This case study will be looking into a man called Richard Ramirez a.k.a “The Night Stalker”. When looking at all the relevant and in-depth information regarding how and why Richard became such a notorious serial killer, looking at a variety of different sources which will include internet sources, journals as well as books written about the man himself. Although nothing relating to Richard Ramirez was available within the public libraries, all source books were ordered online. Every effort was made to cover all potentials that may have caused or lead this man into committing such a number of atrocities over such a short time period. With quite a substantial amount of information available from his family, child life, and upbringing and into his later years giving a good account of why this Christian man suddenly turned to Satanism. In his devastating attacks on the people of Los Angeles and San Francisco, causing a massive panic of not knowing were and who “The Night Stalker” was and why he was murdering, Raping and torturing his victims. “When Richard Ramirez killed, robbed, raped and tortured he did not discriminate towards any race, any age, old or young boys, girls, men, women “everyone became his target” (“The Night Stalker”, Carlo 2006, p 53).
Richard was born on February the 29th in El Paso, Texas in 1960. Richard had a big family in that it consisted of his Father Julian Ramirez who was a Mexican Immigrant and who had been working for the Santa Fe Railroad, and his mother who was named Mercedes Ramirez, was employed at the Tony Lama boot manufacturing factory. Her duties included mixing chemicals that was intended for the leather industry (Richard Ramirez Biography 2016).Life could not have been easy for the Ramirez household, but they worked hard to pay the bills and make ends meet; both Mercedes and Julian loved their children and tried very hard to provide for them to the best of their ability. Also with the complications of their child Joseph who had a medical condition in both knees culminated in expensive medical bills. The boys who were a little unruly and could also be quite hot tempered stemming from their ill-tempered father (Richard Ramirez Biography 2016). The children may have benefited from having their parents around more, but with the nature of his job Julian would have to travel a lot to lay railway tracks which kept him away frequently and for long hours. Richard and his older brothers and sisters all experienced some medical issues when they were younger as of when they were growing up, the U.S Government conducted Nuclear Bomb tests in New Mexico in the 1950’s (Carlo 2006 p.132). With the fallout from these tests being carried by the winds over where the Ramirez family lived in El Paso, Texas (Matt Davis 2017). This could have contributed towards their medical conditions. Another factor may be due to Mercedes working with chemicals in the shoe factory, what she may have inhaled could also have posed as a risk to Richard’s health. Richard who was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was in the fifth grade would suffer from both petite and grand mal seizures often staring into space when experiencing a petite seizure. (Rehadlock 2017). “An epileptic seizure can be stimuli to the amygdala, thereby contributing to the causation of violence. Another biological aspect of violence is hormone related. Either a lack of hormones or extra hormones or even just the improper secretion of some hormones can drastically affect a person’s behaviour”. Debra Niehoff PhD. in the Biology of Violence (Grise 2000 p.1)
Even though Richard had four older siblings he found himself spending every opportunity he could with his cousin Michael, who fascinated Richard with stories as a Vietnam veteran. Not only did Michael get to tell graphic and gruesome story’s contrasting rape and murder but providing such impact evidence (Richard-Ramirez biography 2017). A young Ramirez felt immediately attached to as a sense of excitement and power to see how people being raped, murdered and sadistically tortured in polaroid’s that Michael had been showing off like trophies. Driving around getting high whilst recalling how Michael was the war hero (Emily n.d). Richard admitted that once seeing these pictures and graphic scenes of this nature it made him sexually aroused (Grise 2000 p.2). With the fact that Michael could see the pure excitement that Richard was portraying when seeing these photos. Michael had plenty more photos and story’s to tell; Michael had a lot more to tell and show to the extent of having shoe boxes of photos of hideous acts. With an interview with Ramirez conducted nine years after he was incarcerated, which was conducted by a gentleman called Phillip Carlo who proceeded to ask questions relating to his cousin Mike and other details that could Richard recollect from spending time with him, Mike would show Richard a shoe box of photos showing how Mike had tied up young girls and women he had raped and murdered whilst serving in Vietnam, (Dietrich et al 2007). Mike felt that these were trophy pictures in that it had shown how the girls/women were tied up and they were forced to watch as Mike raped them repeatedly (TheFamousPeople.com 2017). Richard told Philip that mike beat, raped and murdered these women even to the point Mike decapitated them. When Carlo had talked about these brutal incidents Richard replied “Yeah” of course he told him everything in that he was told all the details about what Mike had done and exactly how he did it. They would spend a lot of time just driving around, using drugs and looking at the photos of what had been done to these women (TheFamousPeople.com 2017). Richard Ramirez would go on to say that this type of show- and- tell session heavily influenced his way of thinking and he started to think of the images and story’s quite a lot. When Carlo asked if the sexual pictures influence Richards way of thinking Richard replied, “Fuck yeah, of course it did it was all about the sex.” (Bruno 2010). Continuing from the same interview, Richard reveals how Mike had taught Richard some training from Vietnam as in how to use and hold a knife properly even to the point of how to slice someone’s throat. More training was given even to the extent on what clothing was to be worn when committing a criminal act such as to wear all black and avoiding reflecting light when breaking into people’s houses (Richard-Ramirez biography 2017). With all of this going on and Mikes wife (Jessie) became more enraged due to Mike spending so much time with Richard and with them also having two young children herself with Mike. Jessie grew tired of seeing him spending so much time with Richard instead of his own children causing complication and arguments at home until the day came when Mike lost his temper in-front of the two youngest children, as-well as Richard was present and in the middle of an argument, Mike lost control, and turned and shot his wife directly in her face killing her instantly. This was only metres away from Richard and Mikes two youngest children aged 3 years and 6 years (Bruno, 2010). When Carlo asked how this made him feel he told Carlo, “I mean, to see something like that happen in-front of you – the line between life and death right there in front of me. When she went down and all I could see that it was in slow motion,” (Carlo, 2006 p. 8).
When Richard turned 18 years old he went to live in Los Angeles to visit and stay with his Brother Ruben. Ruben who was using and addicted to heroin fed his habit by committing burglaries. There became a new main objective now in stealing goods and money to get high. Richard soon found himself becoming addicted to cocaine and then started to steal cars as well. He drove around in stolen cars looking at houses he had intention to burgle. When Phillip Carlo questioned Richard as to why he became addicted to cocaine and what his thoughts were about the drug Richard said he understood that cocaine was addictive and harmful, but the pleasure you get is very profound! There is nothing – to him anyway, that even comes close to it pleasure wise, (Dietrich et al 2007). Now with his drug of choice and his knowledge of being a successful burglar, Richard who was brought up Christian had now turned his beliefs towards Satanism as Ramirez knew that through his actions and his evil thoughts God would not be pleased. So with this in mind Richard believed that Satan would be pleased with his action and of his sexual sadistic desires. When his older sister came up to visit him in Los Angeles, she asked why Richard had decided to change his faith and started to worship Satan. Richard answered “Because Satan represents me and what I feel. I am not like other people, he felt he was protected and being a burglar was a good trade, and he wouldn’t be going to jail because he was different! (Carlo 2006 p.395).
It was on the 28th of June 1984 that Richard Ramirez suddenly turned his burglaries into something sinister and far more evil. After breaking into the home of a 79 year old Jennie Vincow and after finding nothing worth stealing Ramirez became very enraged as he had no money to feed his drug habit and also not having any funds to acquire a prostitute. With anger Richard decidedly attacked the sleeping woman repeatedly stabbing her and eventually slashing her throat. The brutality of the attack shocked the police (Carlo 2006 p13). Following this attack Ramirez went quiet for approximately eight months. In February 1985 Richard struck again, and then again in March 1985, this time attacking Maria Hernandez (Carlo 2006 p.19). The terrified girl only managed to escape through pure luck while raising her hands in self-defence she managed to deflect the bullet with her keys that were in her hands, but her roommate was not so lucky and was murdered by the frenzied killer. The same evening, Ramirez also shot and killed Tsai Lian Yu after pulling her from her car and repeatedly shooting her (Carlo 2006 p.14). A few days later Richard struck again when he broke into the house of 64-year-old Vincent Zazzara and Zazzara’s 44-year-old wife, Maxine( Carlo 2006 p.29-31). He first shot dead the husband and then he tortured and eventually killed the wife, and then proceeded to gouge out her eyes after she was dead. The disturbed police were now realizing that these burglaries, attacks and murders were being committed by an evil and deranged serial killer, but they still were unsuccessful in tracking him down. Meanwhile Ramirez continued his crime spree by brutally beating aged couple William and Lillie Doi in April 1985 (Carlo 2006 p.40-41). Richard continued with his devastating crime spree when in May he severely beat 84-year old Mabel and also 81-year old Florence Lang and now adding satanic symbols by scratching the sign into their bodies (Carlo 2006 p44-43). Unfortunately they were not discovered until Two days after the attack resulting in both being deceased. Patty Higgins’ was the next victim of Ramirez by cutting her throat in June. His next attack was only two miles away from his last attack, where he did the same thing to Mary Cannon in July. Then on July 20, Ramirez broke into the Khovanath household firstly killing Mr Khovanath., and then proceeding to beat and rape his wife. Not being content with just that he took their eight-year-old son into another room carrying a bottle of baby oil. Mrs. Khovanath could do nothing and was forced to listen as Ramirez went on to rape him. After the attacks Ramirez then stole approximately $30,000 in cash and jewellery (Carlo 2006 p 86). Other attacks soon followed with Max and Leta Kneiding who were shot and killed in their home (Carlo 2006 p.85). In August, he attacked and beat Mr and Mrs Peterson, but he did not kill them (Carlo 2006 p. 96). A few days later, he continued his killing with Elyas Abowath and then savagely beating his wife, Sakina (Carlo 2006 p.100).Then on August 17, Richard committed his only documented murder outside of Los Angeles. He shot and killed Mr Pan in San Francisco, and although severely beaten and shot Peter’s wife Barbara, managed to survive her attack (Carlo 2006 p.111). With her description of the attacker being matched with the description of other survivors receiving so much media coverage and with the people of Los Angeles living in fear the murderer was named “The Night Stalker”. A week later Ramirez struck again when he shot William Carns in the head three times and then raping his fiancée Inez Erickson who managed to crawl to a window where she managed to watch as Richard Ramirez got into a car and then subsequently called the police. In the end, Ramirez’s fingerprints were taken off the abandoned stolen car as identified by Inez Erickson, and his picture was on the front page of every paper. He was then spotted by a customer in a local liquor store, and was chased and beaten by local thugs (Richard Ramirez Biography 2016). Richard was arrested for 13 murders, five attempted murders, six rapes, three lewd acts on children, two kidnappings, and three acts of forced oral copulation, four counts of sodomy, five robberies, and 14 burglaries. At his trial, Richard emblazoned a pentagon on his left palm smiling while showing it to photographers and onlookers. He also made devils horns with his fingers (Nurgel 2015).He was convicted on 46 of these counts on September 20th, 1989, in a Los Angeles county court in California. He was subsequently given a death sentence on October 3rd of that same year,” (Grise, 2000 p. 1). With the judge who dealt with the proceedings stating that his crimes he showed “brutality, cruelty and viciousness far beyond any human understanding.” Ramirez showed no expression or remorse, and, after being convicted and handed his Death sentence, he looked and stated, “big deal, death always went with the territory.” He was still believed to have committed many other murders and rapes across Los Angeles but was never charged for any additional crimes. While on death row at San Quentin State Prison, Ramirez was diagnosed with cancer. He died in 2013.
A possible explanation that relates as to why Richard Ramirez went on to become “The Night Stalker” could be that with Social Learning Theory according to (Sutherland 1947) that defines that all behaviour is learned from others in as much as in the same way as crime is learnt, relating to all other methods of behaviour which can also be learned. This can be associated with how Richard had learnt from his cousin Mike in that from an early age he was shown graphic material ranging from the photos his cousin had shown him with his sexual exploits, drugs and violence that go together which created an intense pleasure for him. Another theory that can be related to Richard and his cousin would be differential association theory which is an extension of the social learning theory, in which it is defined as saying that “A possible explanation for committing crime and deviance is that people will also go on to pursue criminal behaviour to the extent that they may wish to identify themselves with real or imaginary people from which whose opinion of their deviant or criminal behaviour is deemed acceptable”( differential association theory Burgess et al 1966). When looking at Richard Ramirez who had definitely developed in having a special bond with his cousin Mike who went on to willingly teach Richard how to go on to commit burglaries and perfect the art into committing burglaries such as been able to pick locks, opening windows with knives and dressing in black to avoid reflections. With the material from the photos of what Mike had done in relation to raping women, girls and getting them to perform sex acts on him just prior to killing his victim excited the young Ramirez and the prospects of doing these awful crimes and being able to brag about it intrigued him as if Mike could do it then why not Richard?.
The type of Serial killer that Richard could fall into could be categorised as a Hedonist. “Living and behaving in ways that mean you get as much pleasure out of life as possible, according to the belief that the most important thing in life is to enjoy yourself” (dictionary.cambridge 2018). With all the information and lifestyle choices he was being shown by his Cousin Mike it may have delivered an adverse psychological effect on him. Mike was a Vietnam War hero with medals and stories to tell the admiration from Richard at such a young age which was then fuelled with drink, drugs and an already psychotic teacher never less may have caused or contributed the downfall of Richard Ramirez.
When trying to understand what may have caused Richard Ramirez a.k.a. “The Night Stalker” to go on to rape, torture, murder girls, women, and men between 1984 and 1985 could be a combination of different things with a learned behaviour from his cousin ranging from the drugs, sex and violence also with his father’s violent behaviour, the possible biological effects from the Nuclear test in New Mexico in the 1950s. Although Ramirez reportedly sustained multiple head injuries at an early age after he was knocked unconscious by a swing at age 5, resulting in thirty stitches he began experiencing epileptic fits which could also have affected Richard (Richard Ramirez Biography 2017). With his personal thoughts about Satan and feeling protected could contribute in why Richard Ramirez became a serial killer. Where there is a direct link between his cousin Mike, and how Richard was taught how to become a career criminal after Mike spending so much time in showing off about his sexual exploits, and graphically detailing his killings to Richard through photos then Mike went on to committing the murder of his wife in-front of Richard could also have had a Psychological effect on his behaviour. Whether any biological forces that may have influenced Richard will ever be known we cannot say. What we do know is that Richard Ramirez a.k.a. “The Night Stalker” crimes will never be forgotten.
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