The Night Stalker
American serial killer murders at least 14 people before being caught in 1985
Richard Ramirez, also known as the Night Stalker, was an American serial killer who killed at least 14 people before being caught in 1985. Ramirez is one of America’s famous serial killers, and much like all of the others, his life was disturbing. Unfortunately, despite being a notorious serial killer, he often gets romanticized on the internet due to his looks.
Richard Ramirez was born on February 29, 1960, in Texas. He was the child of Mexican immigrants, and when he was 5-years-old, he received head injuries that caused him to start having epileptic fits. He spent a lot of time with his cousin who had fought in the Vietnam war, and his cousin told him stories about terrible things that he had done to Vietnamese women. When Ramirez was 13, he saw his cousin murder his wife. He dropped out of school in ninth grade, and he was arrested in 1977 for possession of marijuana. He eventually moved to California, and he was arrested twice for auto theft. He also admitted to having a cocaine addiction and gaining an interest in Satanism.
Ramirez’s first known murder occurred on June 28, 1984. He broke into 79-year-old Jennie Vincow’s home, sexually assaulted her, and then killed her. On March 17, 1985, he attacked Maria Hernandez, who managed to escape. He still managed to kill her roommate Dayle Okazaki. That same evening, he also shot Tsai-Lian Yu, which spurred a media frenzy that labeled him as the “Valley Intruder”.
Ten days later, Ramirez killed 64-year-old Vincent Zazzara and his 44-year-old wife Maxine. He first shot Vincent, then assaulted and stabbed Maxine. He repeated this attack pattern in May on William and Lillie Doi. Over the next few months, he continued to kill in the same pattern, while also performing satanic rituals in the homes. He left L.A. that August and traveled to San Francisco, where he claimed two more lives. He gained the new name “Night Stalker” since he was in a different area, and most of his murders took place at night in the victim's homes.
The list of his known victims is as follows: Jennie Vincow, Dale Okazasi, Tsai-Lian Yu, Vincent and Maxine Zazzara, William Doi, Mable Bell, Mary Louise Cannon, Joyce Lucille Nelson, Max and Lela Kneiding, Chainarong Khovananth, and Elyas Abowath. Ramirez murdered victims of all ages, and he typically sexually assaulted his female victims.
How Was He Caught?
On August 24, 1985, Ramirez wasn’t as careful with his attack. He was spotted outside of a home in Mission Viejo, and the witness wrote down his car and license plate. Later on, a woman who Ramirez had attacked was able to give a detailed description of him, saying that he had made her swear her love for Satan. His abandoned car was found a few days later, and his criminal record allowed the police to match him to being the Night Stalker. National TV and other media outlets released his old prison photos, which led to him being captured on August 31 after East L.A. residents beat him up for trying to break into cars.
Ramirez had to wait in jail for a long time for his trial. The trial continued to be pushed off due to bickering between the prosecutors and defense attorney, and the geographical spread of his crimes complicated things due to jurisdictional issues. Some of his charges ended up being dropped to have the process be less complicated. His jury selection process finally moved forward on July 22, 1988, and the actual trial happened the following January. Ramirez dressed in long black clothes for his courtroom appearances, and he attracted a cult-like following of mainly Satan supporters. Another delay in his trial happened because one of his jurors was found murdered on August 14, 1989. There were rumors that Ramirez somehow orchestrated her murder, but these rumors were never found to have any factual evidence supporting them. On September 20, 1989, the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict on 43 charges. The charges included 13 counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder, 11 sexual assault charges, and 14 burglary charges. The same jury recommended the death sentence for Ramirez, and he was formally sentenced to death in the gas chamber on November 7, 1989. He was sent to San Quentin Prison in California to spend the remainder of his days.
While he was in jail, he married one of his supporters, 41-year-old Doreen Lioy, in 1996. The more recent discoveries of how to use DNA samples have been able to link him to even more crimes. In 2009, a DNA sample connected him to the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in San Francisco back in 1984. Despite being sentenced to die, he never was executed. After nearly 24 years on death row, Ramriez died on June 7, 2013. He was 53-years-old, and he died due to complications from B-cell lymphoma.
Lioy, the woman who married Ramirez, was among many who claimed that he was innocent. She lived a relatively normal life, so her decision to marry a serial killer was odd to most people. She said that she didn’t mind his Satanism, and she praised him in interviews. It isn’t confirmed how their marriage ultimately ended, but Lioy stopped seeing Ramirez a few years before his death. She was far from the only one who claimed his innocence though: many women wrote letters to him while he was in jail, and to this day girls are still calling him cute online and saying things to try and lessen the severity of his crimes.
What Ramirez did was awful. He killed people of all ages from all different backgrounds, proving that nobody was safe while he was around. He never showed any remorse for his crimes, not even being the least bit upset when he was sentenced to die. He never once broke his character of being cocky and just outright evil. Ramirez is still known as one of the most notorious serial killers in America, and his title is going to continue to follow him long after his death.