‘’I love to kill people. I love to watch them die. I would shoot them in the head and they would wiggle and squirm all over the place, and then just stop. Or cut them with a knife and watch their faces turn real white.’’
The Night Stalker
Richard Ramirez entered the world on February 28, 1960, in El Paso, Texas. He was the youngest of five children in a Mexican American family that had immigrated to the United States. His father, Julian Ramirez, was frequently away from home as he was a laborer on the Santa Fe Railroad. Richard was raised a devout Christian and his family often attended church.
During his childhood, Richard sustained two major head injuries: One from a dresser falling on top of him, and the second time being when he was knocked unconscious by a swing, after which he experienced frequent epileptic seizures that persisted into his teen years.
A look at his background indicates that Richard certainly had the right childhood environment to produce a killer. At a young age, he would soon become victim to his father’s unexpected bursts of anger. Much like his older siblings, Richard received severe beatings as punishment that left him battered and bruised. He often slept in the nearby cemetery so as to escape his father’s terrible temper. When Richard was 12-years-old, much of his time was spent with his older cousin Miguel “Mike” Ramirez who was a Vietnam vet and member of the Special Forces. Oftentimes they would drive around the city smoking marijuana as Mike boasted about his gruesome exploits during the war, and shared with him graphic Polaroid photos of Vietnamese women he had raped and killed to prove it. Some of the photos displayed women on their knees being forced to perform fellatio on Mike as he held a cocked .45 to their heads. At the age of 13, Richard was present when Mike shot and killed his wife. This experience was the final ingredient needed to complete the recipe of becoming a future serial killer and rapist.
Shortly after dropping out of high school, Richard took up a job at the Holiday Inn. One night, using the hotel’s pass key, he sneaked into a woman’s hotel room and attempted to rape her. Her husband walked in on the scene and beat Richard senseless. All criminal charges were dropped as the couple lived out of state and refused to testify in court.
Richard’s mother kicked him out of the house at age 17, leaving him to fend for himself by selling drugs, stealing cars, and pickpocketing. He left El Paso for good at age 18, taking a Greyhound Bus to Los Angeles where he frequently stayed in hotels, burglarizing homes and selling the stolen items to get him by. Much of his money was spent on drugs, specifically cocaine. In 1981, Richard was arrested on drug charges and it was in jail where he was introduced to Satanism. In 1984 he was arrested yet again for car theft.
Richard’s first known murder occurred on April 10, 1984, when his 9-year-old victim was raped, beaten, stabbed, and found hanging from a hotel basement pipe. This killing, however, hadn’t been linked to him until 2009 when his DNA matched to DNA obtained at the crime scene.
His second killing happened just two months after the first one. High off cocaine, he sneaked into the apartment room of 79-year-old Jennie Vincow and stabbed her repeatedly while she lay asleep in bed. He then slashed her throat so deeply that she was nearly decapitated.
It wasn’t until almost a year later that Richard would begin a horrifying murder spree that shook the Los Angeles city to its core. On March 17, 1985, Richard entered the condo of 34-year-old Dayle Okazaki and Maria Hernandez, shooting Dayle to death and wounding her roommate Maria. Within an hour of the killing, he entered the car of 30-year-old Veronica Yu against her will, shot her twice with a .22 caliber handgun, and fled the scene. The two murders (and third attempt) in a single day attracted extensive coverage from news media who speculated that the murders were connected.
Ten days later, Richard invaded the Zazzara residence and shot a sleeping Vincent Zazzara in the head with a .22 revolver. Shocked and bleeding, Vincent tried to stand up and grab Richard, but the small-caliber bullet zigzagged through his brain, cutting the carotid artery, and he lost motor movement. His wife Maxine Zazzara awoke at the sound of the gunshot. Richard rushed to her room and quickly bound and gagged her. As he ransacked the bedroom for valuables, Maxine managed to escape her bonds and retrieved a shotgun from under the bed, which was not loaded. An infuriated Richard shot her three times with the same gun that claimed the life of her husband and fetched a large carving knife from the kitchen. His attempt to cut her heart out miscarried, so he instead gouged out her eyes and placed them in a jewelry box. He proceeded to stab her multiple times in the stomach, throat, and pubic area. After releasing his rage, Richard took off with the valuables he had gathered from the house and the eyes as a token.
Most serial killers generally have a ‘’cooling’’ period between each murder. That made Richard Ramirez different from the ordinary serial killer. With each kill, Richard craved the sexual pleasure and thrill he obtained from the very act of claiming another’s life, and soon became addicted to it, sometimes killing again days within his last kill. Richard’s mode of operation was to invade homes in the middle of the night, disable their phones and ransack the place, and leave dead bodies and blood all over as he left the site. This earned the curly-headed attacker the nickname ‘’The Night Stalker’’. Oftentimes, Richard left behind clues for police, such as Avia shoeprints and Satanic symbols he’d drawn on the walls and bodies of his victims.
Richard had spared the lives of many of his female victims. Routinely, he would neutralize the threat—the man—and sexually assault the wife. If the females complied to his demands and directed him to all the valuables in the house without any hassle, Richard allowed them to live after making them ‘’swear on Satan’’ that that was all the valuables they own. The victims who defied him would come to meet a more tragic fate.
On August 30, 1985, Richard took a bus to Arizona to visit one of his brothers, but failed to meet him and ended up returning to Los Angeles the next morning to find that his name and 1984 mugshot photo were plastered on the front page of every newspaper. Citizens immediately recognized him so he promptly fled, sprinting through alleyways and hopping over fences as police sirens blared and helicopter blades whirred. He attempted to steal three cars during his runaway but was driven off. Richard was chased through a neighborhood by a group of bystanders, one of whom struck him over the head with a metal bar during the pursuit. Richard was eventually subdued by the people until police arrived and took him into custody.
While in the car, Richard admitted to being the Night Stalker, expressed his disbelief that the people had caught him before the authority could, and implored the officers to kill him.
‘’Why don’t you just shoot me? I deserve to die. Now they’re going to send me to the electric chair,’’ Richard reportedly said.
Richard’s trial, which started on July 22, 1988, took a full year. During this time, Richard gained a tremendous amount of female attention, his dangerous Latin looks and defiance appealing to many but particularly catching the eye of Doreen Lioy, a magazine editor whom Richard later married while on death row. When presented with images of his mutilated victims, Richard would often laugh. Sometimes he would have an occasional outburst in court or flash Satanic symbols inscribed on his hand which would quickly make headlines.
On September 30, 1989, Richard was found guilty of 13 murders and thirty assorted felonies. On November 7, 1989, he was sentenced to death. Richard didn’t care. As he was escorted from court, he told the press, ‘’Big Deal! Death always went with the territory. I’ll see you in Disneyland.’’
Richard Ramirez died on June 7, 2013, due to B-cell lymphoma at Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, California. At 53-years-old, Richard had been on death row at San Quentin Prison for more than 23 years waiting to be executed.
‘’The hand that pulled the trigger that killed your sons now masturbates to the memory of it. Fuck all of you.’’
On February 27, 2012, at approximately 7:30 in the morning, a 17-year-old boy stood up and began shooting in the Chardon High School cafeteria with a .22 caliber gun. The suspect, who police identified as TJ Lane, was not enrolled at the school, rather attended an alternate school where students with behavioral and academic needs are referred to.
TJ appeared to be targeting students sitting together at one table. He managed to shoot three male students who later died of their injuries, and two other students who were hospitalized, one of whom became paralyzed after sustaining several bullets in the neck, arm, and back, as well as his cheek. A sixth student sustained a superficial wound.
As TJ fled the scene, he shot a female student and was subsequently chased out of the school by one of the teachers, a football coach. He left the gun at the scene which was later recovered by police. TJ Lane was captured and apprehended outside the school near his car.
In June 2012, it was determined that TJ would be tried as an adult. He was charged with three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of felonious assault. On June 8, he pled not-guilty to those charges, but less than a year later decided to plead guilty to the charges for which he had been indicted.
On March 19, 2013, TJ entered the courtroom for his hearing. After he sat down, he took off his dress shirt to reveal a white T-shirt underneath which had the word ‘’Killer’’ handwritten across the front. All throughout the hearing, TJ smirked and smiled. After being given three life sentences in prison without parole, TJ said to the victims’ families and the courtroom, “The hand that pulled the trigger that killed your sons now masturbates to the memory. Fuck all of you’’, while giving the middle finger. He was subsequently transferred to Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution.
TJ Lane and two other inmates fashioned a 13.5-foot ladder over the course of several months from materials stored in a maintenance access area, similar to a crawl space. On September 11, 2014, the inmates used the ladder during the evening recreation period to access the roof of the administration building. Once on top of the building, all three jumped about 15 feet to the ground and escaped through a soybean field directly north of the prison and fled north at about 7:38 p.m. The security systems were immediately activated. One of the inmates was captured only nine minutes after the fact. TJ was found in a wooded area at about 1:20 a.m. The third inmate was captured a few hours after. TJ was then moved to another prison.