Warning: this article touches on subject matter that some readers may find distressing.
Arriving on Netflix this week is Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer – a true crime docuseries exploring the crimes of notorious murderer Richard Ramirez, who terrorised California from 1984 to 1985 and was dubbed ‘the Night Stalker’ by press.
The series, which features first-person interviews with detectives, journalists and victims, tells the harrowing story of Ramirez’s killing spree and follows the police as they desperately try to hunt him down.
Here’s everything you need to know about Night Stalker and the true story behind the docuseries.
When is the Night Stalker on Netflix?
Night Stalker: The Hunt for A Serial Killer arrives on Netflix on Wednesday 13th January.
What is the Night Stalker about?
This new true crime docuseries tells the story of how Richard Ramirez – one of America’s most notorious serial killers – was hunted down and brought to justice in the 1980s.
Ramirez, who was dubbed by the press as ‘the Night Stalker’, murdered and sexually assaulted men, women and children across Los Angeles in the summer of 1985.
Told through first-person interviews with detectives, survivors and news reporters, this four-part docuseries explores this “iconic L.A real-life horror story” and the police’s race against the clock to catch this horrific killer.
Who was Richard Ramirez – the Night Stalker?
Richard Ramirez, dubbed ‘the Night Stalker’ by the press, was an American serial killer who murdered at least 13 people and sexually assaulted 11 people in Los Angeles and San Francisco between June 1984 and August 1985.
Born Ricardo Levya Muñoz Ramírez in Texas on 29th February 1960, the killer was influenced growing up by his older veteran cousin Mike, who he’d bond with over his stories of “rape and killing wide-eyed” whilst serving in the Vietnam War, biographer Philip Carlo writes in his book The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez.
According to Carlo, Mike taught a 12-year-old Ramirez “how to kill with stealth and absolute certainty” and in 1973, fatally shot his wife in the face during a domestic argument whilst Ramirez was present. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and released from prison in 1977, at which point he continued to influence Ramirez.
As a teenager, Ramirez began experimenting with LSD and other hallucinogens whilst he began to see Satan “as a friend, an ally he could be himself with”, Carlo writes. He took up a job at a local Holiday Inn, where he would use his master key card to rob sleeping guests, but was fired after attempting to rape a hotel patron – a crime he was not prosecuted for after the victim refused to return to testify against the 15-year-old.
Ramirez moved from El Paso to California aged 22, where he began his murder spree two years later.
What did Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, do?
From April 1984 until August 1985, Ramirez murdered, sexually assaulted and burgled Californian residents before his arrest on the 31st August.
He killed 13 victims between the ages of six and 83 in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, and sexually assaulted 11 people – however, it’s possible that Ramirez committed more crimes that he wasn’t prosecuted for.
His victims came from different neighbourhoods, racial backgrounds and socioeconomic levels, making him a difficult criminal to profile. “We had a serial killer responsible for kidnapping children, girls, boys, raping, adult women, killing adult women, killing males,” LA detective Gil Carrillo says in the series. “We’ve never encountered anybody like that in criminal history.”
Ramirez’s first victim was Los Angeles-based 9-year-old Mei Leung, who was brutally killed in April 1984, and two months later, he murdered 79-year-old Jennie Vincow in her Glassell Park flat whilst she slept.
The year after, in March 1985, Ramirez shot 22-year-old Maria Hernandez, who survived after the bullet bounced off her keys, and her roommate 34-year-old Dayle Yoshie Okazaki, who died from her injuries.
Ramirez continued on his spree for another four months before detectives Carrillo and investigator Frank Salerno, who were responsible for finding Ramirez, began to make progress on the case after Ramirez attacked Peter and Barbara Pan on 18th August 1985. The killer shot the couple dead after raping Barbara and stealing her jewellery, including a bracelet which was handed to police by an informant who’d bought the item from Ramirez.
His last victim – 29-year-old Inez Erickson – survived her sexual assault and gave a detailed description of Ramirez to police, who had collected his footprint from a previous victim’s house and a fingerprint from a car stolen by the killer.
From the DNA they had managed to gather, police identified Ramirez, who had a long rap sheet due to previous arrests for traffic and illegal drug violations. Police released Ramirez’s mug shot from a December 1984 auto theft and he was captured on 31st August, after he attempted several carjackings and was held down by a group of citizens until the police arrived.
On 20th September 1989, Ramirez, who first appeared in court with ‘Hail Satan’ written on his hand with a pentagram, was convicted on all charges, which included 13 counts of murder, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 counts of burglary.
On 7th November, he was given the death penalty and told reporters after the verdict: “Big deal. Death alway went with the territory. See you in Disneyland.”
On 7th June 2013, the convict died after 23 years on death row due to complications of B-cell lymphoma caused by “chronic substance abuse and chronic hepatitis C viral infection”, according to a report from The Los Angeles Times.
Night Stalker: The Hunt for A Serial Killer arrives on Netflix on Wednesday 13th January. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide.