Within an hour of the Rosemead home invasion Ramirez pulled 30-year-old Tsai-Lian “Veronica” Yu out of her car in Monterey Park, shot her twice with a .22 caliber handgun, and fled. She was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The two murders (and third attempt) in a single day attracted extensive coverage from news media, who dubbed the curly-haired attacker with bulging eyes and wide-spaced, rotting teeth “The Walk-In Killer” and “The Valley Intruder”.
On March 27, 1985, Ramirez entered a home that he had burgled a year earlier in Whittier at approximately 2 a.m. 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 her husband’s murder, and Ramirez beat her and bound her hands while demanding to know where her valuables were. While he ransacked the room, Maxine escaped her bonds and retrieved a shotgun from under the bed, which was not loaded. An infuriated Ramirez shot her three times with the .22, then fetched a large carving knife from the kitchen. Her body was mutilated with multiple stab wounds, and her eyes were gouged out and placed in a jewelry box, which Ramirez left with.
The autopsy determined that the mutilations were post-mortem. Ramirez left footprints from a pair of Avia sneakers 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 at large. Vincent and Maxine’s bodies were discovered by their son, Peter.
On May 14, 1985, Ramirez returned to Monterey Park in search of another random victim and entered the home of Bill Doi, 66, and his disabled wife Lillian, 56. Surprising Doi in his bedroom, he shot him in the face with a .22 semi-automatic pistol as Doi went for his own handgun. After beating the mortally wounded man into unconsciousness, Ramirez entered Lillian’s bedroom, bound her with thumbcuffs, then raped her after he had ransacked the home for valuables. Bill Doi died of his injuries while in the hospital.
On the night of May 29, 1985, Ramirez drove a stolen Mercedes-Benz to Monrovia and stopped at the house of Mabel “Ma” Bell, 83, and her sister Florence “Nettie” Lang, 81. Finding a hammer in the kitchen, he bludgeoned and bound the invalid Lang in her bedroom, then bound and bludgeoned Bell before using an electrical cord to electrically shock the woman. After raping Lang, he used Mabel Bell’s lipstick to draw a pentagram on her thigh, as well as one on the wall of both bedrooms. Discovered two days later, both women were found alive but comatose; Bell later died of her injuries.
The next day, he drove the same car to Burbank and sneaked into the home of Carol Kyle, 42. At gunpoint, he bound Kyle and her 11-year-old son with handcuffs and ransacked the house. He released Kyle to direct him to where the family’s valuables were; he then sodomized her repeatedly. He repeatedly ordered her not to look at him, telling her at one point that he would “cut her eyes out”. He fled the scene after retrieving the child from the closet and binding the two together again with the handcuffs.
On July 5, 1985, Ramirez broke into a home in Sierra Madre and bludgeoned sixteen-year-old Whitney Bennett with a tire iron as she slept in her bedroom. After searching in vain for a knife in the kitchen, Ramirez attempted to strangle the girl with a telephone cord. He was startled to see sparks emanate from the cord, and when his victim began to breathe, he fled the house believing that Jesus Christ had intervened and saved her. She survived the savage beating, which required 478 stitches to close the lacerations to her scalp.
On July 7, 1985, Ramirez burglarized the home of Joyce Lucille Nelson, 61, again in Monterey Park. Finding her asleep on her living room couch, he beat her to death using his fists and kicking her head. A shoe print from an Avia sneaker was left imprinted on her face. After cruising two other neighbourhoods, he returned to Monterey Park and chose the home of Sophie Dickman, 63. Ramirez assaulted and handcuffed Dickman at gunpoint, attempted to rape her, and stole her jewelry; when she swore to him that he had taken everything of value, he told her to “swear on Satan”.
On July 20, 1985, Ramirez purchased a machete before driving a stolen Toyota to Glendale. He chose the home of Lela Kneiding, 66 and her husband Maxon, 68. He burst into the sleeping couple’s bedroom and hacked them with the machete, then killed them with shots to the head from a .22 caliber handgun. He further mutilated their bodies with the machete before robbing the house of valuables. After quickly fencing the stolen items from the Kneidling residence, he drove to Sun Valley. At approximately 4:15 am, he broke into the home of the Khovananth family. He murdered Chainarong Khovananth, by shooting the sleeping man in the head with a .25 caliber handgun, killing him instantly. He then repeatedly raped Somkid Khovananth, beating and sodomizing her. He bound the couple’s terrified eight-year-old son before dragging Somkid around the house to reveal the location of any valuable items, which he stole. During his assault he demanded that she “swear to Satan” that she was not hiding any money from him.
On August 6, 1985, Ramirez drove to Northridge and broke into the home of Chris and Virginia Peterson. Ramirez crept into the bedroom and startled Virginia, 27; he shot her in the face with a .25 caliber semi-automatic handgun. He shot Chris Peterson in the temple and attempted to flee, but Peterson fought back and avoided being hit by two more shots during the struggle before Ramirez escaped. The couple survived their injuries.
On August 8, 1985, Ramirez drove a stolen car to Diamond Bar and chose the home of Sakina Abowath, 27, and her husband Elyas Abowath, 31. Sometime after 2:30am he entered the house and went into the master bedroom. He instantly killed the sleeping Elyas with a shot to the head from a .25 caliber handgun. He handcuffed and beat Sakina while forcing her to reveal the locations of the family’s jewelry, and then brutally raped and sodomized her. He repeatedly demanded that she “swore on Satan” that she would not scream during his assaults. When the couple’s three-year-old son entered the bedroom, Ramirez tied the child up and then continued to rape Sakina. After Ramirez left the home, Sakina untied her son and sent him to the neighbours for help.
When news of the attack broke, Romero told his parents about the strange man in the orange Toyota, and they immediately contacted the police and provided the partial license plate number. Erickson was able to give a detailed description of the assailant to investigators. The stolen car was found on August 28 in Wilshire, and police were able to obtain a single fingerprint from the rear view mirror despite Ramirez’s careful efforts to wipe the car clean of his prints. The print was positively identified as belonging to 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.
Law enforcement officials decided to release a mugshot of Ramirez from a December 12, 1984, arrest for car theft 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 Tucson, Arizona, to visit his brother, unaware that he had become the lead story in virtually every major newspaper and television news program across the state of California. After failing to meet his brother, he returned to Los Angeles early on the morning of August 31. He walked past officers who were staking out the bus terminal in hopes of catching the killer should he attempt to flee on an outbound bus. He walked a few blocks to a convenience store in East Los Angeles. After noticing a group of elderly Mexican women fearfully identifying him as “El Matador” (or “The Killer”), Ramirez saw his face on the covers on the newspaper rack and fled the store in a panic.
After running across the Santa Ana Freeway, he attempted to carjack a woman, but was chased away by bystanders, who pursued him. After hopping over several fences and attempting two more carjackings, he was eventually subdued by a group of residents, one of whom had struck him over the head with a metal bar in the pursuit. The group held him down, relentlessly beating him until police arrived and took Ramirez into custody.
Ramirez claimed that he has been mistakenly identified and did everything possible to delay the onset of the trial, which saw him charged with 14 murders and 31 other felonies in connection to his killing spree. Because he changed his legal counsel a number of times and the geographical spread of his attacks also complicated the scope of the trial with jurisdictional issues, some of the charges against Ramirez were dropped in order to expedite what was becoming a long journey to justice.
Almost three years after his apprehension, on July 22, 1988, the jury selection process began. The case took a full year to hear, given the number of witnesses and sheer amount of evidence. During this time, Ramirez attracted a large, cult-like following – many of whom were black-clad Satan worshipers – who appeared daily at his trial. One of his supporters was Doreen Lioy, whom he married while serving time in prison. Further unsettling the jury was Ramirez’s own nonchalant behaviour.
In 1994 Ramirez was featured in Issue 4 of the controversial magazine “Answer Me!”, known as “The Rape Issue” he did a questionnaire, here it is:
- Favourite Sports : Rugby, Football, Boxing
- Favourite Music : Heavy Metal
- Favourite Actress : Samantha Strong
- Favourite Vacation Spot : URANUS
- Favourite Food : Women’s feet
- Favourite Color : Red
- Pastimes / Hobbies : Traveling and measuring coffins
- Biggest Like : Cocaine
- Biggest Dislike : Hypocrites, Authority
- Make a Wish : To have my finger on a nuclear trigger device
- What do you look for in a girl : Nice Ass, Good Legs
- Perfect way to spend a date : Moonlit night drinking rum at a cemetary
- Describe Yourself : Asshole – and proud of it
- Motto : Live each day as if it’s your last.
- If you like a girl, how do you get a girl to notice you? : I pull out my gun
- What’s one thing you’d change about yourself? : Not a damn thing, except where I’m at.
- How has your life changed as a result of your success? : Privacy is a thing of the past.
- What’s your message to your fans? : Keep your spirit strong.
Following his conviction, Ramirez was linked to several more vicious crimes. 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. Ramirez had appeals pending until the time of his death.
After 23 years on death row, Richard Ramirez died on June 7, 2013, at the age of 53, from complications related to B-cell lymphoma. According to San Quentin corrections officers, Ramirez’s death came shortly after he was taken to Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, California. He had also been affected by “chronic substance abuse and chronic hepatitis C viral infection”. At 53 years old, he had been on death row for more than 23 years.