Ricardo “Richard” Muñoz Ramirez (born February 29, 1960 in El Paso, Texas) is a convicted serial killer awaiting execution on California‘s death row at San Quentin State Prison. Prior to his capture, Ramirez was dubbed the “Night Stalker” by the news media.
Julian and Mercedes Ramirez had five children, the fifth being Richard Ramirez. The mother was a Catholic and his father was a former policeman who later became a laborer on the Santa Fe railroad. Richard’s father was also abusive and believed in corporal punishment.Early life
Ramirez may have been influenced into killing by his cousin, Mike, a Special Forces Vietnam War veteran who boasted of killing and torturing his Vietnamese enemies and showed him Polaroid pictures of his victims. These included pictures of the severed heads of Vietnamese women, who in other pictures had been shown fellating Mike.Ramirez was present the night Mike shot and killed his wife, and her blood splattered on Ramirez’s face. Ramirez was 13 years old at the time.
On March 17, 1985, Ramirez attacked 22-year old Angela Barrios outside her home. He shot her before entering her house. Inside was Dayle Okazaki, age 34, whom Ramirez immediately shot and killed. Barrios survived. The bullet had ricocheted off the keys she held in her hands, as she lifted them to protect herself. 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 her several times and fled. A policeman found her still breathing, but she died before the ambulance arrived. The two attacks occurring on the same day bolstered media attention, and in turn caused panic and fear among the public. The news media dubbed the attacker, who was described as having long curly hair, bulging eyes and wide-spaced rotting teeth, “The Walk-in Killer” and “The Valley Intruder”.
On March 27, Ramirez shot Vincent Zazzara, age 64, and his wife Maxine, age 44. Mrs. Zazzara’s body was mutilated with several stab wounds and 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. This was virtually 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 on the loose. Vincent and Maxine’s bodies were discovered in their Whittier home by their son, Peter.
By this time, a multi-county police investigation was in operation. The law enforcement agencies worked through the month of April with no additional attacks by Ramirez. Two months after killing the Zazarra couple, Ramirez attacked a Chinese couple: Harold Wu, age 66, who was shot in the head, and his wife, Jean Wu, age 63, who 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. Survivors of his attacks provided the police with a description of a tall Hispanic man with long dark hair.
On May 29, 1985, Ramirez attacked Malvial Keller, 83, and her disabled sister, Blanche Wolfe, 80, beating each with a hammer. Ramirez attempted to rape Keller, but failed. Using lipstick, he drew pentagrams 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.
In June and July, three more women were killed. Two had their throats slit, one was beaten to death, and all three had their homes invaded. On July 5 Whitney Bennett, age 16 of La Cañada, survived being beaten with a tire iron. On July 7 Linda Fortuna, 63, was attacked and Ramirez tried to rape her, but failed. On July 20 he again struck twice. In Sun Valley he shot and killed a 32-year-old man, Chitat Assawahem, and his wife Sakima, 29, was beaten and forced to perform oral intercourse. Ramirez then collected valuables and proceeded to leave. Later in the same day aGlendale couple, Maxson Kneiding, 66, and his wife Lela, also 66, were shot and their corpses mutilated.
On August 6 Ramirez shot both Christopher Petersen, 38, and his wife, Virginia, 27, in the head. Miraculously, they both survived. On August 8 Ramirez attacked a Diamond Bar couple, fatally shooting Ahmed Zia, 35, before raping, sodomizing, and forcing Zia’s wife, Suu Kyi, 28, to perform fellatio on him. The description of their attacker fit the previous ones given for “The Walk-in Killer”.
Ramirez then left the Los Angeles area, and on August 17, he shot to death a 66-year-old man in San Francisco, also shooting and beating his wife. The wife survived her wounds and was able to identify her attacker as “The Walk-in Killer” from police sketches. Since “The Walk-in Killer” no longer fit the modus operandi of the attacker, the news media re-dubbed him the “Night Stalker”.
The next big break in the case came on August 24, 1985, Ramirez traveled 50 miles south of Los Angeles to Mission Viejo, and broke into the Mediterranean Village apartment 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 forSatan and afterwards, forced her to perform oral intercourse on him. He then tied her and left. Erickson struggled to the window and saw the car Ramirez was driving. She was able to give a description of both Ramirez and his orange Toyota station wagon. A teenager later identified the car from news reports and wrote down half its license plate number. The stolen car was found on August 28, and police were able to obtain one fingerprint that was on the mirror of the vehicle. The prints belonged to one Richard Muñoz Ramirez, who was described as a 25-year-old drifter from Texas with a long rap sheet that included many arrests for traffic and illegal drug violations.
Two days later, his mugshots were broadcast on national television and printed on the cover of every major newspaper in California.The next day Ramirez was identified, surrounded, and severely beaten by an angry mob in East Los Angeles as he was trying to steal a car. Police had to break up the mob to prevent them from killing Ramirez.
Trial and conviction
Jury selection for the case started on July 22, 1988, and on September 20, 1989, he was found guilty of 13 counts of murder, 5 attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglarie During the penalty phase of the trial on November 7, 1989, he was sentenced to die in California’s gas chamber. The trial of Richard Ramirez was one of the most difficult and longest criminal trials in American history, taking over four years to finalize. Nearly 1,600 prospective jurors were interviewed. More than one hundred witnesses testified, and while a number of witnesses had a difficult time recalling certain facts four years after the crimes, others were quite certain of the identity of Richard Ramirez.
On August 3, 1988 the Los Angeles Times reported that some jail employees overheard Ramirez planning to shoot the prosecutor with a gun, which Ramirez intended to have smuggled into the courtroom. Consequently, a metal detector was installed outside of the courtroom and intensive searches were conducted on people entering. On August 14, the trial was interrupted because one of the jurors, Phyllis Singletary, did not arrive to the courtroom. Later that day she was found shot to death in her apartment. The jury was terrified; they could not help wondering if Ramirez had somehow directed this event from inside his prison cell, and if he could reach other jury members. However, Ramirez was not responsible for Singletary’s death; she had been shot and killed by her boyfriend, who later killed himself with the same weapon in a hotel. The alternate juror who replaced Singletary was too frightened to return to her home.
By the time of the trial, Ramirez had fans who were writing him letters and paying him visits Since 1985, freelance magazine editor Doreen Lioy wrote him nearly 75 letters during his incarceration.In 1988 he proposed to her, and on October 3, 1996, they were married in California’s San Quentin State Prison.Lioy has stated that she will commit suicide when Ramirez is executed.
On August 7, 2006 his first round of state appeals ended unsuccessfully when the California Supreme Court upheld his convictions and death sentence On September 7, 2006, the California Supreme Court denied his request for a rehearing.