Ricardo Leyva Múñoz Ramirez, born February 29, 1960
El Paso, Texas, United States
a.k.a. “Richard Ramirez,” “Night Stalker,” “El Matador”
As a young girl living in Glendale, CA, at the same time the Night Stalker terrorized Southern California, I was first introduced to the concept of a serial killer, thanks to none other than Richard Ramirez.
My late father, God rest his soul (March 31, 1944 – March 9, 1991), formerly a police officer in Maricopa County, Arizona, warned me about the Night Stalker and made sure our family was safe by securing the windows and doors at night himself. He even went so far as installing wrought iron bars on every window and a gate made of wrought iron around the house. I didn’t know it at the time, but found out after he died that he also had a .38 Special and a .357 Magnum hidden to protect us.
Growing up being a cop’s daughter has some interesting side effects.
Nonetheless, the subject of Richard Ramirez is a portrait of tragedy, neglect, drug abuse and epic law enforcement failure.
As a boy, Ramirez was a quiet, kind-hearted child, the youngest of five, born to working class Mexican immigrants Julián Ramírez and Mercedes Muñoz. Ramirez is remembered as a loner by his classmates. When he was two, he developed a contusion on his head after sustaining an injury caused by a dresser falling on him. He had to receive over 30 stitches. When Ramirez was six years old, he was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy and suffered from grand mal seizures. By 10 years old, Ramirez had developed a strange fondness for the dead and began spending the night and sleeping in cemetaries near his home.
Ramirez began to grow close with his cousin Mike who was a Special Forces Vietnam War Veteran. Mike used to talk at length with Ramirez about his escapades in Vietnam; how Mike tortured and killed several women. He justified his torture and murder of these women by saying they were the enemy and no one cared about them anyway. Mike took pictures of the graphic displays of violence and proudly showed them to his young cousin Ramirez. At such a tender time in Ramirez’ adolescence, he was exposed to two forces of humanity normally kept very separate. These forces were infused in Ramirez’ mind and he grew up thinking sex and violence were one in the same.
Mike and Ramirez would spend time together smoking cannabis and driving around town, having conversations about murder where Mike would give Ramirez advice on the proper method to shoot and cut people for “maximum effect.”
One day, during an argument with his wife about his unemployment, Mike shot his wife in the face, while Ramirez stood 2-3 feet away. Ramirez never told anyone he witnessed the murder, and one may discern that Ramirez became the Night Stalker at this time in his life, before he had ever actually hurt anyone else. Ramirez reportedly saw blood “squirting” from the wound in Mike’s wife’s head, and drew great pleasure from the sight.
After this turning point in Ramirez’ life, he began compartmentalizing (compartmentalizing is a known psychological behavior in sociopaths with the propensity to commit murder and live a normal life at the same time without any emotional interference) and subsequently lost his cousin/mentor Mike, who was arrested and declared insane, then placed in a mental asylum; Ramirez also started skipping school, smoking cannabis and sniffing glue by the time he was in seventh grade. Ramirez became a thief to support his drug use. Ramirez attended Thomas Jefferson High School in El Paso, Texas, dropping out before completing one year. During that time, Ramirez was arrested twice for possession of illegal substances.
Once Ramirez had dropped out of high school and started getting a criminal record, he continued to spin out of control, drawing five-point pentagrams on his body and declaring his loyalty to Satan. Ramirez began using cocaine daily, neglected his personal hygiene and survived on junk food. His teeth slowly began rotting making his breath foul and offensive, a trait his surviving rape victims would terribly remember.
How to describe Richard Ramirez in five words? Sloth, murderer, paedophile, chauvenist, Satanist.
Richard Ramirez’ victims of choice were mainly women; he only killed men when they were in the way of him overtaking the female. Then he got them out of the way as quickly as possible by shooting them in the head.
Ramirez didn’t have a certain type of woman he targeted. The ages of the women he killed ranged from 6 to 83. Ramirez had no regard for human life and would rape and mutilate his victims without regret.
One living victim of Richard Ramirez reported having to profess her love for Satan while performing fellatio on Ramirez.
Ramirez played games with police, jumping from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, exploiting the poor communication between them. Poor police work kept the Night Stalker in business for over a year, torturing, raping and murdering innocent Californians from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
One night in late August, 1985, a teenager who was working on his motorcycle at his parents’ house noticed a strange orange Toyota driving into the neighborhood, and noticed it again as it was leaving. The teenager was suspicious, so he wrote the license plate number down and called the police the next morning. Police determined that the 1976 orange Toyota had been stolen in Chinatown while the owner was dining at a restaurant. An alert was put out for the car, and two days later it was located in the Rampart section of Los Angeles. Having connected the vehicle to Ramirez, the police kept the car under surveillance for 24 hours hoping they would catch the Night Stalker as he came to claim his vehicle, but to their dismay, he never showed up.
Forensics revealed a good fingerprint on the car which turned out to belong to Ricardo “Richard” Leyva Múñoz Ramírez. Further analysis revealed that this print matched a print taken from a window sill at the Pans’ home, where Ramirez killed Peter, aged 66, and raped his wife Barbara, aged 64.
Police immediately released Ramirez’ mug shot photograph to the press, naming him as the Night Stalker and dispatched units to the Greyhound bus station in Los Angeles, expecting to find Ramirez there ready to escape. What they didn’t know is that Ramirez wasn’t even in California at the time his photo had been released. He was in Arizona visiting a brother, but was returning that day.
On August 31, Ramirez arrived in the downtown Greyhound Los Angeles bus station, unaware of police present. As Ramirez left the bus station, he noticed the area was flooded with cops, but managed to get past them unnoticed, still unaware that he had been identified as the Night Stalker. He walked to the corner store to get some coffee, and the clerk immediately recognized his face and began shouting, “El Matador (“The Killer”)!” Ramirez noticed that his face had made several front covers on the newspaper rack in front of him so he grabbed La Opinion, and ran.
Ramirez ran two miles east from downtown Los Angeles, looking for a car to steal so he could get away quickly. He found Faustino Pinon’s red Ford Mustang, unaware that Pinon was underneath it working on the engine. Ramirez noticed the car was unlocked and the keys were in the ignition so he jumped in and started it. As soon as Pinon, aged 56, heard the engine start, he rolled out from under the car, angry. Pinon grabbed Ramirez around the neck and Ramirez warned Pinon that he had a gun, but Pinon ignored him. Ramirez put the car in gear and tried driving away, but Pinon would not let go of him. The car crashed into a fence, then a garage.
Pinon then opened the door, dragging Ramirez out and threw him to the ground. Ramirez struggled and got away, running across the street to the De la Torres residence as 28-year-old Angelina de la Torres was getting into her Ford Granada. He stuck his head through the driver’s side window and demanded the keys from her, threatening, in Spanish, to kill her if she did not. She screamed for help, and her husband Manuel, aged 32, came running from the backyard grabbing a length of metal fence post as he passed through the gate along the side of the house. Jose Burgoin, a neighbor, heard the struggle in Pinon’s driveway, and immediately called police. He ran outside to help Pinon and heard Angelina screaming. Burgoin called his sons (Jaime, 21, and Julio, 17) for assistance. As the Burgoin brothers ran to help Mrs. De la Torres, they saw Ramirez scrambling across the front seat of her car. Jaime recognized him from the pictures in the newspapers and on television and yelled that this was the killer, and all the men made a mad dash to catch him. Ramirez ran for his life, but Manual de la Torres caught up with him and hit him across his neck with the metal post he carried with him.
Ramirez got up and continued running away, desperately trying to avoid capture, but De la Torres followed him, bashing him repeatedly from behind. Jaime Burgoin caught up with Ramirez and punched him. Ramirez fell to the ground but quickly dusted himself off and continued to run with De la Torres and the Burgoin brothers at his heels. Finally, De la Torres swung hard and hit Ramirez on the head. Ramirez collapsed immediately, and the Burgoin brothers tackled him, holding him to the ground until police arrived.
Within 24 hours of naming Ramirez as the Night Stalker and releasing his picture to the public, he was behind bars where he belongs.
Ramirez was charged with 14 murders and 31 other felonies related to his 1985 crime spree. He was also charged with a 15th murder in San Francisco and rape and attempted murder charges in Orange County.
At the time of this writing, it’s been almost 21 years since Ramirez has been sentenced to die in San Quentin’s gas chamber. In that time, Ramirez has become a celebrity, developed a following, attracted groupies, married a groupie who has planned to kill herself once Ramirez has been executed and started a cult.
Ramirez was a fan of the Australian hard rock band AC/DC and, according to police, wore an AC/DC concert -shirt and left an AC/DC hat at one of the crime scenes. Ramirez says, “Night Prowler,” by AC/DC from their album “Highway to Hell”, was a big influence for his actions. The song helped name him while police fumbled to figure out just who this madman was.
Ramirez still lives in San Quentin, and still has a fan base.