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Forum and wire reports, Published June 07 2013

Death of 'Night Stalker' conjures reign of terror

LOS ANGELES – Richard Ramirez, the demonic serial killer known as the Night Stalker who left satanic signs at murder scenes and mutilated victims’ bodies during a reign of terror in the 1980s, died early Friday in a hospital, a prison official said.

Ramirez, 53, had been taken from San Quentin’s death row to a hospital where authorities said he died of liver failure. Prison officials said they could not release further details on the cause of death, citing federal patient privacy laws.

Ramirez’s death lays end to one chapter in the life of North Dakotan Billy Carns.

Carns, now living in his hometown of Bismarck, was shot in the head three times by Ramirez on Aug. 25, 1985.

Carns, age 29 at the time, was asleep in his Mission Viejo, Calif., home when Ramirez climbed through an open window, shot Carns with a .25-caliber handgun and raped his girlfriend, also a North Dakota native.

The woman survived the attack. The Forum does not identify victims of sexual assault.

Carns could not be reached for comment Friday night.

Ramirez had been housed on death row for decades and was awaiting execution, even though it has been years since anyone has been put to death in California.

At his first court appearance, Ramirez raised a hand with a pentagram drawn on it and yelled, “Hail, Satan.”

His marathon trial, which ended in 1989, was a horror show in which jurors heard about one dead victim’s eyes being gouged out and another’s head being nearly severed. Courtroom observers wept when survivors of some of the attacks testified.

Ramirez was convicted of 13 murders that terrorized Southern California in 1984 and 1985 as well as charges of rape, sodomy, oral copulation, burglary and attempted murder.

The killing spree reached its peak in the hot summer of 1985, as the nocturnal killer entered homes through unlocked windows and doors and killed men and women with gunshot blasts to the head or knives to the throat, sexually assaulted female victims, and burglarized the residences.

He was dubbed the Night Stalker by the press while residents were warned to lock their doors and windows at night.

Some of the crimes were grisly beyond imagining: A man was murdered in his bed and his wife was raped beside the dead body. The killer beat a small child and attempted to sodomize him.

There were also signs of devil worship – a pentagram drawn on the wall at one murder scene and survivors’ accounts of being ordered to “swear to Satan “ by the killer.

Ramirez was finally chased down and beaten in 1985 by residents of a blue-collar East Los Angeles neighborhood as he attempted a carjacking. They recognized him after his picture appeared that day in the news media.

The trial of Ramirez took a year, but the entire case – bogged down in pretrial motions and appeals – lasted four years, making it one of the longest criminal cases in U.S. history.

Because of the notoriety, more than 1,600 prospective jurors were called.

The trial was almost aborted in its final stages when a woman juror was murdered during deliberations. Jurors were 13 days into talks when the juror failed to appear one morning. She was found beaten and shot to death at the home she shared with her boyfriend. The next day, the man committed suicide and left a note saying he killed her in an argument.

Jurors later said the death of the juror did not influence their decision.

After the conviction, Ramirez flashed a two-fingered “devil sign” to photographers and muttered a single word: “Evil.”

On his way to a jail bus, he sneered in reaction to the verdict, muttering: “Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland.”

In 2006, the California Supreme Court upheld Ramirez’s convictions and death sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court refused in 2007 to review the convictions and sentence. Ramirez still had appeals pending when he died.


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