August 31

This Day in History

Crime

Aug 31, 1985:

Los Angeles mob attacks Night Stalker

Richard Ramirez, the notorious "Night Stalker," is captured and nearly killed by a mob in East Los Angeles, California, after being recognized from a photograph shown both on television and in newspapers. Recently identified as the serial killer, Ramirez was pulled from the enraged mob by police officers.

During the summer of 1985, the city of Los Angeles was panic-stricken by a killer who crept into his victims' homes at night. The Night Stalker, as the press dubbed the murderer, first turned his attention on the men in the house, usually shot any men in the house with a .22 caliber handgun before raping, stabbing, and mutilating his female victims. He cut out one of his victim's eyes, and sometimes carved satanic pentagrams on the bodies before he left.

By August, the Night Stalker has murdered at least a dozen people, and law enforcement officials were desperate to stop him. One witness, who managed to note the license plate of the car in which Ramirez fled, led police to a single, partial fingerprint left in the vehicle.

Apparently, the task force looking for the Night Stalker had already received information that someone named Ramirez was involved, so only the records for men with that name were checked against the fingerprint. Although the Los Angeles Police Department's new multimillion-dollar computer database of fingerprints only contained the records of criminals born after January 1960, Richard Ramirez, who had a record of petty crimes, had been born in February 1960.

When Ramirez was identified as the chief suspect, authorities debated whether to release his name and picture to the public, fearing that it might give him the chance to escape. Nonetheless, they decided to take the risk, and Ramirez, who was actually traveling back to Los Angeles at the time, arrived to find his face and name on the front of every newspaper.

Ramirez turned his trial into a circus by drawing pentagrams on his palms and making devil's horns with his fingers. When he was convicted, he shouted at the jury, "You make me sick. I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells within all of us." After the judge imposed a death sentence, Ramirez said, "Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland."
Ramirez married a female admirer and penpal while incarcerated at California's San Quentin Prison in 1996. In 2006, his first appeals were denied and he died in prison on June 7, 2013.

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