Richard Ramirez was one of the most notorious serial killers in U.S. history, but he left enough clues for police to capture him

By Steve Helling
November 03, 2017 01:12 PM
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In the 1980s, a serial killer was on the loose in Los Angeles — but his methods baffled authorities.

The killer used a wide variety of weapons: handguns, knives, a machete, and even a tire iron. Some of his victims were robbed; others were raped. Some were fatally shot.

Even more inexplicably, the man — who the media dubbed the Night Stalker — left some victims alive, seemingly at random. From April 1984 to August 1985, he killed at least 14 people.

Eventually, police identified the Night Stalker as 25-year-old drifter Richard Muñoz Ramirez. His name and face were soon revealed in the media. He was captured in Arizona in August 1985, when a crowd of people held him — and beat him up — until police arrived.

It took years before the case went to trial, but on September 20, 1989, Ramirez was convicted of 13 counts murders, 5 attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries. He was sentenced to 13 death sentences. Due to California’s lengthy appeals process, Ramirez remained in prison until his death from B-cell lymphoma in 2013. He was 53.

More than three decades after the Night Stalker’s heinous crimes, the Reelz channel revisits Ramirez in its docuseries, Murder Made Me Famous – and the show speaks to several key players in the case who haven’t spoken out in years.

Richard Ramirez, the "Night Stalker"
Credit: Getty

Frank Salerno was the lead detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department during the crime spree. “He strangled people. He cut throats. He stomped one woman to death,” Salerno tells the show.

Salerno also recalls how Ramirez descended into Satanism and incorporated it into his crimes. During one attack, Salerno says, he made the woman invoke the name of Satan.

“He said, ‘Don’t look at me,'” Salerno recalls. “And then she says, ‘I swear to God, I won’t.’ And he said, ‘Don’t swear to God. Swear to Satan.'”

Ramirez never apologized to his victims or their families. “He never showed any remorse for what he had done,” Salerno says. “He was pure evil.”

Because Ramirez’s crimes were haphazard, he often left items and witnesses behind. At one point, he dropped an appointment card for a dental appointment. “He left us enough clues that we could figure out who he was,” says Salerno. “We had to get him off the streets.”

Murder Made Me Famous combines reenactments, exclusive interviews and never-before-seen photos and video to tell the story of infamous murderers. The show is hosted by PEOPLE Senior Writer Steve Helling.

The Richard Ramirez/Night Stalker episode airs Saturday (9 p.m. ET) on the Reelz Channel.