The Baby of the Family:
Ricardo Leyva a.k.a. Richard Ramirez was born in El Paso, Texas, on February 28, 1960, to Julian and Mercedes Ramirez. Richard was the youngest child of six, epileptic, and described by his father as being "a good boy," until his involvement with drugs. Richard admired his father, but at the age of 12, he found a new hero, his cousin, Mike, a Vietnam veteran and ex-Green Beret.
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Ramirez Finds a Hero:
Mike, home from Vietnam, shared gruesome pictures of rape and human torture with Richard, who became fascinated with the pictorial brutality. The two spent a lot of time together, smoking pot and talking about war. On one such day, Mike's wife began to complain about Mike's laziness. Mike's reaction was to kill her by shooting her in the face, in front of Richard. Because of Mike's war record, he was sentenced to seven years for the killing.
Drugs, Candy and Satanism:
By the age of 18, Richard was a habitual drug user and chronic candy eater, resulting in tooth decay and extreme halitosis. He also became involved in Satan worshipping and his general poor appearance enhanced his satanic persona. Already arrested on numerous drug and theft charges, Ramirez decided to move to southern California. There he advanced from simple theft to breaking and entering into homes. He became very proficient at it and eventually began to linger in the homes of his victims.
On June 28, 1984, his burglaries turned into something far more evil. Ramirez entered through an opened window of Glassel Park resident, Jennie Vincow, age 79. According to Philip Carlo's book, 'The Night Stalker,' he became angry after not finding anything of value to steal, and began stabbing the sleeping Vincow, eventually slitting her throat. The act of killing aroused him sexually, and he had sex with the corpse before leaving.
Savored Memories Fade:
Ramirez remained quiet for eight months, but the memory he savored of his last killing had run dry. He needed more. On March 17, 1985, Ramirez jumped 22-year-old Angela Barrio outside her condo. He shot her, kicked her out of the way, and headed into her condo. Inside, was roommate, Dayle Okazaki, age 34, who Ramirez immediately shot and killed. Barrio remained alive out of pure luck. The bullet had ricocheted off the keys she held in her hands, as she lifted them to protect herself.
The Thirst for More:
Within an hour of killing Okazaki, Ramirez struck again in Monterey Park. He jumped 30-year-old Tsai-Lian Yu and pulled her out of her car onto the road. He shot several bullets into her and fled. A policeman found her still breathing, but she died before the ambulance arrived. Ramirez's thirst was not quenched. He then murdered an eight-year-old girl from Eagle Rock, just three days after killing Tsai-Lian Yu.
Post-mortem Mutilations Become His Mark:
On March 27, Ramirez shot Vincent Zazarra, age 64, and his wife Maxine, age 44. Mrs. Zazzara's body was mutilated with several stab wounds, a T-carving on her left breast, and her eyes were gouged out. The autopsy determined that the mutilations were post-mortem. Ramirez left footprints in the flower beds, which the police photographed and cast. Bullets found at the scene were matched to those found at previous attacks, and the police realized a serial killer was on the loose.
Ramirez's MO - Kill the Man Quickly:
Two months after killing the Zazzara couple, Ramirez attacked again. Harold Wu, age 66, was shot in the head, and his wife, Jean Wu, age 63, was punched, bound, and then violently raped. For unknown reasons, Ramirez decided to let her live. Ramirez's attacks were now in full throttle. He left behind more clues to his identity, and was named, 'The Night Stalker,' by the media. Those who survived his attacks, provided the police with a description - Hispanic, long dark hair, and foul smelling.
Pentagrams Found at the Crime Scene:
On May 29, 1985, Ramirez attacked Malvial Keller, 83, and her invalid sister, Blanche Wolfe, 80, beating each with a hammer. Ramirez attempted to rape Keller, but failed. Using lipstick, he drew a pentagram on Keller's thigh and on the wall in the bedroom. Blanche survived the attack. The next day, Ruth Wilson, 41, was bound, raped, and sodomized by Ramirez, while her 12-year old son was locked in a closet. Ramirez slashed Wilson once, and then bound her and her son together, and left.
His Killing Spree Terrorized Los Angeles:
Ramirez's 1985 killing and rape spree continued:
- June 27 - Ramirez raped a 6-year-old girl in Acadia.
- June 28 - Patty Higgins, age 32, was beaten and her throat slit.
- July 2 - Mary Cannon, age 75, was beaten and her throat slit.
- July 5 - Deidre Palmer, age 16, survived being beaten with a tire iron.
- July 7 - Joyce Lucille Nelson, 61, was bludgeoned to death.
- July 7 - Linda Fortuna, 63, was attacked and Ramirez tried to rape her, but failed.
- July 20 - Maxson Kneiling, 66, and his wife Lela, also 66, were shot and their corpses, mutilated.
- July 20, Chitat Assawahem, 31, was shot and his wife Sakima, 29, was beaten then forced to perform oral sex. Ramirez then collected $30,000 in valuables, but before leaving, he sodomized the couple's eight-year-old son.
- August 6 - Ramirez shot both Christopher Petersen, 38, and his wife, Virginia, 27, in the head. Both somehow survived.
- August 8 - Ramirez shot Ahmed Zia, 35, and raped and sodomized his wife, Suu Kyi, 28, and forced her to perform oral sex on him.
On Aug. 24, 1985, Ramirez traveled 50 miles south of Los Angeles, and broke into the home of Bill Carns, 29, and his fiancée, Inez Erickson, 27. Ramirez shot Carns in the head and raped Erickson. He demanded she swear her love for Satan and afterwards, forced her to perform oral sex on him. He then tied her and left. Erickson struggled to the window and saw the car Ramirez was driving.
A teenager wrote down the license plate number of the same car, after noticing it cruising suspiciously in the neighborhood.
The information from Erickson and the young man enabled police to locate the abandoned car, and get fingerprints from inside. A computer match was made of the prints, and identification of the Night Stalker became known. On August 30, 1985, the arrest warrant for Richard Ramirez was issued and his picture released to the public.
Next: The End of the Night Stalker - Richard Ramirez
The Night Stalker by Philip Carlo
Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare