Thursday, March 17, 2011

Today in History - 17 March

The Night Stalker terrorises Los Angeles

On this day in 1985, Richard Ramirez, the infamous Night Stalker, buys a gun and then kills two women in separate attacks in Los Angeles. These murders started an incredible spree that panicked the entire city during the summer of 1985. Ramirez, who swore allegiance to Satan, killed over a dozen people.

Ramirez, dressed in all black and wearing an AC/DC cap, cruised the freeways of East Los Angeles looking for a victim on March 17. As he drove, he listened to AC/DC's Highway to Hell album over and over again; his favorite song was "Night Prowler." Finally, he spotted Maria Hernandez and followed her as she drove home. As she was opening her door from the garage, Ramirez walked straight at her, pointed the gun at her head and fired.

Remarkably, Hernandez put up her hand in front of her face and the bullet deflected off her keys. In the dark, Hernandez played dead while Ramirez entered her home. Unfortunately, roommate Dayle Okazaki was not so lucky. Ramirez shot her in the head and killed her. He left behind two clues: his AC/DC cap and a footprint from a size 11.5 Avia sneaker.

That same night, Ramirez began to follow law student Veronica Yu as she drove home. Yu realized that she was being followed and confronted Ramirez, but he jumped into her car and shot her to death with the .22 caliber gun.

On March 26, Ramirez began to establish a pattern. He burst into homes in the middle of the night, immediately shooting the men and then tying up the women for rape. He made his victims swear to Satan and carved pentagrams on walls. Though the press initially called the killer the Valley Intruder, the Night Stalker name stuck.

In early August, Ramirez decided to go to San Francisco to continue his killing in a less security-conscious environment. However, after he hit his first home, detectives discovered size 11.5 Avia footprints. Amazingly enough, Ramirez was the only one on the entire West Coast who had a pair of those exact sneakers. When San Francisco's mayor announced that the Night Stalker was responsible for this attack because of the shoe evidence, Ramirez threw the shoes off a bridge and returned to Los Angeles, where he was captured on August 31.

On September 20, 1989, Ramirez was found guilty of forty-three crimes, including thirteen counts of murder, five attempted murders and eleven sexual assaults. As of 2011, he was still awaiting execution in California's San Quentin State Prison.

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