Creating a Monster: Richard Ramirez, The Night Stalker

It was the night of June 28, 1984. Jennie Vincow, a 79-year-old mother, had seen her son the day before and was getting ready to go to bed as she did each night. However, little did she know, she would not be waking up the next morning. That was the very night Richard Ramirez would begin his horrendous killing spree as “the Night Stalker” in the Los Angeles area. Richard, in a cocaine-driven state, entered and attempted to burglarize the home of Vincow, but when he was unable to find any valuables worth stealing, he brutally slashed her throat, nearly decapitating her. He then raped Vincow’s dead body before escaping into the night unnoticed.1 A murder as brutal as this one was only the beginning of Richard’s plunge into a vile cycle filled with murder, rape, and terror, including the murdering of thirteen people and sexually assaulting eleven women.2 However, what could possibly have caused Richard Ramirez to turn into such a monster?

Richard Ramirez appearing in court with a pentagram drawn on his palm | Courtesy of Crime Museum

Richie, as his family called him, was born in the sun city El Paso, Texas to two immigrant Mexican parents, Julian and Mercedes Ramirez.3 During Mercedes Ramirez’ pregnancy, she worked at a boot factory where she would often have to work and breathe in dangerous chemicals all day long. This caused her to have many difficulties while she was pregnant with him; she frequently had to get hormone injections because her body was rejecting the child. Nevertheless, Mercedes was able to give birth to a healthy baby boy. Born the youngest of five siblings, Richard often looked up to his older three brothers and formed a tight connection with his sister at a young age. As a baby, Richard “was a good baby, [he] didn’t cry much, [and he] ate & slept well.” Ruth, his older sister, was particularly fond of her younger brother and would often dress him up and play with him. She considered him her “little doll” that “would be different than her older brothers” who teased and roughhoused with her; her brothers were known to be aggressive and had short tempers like their father.4

Tragedy struck the Ramirez household when two-year-old Richard was nearly killed by a dresser falling on his head. Young Richard was always fond of music and listening to the radio, so one afternoon while being watched by his babysitter, he begged her to turn on the radio for him. After she continually refused to do this for him, Richard thought he would do the job himself. The small two-year-old waddled into his parent’s bedroom to reach the small radio on top of their long wooden dresser. However, Richard was much too small to reach the radio sitting on top; instead, he opted to climb the dress through the open drawers to reach his goal. As his small hands and feet climbed the tall dresser, closer and closer to the radio, the dresser decided it could not hold the weight of the boy. Richard came tumbling down with the dresser over him, bashing his forehead open and knocking him unconscious for fifteen minutes, all the while bleeding profusely. Quickly, his babysitter dialed his parents and transported him to the nearest hospital where he received 30 stitches and was diagnosed with a concussion. However, this would not be the last major head injury Richard was to suffer.5

Richard Ramirez aged three and six | Courtesy of Supernaught

When Richard was five years old, he went to the local park with his older sister, Ruth, and his older brother, Robert. Excited to see his sister who was already swinging, Richard ran to Ruth. Unable to stop herself in time from swinging, she “slammed into his head with terrific force, knocking him out and giving him a deep gash.”6 Richard was once again knocked unconscious and taken to the hospital. A year later, now age six, Richard began to have epileptic seizures and was diagnosed with “Temporal Lobe Epilepsy,” and he would continue to have seizures until his early teens. People diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy often showcase “altered sexuality, hyper-religious feelings, are hypergraphic, and are excessively aggressive.”7

The most notable influence over Richard in his developing years was his older cousin Miguel, a former Green Beret who served in Vietnam. At age twelve Richard began to spend time with him when he returned home from his service. To Richard, Miguel was a real-life hero who fought in the name of freedom and returned with several medals pinned to his chest. Miguel would often show Richard the polaroids he took in Vietnam of Vietnamese women forced into performing fellatio at gunpoint on Miguel. He would then show Richard a photo of him holding those same women’s decapitated heads.8 Richard later recounted that he was oddly sexually aroused by these images, even though he knew they were wrong. Richard quickly came under Miguel’s wing. On afternoons, Miguel would train Ramirez in military tactics he learned while in Vietnam; how to be stealthy and how to kill another human being effectively were all lessons Miguel taught Richard.9

Richard Ramirez as a child | Photo courtesy of The Post-Mortem Post

May 4, 1973 was a night Richard would never forget. It started as every other evening did, with Richard over at Miguel’s house smoking pot and playing miniature pool, when he reached into the fridge for a cold drink. While grabbing the drink Richard noticed a .38 caliber inside the fridge. Stunned by his discovery, Richard asked Miguel what the gun was doing inside of the fridge; Miguel quickly dismissed him and told him he might be using it. Later that night, Miguel’s wife came home after grocery shopping, complaining that Miguel didn’t have a job; this was a fight they often had. Calmly, Miguel walked over to the fridge, pulled out the gun and shot his wife at point blank range. Richard stood stunned before Miguel ordered him to leave the scene and not tell anyone what he had witnessed. Richard walked back to his own home, saying nothing to any of his family members or law enforcement. Miguel was captured for the crime but not charged because he pled insanity, citing that he had not gotten proper psychological treatment after the Vietnam War. But that was the first time Richard came into contact with death personally, specifically the death of someone he knew well. Richard years later recounted that “it was the strangest thing… I knew her… she was dead, murdered, gone.”10

When studying Richard’s childhood years, it is clear he had all the ingredients to become a serial killer. From the devastating head injuries that left him mentally impaired to the overwhelming negative influence of his cousin Miguel, one can clearly see that Richard’s childhood greatly affected the way he grew up, later to become the horrendous Night Stalker. From Richard Ramirez case, one can learn what it takes to create a murderer and how an adolescence’s development can influence the human mind.

  1. Philip Carlo, The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez (New York: Kensington, 2016), 6.
  2. “Satanic Serial Killer and Rapist Richard Ramirez ‘Turned Green’ before Death,” International Business Times (website), June 9, 2013. Accessed April 1, 2019.
  3. Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, 2001, s.v. “Ramirez, Richard (1960-),” by J. Gordon Melton.
  4. Philip Carlo, The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez (New York: Kensington, 2016), 139-141.
  5. Philip Carlo, The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez (New York: Kensington, 2016), 142-143.
  6. Philip Carlo, The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez (New York: Kensington, 2016), 146.
  7. Philip Carlo, The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez (New York: Kensington, 2016), 146-147.
  8. Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, 2001, s.v. “Ramirez, Richard (1960-),” by J. Gordon Melton.
  9. Philip Carlo, The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez (New York: Kensington, 2016), 152-153.
  10. Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, 2001, s.v. “Ramirez, Richard (1960-),” by J. Gordon Melton.

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62 Responses

  1. Such an interesting article. I have never heard of Richard Ramirez or the crimes he has committed. This article did a great job of presenting information about his history and how he became this “monster.” I like how this was more focused on why he did these things rather than what he did. It was a very disturbing and unique story all in one.

  2. I have read a great deal about Richie and his crimes. Always wondered about the photo of him aged about 8, wearing what seems to be a girl’s top with floral embroidery, and quite long wavy hair. In fact thought it might be his sister Ruth but have always seen it tagged as him. Considering he was born in 1960 it’s s a rather effeminate picture as flower power didn’t catch on that early. The targets of his sexual assaults were female, from very young to a lot older than him. He was indiscriminate in that respect, but he did attempt to sodomize one boy, and I question his reason for that departure from his usual practice. As he matured during the protracted legal process he metamorphosed from a scruffy delinquent into the extremely handsome man who attracted a number of women. Even in the last two published photos his looks are attractive, especially the one in which he is looking through almost closed eyes. It would be good to know if he had any spiritual awakening in his final years (he had been a Catholic altar boy) or whether he remained convinced that he was Satan’s instrument.

  3. Its interesting to see how a normal child can be transformed into monster from head injuries. Although his childhood was not the norm considering his sister would dress him up hoping he wouldn’t be like the others, its still tragic to see the things he does as an adult. Its awful to see what a mentally ill person is capable of, so I think its very important to broadcast the importance of mental illness throughout our whole society to prevent things like these to happen. Overall, a good read and unique story.

  4. Although Richard’s decisions were entirely up to him, it seems as though his parents had a hand in his development into a serial killer. They seemingly neglected him for years, allowing him to injure his head so many times as a child and not making any efforts to keep him more safe along with allowing him to spend so much time with his unhinged cousin certainly attributed to Ramirez’s insanity.

  5. I had never heard of the “The Night Stalker” until now and it shocked me. I agree with what the article says at the end about how a child’s adolescence can affect how they are. The way people are raised definitely creates an impact on how they are going to be when they get older and this is a perfect example of that.

  6. It’s disturbing on how a normal person could turn into a ruthless killer. Perhaps it was due to the injury he suffered when he was a child or maybe the event where he saw Miguel killed his wife in front of him triggered his desire to kill? It’s great how the article focuses on the backstory of the criminal instead of the crimes he committed and his sentence in court.

  7. I don’t recall ever leaning about Richard Ramirez, but this article does a very good job in describing who he was and what he did. I really liked how this article mentioned what crimes were committed by him but it didn’t focus on that, rather it focused on the reasoning behind why they believed he became the way he did. This was a very interesting story to read and was very well written.

  8. Interesting story. I once heard of Richard Ramirez, but I never ventured deeper into his history. It is incredible to think about everything that happened to him, and this is something that the title of the article connects excellently, it was really the creation of a monster. It is vitally necessary that these problems be detected on time, so it would be good if the education system incorporates an intense psychology program.

  9. I had learned about Richard Ramirez from another article which focused more on the crimes that he had committed and about the relationship he had with his wife. But this article was really interesting in trying to see the possible reasoning as to why he became a serial killer in the first place. I liked how this article focused more on what lead up to him to become a serial killer rather than the stuff he committed. It’s a good and different POV.

  10. Throughout high school I learned about Richard Ramirez’s crimes and specifically about the acts he did, but never really about his back history. This article does a great job at chronologically going through this instances in which could be the reasons that Richard is the way that he is. I find it horrifying that he went through a childhood like he did, but it’s already been done and there was essentially no turning back.

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