The Ones That Got Away: Shot by The Night Stalker

Zach Villa as Richard Ramirez in American Horror Story 1984.

The Night Stalker prowled the bedroom communities in southern California during the mid-’80s. Eventually identified as Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker broke into houses he chose at random. If he found a man in the house, he shot him. Then, Ramirez tied up the woman, r*ped her, and forced her to tell him where the valuables were in the house. Once she said there weren’t any more valuables, he would force her to swear on Satan or pray to Satan. Unlike many serial killers, Ramirez didn’t have a type. His victims were men, women, and children of all ages.

Ramirez was convicted of 13 murders and 11 sexual assaults in 1989. He received the death penalty. However, Ramirez died of liver failure in 2013.

Bill Carns and Inez Erickon’s lives were altered forever after Ramirez broke into the home they shared in Mission Viejo, California, on April 25, 1985.

Lou Diamond Phillips as Richard Ramirez in The Night Stalker (2016)
Lou Diamond Phillips as Richard Ramirez in The Night Stalker (2016).

Going West

In a 2013 Daily News article, “‘Night Stalker’ attack survivor’s life has been forever altered,” it was reported that North Dakota native Bill Carns’ job transferred him to southern California. He was a computer technician for Burroughs Corp. in Fargo. The company sent Bill all over the United States and even to Belgium.

Those who are close to Bill describe him as a “bright star.” The Daily News quoted his brother-in-law, Ken Knodel, as saying, “He had such a bright future […] I think of what he could have been quite often.” Described as fun-loving, Billy even extended his Belgium trip to celebrate Oktoberfest in Germany. 

Bill worked as a troubleshooter but wanted to be a systems designer. When he gave Burroughs notice, they made him an offer to keep him on board—a transfer to southern California. Bill took them up on the offer. In 1984, he moved into a house on Chrisanta Drive in Mission Viejo. He was 28 years old at the time.

Bill enthusiastically went to work right away, making changes to his new home. He modified speakers, amps, and stereo systems and soon converted a sunroom into a music room. Bill’s girlfriend from North Dakota, Inez Erickson, moved in a couple of months later.

The Night Stalker

He kept in touch with his mother regularly. Like clockwork, Anne Carns called her son every Thursday at 9:30 PM. Their last conversation before the attack was on Thursday, August 22, 1985. The Daily News reported that before ending the conversation, Anne told her son, “Billy, keep your doors locked and your windows closed. There’s a sick man killing people up and down the coast of California.”

Bill worked in his garage on the night leading up to the shooting. He stopped working around midnight and went to bed. He would never be the same again. On August 25, 1985, Ramirez broke into Bill’s home through an open window. He shot Bill five times with a .25-caliber handgun. Three shots hit Bill in the head. As Bill lay unconscious, Ramirez took the ties that Bill wore to work, tied up his girlfriend, r*ped her, and then forced her to pray to Satan. Ramirez stole some jewelry, including Bill’s college ring and watch, and his girlfriend’s promise ring and earrings. He also took two videocassette recorders, a compact disc player, and a camera. Ramirez put the items in a laundry bag and even took the dirty laundry with him when he left. After he left, Bill’s girlfriend untied herself and ran across the street to the neighbors’ house.

Inez Identifies Richard Ramirez 

A 1987 UPI article, “A woman who claims Night Stalker suspect Richard Ramirez…,” includes Inez’s testimony about what happened. She testified for the prosecution at Ramirez’s preliminary hearing in Orange County Municipal Court. The hearing was to determine if there was enough evidence for Ramirez to go to trial.

Inez provided a description of their attacker to the police. She identified Richard Ramirez in a police lineup 11 days after the attack. 

“‘I heard three gunshots. Bill and I were sleeping together, and Bill flew over and landed on my arm, and then this man grabbed me by the hair and pulled me out of bed.’” She told police that Ramirez tied her up with her fiance’s neckties. 

In her testimony, Inez said that Ramirez rummaged through their home looking for money and jewelry.  As Bill lay unconscious, Ramirez untied Inez’s feet and repeatedly r*ped her in the bedroom. At one point, Ramirez tied her up again and continued to search for money and jewelry. She said that when Ramirez didn’t turn up any more valuables, he returned to the bedroom. Inez told him that there was money in a dresser in the second bedroom. He dragged her to the second bedroom. Unable to find the money, he accused Inez of lying. However, she told him, “‘I swear to God it’s here.” To which she said Ramirez responded, “[…] swear to Satan,” and he made her swear to Satan. She pointed out the hiding place. Ramirez took the money, waved it in the air, and said, “This is all that saved you. This is all you’re worth. “

At one point, Inez quoted Richard Ramirez as saying, “‘You know who I am, don’t you?’” Ramirez asked her. “‘I’m the Night Stalker […] You’ve read about me in the newspapers and heard about me on TV. I’m the Night Stalker. So, you know, if I kill one, I might let the other one live.”

Before Ramirez left, he made her say she loved Satan. ‘’He said, ‘Say I love Satan,’ and then he laughed.”

Lou Diamond Phillips as Richard Ramirez in The Night Stalker (2016).
Lou Diamond Phillips as Richard Ramirez in The Night Stalker (2016).

Bill Arrives at the Hospital

Mission Hospital listed Bill as brain dead. When Bill woke up in the hospital, he couldn’t remember the attack. A 1986 Los Angeles Times article, “Shattered Dreams : ‘Night Stalker’ Victim Fights to Regain His Memory, Rebuild Life a Year After Attack,” includes statements from both Inez and Bill. Inez told the Los Angeles Times that Bill wasn’t aware that he was shot in the head for the first 2 1⁄2 months. He didn’t even question waking up in a hospital. However, when he saw his reflection in the mirror, Bill told the LA Times, “I said, ‘What the hell happened to me?’  then added: ‘I guess I’ll have to be Frankenstein at Halloween.'”

In 1986, the LA Times reported that Bill suffered partial paralysis and impaired short-term memory. This is due to one bullet tearing across the frontal area of the brain. The bullet also took out a one-inch piece of bone on Bill’s forehead. Skin grew over the injury. The article goes on to describe that one bullet was still lodged in Bill’s skull. Inez told the LA Times that the bullet sits between the brain and the brain casing. She said that it will be left in Bill’s skull unless it moves to an area where it can cause damage to other brain functions. 

The LA Times quoted Bill: “I still think the hardest thing for me is to accept the fact that I am hurt,” he said. “I still wish it was just a big, bad dream and I’ll wake up and it will be over, and I can go on with my life.”

According to the LA Times, if the attack hadn’t happened, Bill and Erikson would have been getting married. The 2013 Daily News article reported that Erikson took care of Bill for two years before leaving. Bill’s sister, Linda, is quoted as saying, “She did the right thing […] We were really grateful to her for what she did for Billy.”

Many years later…

The 2013 Daily News article describes Bill living back home in North Dakota next door to his mother, Anne. He was never able to return to his job. Bill had extensive therapy in centers in Long Beach, Texas, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Although he made progress, he was never able to fully recover from his injuries.  The effects leave Bill unable to hold down a job. He has no sense of time, difficulty remembering what day it is, and is unable to complete tasks.

The Daily News points out that “the frontal lobe makes humans human. It is the center of goal-directed behavior, decision making, recognition of consequences, memory, and mood. ” According to those who knew Bill, he was never the same after the attack.

The article points out that Bill has developed a sense of humor that isn’t to everyone’s liking. His behavior in public is sometimes inappropriate. He tells people that he got shot in the head and asks them if they want to see his injury. He shows them the golf ball-sized wound above his left eye and says that he’s a “human tee,” and laughs. If he meets up with someone, he’ll say “When did you get so fat? […] I can see why you’re ugly. Your mother is ugly, too. “

Zach Villa as Richard Ramirez in American Horror Story 1984.
Zach Villa as Richard Ramirez in American Horror Story 1984.

His mother, Anne, takes care of him. She helps Bill tie his shoes and cleans his fridge of rotting food. She explains that Bill forgets when he buys food. “I don’t think anything of it,” Anne said, “I don’t want him to end up being a street person.”

He also collects batteries, which he has everywhere in his home. Bill buys them but also takes them from recycling bins, takes them home, and tests them to see if they have any life left. “They make me feel good,” Bill said. “Some people throw batteries away, and they’re not ready to be thrown away yet.”

He also has a pen collection—red pens in the bathroom and blue pens throughout the house. He keeps some stereo parts from the ’70s, among some other items he keeps. The strangest and eeriest part of the house is the bedroom. Bill had the same bed where he was sleeping when Ramirez shot him. A drawing of him and his girlfriend from 1985 hung above the headboard. The pillow with the bullet hole was on the guest bed in the basement.

Some People Forgive While Others Do Not

As for their feelings towards Ramirez, Anne said that she decided not to hate him for shooting her son. Instead, Anne remembers Ramirez in her prayers. “The Bible says, ‘Love thy neighbor,'” she said. “What does hate get you?” She thanks Ramirez for using a small gun so that her son could live.

Understandably, Bill expresses a much different sentiment. “I would like to torture him with a chain saw or a belt sander,” he said. Back in 1986, Bill said that he wanted to give Ramirez a “knuckle sandwich.”

Bill Carns still lives. His sister, Linda, has set up a Go Fund Me account for her brother, who still suffers from partial paralysis on his left side and impaired cognitive function.

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Written by MD Bastek

Just a person who loves horror and writes about unusual things

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