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6 terrifying facts about Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker

A leather-gloved hand reaching around a door

From June 1984 to August 1985, Los Angeles was terrorized by a vicious serial killer, the Night Stalker. He was a kidnapper, rapist and murderer, who broke into his victims’ homes in the middle of the night to torture, sexually assault and kill them.

Even more terrifyingly, unlike most serial killers, he didn’t appear to have a modus operandi: he used various weapons on his victims, who spanned in age from six years old to their mid-80s, with men, women and children all targeted. No one seemed to be safe until he was finally identified and caught by a group of civilians, who beat him and restrained him.

A Satan-worshipper whose crimes were especially cruel and brutal, he goes down in history as one of the worst serial killers. These are some of the most chilling facts about his crimes.

1. His family were abusers

Ramirez came from an abusive family and suffered trauma from a young age. His father was short-tempered and violent.

From around the age of ten, Ramirez hung out with his cousin Miguel, a Vietnam veteran who showed Ramirez pictures of women he had abused. Some were posed with a severed head. In the early 1970s, when Ramirez was present and just thirteen years old, Miguel shot his wife in the face.

Miguel was sent to a mental hospital and Ramirez went to stay with his sister, Ruth, and her husband, Roberto. But things didn’t improve: Roberto was a voyeur and took Ramirez along with him on his outings. Ramirez’s crimes started around this time when he was working at a Holiday Inn. He broke into guests’ rooms to steal from them and attempted to rape one of them.

2. His crimes happened at night

Ramirez broke into people’s homes in the middle of the night, when they were more vulnerable and often asleep in their beds. 64-year-old Charles Zazzara was shot and killed in his sleep, the gunshot waking his wife, Maxine, who was then tortured and brutally killed.

Sixteen-year-old Whitney Bennett was attacked with a tyre iron while she slept. She was then strangled with a telephone cord, but ultimately survived the attack. Elyas Abowath was killed in his sleep before his wife Sakina was raped. The Romero family was only spared because their teenage son heard Ramirez outside their house and woke up his parents.

3. He was a Satanist

Ramirez was said to be ‘obsessed’ with Satan and devil-worship, especially when it came to one particular AC/DC song, 'Night Prowler', the lyrics of which refer to watching someone outside their window and slipping into their house.

Police found evidence of this at the crime scenes after Ramirez drew pentagrams on his victims’ walls and with lipstick on the leg of one woman. At his trial, he had a pentagram drawn on his hand and made Satanic references throughout.

4. His murders were sadistic

It wasn’t enough for Ramirez to molest and murder his victims, he made sure that he terrorised them. He burgled his victims’ houses, often in the midst of attacking them, stealing their jewellery and valuables.

He had a pattern when killing couples: shooting the man first, before binding the women, ensuring they were left terrified and vulnerable, before he raped and stabbed them. His murders were also excessively brutal, with the victims’ bodies often left disfigured.

His first murder victim, 79-year-old Jennie Vincow, was sexually assaulted and stabbed so viciously that she was left almost decapitated. He banged on Maria Hernandez’s car to alert her to his presence before he shot her at point-blank range. She miraculously survived the attack after the bullet bounced off her keys. 81-year-old Florence ‘Nettie’ Lang, an invalid, and her sister, 84-year-old Mabel Bell were both brutally beaten with a hammer.

Maxine Zazzara had her eyes gouged out. She had also been stabbed all over her body, had a ‘T’ shape carved into her breast and was shot in the head. Women had their children bound to them after their husbands had been killed and they had been raped.

5. He took snack breaks

Ramirez didn’t immediately leave his victims’ homes after he had murdered them. Instead, he’d use the opportunity to have a snack, staying in their kitchens and helping himself to their food. After he attacked sisters Mabel Bell and Florence Lang, he remained in their home to eat fruit and drink Mountain Dew. Both were still alive at the time, although Bell later died of her injuries.

6. He molested children

Anastasia Hronas was only six when she was woken up in the middle of the night, ushered outside into a car and taken away. At some point, Ramirez forced her to get into a duffle bag. She was taken into a house and repeatedly molested. Ramirez didn’t murder her, though. He dropped her at a petrol station and instructed people to call the police.

Prosecutors didn’t try him for his numerous crimes against children in order to spare them the trauma of the process. However, Hronas was a witness and helped identify Ramirez, playing a crucial part in his conviction. He was sentenced to death, but died of cancer in 2013.