Richard Ramirez was born in Texas, the youngest of five children of Mexican immigrants. He was a friendly and happy child, but suffered from two serious head injuries, once at the age of two and once at the age of five. His father was physically abusive, and as a child he suffered from fairly severe epileptic attacks. In his youth he was heavily influenced by an elder cousin who often told graphic stories of his time in Vietnam, and frequently showed the young Ramirez gruesome pictures. At the age of twelve he was present when this same cousin shot his wife, close enough to be splattered by some of her blood. As a teenager he was involved in illegal drugs, as well as petty theft.
Ramirez committed his first murder in July 1984, breaking into the apartment of an elderly woman, stabbing her to death. He left a fingerprint behind at the scene, but it was not then useful in identifying him. He next killed one woman in her house, shooting another in the garage of the house. Only an hour later he attacked another woman, dragging her from her car and shooting her several times. The woman who had been shot in the garage survived, and was able to give a description of him. Ten days later he invaded the home of an elderly couple, shooting the husband and wife and mutilating the wife's corpse post-mortem. He left behind footprints at the scene. He then went a month without killing, before invading the home of another couple in May. He shot the husband, and assaulted and raped the wife, though he did not kill her. This was followed in the end of that month by an invasion of a house belonging to two sisters, both of whom he beat with a hammer, killing one and injuring the other. He also left a number of satanic symbols at the scene, drawing a pentagram in lipstick on the thigh of the deceased victim, as well as on the wall. He committed his next attack the following day, breaking into the house of a middle aged woman and her young son, raping and sodomizing her before tying the mother and son together and leaving both alive. July saw a massive escalation of his actions, killing five and assaulting a further four. In early August he shot a couple in the head, though both survived. Two days later he shot a man and raped the man's life. After this he left the Los Angelesarea, where he had been operating up to this point, and travelled to San Francisco, where he killed a man and assaulted the man's wife. From San Francisco he headed south, breaking into the apartment of a young couple. He killed the man and raped the woman, before fleeing in a car that he had stolen. He was spotted leaving the scene by a teenager, who noted the license plate. When the ditched car was found, a fingerprint was found as well, and Ramirez was finally tied to the killings. Unaware that he had been identified, he left the area via bus, travelling to Arizona. Upon his return to California he was recognized by a number of citizens. He fled the area and attempted to steal a car, but continued to be recognized. He was chased through the streets by an angry mob, who eventually caught and attempted to kill him. He was rescued from the crowd by the police, who took him into custody. Ramirez's trial was long and difficult, as many jurors were terrified, especially after one of their number was murdered in an unrelated incident during the trial. He was found guilty of fourteen burglaries, thirteen murders, eleven sexual assaults, and five attempted murders in late September 1989. In early November of that same year he was sentenced to death. In 1996 he married Doreen Lioy, who had begun contact with him shortly after his arrest. He is currently being held on death row at San Quentin State Prison, awaiting the administration of the death penalty.
In Other Media
As a notorious killer, Ramirez has appeared in a number of films, books and television series, most of them biographical or documentary in nature. He appears in the 1989 television movie Manhunt: Search for the Night Stalker, where he is played by Gregory Cruz. He appears in the 2002 direct-to-video Mass Murder, where he is played by Chris Stack. He appears in the 2002 television movie The Night Stalker, played by Omar Alexis, and in the 2002 film Nightstalker, played by Bret Roberts. He also appears in A&E's Biography series, and in The New Detectives: Case Studies in Forensic Science, in the episode "Fatal Compulsion" wherein he is played by Mark Hyde