Richard Ramirez: The Strange Fascination of A Notorious Serial Killer

Ricardo Leyva Muñoz Ramírez or Richard Ramirez known as the Night Stalker, is not an actor, musician, best-selling author, or controversial head of state. But, he has received so much publicity.

Richard highly publicized home invasion crime spree terrorized the residents of the greater Los Angeles area, and later the residents of the San Francisco area, from June 1984 until August 1985. Most of the attacks occurred at night and he would enter the homes of his victims to perform a variety of attacks. He used the number of different weapons, including handguns, knives, a machete, a tire iron, and a hammer.

Read the list and timeline of Richard's victims here

At his first court appearance on 22 October 1985, Richard accused of being the Los Angeles area serial killer. He was gesturing a two-fingered "devil sign" to photographers and muttered a single word: "Evil." 

Then at court on 24 October 1985, Richard raised his left palm showing a pentagram drawn on it, a symbol of 
satanic worship. He showed it to the press and audience, and yelled "Hail Satan". He did it to make a statement, that he was in alliance with Evil which is inherent with human nature, and that was who he was.

Richard attended the trial with nonchalant behaviour. He sat through most of his numerous hearings, shook his body back and forth on his chair, drumming his fingers on the table, wearing black sunglasses, laughing, and gave his smile to the audience. He seemed bored with the trial and oblivious to the seriousness of the charges. 

On 20 September 1989, Richard was convicted of 13 counts of murder, 5 counts of attempted murder, 11 counts of sexual assault, and 14 counts of burglary. The trial cost $1.8 million, 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.

Read more information about Richard's trial here

Richard is good with words, while he was in court, he expressed his feelings through bombastic comments. When he was interviewed by the journalists, he can give some mind-blowing answers. Like a serious artist who committed to the dark side.

In 1990, Mike Watkiss interviewed Richard in San Francisco County Jail. Richard was charged with one murder in San Francisco and was held for several years beginning in 1990 before the San Francisco case was placed in suspension pending the outcome of Richard's appeals in his Los Angeles cases.

Below are some of Richard's comments:

"A serial killer comes about by circumstances and like a recipe. Poverty, drugs, child abuse. These things you know contribute to a person. To a person's frustation and anger. And at some point in life, he explodes."
"I think most humans have within them the capacity to commit murder."
"I believe in the evil in human nature. This is a wicked, wicked world. And, in a wicked world, wicked people are born."
"The media had portrayed me as a cold-hearted, ruthless monster, but I'm really not that way. I'm very down to earth. So, at that time I let people think whatever they wanted to. Tou see or hear about the crimes and then imagine what kind of individual was behind them."
"The media, the television, artists, newspapers - they tragically fail in the most important duty. To report the truth in an unbiased and truthful manner. It is easier to convict a man with words than with evidence."


Richard is a 6'1 tall - good looking man who has black hair, brown eyes, cute-innocent smile, and husky voice. Drawn by his handsome features and rebellious attitude (which is something like a rock star), Richard grew a cult following of adoring female fans. By the time of the trial, Richard had fans who were writing him letters and paying him visits. His fans gathered outside the courthouse, hoping for a chance to see Richard.

The magnitude of Richard's fame made some celebrities recount their experience when they were in LA County Jail, the same prison with Richard. In 1988, Todd Bridges, the child-actor who played “Willis” on TV’s Diff’rent Strokes, was jailed for attempted murder in the shooting of LA drug dealer Kenneth “Tex” Clay. Bridges spent 9 months behind bars, before he was acquitted. 

In prison, Bridges was housed on murderers’ row. One of his neighbors was Richard. Bridges writes in his autobiography, 'Killing Willis: From Diff’rent Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted', that Richard would often attempt to intimidate him. 

Actor Sean Penn has different experience. In 1987, Penn, was sentenced to 60 days in prison for reckless driving and for punching an extra on the set of his latest movie. While in jail, Richard made a connection with Penn.

During Q&A at Loyola Marymount University's School of Film and TV in March 2015, Penn spoke about his strange interaction with Richard. Penn said, after about a month of seeing each other around, Richard asked for his autograph through a deputy. Richard wrote in a letter to him: "Hey, Sean, stay tough and hit them again -- Richard Ramirez, 666."

Penn wrote back: "You know, Richard, it's impossible to be incarcerated and not feel a certain kinship with your fellow inmates. Well, Richard, I've done the impossible, I feel absolutely no kinship with you. And I hope gas descends upon you before sanity does, you know?"


Richard developed an interest in heavy metal music. Particularly Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, and Metallica. He also likes reading magazines that carried articles about rock stars.

One of AC/DC's songs, "Night Prowler" (released in 1979 from AC/DC's fifth album, Highway to Hell) known for its controversy stemming from the association with Richard's serial killings in 1985. Los Angeles County homicide investigator Gil Carillo claimed that Richard left an AC/DC hat at one of his crime scenes. He subsequently explained that one of the pieces of evidence left behind was a hat bearing the letters ‘AC/DC’ on it. Carillo released a photograph of that hat to the press — setting off a firestorm of speculation and controversy. 

That claim brought extremely bad publicity to the band, whose concerts and albums were suddenly campaigned against by parents in Los Angeles County.

On a television series VH1's Behind the Music, season 1 episode 118 which aired on 18 June 2000, former AC/DC's rhythm guitarist Malcom Young said something about the controversy:
“I thought it was a joke at first. We just thought, ‘This is crazy.’ I mean, why are we connected, anyway?”

The link to AC/DC was never made entirely clear. Eventually, Richard's nickname was repeated across the media: “Night Stalker.” That provided another link as AC/DC had included a similarly titled song. Malcolm Young said:
“That song is not called ‘Night Stalker, it’s called ‘Night Prowler’ — and it’s about things you used to do when you are a kid, like sneaking into a girlfriend’s bedroom when her parents were asleep.”

When questioned by Philip Carlo (a journalist and best selling biographer of Thomas Pitera, Richard Kuklinski, Anthony Casso, and Richard Ramirez) about heavy metal music and should young teenagers be kept away from music like that? Richard answered:
"A person that is destined or inclined to be evil, will be evil with or without music. Music I don't believe has a part in anything.....
I believe that it is the environment that will determine who a child will grow up to be."

On 7 November 1989, Richard received 19 death sentences. Following sentencing, he was transferred to Death Row at San Quentin State Prison, California.

On 30 April 2003, Metallica shot a highly unorthodox music video at various locations in the area of San Quentin State Prison to hundreds of inmates. It is also the first Metallica video to feature bassist Robert Trujillo, who joined just prior to filming. The video was made for the lead single on their eighth album, St. Anger, which released in June 2003. 

Metallica also played a ten-song set at San Quentin State Prison on 1 May 2003. The show was part of an exchange between the band and the prison. The band made a $10,000 donation to the San Quentin Giants baseball field.

Richard's connection with Metallica when they were in San Quentin prison is mentioned in a book titled Metallica: This Monster Lives: The Inside Story of Some Kind of Monster written by Joe Berlinger and Greg Milner, which originally published in November 2004:

'Kirk received an unusual gift after the show. He called us over "backstage" to show off his new prized possession. One of San Quentin's notorious inmates is Richard Ramirez, the infamous "Night Stalker." He arranged for Kirk to receive a signed copy of a recent issue of the music magazine Revolver with Metallica on the cover. He somehow knew that Kirk likes to collect dark memorabilia, so in a particularly thoughtful gesture, Ramirez left the subscription label (#E37101, San Quentin Prison) intact.'