Richard Ramírez (born Ricardo Muñoz Ramírez; February 29, 1960) is an American serial killer, sex offender and burglar awaiting execution on California's death row at San Quentin State Prison. Prior to his arrest, the media dubbed the unknown serial killer active in Los Angeles, California, the "Night Stalker"; following his arrest, sensationalist reporting of his apparent interest in the occult and Satanism was common.
Pursuit and capture
Earlier on the night of August 24, a teenager who had been working on his motorcycle in his parents' garage had noticed an orange Toyota driving into the neighborhood, and he noticed it again as it was leaving. It struck him as suspicious, so he wrote down the license plate number. The next morning, he called the police about the car. With the plate number, the police were able to determine that the 1976 orange Toyota had been stolen in Los Angeles's Chinatown while the owner was dining at a restaurant. An alert was put out for the car, and two days later it was located in the Rampart section of Los Angeles. Having connected the vehicle to Ramirez, the police kept the car under surveillance for nearly 24 hours in the hope that the Night Stalker would return for it, but he did not. A forensics team scoured the car for evidence and came up with one good fingerprint which they sent to Sacramento for analysis. Hours later the computer had found a match. The print belonged to Ricardo "Richard" Leyva Múñoz Ramírez. Further analysis revealed that this print matched a print taken from a window sill at the Pans' house near San Francisco.
On August 31, Ramírez arrived in the downtown Greyhound bus station in Los Angeles, after coming back from his brother's home in Tucson, Arizona. As Ramírez was leaving the bus station, he noticed that the area was flooded with cops, but managed to slip away unnoticed, unaware that he was just recently identified as the Night Stalker. As he walked into a corner store, the owners noticed his face from the mugshots, and one of them shouted out "El Matador" ("The Killer"). Ramírez turned to the side, saw the newspaper rack with his face on several front covers, grabbed La Opinión, and ran.
Ramírez ran two miles in 12 minutes, heading east from downtown Los Angeles. Ramírez then tried to steal Faustino Pinon's red Ford Mustang. Ramírez, who was wearing a black Jack Daniel's t-shirt, had been hopping fences between yards, searching for a car he could steal easily. He had been chased off the property next door to Pinon's home and wound up in Pinon's yard. Ramírez saw that the Ford Mustang parked in the driveway was unlocked and the keys were in the ignition. He jumped in and started the engine, but had not noticed that the car's owner was underneath it, working on the transmission. As soon as Pinon, 56, heard the engine starting, he rolled out from under the car. Angry that someone was touching his prized possession, Pinon reached through the window and grabbed Ramírez around the neck. Ramírez warned Pinon that he had a gun, but Pinon ignored him. Ramírez put the car into gear and tried to drive away, but Pinon would not let go of him. The car crashed into a fence, then into the garage.
Pinon got the door open, pulled Ramírez out, and threw him to the ground. Ramírez scrambled to his feet and ran across the street just as 28-year-old Angelina de la Torres was getting into her Ford Granada. He ran up to her car and stuck his head through the driver's window, demanding that she give him the keys, threatening in Spanish to kill her if she did not. She screamed for help, and her husband Manuel, 32, came running from the backyard. According to Nancy Skelton in the Los Angeles Times, he grabbed a length of metal fence post as he passed through the gate along the side of the house. In the meantime, Jose Burgoin, who had heard the struggle in Faustino Pinon's driveway, had called the police. He ran outside to help Pinon, and when he heard Angelina scream, he called to his sons (Jaime, 21, and Julio, 17) for assistance. As the brothers ran to help Mrs. De la Torres, they saw the stranger scrambling across the front seat of her car. Jaime recognized him from photographs in the newspapers and on television and yelled that Ramirez was the killer. Ramírez ran, with the Burgoin brothers and Mr. de la Torres in pursuit; de la Torres caught up with him and hit him across the neck with the metal post he was still carrying.
Ramírez kept running, but the three men followed with de la Torres hitting him repeatedly from behind. Jaime Burgoin then caught up with Ramírez and punched him. Ramírez stumbled and fell but quickly got up and continued running with de la Torres and the Burgoin brothers again pursuing. Finally, de la Torres swung hard and hit Ramírez on the head. Ramirez collapsed to the ground. Jaime and Jose Burgoin closed in again and the three held him down until the police arrived.
One day after Ramírez's face was made public he was in custody and behind bars. Upon his arrest, Ramírez, 25, was charged with 14 murders and 31 other felonies related to his 1985 spree. He was also charged with a 15th murder in San Francisco and rape and attempted murder charges in Orange County.