Picks and Pans Review: The Night Stalker
by Philip Carlo
During 1985’s record-shattering summer heat, Los Angeles residents sweated behind locked windows and tightly drawn curtains as the worst serial killer in the state’s history went on a rampage of robbery, rape and murder. Dubbed the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez—a handsome, crack-using, Satan-worshipping drifter from El Paso, who liked to dress in black and listen to the heavy-metal band AC/DC—broke into dozens of homes in L.A. suburbs. Once inside, he shot and killed any men he encountered. He then bound and sexually tortured the women, often repeatedly, before leaving with a pillowcase full of cash and jewelry. No one was exempt from his random viciousness; the victims ranged from a 16-year-old girl to a 79-year-old grandmother.
In the true-crime tradition of In Cold Blood and The Executioner’s Song, Carlo compellingly tells the ghastly story from numerous points of view, including those of Ramirez and the two ingenious sheriff’s detectives who finally cracked the case. Also fascinating is the account of the Night Stalker’s bizarre 14-month trial, during which one juror was murdered by her boyfriend while another sent Ramirez a Valentine’s Day cupcake that read, “I Love You.” In the end, Ramirez received the death sentence 19 times plus 198 years in prison on other charges. He is in San Quentin, awaiting an appeal, claiming he was the victim of incompetent counsel. (Kensington; $22.95)