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THE NIGHT STALKER. Richard Ramirez. Case Background.

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The night stalker


Richard Ramirez

Case background
Case Background

  • Richard Ramirez was arrested for thirteen murders, five attempted murders, six rapes, three lewd acts on children, two kidnappings, three acts of forced oral copulation, four counts of sodomy, five robberies and fourteen burglaries. He was convicted on 43 of those counts at 2:20 on September 20th, 1989, in a Los Angeles county courtroom in California. He was subsequently given the death sentence on October 3rd of that same year.

  • Habitual drug user and (self proclaimed) Satanist

  • This case is significant to the case of law as it allows for the study of psychological issues which contribute to the behaviour of serial killers.

  • It is also important in that Ramirez was different from other criminals

    • Crimes different in nature as he varied methods

    • Traveled to different cities

    • He did not have a specific victim type (ie. Bundy whose victims had long dark hair parted down the middle or Gacy whose victims were young males)


  • Richard was born in 1960 in El Paso, Texas to hard working Mexican immigrants, Julian and Mercedes

  • All five Ramirez children had health problems; Richard was epileptic, but otherwise healthy

    • US Government throughout the 1950s was conducting nuclear bomb tests in nearby New Mexico, and as it happened, the fallout from the bombs was carried by the wind to settle in El Paso

  • All family members were physically beaten by the father for any wrong doing

  • While he had many siblings to spend time with, he was very influenced by his cousin, Michael, a Vietnam War Veteran

    • Showed Richard photos of the rape and torture of Vietnamese women at age 12

      • Richard was sexually aroused by these images although he knew it was wrong

    • Taught Richard to shoot a gun and use a knife

    • Michael killed his wife in front of 12 year old Richard

  • This was only the beginning of a life of hatred and crime

The crimes
The Crimes

  • Ramirez moved to Los Angeles at age 18 where he associated with other scandalous people

  • He purchased a master set of keys to Toyota and Honda cars. Nightly he drove around Los Angeles looking for homes to rob

  • Once he mastered these burglaries, he took it to the next level to include torture and murder

    • Burglary turned into brutal murder of 79 year old Jennie Vincow

  • His murder routines included rape, torture, mutilation and necrophilia

  • Became known as the “Night Stalker”

  • Crimes marked by satanic mutilations on his victims as well as sexual abuse of women who were sometimes forced to sing praises of Satan

  • His victims ranged in age from the young children to the elderly


  • Killing and rape spree of 11 victims continued between the months of June and August of 1985

  • On August 24, he traveled 50 miles out of Los Angeles and broke into the home of Bill Carns and fiancé Inez Erickson

    • He shot Carns and raped Erickson

    • He tied her up, but she managed to reach the window and see the car Ramirez was driving

  • A teenager wrote down the license plate number of the same car after noticing it cruising suspicious

  • This allowed the police to find the abandoned car which had Ramirez’s fingerprints

  • The identity of the Night Stalker became known and a warrant was issued for his arrest, and his picture was available to the public. He was captured by civilians the next day

    • Mobbed and beaten as he tried to steal a car


  • After many delays, the trial began in January of 1989

  • LA County prosecutor, Phil Halpin intended to introduce at least 400 exhibits as evidence including finger prints, ballistics evidence and shoe imprints

  • It was also reported that in jail in 1985, Ramirez referred to himself as the “super criminal”, admitting he loves to kill and killed 20 people.

  • Halpin used circumstantial evidence to link Ramirez with the show prints at the crime scenes, with his appearance in the vicinity of the crimes, with his shifting MO, with the possession of stolen items from the victims homes

  • Also had “signature evidence”, pentagram

  • Prosecution rested after using 137 witnesses and 521 exhibits


  • After the prosecution rested its case it became clear the defense strategy would be that the eight eye witnesses wrongly identified Ramirez

  • Arturo and Daniel Hernandez, Ramirez’s lawyers did not know enough about legal procedure, and did not have assistance from Ramirez who did not seem interested

    • When asked to assist he said, “Dying doesn't scare me. I'll be in hell.  With Satan”

    • Hernandez’s hired a more experienced lawyer

  • Defense claimed prosecutions evidence was inconclusive or defective

    • Found that there were unidentified fingerprints as well as hair and blood samples that did not belong to Ramirez nor his victims

  • Defense called on Julian Ramirez, Richard’s as an alibi to say that Richard was in El Paso beginning in May

    • Prosecution found that Ramirez was in fact in Los Angeles during the time his father stated having dental work

  • The defense never claimed the client was innocent, but rather tried to prove the prosecution was faulty

  • One lawyer argued that Richard may actually be the devil, and in that case, the devil deserves sympathy too

Evidence summary
Evidence Summary

  • Bullets

    • Compared bullets of crime scenes in the same night; evidence of a serial killer

  • Shoe prints

    • Ramirez’s Avia shoe prints were at the scene of the crime as well as on the face of a victim

  • In jail he said that he killed at least 20 people and loved all that blood

    • Shows no remorse and admitted to being a “super criminal”

  • Finger prints

    • Ramirez’s fingerprint were found in the abandoned car he had stolen matched those found at crime scenes

    • At the time fingerprints were only useful once the suspect was identified

  • Pentagrams

    • Numerous Satanic pentagrams left at crime scenes, in a car the bore Ramirez’s fingerprints, on a victim’s thigh, and in his prison cell

Decision and sentence
Decision and Sentence

  • On September 20, 1989 Ramirez was found guilty on 43 counts

  • He was sentenced to death on nineteen counts

  • Added a speech to the court:

  • He has sat in a cell for the past 22 years on death row

    • Experts familiar with the case say they are only about halfway through the appeals in which case Ramirez will be waiting until he is 71, if he is still alive.

"You do not understand me. I do not expect you to. You are not capable of it. I am beyond your experience. I am beyond good and evil. Legions of the night, night breed, repeat not the errors of night prowler and show no mercy. I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells within us all."


A few theories may be used to explain criminal behaviour

  • The Ecological School

    • Criminal behaviours are fostered or encouraged in certain environments

    • He was not from an affluent area, and associated himself with drug addicts and psycho cousin

  • Socialization

    • Did not develop proper social skills as a result of upbringing, peers, mentors

    • In his upbringing he was abused for any wrong doing

    • In moving to Los Angeles he associated with scandalous people

    • Cousin Michael was a major influence and mentor in his life

    • Never got direction in his thoughts

Theories continued
Theories Continued

  • Biological Trait Theory

    • 1959 during her pregnancy with Richard, Mercedes a boot factory mixing pigments and chemicals used on the boots. She was mixing chemicals such as benzene, xylene and toluene and unfortunately in that era, the toxicity of these chemicals was unknown.

  • Psychological Factors

    • Was psychologically damaged in being taught to shoot a gun, use a knife and rape women, witnessing a murder at a young age

      • Repressed emotions

    • Addictions may lead to psychiatric disorders as well

    • He is a sociopath

    • May possible have a neurological dysfunction associated with the crime as his siblings and many other people undergo abuse as children and do not become serial killers

Works cited
Works Cited

  • Barnes, Ed. “In California, Killers Sit on ‘Symbolic’ Death Row for Decades, Costing Billions Read more:‌us/‌2010/‌03/‌22/‌california-killers-sit-symbolic-death-row-decades-costing-billions/‌#ixzz1JQ2e9S8T.” FOX News. N.p., 22 Mar. 2010. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <‌us/‌2010/‌03/‌22/‌california-killers-sit-symbolic-death-row-decades-costing-billions/>.

  • Bruno, Anthony, and Katherine Ramsland, PhD. “The Night Stalker: Serial Killer Richard Ramirez.” TruTV. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <‌library/‌crime/‌serial_killers/‌notorious/‌ramirez/‌trial_9.html>.

  • “Capture and Trial.” Richard Ramirez. World News. WN, n.p., N/‌A. World News Digest. Web. Transcript. 11 Apr. 2011. <‌Richard_Ram%C3%ADrez>.

  • Grise, Jennifer. Richard Ramirez. NYU. NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, Dec. 2000. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <‌classes/‌keefer/‌ww1/‌grise.html>.

  • Montaldo, Charles. “The End of the Night Stalker.” About. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <‌od/‌serial/‌p/‌nightstalker2.htm>.