The city of Los Angeles lived in fear as a serial killer, nicknamed by the media ‘Night Stalker’, terrorized people in their homes. Torture and sadistic murder was the type of evil this devout satanist craved and it was highly likely he would attack again.
Then law enforcement released a mugshot of Richard Ramirez (he had previously been arrested for auto theft) and declared he was the infamous ‘Night Stalker’. The entire city was on high alert.
On August 31st, 1985, residents in East L.A. recognized Ramirez in the street and beat him until police arrived. Yet, the nightmare was far from over. The entire subsequent trial became a media circus.
Deputy District Attorney Philip Halpin recalled, “What I really remember was the drama in court. Not since the days of (Charles) Manson did you have this circus going on in court.”
These are the most disturbing moments during the trial of Richard Ramirez.
8. Ramirez Launches Into Satanic Outbursts
On October 24th, 1985, during his very first appearance in front of a judge, Ramirez held us his palm for the cameras so they could broadcast to the millions of viewers a pentagram he had drawn on his hand.
Ramirez then pleads not guilty to all charges and before he is led out of the courtroom, shouts: “Hail Satan!”
Later in the proceedings, when asked if Ramirez had any words for the court, he stated: “Legions of the night, show no mercy, I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells within us all.”
It was a sign of things to come. In the documentary ‘Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer’, former Fox KKTV News reporter Tony Valdez said, “It was pretty clear, even then, that we were in for a rollercoaster ride as this wound it’s way through the courts.”
7. Ramirez Overheard Threatening To Shoot The Prosecution
On July 22nd, 1988, jury selection for the trial had officially begun. More than 1,600 potential jurors had to be interviewed to find a panel that was impartial about Ramirez.
Jail officials warned the court that Ramirez was overheard in his cell threatening to shoot and kill the prosecution. Ramirez said an unnamed friend would smuggle a gun into the courtroom, then he would “get the D.A” before turning the gun on others.
Following the threat, metal detectors were installed around the building and more vigilant security checks were in place. Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Philip Halpin told the LA Times, “I understand this has something to do with the threat on my life made by the defendant.”
Despite the seriousness of the threat, Halpin was angered that he was put through an intensive search. Adding he had “never been searched in his career” and “they’ll have to get another prosecutor in the case and I’ll provide the security.”
Ramirez denied making the claims in his cell and his defense lawyer also said that he knew of no such threat.
6. A Juror Is Murdered
The trial finally began on January 31st, 1989, three and a half years after Ramirez’s arrest.
Then on August 14th, one of the jurors, Phyllis Singletary, did not arrive for jury duty. When police arrived at her home, they discovered she been shot and killed.
Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan sent the remaining jurors home to recover from the shock of her death. They were left terrified believing Ramirez had orchestrated this kill somehow.
Then, following a further investigation, it was discovered that Singletary had been killed by her boyfriend, James Cecil Melton, following a domestic dispute. After an anonymous phone tip, Sheriff’s deputies arrived at a motel in suburban Carson to arrest Melton but he turned the gun on himself.
Deputy Bill Wehner told the Associated Press, “He came out of his room onto the balcony, put a fully loaded unidentified caliber handgun to his head, and shot himself. He died at the scene.”
An alternate juror then replaced Singletary as neither the prosecution or defense wanted a mistrial.
5. Ramirez Had His “Rotten” Teeth Fixed
During the manhunt for the ‘Night Stalker’, detectives knew they were looking for a suspect with “rotten, gapped, and stained” teeth. At the time of his arrest, nine of his teeth, according to forensic dentists who testified during his trial, were decayed, with teeth missing from his lower and upper gum.
Following his conviction, his teeth were fixed by a prison dentist. Then in court, Ramirez appeared with his signature twisted smile; displaying new rows of shiny, white teeth.
13-year-old James Romero, who assisted the police in creating a composite sketch of the killer, said, “I feel like justice was never served. He was given the death penalty, and then he stayed in there all those years. They ended up fixing his teeth, spending a bunch of money on him. He got taken care of and lived out his life until he died. What a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
4. Ramirez’s Defense Attorneys Had Only 2 Years Of Legal Experience Between Them
Defense attorney Arturo Hernandez had only been in legal practice for two years when he represented Ramirez in court. He had never worked on a death penalty case before. Hernandez recalls, “One of the problems we occurred is we were looked upon like we were not capable.”
Even Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan voiced his concerns that Ramirez’s lawyers were nowhere near experienced enough for such a high profile case. The prosecution was concerned they wouldn’t make it through to the end of hearing evidence and this would result in a mistrial.
Detective Gil Carrillo, who was one of the law enforcement officers that helped capture Ramirez, said: “These guys had never had a case of this magnitude. There is a difference between defending someone for petty theft or burglary, then there is for multiple murders and a death penalty case.”
DA Halpin also took a swipe at the defense team’s lack of experience as he told the court, “(The defense) really has no standing before the court.”
Ramirez defended his attorneys as he spat back at Halpin from across the room, “They do to me!”
3. The Most Brutal of Crimes
The brutality of Ramirez’s crimes left the jurors, journalists, and those in the public galleries, deeply disturbed. The first murder took place on June 28th, 1984, when he repeatedly stabbed to death 79-year-old Jennie Vincow, who was also sexually assaulted, at her home in Glassell Park, Los Angeles.
Over the next 14 months, he claimed the lives of thirteen innocent victims between Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay. Five other victims had managed to just survive with their lives following the brutal attacks. The prosecution called more than 140 witnesses to testify against Ramirez.
Ramirez would strike his victims at night – entering their homes through the window whilst wearing gloves – or trying the doors and finding them unlocked. If the husband was at home, Ramirez would kill him first before brutally raping the wife. He wore all black and carried many weapons including a .22 revolver; a machete; a hammer, and a tire iron.
At many of the crime scenes, he would leave the pentagram symbol behind or carve satanic statements into the walls. He chillingly told one survivor, “Tell them the Night Stalker was here.”
2. Serial Killer Groupies Arrive At Court
It wasn’t long before Ramirez had his own groupies turning up to watch the trial. Alan Yochelson, former District Attorney of Los Angeles County, recalls this disturbing phenomenon. He said, “(Ramirez) loved the attention. At this point, the women started showing up – the so-called ‘groupies’ – who would come to court and want to see Ramirez. (They) were rooting for him.”
Even more disturbingly, is hoards of women would send Ramirez (who was very public about his foot fetish), photos of their feet for him to fantasize over.
One juror, Cindy Haden, had also fallen in love with the serial killer, and on Valentine’s Day, she gifted him a cupcake with the message “I Love You”. Shortly after, she was dismissed from jury duty.
Following his death penalty sentencing, Haden continued to visit Ramirez behind bars – eventually introducing him to her parents. Later, she defended Ramirez during her talk show appearances calling him a “caring guy”.
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1. The Trial Cost $1.8 Million
The trial of Richard Ramirez was one of the longest and most difficult trials in criminal history. In total, the trial cost Los Angeles taxpayers $1.8 million ($4.8million today), which at the time made it the most expensive in the history of California until surpassed by the O. J. Simpson murder case in 1994.
On September 20th, 1989, the jury found Ramirez guilty on 13 counts of murder, 5 counts of attempted murder, 11 counts of sexual assault, and 14 burglary charges. He was sentenced to death row.
Ramirez decided to speak one last time to the courtroom. He stated, “I don’t need to hear all of society’s rationalizations. I’ve heard them all before and the fact remains that what is, is. You don’t understand me. You are not expected to. You are not capable of it. I am beyond your experience. I am beyond good and evil.”
Speaking to the reporters outside, Ramirez said, “No big deal. Death always comes with the territory. I’ll see you in Disneyland.”
On June 7th, 2013, died of complications from B-cell lymphoma whilst on death row at San Quentin Prison. He was 53-years-old.