The Night Stalker terrified Southern California residents in 1985. Cloaked in darkness and hidden in shadows, the night stalker exploited the night. He hunted freely, breaking into homes and killing without mercy.
Sgt Frank Salerno was involved in the investigation. The night stalker would sneak into homes through windows. kill any male occupants before sexually assaulting female occupants. His first known victim was a 79 year old woman who lived alone. He removed a screen to her apartment and silently entered. He brutally attacked her, stabbing her multiple times in the torso. One key piece of evidence was found on her body, a fingerprint. At the time, there was no computerized or centralized fingerprint database so the evidence would only be valuable when or if the perpetrator was caught.
The sheriff’s office collected bullet casings from crime scenes and were able to match the grooves, thus confirming their fears of a serial killer operating in the area. The Night Stalker also left a pentagram at the scene, declaring his allegiance to Satan. He believed he was the lone instrument of Satan, a private emissary deserving of a special position in life and death.
The Night Stalker took the eyes of some victims. Paranoid psychotics are often fascinated with the eyes, because within the eyes of their victims, for a moment, they see themselves.
Richard Ramirez was born in 1960, the fifth child of devoted, deeply religious parents. He had a loving mother but his father was extremely strict, often unleashing violent punishments. Richard suffered accidental but traumatic head injuries in childhood and had epileptic attacks which proved disruptive in his life. It is possible Richard was sexually assaulted by a pedophile.
His cousin Mike, taught Richard to kill at a young age. Mike returned from Vietnam with a box full of trophies of murders he committed during war and recounted the experiences to Richard. Richard was also a witness when Mike murdered his wife. After the murder, Richard’s behavior changed dramatically, including drug use, dropping out of school and odd sleeping habits. Richard was groomed to be a killer.
He raped and killed: the young and the old; the weak and the infirmed. He believed he was immune to punishment. The more violent and vile his acts, the more publicized his crimes became and the gory details made headlines across the country. True crime stories captivate and titillate audiences. His victims were completely random, including victim profiles and cities. It wasn’t until a witness took down the license plate of a car leaving a crime scene that police got a break in the case. A fingerprint taken from the vehicle matched a fingerprint taken from Ramirez years earlier when he was arrested for car theft. Finally police were able to identify The Night Stalker.
Ramirez attempted escape, but was recognized by a crowd, chased and eventually captured. A six month killing spree was over. Richard Ramirez avoided prosecution for several years and never showed remorse for his crime. Ramirez flaunted his devotion to Satan and relished the opportunity to relive his crimes. Groupies came to court dressed in black and courted his attention.
Ramirez was convicted of 14 murders and received 19 death sentences. He remains on death row in San Quentin. The victims continue to wait for justice to be served.