HomeOur ObsessionsHow a community caught LA’s serial killer: The Night Stalker

How a community caught LA’s serial killer: The Night Stalker

The Night Stalker terrorized LA and San Francisco for nearly two years. But the community were the ones to finally take him down when he messed up.

How a community caught LA’s serial killer: The Night Stalker

It takes a whole village to do a lot. Raise a child, come together after tragedy, stop a serial killer, the usual. Community is what motivates us, like how the Night Stalker motivated LA to bring an end to his crimes. 

The Night Stalker, real name Richard Ramirez, terrorized LA and San Francisco over a nearly two month period before he was finally apprehended for his crimes. But the real reason he was caught was thanks to the community keeping an eye out for him.

The Night Stalker terrorized LA and San Francisco for nearly two years. But the community were the ones to finally take him down when he messed up.

A short backstory

We’ve gone over the crimes committed by Ramirez as the Night Stalker before, but here’s a brief recap. After a horrible mentor of a cousin helped motivate Ramirez to be violet, he attacked a 9 year old girl, raping and murdering her. 

But the real crimes started in June of 1984, where Ramirez broke into the home of Jennie Vincow and stabbed her multiple times in her sleep when robbing her. In 1985, the Night Stalker broke into 14 homes and killed at least 14 people while raping an additional 11. 

The Night Stalker terrorized LA and San Francisco for nearly two years. But the community were the ones to finally take him down when he messed up.

Getting messy

While Ramirez had left DNA clues at a few of his crime scenes, police were failing to connect it all together to figure out who the Night Stalker was. But one failed robbery attempt set up Ramirez for his inevitable demise. 

August 24th, 1985, Ramirez started the night breaking into the home of the Romeros. Their 13 year old son James woke up and heard him outside, so he ran to wake up his parents. Ramirez ran away after the parents woke up, but not before James’ father could get the make, model, color, and a partial license plate of Ramirez’s stolen car. 

Right after, Ramirez broke into the home of Bill Carns and his fiancee Inez Erickson. Shooting Carns in the head, Ramirez took whatever valuables he could find, and took Erickson to a room, raping and sodemizing her. After Ramirez left, Erickson woke up neighbors to get help for Carns, who survived the shooting. 

The Night Stalker terrorized LA and San Francisco for nearly two years. But the community were the ones to finally take him down when he messed up.

City-wide hunt for the Night Stalker

After reporting the break in, Carns gave a detailed description of Ramirez while also getting police a cast of Ramirez’s footprint. Police were able to track down the stolen car and found fingerprints of Ramirez’s. From this, police identified Ramirez who was already in the system thanks to a rap sheet of crimes from Texas.

By the end of August, Ramirez’s mugshot from 1984 was on the front page of every paper in LA. Ramirez had no clue of any of this, as he took a bus to Arizona to meet up with his brother on August 30th. Early on August 31st, Ramirez returned back to LA. Walking right past police at the bus terminal, he wandered into a corner store. 

The Night Stalker terrorized LA and San Francisco for nearly two years. But the community were the ones to finally take him down when he messed up.

Taking down a serial killer

When Ramirez walked into the store, he noticed a group of elderly Mexican women staring at him in fear, walking towards police. At that moment, he saw the newspaper display and knew he was in trouble. Ramirez fled towards the highway. 

First, he attempted to carjack on the freeway, but bystanders chased him away. Running away from civilians, Ramirez hopped several fences and tried to carjack two more people. But finally, the civilians chasing him caught up to him and knocked him out with a metal bar. The group then beat Ramirez until police came to lock him up. 

The Night Stalker terrorized LA and San Francisco for nearly two years. But the community were the ones to finally take him down when he messed up.

No justice served

While Ramirez was sentenced to death by gas chamber, he never made it in. While sitting on death row for more than 20 years, he passed away in 2013 from B-cell lymphoma. He did spend the remainder of his life in prison, which is the best the victims can expect. 

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Bethany is a recent graduate who dreams of making her own award-winning film, but for now writes about other media. She’s a child at heart specializing in hot takes on animated family movies (and sometimes other films & TV).

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