Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker


No doubt Richard Ramirez, like most budding serial killers, fed off the memory of his first victim, reliving the experience of rape and murder over and over again in his mind.   If he had taken what criminal profilers call a souvenir—a hair brush, a piece of underwear, eyeglasses, any object intimately connect with the victim—he might have used that to stoke his recollections and help him elaborate on his fantasy.  But eventually the mental reenactment of that initial crime wouldn't be as satisfying as it had once been.  The killer would need a new experience to replenish the fantasy.  He might have tried to control himself for a period, but the pressure within him was mounting.  Eventually he would give in to his compulsion and do it again.

On March 17, 1985, at 11:30 p.m., twenty-year-old Angela Barrios was just returning home from a long day at work.   She lived in a condominium that she shared with a roommate in Rosemead, a middle-class town north-east of Los Angeles.   She pulled her car into the driveway and opened the garage door with a remote control.  She was tired and hadn't had dinner yet.  All she wanted to do was get inside and unwind.  But as she got out of her car, she heard something behind her.  A dark figure suddenly rushed up to her.  He was tall and dressed entirely in black.  A navy blue baseball cap was pulled down low over his brow.  He was holding a gun.

He pointed the gun in her face, holding it    just inches from her nose.  She pleaded with him not to kill her.  She tried not to look at his face, hoping that he might spare her, but she couldn't help but look.  His eyes were cold and hard. 

She continued to beg for mercy, but he ignored her—perhaps he was angered by her pleading—and he pulled the trigger.   The sound of the gunshot was like an explosion in the enclosed garage.  Angela collapsed on the concrete floor.  She was alive but too afraid to move.  The gunman stepped over her and went to the door that led to her condo, kicking her body out of the way so he could open it. 

Angela lay perfectly still, playing dead.   After a while—she didn't know how long—she realized that her hand was bleeding.  Her keys were still in that hand.  She'd raised her hands instinctively when the man had menaced her with the gun, and the bullet had miraculously hit the keys and ricocheted away.  Angela collected herself and got to her feet.  She had started to run out of the garage when she heard another gunshot behind her.  She kept running, just hoping   to escape, but she ran into the man in black as he was coming out the front door of her condo.

She tried to get away from him, but her legs were shaky.   She stumbled back toward her car in the garage, convinced that he was going to finish her off.  But instead of pursuing her, the man shoved the gun into his belt and fled.  Angela Barrios was saved from this madman.

Her roommate, Dayle Okazaki, age 34, wasn't so lucky.   Angela found her face down on the kitchen floor in a pool of her own blood.  There was blood everywhere, on the walls, furniture and appliances.  Angela ran to her side to check for signs of life, but Okazaki had been shot through the forehead.  Angela grabbed the phone and called 911.  Later, when the police searched the crime scene, they found the killer's baseball cap in the garage.

What exactly happened inside the condominium is unknown, but for some reason killing Dayle Okazaki was apparently not the experience Richard Ramirez had hoped for.  Incredibly, that same night he struck again in nearby Monterey Park. 

According to author Clifford L. Linedecker, a policeman was dispatched to investigate an empty yellow Chevrolet parked with its motor running.   The transmission was in reverse; the car parked behind it was keeping it from moving any farther.  When the officer got out of his patrol car to check inside the car, he found an unconscious woman lying on the ground nearby.  The officer ran to her and immediately checked her vital signs.  He noticed that her stockings were ripped, and there was an ugly bruise on her leg.  She was alive, but just barely.  He ran back to his car and radioed for an ambulance.  When he returned to the woman, he discovered a metal medallion and a torn section of a twenty-dollar bill on the pavement.  He tried to revive her, hoping she could tell him what had happened, but her breathing was labored.  He could tell she was in trouble and needed immediate medical attention, but in the dim light he hadn't noticed that she had been shot several times.  The woman, a thirty-year-old Taiwanese native named Tsia-Lian Yu, who was known to her friends as Victoria, died before the ambulance arrived.

The killer was in a frenzy. Killing Dayle Okazaki had not satisfied his need, so on the spur of the moment, he had attacked Tsia-Lian Yu.   But murdering and assaulting her might not have done it for him because three days later he murdered an eight-year-old girl in Eagle Rock, California.

A week later, on March 27, 1984, he emerged again,    and this time he found an MO that worked for him.

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