Born To Kill? Richard Ramirez (5th anniversary of his death)
From April 1984 to August 1985 neighbourhoods around Los Angeles and San Francisco were terrorised by a sadistic serial killer who without any apparent motive tortured, raped and murdered men, women and children. At least 11 particularly violent rapes along with 13 gruesome murders were committed, mostly at night after breaking into the victim’s homes.
The killer was dubbed “The Night Stalker” and a massive police investigation was mounted to track him down.
Reign of Terror
The murders were committed with guns, knives, tyre irons, hammers and handcuffs and the police were horrified by the extent of the violence and butchery. The killer took ghastly “souvenirs” from the murder scenes – in one case a woman’s eyes were gouged out after she had been slaughtered.
Occult markings were also discovered and after some doubt, police began to increasingly suspect that all the murders were indeed the work of a single individual.
Nobody at the time knew his identity, but he turned out to be Richard Ramirez, a drop out and drifter who had emigrated to the United States from Mexico in 1982.
Richard Levya Munoz Ramirez was born in El Paso, Mexico on 29 February 1960. As a young boy he appeared to be pleasant and friendly
but as he approached puberty his friends and acquaintances noticed a change in his behaviour.
His older cousin Miguel had a strong influence on his early years. Miguel was a decorated but damaged Vietnam veteran who described to Richard in graphic detail his violent deeds during the war. And then in front of Richard, who was only 13 at the time, Miguel shot and killed his wife during a domestic argument.
After this Richard seemed to spiral downwards, using LSD and showing an interest in violent sexual fantasies and satanism. He then dropped out of school in ninth grade.
As a young man he moved to California and became a hard-core drug user and serial burglar, with an increasing sexual fetish emerging from within his crimes.
The “Night Stalker” murders began in 1984 when Ramirez was 24 years of age.
The Night Stalker is captured
All through the long, hot summer of 1985 of the rapes and killings escalated with the murderer usually gaining access to the victim’s houses at night through unlocked windows. As well as the shocking brutality of the murders, the killer also enjoyed humiliating his victims, sometimes demanding, under torture, that they pledge allegiance to Satan.
After intensive investigations, police recovered a fingerprint from a stolen car known to have been used by the murderer, and this produced a positive identification from police records. It was Richard Ramirez. His police mug shot was released to the media and in late August was distributed widely. The police and public now knew the name and face of their enemy.
This bore quick results, and soon after an astonishing chase took place across an East Los Angeles neighbourhood, with local residents pursuing a tall, dark haired man over the Santa Ana Freeway and through several fences before he was finally cornered. He was apprehended and held until police arrived and took him into custody.
The locals, already terrified by the killings and on high alert had recognised the man from the police photograph. Ramirez’s diabolical murder spree had finally come to an end.
Trial and Sentencing
Following his sensational capture Ramirez was put on trial and convicted on all charges – a shocking catalogue that included 13 counts of murder, 5 attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and several other serious crimes.
During these killings he exhibited what a judge later described as “cruelty, callousness, and viciousness beyond any human understanding”. He showed no signs of the least remorse during his trial – more a jeering arrogance that continued during all the legal proceedings.
He was sentenced to death after which he remarked
“Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland.”
But after numerous appeals delayed the sentence Ramirez died of lymphoma in 2013. He had been on death row for 23 years.
Experts conceded that his upbringing was not ideal but could in no way account for his monstrous behaviour. Many believed that instead, he was a defective human being who was born to kill.
By: R. Whitaker
Image: This mug shot of Richard Ramirez, taken on 12 December 1984 after an arrest for car theft, directly led to his apprehension, 12 December 1984, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.