The True Story Behind Netflix’s ‘Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer’

Richard Ramirez

TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains details of real-life rapes and murders.

The story of Richard Ramirez is nothing short of petrifying.

The serial killer, who was known as the Night Stalker, was able to evade capture for years as he terrorised the West Coast of the US. 

In this four-part documentary from Netflix, Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is available to stream from January 13 and gives viewers details of how Ramirez was brought to justice.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Night Stalker was his apparent lack of modus operandi (MO) — unlike most serial killers he did not target a specific age, race or gender when choosing his victims, nor was he consistent in the way he murdered them or which weapons he used. Occasionally, he would let his victims live, sometimes he would rape them and leave Satanic messages or symbols to further confuse his pursuants. 

Told over four hour-long episodes, series director Tiller Russell told The Guardian that his choice to keep the focus on the police and not on Ramirez himself was very deliberate. 

“It was really important to me not to fall prey to what I felt like was false mythology. This guy is not the Jim Morrison of serial killers. There’s nothing cool about this,” Russell said.

Who was Richard Ramirez? 

Born in El Paso, Texas on February 29, 1960, Richard Leyva Muñoz Ramírez was the youngest of five children. His father, Julian, was physically abusive leading Ramirez to gravitate toward his older cousin Miguel. Unfortunately, Miguel proved to be a dangerous influence on Ramirez, showing him photos of women he had allegedly raped and beaten in Vietnam and teaching him how to kill with stealth. 

In what profilers deem to be a crucial factor in Ramirez’s development, he was present on the night his cousin shot his wife to death during an argument. He was just 13 years old. 

Ramirez began his foray into crime while still a teenager, attempting to rape a sleeping patron at the Holiday Inn where he worked while in high school. 

What Were His Crimes?

Ramirez committed his first known murder on April 10, 1984 when he took the life of 9-year-old Mei Leung in San Francisco. She was raped, beaten and stabbed to death with her corpse strung up from a pipe. 

His first official murder as the Night Stalker was carried out on June 28, 1984 when Ramirez sexually assaulted, stabbed and murdered 79-year-old Jennie Vincow in her own home, slashing her throat in the process.

Over the course of the next year, he murdered over a dozen more victims and tortured twice as many. 

How Was He Captured?

The capture of the Night Stalker is the stuff of legends.

On August 31, 1985, Ramirez, unaware that he was now the top news of the day, returned to Los Angeles from Arizona, where he encountered a group of women who started shrieking “El Matador!” (the Killer) at the sight of him.

Realising that his face was plastered across the newspaper rack, Ramirez fled, attempting to carjack a woman to make a quick getaway. Soon, he was being chased by an angry mob of bystanders who managed to catch him, relentlessly beating him until the police took over. 

What Was His Sentence?

Ramirez was convicted of thirteen counts of murder, five attempted murders, eleven sexual assaults, and fourteen burglaries.

On November 7, 1989 he was sentenced to die in the gas chamber but died of complications from B-cell lymphoma while awaiting execution. At the time of his death, ee was 53-years-old and had been on Death Row for over 23 years. 

What Legacy Did He Leave Behind?

Disturbingly, Ramirez became something of a sex symbol and was inundated with love letters from admirers while on trial. One such admirer was Doreen Lioy whom Ramirez married in 1996, although they were never able to consummate the union per Federal law. 

For many years Lioy said she would take her own life when her husband was executed, but left him before he died. At the time of his death Ramirez was engaged to a 23-year-old woman named Christine Lee.

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