Content warning: There are descriptions of violence against women in this article.
Netflix’s newest true crime docuseries tells the story of a terrorized Los Angeles in the mid-1980s — and the serial killer who single-handedly caused the fear. The Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer zeroes in on Richard Ramirez, the Satanist serial killer who would often rob his victims as well.
While his crimes only spanned a year, the Night Stalker was unfortunately prolific. After a string of burglaries, rapes, and murders between 1984 and 1985, Ramirez was convicted in 1988 on 13 counts of murder, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries. Ramirez had no discernable pattern, either — his victims were white, Asian, Latino, and he broke into both apartments and houses across Los Angeles and San Francisco. Ramirez’s childhood also played a part in the style and nature of his crimes, having been exposed to violence and Satanism at a young age.
Whether you’re just getting started with Netflix’s The Night Stalker or you're one of the Netflix viewers who couldn't stomach the intense series, here's a quick (and less graphic) timeline of Richard Ramirez’s life, crimes, and conviction.
1960s — Ramirez's Early Life
Richard Ramirez is born on February 29, 1960, in El Paso, to a Mexican immigrant couple. He’s the youngest of five children. At age 10, Ramirez begins smoking weed after hanging out with his cousin, Miguel Ramirez. His cousin, a Vietnam War veteran, would also show Ramirez photographs of the women he abused, including some posing with a severed head.
1970s — Ramirez's First Crimes
On May 4, Miguel fatally shoots his wife, Jessie, in the face during a fight while Ramirez is present. A few months later Ramirez moves in with his sister, Ruth, and her husband, Roberto. Roberto is a “peeping Tom” and would take Ramirez along with him on his after-dark acts. In 1977. Miguel is released from Texas State Mental Hospital after being found not guilty of Jessie’s murder by reason of insanity. During this time Ramirez also gets a job at a Holiday Inn, where he breaks into hotel rooms to steal from guests and even attempts to rape one.
1982 — Ramirez Moves To California
Ramirez relocates to California, where the majority of his crimes occur.
April 10, 1984 — Ramirez's First Victim
Ramirez’s first known murder happens. Nine-year-old Mei Leung, a Chinese-American girl, is murdered in the basement of the San Francisco hotel where Ramirez was living. She is raped and stabbed to death before Ramirez hangs her body from a pipe. It is not initially identified as being part of his crime spree, however. In 2009, his DNA matches a sample obtained at the crime scene. In 2016, officials disclose a second suspect was likely present due to DNA evidence, but they are not publicly identified due to lack of evidence.
June 28, 1984 — The Night Stalker's First Murder In LA
Ramirez’s first identified Night Stalker crime occurs. Jennie Vincow, 79, was found murdered in her Los Angeles apartment, nearly decapitated. Ramirez’s fingerprint is found on a window screen he removed to enter the apartment.
March 17, 1985 — Serial Murders Begin
Ramirez attacks Maria Hernandez, 22, outside her home in Rosemead, CA. He shoots her in the face but she survives after a bullet ricochets off a set of keys. Her roommate, Dayle Yoshie Okazaki, is also fatally shot in the head by Ramirez.
An hour later, Ramirez heads to Monterey Park, where he shoots Tsai-Lian “Veronica” Yu twice after pulling her out of her car. Media calls Ramirez “The Walk-In Killer” and “The Valley Intruder.”
March 27, 1985 — Whittier Murders
Ramirez enters a Whittier, CA home he previously burglarized. He fatally shoots Vincent Charles Zazzara, 64, in the head while he’s asleep. His wife, Maxine Levenia Zazzara, 44, wakes up from the gunshot. Ramirez beats her and searches the room for valuables. Maxine escapes the binds and grabs a gun that isn’t loaded. Ramirez shoots her three times, then stabs her, gouges out her eyes, puts them in a jewelry box and leaves. He leaves footprints in the flower beds and bullets at this scene match those from his previous attacks.
May 14, 1985 — Ramirez Attacks Doi Family
Ramirez breaks into Bill and Lillian Doi’s home in Monterey Park. He shoots Doi in the face, beats him unconscious, and then binds Lillian, searches their home for valuables, and then rapes her. Bill Doi dies at the hospital.
May 29, 1985 — Ramirez Kills In Monrovia, Begins Driving Stolen Car
Ramirez drives a stolen car to Monrovia, CA, and breaks into Mabel “Ma” Bell and Florence “Nettie” Lang’s home. He attacks Lang with a hammer, binds her in the bedroom, and then binds and attacks Bell. He uses Bell’s lipstick to draw a pentagram on her body and the walls of both of their bedrooms after raping her. The women are found two days later alive, but Bell eventually dies due to her injuries.
May 30, 1985 — Ramirez Terrorizes In Burbank
Ramirez drives the stolen car to Burbank and breaks into Carol Kyle’s home. He binds Kyle and her son, 11, then has the son point out where the valuables are. He rapes Kyle, binds the son to her, and flees.
July 2, 1985 — Arcadia Murder
Ramirez drives the stolen car to Arcadia, CA, to Mary Louise Cannon’s home. He knocks her out with a lamp and stabs her with a knife from her kitchen. She is found dead.
July 5, 1985 — Survivor In Sierra Madre
Ramirez heads to Sierra Madre, CA, where he attacks Whitney Bennett, 16, with a tire iron as she sleeps. He then tries to strangle her with a telephone cord, but the cord sparks and Bennett begins to breathe. Ramirez flees, believing Jesus saved her. Bennett survives the attack.
July 7, 1985 — Ramirez Tells Victim To "Swear On Satan"
Ramirez breaks into Joyce Lucille Nelson’s Monterey Park home. He burglarizes her home, then beats her to death, leaving a shoeprint on her face. He then enters Sophie Dickman’s home, handcuffs her at gunpoint, tries to rpae her, and steals her jewelry. He tells her to “swear on Satan” that he stole everything of value in her home.
July 20,1985 — Glendale & Sun Valley Murders
Ramirez buys a machete and drives a different stolen vehicle to Glendale, CA. He enters Lela and Maxon Kneiding’s home, kills them with both a machete and gun, and burglarizes their home. He then drives to Sun Valley, breaks into the Khovananth home, and fatally shoots Chainarong Khovananth. He rapes and beats Somkid Khovananth, binds their eight-year-old son, and forces Somkid to point out valuables in the home. He also forces her to “swear to Satan” that she isn’t hiding money.
August 6, 1985 — Two More Victims Survive The Night Stalker
Ramirez breaks into Chris and Virginia Peterson’s home. He shoots Virginia in the face, then shoots Chris in the neck and tries to flee the scene. Chris fights back but Ramirez manages to escape. The couple survives.
August 8, 1985 — Ramirez Attacks Abowath Family
Ramirez breaks into Sakina and Elyas Abowath’s home. He fatally shoots Elyas, who was sleeping. He then handcuffs, beats, and rapes Sakina while demanding their jewelry. He ties up their three-year-old son.
August 18, 1985 — Ramirez Attacks In The Bay Area
By this point, Ramirez has left Los Angeles for the San Francisco Bay Area. He breaks into Peter and barbara Pan’s home. He shoots Peter in the head, then beats and rapes Barbara before fatally shooting her. He uses lipstick to draw a pentagram and write “Jack the knife” on a bedroom wall.
August 25, 1985 — Ramirez Is Identified As The Night Stalker
Ramirez drives to Mission Viejo in a stolen orange Toyota. James Romero, Jr.’s 13-year-old son hears Ramirez outside their home and wakes up his parents. Ramirez flees, but the family manages to glimpse the color and make of his car and part of the license plate number.
Ramirez then breaks into Bill Carns and Inez Erickson’s home. He shoots Carns three times in the head and tells Erikson he’s the Night Stalker and that she must swear to love Satan. After raping her, he tetlls her, “Tell them the Night Stalker was here.” Erikson later gives officials a description of Ramirez and they are able to find the stolen car in Los Angeles. There’s a single fingerprint on the mirror that matches Ramirez’s. “We know who you are now, and soon everyone else will,” officials say when releasing an 1984 mugshot of his. “There will be no place you can hide.”
August 30-31, 1985 — Ramirez Is Caught By Citizens
Ramirez takes a bus to Tucson, AZ, to visit his brother. He returns to California the next morning. His mugshot is all over newspapers, which he notices. He attempts to carjack a woman’s vehicle, but a group of bystanders pursue him. One manages to hit Ramirez in the head and they pin him down until police arrive.
July 1988 — Ramirez's First Court Appearance
Jury selection begins for Ramirez’s trial on July 22. At his first appearance, Ramirez yells, “Hail Satan!” and has a pentagram on his hand.
August 14, 1988 — Ramirez's Trial Is Delayed
Ramirez’s trial is delayed because one of the jurors is a no-show. The juror, Phyllis Singletary, is later found shot and killed in her apartment. The jury wonders if Ramirez is behind her death, but it is later determined that her boyfriend killed her and then committed suicide.
September 20, 1989 — Ramirez Is Convicted
Ramirez is convicted on 13 counts of murder, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries, putting him on death row.
June 7, 2013 — Ramirez Dies
Ramirez dies aged 53 of health complications at Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, CA.