rack and fled. He attempted to carjack a woman but was chased away by bystanders, who pursued him. Richard was eventually subdued by a group of people, one of whom had struck him over the head with a metal bar. The group held Ramirez down and relentlessly beat him until police arrived.

The actions of authorities in this series were annoying the say the least because, time and time again we see the lack of communication between divisions and districts working on similar cases. The shortage of state funds and having to follow orders from your superior, made it difficult to catch this killer in a timely fashion. They knew Ramirez had an impacted tooth from evidence collected in a routine traffic stop, where he fled on foot leaving his belongings in the car. Law enforcement staked out the dentist’s office until the officers were pulled because it was a deemed a waste of money. A burglar alarm button was installed under the counter but it had malfunctioned.

In all actuality, it wasn’t even law enforcement that ended up catching him. The scared people of California seemed to rise up in the form of an angry mob, beating and kicking him until authorities arrived to arrest him for his own safety. Ramirez at this point was tired of running, exhausted, hurt and all too relieved to climb into the back of that police car.

In video footage of Ramirez appearing in court, I began to see why some women saw him as a sex object with his defining features. He had a confident, arrogant way about him. His fan base grew during his highly publicized trial. Eye witness accounts of him stated he had bulging eyes, sunken cheeks, rotten, gapped teeth, wore dirty clothes, disheveled hair and even had a distinct body odor as a person living on the street would.

At his first court appearance, with a pentagram drawn on his hand yelled, "Hail Satan!" On September 20, 1989, Ramirez was convicted of all charges: thirteen counts of murder, five attempted murders, eleven sexual assaults, and fourteen burglaries. Ramirez was sentenced to die by gas chamber. He stated to reporters, "Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland."

“They are desires where if I didn’t give into them, I would be crushed by them. I believe in the evil of human nature, this is a wicked, wicked world and in a wicked world, wicked people are born. I’m not gonna blame society, my race, people or anything. It is up to the individual, like myself to keep on knocking on the door they want to get into.” - Ramirez

Ramirez died of complications due to B-cell lymphoma at age 53 in a California Hospital, on June 7, 2013, while awaiting execution.

“Richard Ramirez.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 August 2022, .en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Ramirez.

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About the Creator

Erin Barteski

Fascination with the unknown

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