Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker

'Satanists Don't Wear Gold'

The bride wore a calf-length, white wedding dress with long lace sleeves. The groom wore a starched set of prison blues, the pants a little too long, the shirt tails hanging out. She was glowing; he was nervous. The ceremony took place on October 3, 1996, in the large, gray-walled main visiting room of California's San Quentin Prison. According to Jim Doyle writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, the bride, Doreen Lioy, age 41, was a freelance magazine editor with a bachelor's degree in English and an I.Q. of 152. The groom, serial killer and rapist Richard Ramirez, was on Death Row, awaiting execution.

Richard Ramirez and new wife Doreen Lioy
Richard Ramirez and new wife Doreen

Seven years earlier in 1989, Ramirez had been convicted on 43 counts, including 13 murders, and the authorities have good reason to believe that he had committed several others. For over a year starting in the spring of 1985, the residents of Los Angeles County lived in fear of the anonymous "Night Stalker" as he was called, forcing many to alter their nighttime habits, install better locks on their doors and windows, and invest in electronic security systems. The newspapers dubbed him the Night Stalker because he always attacked at night like a vampire.

Richard Ramirez at his first arraignment
Richard Ramirez at his first

The visiting room at San Quentin with its rows of orange plastic seats bolted to the floor and assorted vending machines lined up against one wall, was crowded that day with other prisoners and family members who had come on their appointed visiting day. Many of them stared at the infamous inmate and kept their distance even though the Night Stalker seemed considerably less ferocious than he had been when he had spooked the courtroom at his lengthy trial back in 1989. Instead of his signature dark glasses, Ramirez, now age 36, wore round prescription glasses. He moved a bit hesitantly and seemed ill-at-ease.

The long-haired brunette who longed to be the Night Stalker's bride had first contacted Ramirez after his arrest in 1985 and had written him nearly 75 letters during his incarceration. He finally proposed to her in 1988, but prison rules delayed their wedding. Other women tried to steal him away from her, visiting him in prison and lavished him with all kinds of attention. Doreen often ran into them when she came to for her visits, and at least one woman threatened physical violence if Doreen didn't abandon her claim on the Night Stalker. But Doreen persevered, and in the end she got her man.

She claimed to be a virgin at the time of their wedding, and marrying Ramirez wouldn't change that because conjugal visits are not permitted for death-row inmates. According to Philip Carlo, author of The Night Stalker, Ramirez was drawn to her precisely because she was a virgin. Doreen had been raised a Roman Catholic, but she considered herself an agnostic and could accommodate Ramirez's professed Satanism. When she had purchased their wedding rings, she'd bought a gold band for herself but a platinum band for her husband-to-be. "Satanists don't wear gold," he'd explained to her.

The civil ceremony started at 11:10 a.m. and was performed by Mr. L. Weister, who joined two other inmates to their brides that morning. Ramirez's sister Ruth, his brother Joseph, and Joseph's teenage daughter attended. Ramirez cautioned his niece to pull down her skirt; he knew other inmates were ogling her. As the couple said their vows, Doreen was bursting with joy and happiness. Her long-awaited dream was finally coming true. She was becoming Mrs. Richard Ramirez.

Obviously Doreen chose not to believe the mountain of evidence that had been presented at her husband's trial, especially the testimony that described his gruesome methods. Richard Ramirez typically came in the night, sneaking into his victims' bedrooms. Males were dispatched quickly, usually with a bullet to the head. Females were kept alive to be savored after he ransacked the homes, looking for valuables. After raping and degrading the women, sometimes repeatedly, he would most often kill them, or at least try to. Amazingly, some of his victims managed to survive his vicious attacks.

Of all the serial killers who have plagued the modern world, the Night Stalker was perhaps the most sensational in the way he committed his crimes. He was a living nightmare, a boogey man who invaded bedrooms and tore innocent people from their dreams. His method was worthy of a grade-B Hollywood horror movie. He was a killer tailor-made for his prime hunting ground, Los Angeles.

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