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True Crime: Richard Ramriez the Nightstalker

Richard Ramirez: The Nightstalker

WARNING: This article contains graphic and gruesome descriptions, viewer discretion is advised.


On February 29, 1960 Richard Leyva Munoz Ramirez was born in El Paso, Texas. He had a rather traumatic childhood. He experienced 2 head injuries and had epilepsy until his early teens. His father was an alcoholic and was physically abusive to him, which led him to sleep in cemeteries and at his cousin Miguel’s place. His cousin Miguel would show him photos of women being tortured and killed. As if this wasn't enough trauma for a kid, at the age of 10, Ramirez saw his cousin shoot and kill his wife. He then was living with his older sister and her husband where he was taught how to break into homes. At this time, he was also exposed to drugs and alcohol. Later on in his teen years, Ramirez got a job at a holiday inn. This was where he attempted his first attack. Ramirez tried to sexually assault a woman in her hotel room. Fortunately, her husband saw this and was able to protect his wife. However, the couple did not charge him with anything since they didn't want to deal with it. Ramirez ended up dropping out of high school in the 9th grade and was arrested for the first time for maijuana possession. He then moved to LA, lived in the Cecil hotel and was arrested twice for auto theft.


His first known murder was on June 28, 1984. The victim was a 79 year old woman named Jennie Vincow. The crime was originally a burglary, but he ended up killing her in her own home. His next attack was nine months later. Ramirez followed a girl named Maria Hernandez home. When she arrived at her garage, he slapped the hood of the car in the garage to get her attention. When Hernandez turned around, Ramirez shot at her and she fell to the ground. Despite it looking like she was dead or injured, she was, in fact, not. When shooting at her, Maria held her hands up with her keys in her hand. The bullet ricocheted off her keys and she fell from the impact of the bullet. Ramirez then went into her house with the goal of finding valuable items. Instead he found Dayle Okazaki, Maria’s roommate, hiding behind the kitchen counter. As soon as she lifted her head above the counter, Ramirez shot at her which killed her instantly. When leaving the scene, he went out the front door where he saw Maria. In shock, Ramirez left Maria unharmed. Only a few hours later, he killed Tsai-Lian Yu. On March 27, 1985, Ramirez committed what some believe to be his most gruesome crime. Ramirez killed Vincent Zazzara and tied up Maxine, Vincent’s wife. When going to find their valuables, Maine was able to get out of the ties and grab the gun from under their bed. Sadly, when Ramirez came back into the bedroom, Maxine shot but the gun was empty. He was angry so he not only killed her, but took her eyes with him. A victim that survived him was 16 year old Whitney Bennet. While strangling her with a telephone cord, a few sparks flew from the cord which made her begin to breathe. He saw this as a sign from a higher being and decided to let her live. Ramirez will end up killing 13 people in two years. He developed a pattern of breaking into people's houses, killing them and leaving with their valuables.

How They Caught Him

Catching him was very complicated because he didn’t have a “type” when it came to his victims unlike most killers. At first, the information the detectives had were the shoe prints he kept leaving around plus the bullet casings. However, when the information was leaked, He got rid of the shoes. The first step to catching him was 13 year old James Romero. Romero was in the garage when he heard footsteps from outside. It was Ramirez's footsteps. Romero ran to his parents which scared off Ramirez, but Romero wasn’t done. He grabbed a notebook and wrote down part of Ramirez's license plate. The detectives got this info and found Ramirez's car. They then got his identity by interrogating one of Ramirez's close friends. On August 30, 1985, Ramirez was coming home on a bus after visiting his brother in Arizona. Quickly, people started identifying him by screaming “el matador” (the killer). In a panic, he got off the bus and started running. He tried breaking into people's cars but he was unsuccessful. Eventually Ramirez was hit over the head and beaten by a bunch of people in the area. Luckily for him, the police came and saved his life.


Ramirez’s trial was no exception to the evil that followed him. One of the jury members was killed while another fell in love with him. Despite all of this, he was charged with 13 counts of first degree murder, 5 attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries. On November 7, 1989, He was sentenced to the gas chamber. During his trial, many groupies would come to get a glimpse of him. They were attracted to his looks and “Bad Boy” act. He even married one of these groupies. Her name was Doreen Lioy. She wrote him around 75 letters and was proposed to in 1996.


Ramirez died at the age of 53 due to B-Cell lymphoma on June 7, 2013. After his death, no one came to pick up his body. It was said that his body even turned a sort of greenish color. He was eventually cremated.

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