Richard Ramirez: A Stalker in the Night

We are all evil in some form or another, are we not?

-Richard Ramirez

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the Netflix documentary, Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer, I want to apologize if any of the details seem graphic for some readers. I have followed many serial killers—or rather read up or listened up on their cases—as once upon a time, I wanted to be a criminal prosecutor. I’m an avid ID channel watcher and feel sometimes the best way to look at these cases is to lay it out there. I will give a recap of the episodes in this documentary. Though I wasn’t born at the time that these horrible acts took place, I do want to extend my condolences and thoughts to the victims, survivors, and their families.

Picture of Richard Ramirez as a child. Black and white photo. He is not smiling. He is wearing a black shirt with his arms crossed.
Richard Ramirez when he was a child.

Richard’s Early Life and Things I Already Knew

Ricardo Leyva Munoz “Richard” Ramirez was born on February 29, 1960. He was the youngest of five children from his parents Julian and Mercedes Ramirez. His father used to be a Ciudad Juárez police officer before being working as a laborer for the Santa Fe railroad. It was said that Richard suffered an injury at the age of two when a dresser fell on him. He needed 30 stitches. It was also said that he was knocked unconscious at the playground when a swing hit him when he was six years old. That incident resulted in him having seizures until his teen years. His father was very violent towards him and would have him tied to a cross in a cemetery. He went to Jefferson High School in El Paso and dropped out in the ninth grade.

Richard would also steal from a young age. He was known as five finger Richie. He hung with his cousin Miguel “Mike” Ramirez during his time serving in Vietnam. Mike showed Richard pictures of the women he raped and murdered. Mike also killed his wife Jessie on May 4, 1973. Richard was 13 years old at the time. He was a “Peeping Tom” and a thief working for a Holiday Inn where he attempted to rape a woman. The charges were dropped, though.

I also knew about the case of Mei Leung prior to the documentary. On April 10, 1984, Richard beat, raped and stabbed Mei. He then hung her body from a pipe. I remember hearing about this around 2010, that this may have been the first time he killed as his DNA was connected to it. On June 7, 2013, I also knew Richard died from cancer.

Like many other serial killers before him, such as Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez has been analyzed for years.

A color picture of Richard showing his poor teeth. His mouth is open, but he isn;t smiling. He is standing near a blue wall wearing a black shirt.
Richard showing his teeth, which were discussed many times in the documentary.

Documentary Breakdown and My Thoughts

This documentary directed by Tiller Russell portrayed many things that I already knew. They were things that I first learned around 2008 in a law class. I looked up information a few times about Richard Ramirez and never could understand, even with my degree in developmental psychology, what can possess a person to be this cruel and to be this angry, to hurt people like this.

Episode 1: The first episode of the Richard Ramirez Night Stalker documentary opens with an introduction to one of the detectives that played a major role in this case. His name is Gil Carillo. After that, we hear from a factory worker named Esther Petschar who saw Richard Ramirez a few nights before he committed one of the first murders that started the cases discussed in this documentary.

On March 17, 1985, Petschar was in a thrift store and picked up this AC/DC hat and put it down. A man looked at her and picked the hat up. She didn’t think too much of it before she saw him again as he sped past her on the highway. She realized it was the same guy. This time he was wearing the AC/DC hat, and he had a devil tattoo on his hand. She said he looked at her as he passed her and gave her a grin, but he had no teeth, which reminded her of a killer clown.

The case of the crime that took place on March 17, 1985, in Rosemead, CA is the first murder talked about in the series. A cop sees the blood and finds the AC/DC hat. Richard killed Daryle Ozazaki, aged 34 years old. He also shot at her roommate Maria Hernandez. The bullet from the gun hit her keychain, and she is knocked down to the floor. She runs again, and he shot her again. She goes to the front door hoping, he would go out the back, but to her surprise, he comes out of the front. He seems startled by this, and after she begs him not to shoot again, he puts the gun down, smiles, and walks away.

Later that night, he kills Tsai-Lian “Veronica” Yu, aged 30 years old. He pulls her out of her car and shoots her twice. Her last words were her screaming “Help me!” She is found on the morning of March 18, 1985.

10 days later on March 2th, Richard killed the Zazzaras, Vincent (66 years old) and Maxine (44 years old). He shot Vincent with a .22 caliber gun and stabbed Maxine seven times and raped her. This was a change from the other two crimes, but this was also where he left a shoe print for the first time.

There is also discussion about child kidnappings and sexual assault. On February 25th, 1985, Richard took a six-year-old named Anastasia Hronas from her home. She said that Richard seemed like a family member to her. He abused and raped her for hours while Madonna played in the background. Richard then dropped her off at a gas station and told her to call 911. On Match 11th, Richard took a girl from school and raped her. He also took a boy from his home on March 29th and did the same.

On April 10, 1985, Gil thought the homicides and child abductions were related, but no one believed him as that had never happened before.

On May 14th, William Doi was shot. His wife Lillian was beaten and had thumb cuffs on her. She ripped her thumbs trying to free herself. William called 911, and that saved her life. Unfortunately, he passed away.

An eight-year-old girl was also taken from her home and raped at a construction site. Richard left a footprint in the concrete.

By this point, Gil had partnered up with Frank Salerno. There were several killings and attacks after this. On June 28th, Patty Elaine Higgins’ (32 years old from Arcadia, California) throat was cut. Then, on July 2nd, Mary Cannon’s (75 years old) throat was also cut. Three days later on July 5th, Richard beat Whitney Bennet, a 16-year-old from Sierra Madre, with a tire iron. She lived. He also left a footprint on the blanket, which confirmed that it was indeed the same guy.

So far from this episode, the only information that was new information to me was Esther Petschar seeing him in the thrift store when he went to buy the AC/DC hat. That was new to me and it did make me go hmm when that part came on. Everything else to this point, I did know from my previous study of Richard Ramirez.

Richard Ramirez donning sunglasses in the court room during trial. His hair is long and it shows him playing to the crowd.
Richard Ramirez in the courtroom donning sunglasses.

Episode 2: This episode starts with the case of The Hillside Stranglers, Kenneth Bianchi who worked with his cousin Angelo Buono, as they committed a series of rapes and murders. This was the case that Frank Salerno was known for.

During the summer of 1985, Gil and Frank realized that Richard killed using various means. There were no patterns as the victims were both old and young. On July 6th, John and Lorraine Rodriguez woke up to a noise coming from the window in the house. Richard left a shoe print, but he left the house while leaving them unharmed. It was then that the cops realized that the shoe was from a brand called Avia. Avia was uncommon at the time. The creator of the show gave impressions of the soles and showed that there were only six of those shoes in a size 11.5 made in the US. Five of those pairs went to Arizona, and one went to LA. This was more confirmation that it was the same guy.

On May 29, 1985, Mabel Bell (83 years old) and Florence Lang (81) were both beaten and raped. Mabel was beaten with a hammer. Both went to the hospital where Mabel died. This crime scene showed a pentagram on the wall and one on Mabel in lipstick. He left a partial shoe print on the alarm clock and used the cord of it to bind her legs. He also ate a snack while he was there. The episode then references a case where a man tried to kidnap a woman, and when he was caught he drew a pentagram once he heard from the police radio about the attempted kidnapping. He drew the pentagram on the Toyota and left. Gil asked to get evidence processed from the car, but he gets stonewalled.

On July 7th, Richard then killed Joyce Nelson (60 years old). He beat her so badly that he left a footprint on her head. He also left a print on the entryway. Joyce fought him. Richard then went to was Sophie Dickman (63 years old) and raped her, telling her not to look at him. She dragged herself handcuffed to the bed to called Linda Arthur, who was her neighbor and a crime scene analyst.

July 8th, the news media got involved, and one of the reporters was Laurel Erickson from NBC. She asked for an interview. The next day, Gil found out that the car he wanted to be processed had no value as it was left out in the heat.

On July 3rd, Richard went to the dentist Peter Leung under the name of Richard Mena. He had impacted teeth, and x-rays were shown to the police.

Now, by this point, you can see the way the LAPD worked during that time. There was institutionalized racism all rampant in the LAPD, which I believe also played a role in how Gil Carillo was able to do his job. The fact that Gil was saying the murders and kidnappings were connected and was being laughed at, and the delay on getting the car processed to me seemed more like an attempt to sabotage what Gil was trying to do with the case. His race certainly played a big role in the way the investigation was hindered. Even the other places that got involved seemed to want to have the upper hand on a case that Gil was involved with from the very beginning.

Police Sketch of Richard Ramirez. 2 pictures one with black hat on the left side. On the right side one with out. Lightskin White or Latino man who is gaunt and has curly hair. .
Police Sketch of Richard Ramirez that was given to the media.

Episode 3In this episode, we hear from the family members of Max and Lela Kneiding, who were murdered by Richard. He left a footprint at the crime scene. He also killed Chainarong Khovananth, who was 32 years old. He raped his wife and son, who was eight years old. He spent two to three hours there. Her description of him was the one that went to the media.

On August 6th, Richard shot Chris and Virginia Petersen, but Chris chased him out of the house. They lived. It was then that the police realized that he had a new gun—a .25 automatic. It was also then that the Herald-Examiner named him the Night Stalker.

On August 8th a woman named Sakina Abowath (27 years old) was raped in Diamond Bar. Her husband Elyas Abowath (35 years old) was shot dead. She was told to swear to Satan when she begged him to stop. He also ate melon while he was there.

On the morning of August 18th, they talk about Peter Pan (66) who was killed, and his wife Barbara was raped and shot. Richard ate food and vomited it up. He then masturbated at the crime scene and carved a satanic symbol on the wall. This is where we are introduced to detective Frank Falzon from San Francisco

On August 24th, in Mission Viejo, Richard shot Bill Carnes (29 years old), raped his girlfriend, and admitting to being the Night Stalker. It was also the time that James Romero witnessed some of this crime and was able to give partial plate numbers to identify Ramirez. The plate number was 482 RTS, and the car was stolen. Once found, the cops got a fingerprint from the car.

A woman called in on August 27th and said that her father was friends with a man who admitted to being the Night Stalker. She said his name was Rick from El Paso, and he hung out around the Greyhound bus station. The man took them to Tijuana, and the cops recovered the .22 caliber gun and a boom box stolen from one of the crime scenes. The gun matched the crimes.

An informant named Earl Gregg gave the police a bracelet that was linked to Richard. The bracelet originally came from a man named Armando Rodriguez. Armando said he got the bracelet from Rick from El Paso, a man with dirty hair and an AC/DC hat. Frank Falzone beat up Armando until he gave Rick’s name, which was Richard Ramirez.

While it was good to see the survivors’ and victims’ families speak, as I’m always interested to see how a person moves on from what was a nightmare, the vibe I got mostly was that this was a retelling of what the cops saw while living this gory, heroic story. And while it was great that Richard was finally caught, I think the docuseries glosses over the mistakes that allowed Richard to go on as long as he did.  Sure, he was able to get the job done eventually, but it was at the cost of many other victims because of the several blunders that occurred during this entire process.

The gleeful manner in which Detective Frank Falzon describes beating up the informant Armando Rodriguez in itself could’ve messed up the case, but it seemed that it didn’t even matter in the documentary. We hear a lot from the reporters at this point in the documentary. The vibes I got from them are that, while they said they were sad about all that happened, it didn’t seem too genuine. Seeing them joke about it made it seem like they dismissed a lot to get a story, and that bothered me. I understand doing a job, but a job can be done without the vibes I got from some of those reporters.

Richard Ramirez Police Photo. Richard has a dark blue shirt with his stomach exposed. His hair is black and curly. The button of his shirt is unbuttoned.
Police Photo of Richard Ramirez in the LA County Jail.

Episode 4: We get some well-known backstory about Richard. We are also introduced to Glen Carson, a librarian who directed Richard to the shelf sections with horoscope and torture books.

August 30th–31st, Richard came back from Arizona after visiting his brother. He was in the Greyhound bus station and noticed the cops. Richard left and ran into a store where he saw his face on the newspaper. He gets on the bus, and a passenger realizes that it’s him and calls the cops. Richard tries to get away, and this leads to him trying to carjack Manuel de la Torre and Angelina de la Torre. They chase him, and neighbors in the area beat him up and keep him there. It is there that Andy Ramirez, a sheriff, arrests him.

Gil and Frank put Richard in the same cell as Kenneth Bianchi, which he seemed to like.

This episode also discusses the six-year-old victim Anastasia, who identified him. Richard’s dad hires Daniel and Arturo Hernandez to be Richard’s defense attorneys even if they seemed unqualified for the case.

A picture of Richard Ramirez. He is wearing a blue LA County prisoner jumpsuit. He is wearing a white t shirt underneath. His dark hair is a bit longer.
Richard Ramirez in LA County during his trial.

He is brought to court on October 24, 1985, where he pleads not guilty. He played to the crowd, showing his pentagram on his hand and women fawning over him.

Finally on, January 31, 1989, three and a half years after his arrest, he goes to trial for 43 crimes, 13 murders, robbery, and rape. The prosecution had 140 witnesses. On September 20, 1989, he is found guilty of 42 counts of murder, and on November 7, 1989, he is sentenced to death in the gas chamber. It was then that he said this:

You don’t understand me. You are not expected to. You are not capable. I am beyond your experience. I am beyond good and evil.

-Richard Ramirez

In 1994, Richard agreed to be interviewed by Philip Carlo. During this interview, he said he didn’t want any conversations taped. He also said the following:

Is there such a thing as a bad seed when a baby is born? Is he already a serial killer, already made, or is he created?

-Richard Ramirez

This episode relit my anger about the fact that Ramirez went on for months killing and hurting men, women, and children. It was also insane how he seemed almost egotistical and nonchalant about it all. I was also aware of the women who seemed interested in him because he was “famous,” even though he had body odor, poor hygiene, missing teeth, and bad breath. Most importantly, he killed and hurt many people. The pictures of these women showing him their body parts were a harsh reality in that they seemed almost disillusioned about who this man was.

By the end of this, we hear from the survivors’ and victims’ families often. For me, it would’ve been nice for them to be able to reclaim something from the horrors that happened. However, I got more of an added punch by having them tell the details, which were graphic in some cases.

Final Thoughts

To me, this documentary was very blunt and to the point. It gave a pretty solid rundown on the police’s timeline of when it started for them, the places Richard did his crimes, and the mechanics the investigation took to the day Richard was finally arrested. Night Stalker gives information that not only was already publicly known but, if you were new to this case, you were introduced to him in a way that could seem almost cruel. It was told in a gory manner, and nothing was sugarcoated. The pictures of the crime scenes and the details paint a picture that makes you sick to your stomach.

There were things that I considered to be unprofessional, and they are portrayed as heroism throughout. Did Gil Carillo and Frank Salerno get their guy? Yes, but being told the story from this perspective seemed more like an attempt to sensationalize the story from the cops’ perspective.

Personally, I wish that the documentary would have given new insight into Richard Ramirez without rehashing the details many knew and making them as graphic as possible. Even though the director said that he didn’t want to glamorize what happened, the events are told in succession in a way that almost seems like that’s what they did.

It was solid, but there wasn’t much I saw that was new knowledge to me. That in itself was disappointing. It would have been nice to learn something outside of the details that were already known and the “evil” that lurked in this man.

Looking for more on serial killer documentaries? We’ve got you:

The Ted Bundy Tapes 

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Written by Katrina

Katrina is a writer, podcaster, Youtuber and a wrestling backstage correspondent. She loves wrestling. So much so that during the Thunderdome era, she was a frequent visitor. When she isn't being sarcastic or laughing at memes, she is reading a good book. She also enjoys binge watching crime shows, anime, horror movies or watching her favorite matches. Katrina also is an award-winning author, writing under the name Kay Blake. She has a YouTube channel called In Kat We Trust, and a podcast called Kickin' Back with Kat where she interviews wrestlers from all over.

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