Netflix's true-crime docuseries Night Stalker: The Hunt For a Serial Killer takes on one of the most notorious criminals of all time. You've likely heard of the titular murderer, whose deadly story has inspired a handful of projects, such as American Horror Story: 1984. Throughout the mid-1980s, Richard Ramirez wreaked havoc across California, entering unlocked homes and attacking people in the middle of the night. When his murder spree came to an end, Ramirez killed at least 14 people, earning the "Night Stalker" nickname for his gruesome crimes. While he passed away in 2013, his attacks leave behind a chilling legacy.
Ramirez was born in El Paso, TX, on Feb. 29, 1960. Growing up, Ramirez was close with his cousin Miguel, a veteran who bragged about raping and killing women while serving in Vietnam. In fact, Miguel shot and killed his own wife in front of Ramirez. Early in his life, Ramirez also participated in occult rituals, which included drinking animal blood. In his teens, he left for Southern California, where he would carry out most of his heinous crimes during the spring and summer of 1985. Before he was linked to his deadly attacks, he had also been arrested for crimes such as car theft, which eventually helped police find a mugshot of him when they matched his prints.
As discussed in the miniseries, one of the things that threw investigators off was that the Night Stalker didn't show a consistent pattern in his victims and attacks. A self-proclaimed Satanist, Ramirez preyed on people of all ages and races. He would use knives, guns, fists, and more as weapons to brutally mutilate his victims. His crimes were as varied as well: his attacks included not only murders, but also rapes and burglaries. Ramirez did, however, sneak into people's homes mostly through the same way, using unlocked windows and doors to get inside before dawn. Occasionally, the Night Stalker also left inverted pentagram symbols at crime scenes. While it took time to track him down, those who survived his crimes could identify him by his lanky build, long hair, damaged teeth, and strong odor.
Ramirez committed most of his known crimes in Los Angeles, but also attacked people in San Francisco. His reign of terror ended soon after the police announced his identity to the public during a press conference and the media published his face everywhere. On Aug. 31, 1985, locals in east Los Angeles spotted him when he boarded a bus. Before the police arrived, Ramirez attempted to steal two cars, but an angry mob found and subdued him before he was arrested. By the end of his trial in 1989, Ramirez was found guilty of 13 deaths. Sentenced to death, he received 43 charges in total, including those for murder, attempted murder, sexual assault, and burglary.
In 1996, Ramirez married Doreen Lioy, a freelance magazine editor who had been corresponding with him through the mail. In 2009, investigators found DNA evidence that linked him to the 1984 rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl named Mei Leung. While on death row at San Quentin State Prison, he died of cancer in 2013 at age 53.