Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.
He was tall, dark, and handsome. He spoke with an accent and was as dangerous as he was attractive. He had his own groupies, even marrying one while incarcerated, but he was no Latin lover. This man was a vicious rapist and murderer, among other things. Read on to find out why Richard Ramirez, a/k/a The Night Stalker, was the best of the worst.
Richard Muñoz Ramirez was the last child of five born to Julian and Mercedes Ramirez. He was born February 28, 1960 in El Paso, Texas. Richard grew up in a Catholic home. As a child he suffered two head injuries, the first at age two when a dresser fell on him as he was attempting to reach a radio. The accident rendered him unconscious for 15 minutes, and he required 30 stitches to close the resulting head wound. The boy also sustained a concussion for his trouble. At age 5, Richard was struck in the head by a playground swing, leaving him unconscious yet again.
Young Richard began having epileptic seizures in the fifth grade. He suffered these attacks until his early teens, when he outgrew the seizures as his doctors had predicted. It is interesting to note that his diagnosis was temporal lobe epilepsy. Some people afflicted with this condition can “have altered sexuality, and hyper-religious feelings, are hypergraphic (have a compulsion to write), and are excessively aggressive.” Could the epilepsy and head traumas, combined with his mother’s exposure to factory chemicals during her pregnancy, have contributed toward the making of a monster? Was he already wired to kill when he was born?
One can ascertain that Richard’s family helped shape the man he would become. One brother taught him how to steal. Richard also became a peeping tom with help from his brother-in-law. Cousin Mike returned from Vietnam, and he regaled his impressionable young cousin with stories of his time in the war while the pair cruised El Paso and smoked pot. Richard saw photos of females Mike terrorized. There were Polaroids showing Mike raping women, followed by photos of the same women decapitated. Richard would later admit that the photos did have an effect on him.
As if this weren’t bad enough on Richard, Mike taught him how to use weapons, how to avoid detection at night, and the best places in the body to stab and shoot someone.
When Richard was around 11, he witnessed his cousin Mike kill his wife. The fatal shot was delivered just feet away from the young boy. Although in the death row interview regarding his cousin’s influence on his life, Richard states, “I’m not blaming my cousin for anything; I want that clear. This just happened,” readers can’t help but believe that Mike played some part in creating the criminal.
His crimes escalated from burglary, slipping into people’s homes through unlocked windows and doors, to include rape and murder. Satanism would influence Richard when an inmate introduced him to it when he was jailed for car theft. He would later leave pentagrams at crime scenes, sometimes drawn on walls, other times carved into victims. He believed Satan would prevent him from being caught. He terrorized Californians in 1984 and 1985 before being caught by an angry mob in Los Angeles.
The Night Stalker was a particularly dangerous killer because anyone could find themselves his victim. He had no preference, anyone could be a target. He was a home invasion robber long before there was a name for it. Once he was inside a residence, he quickly subdued any males he found. With that threat removed, Richard was free to terrorize and victimize the women while ransacking their homes in search of valuables he would later trade for cash to fund his drug addiction and visits to prostitutes.
Richard used a variety of weapons on his victims including guns, knives, machetes, and tire irons. He mercilessly beat and raped them, stealing their property, but on occasion left survivors.
His crimes were exceptionally brutal. He was a tall man at 6’1” and he once kicked a woman so hard that his shoe sole left an imprint on her face. Another victim had her eyes removed for trying to fight back. If only the gun she pointed at him were loaded. Instead she suffered for her attempt to gain the upper hand on the intruder.
Of all his siblings, Richard was the closest to, and was protective of, his only sister. It baffles me how he could inflict such pain and torment on women when he loved his sister as much as he did. In the interview portion of the book he explains his thoughts on women and their feelings.
At the time of his death, Ramirez had pending appeals. Although none disputed his guilt, they did take issue with the location of the trial and his legal representation. I agree from reading this book that his attorneys lacked experience, but I believe the end result would have been the same. Perhaps the goal was to get Richard a life sentence rather than the death sentence that he received.
I put off reading The Night Stalker, not because I didn’t find Ramirez interesting, but because I found the length of the book daunting. At nearly 600 pages, it was difficult to put down and well worth the time.
The first half of the book details Ramirez’s back story and crimes. The second half is a detailed account of the trial. This is the point where true crime stories begin to lose their readers. This is not the case with The Night Stalker. His court appearances were anything but boring. Between Ramirez’s outbursts, his attorney’s breakdown, and the characters who appeared to watch the proceedings, every day had the potential to become a circus. One juror found herself in love with the defendant, while another female juror was found murdered during the lengthy trial, making other jurors fearful Ramirez had somehow orchestrated the killing from jail. Security was tightened due to rumors that Richard planned to smuggle a gun into court.
The victims’ testimony will break your heart, especially as Ramirez laughs at them. The Night Stalker also touches on the family of the accused, and what they endure during the proceedings. They are also in a way victims of their loved one’s crimes, and my heart went out to them as well.
Ramirez was one of the most violent and brutal men in the history of serial killers. The Night Stalker, like the man himself, was chilling. I found myself checking the security of my own home, and when I got too nervous, I reminded myself that the crimes occurred 3,000 miles away on the opposite coast, and that the perpetrator is dead. Author Philip Carlo didn’t live to see Ramirez die at age 53 on June 7, 2013, of natural causes, as he predeceased the killer by three years. Carlo spent over 100 hours with Ramirez for the writing of this book, and if you read it, be sure your copy includes the added death row interview. See you in Disneyland.