How did Richard Ramirez get the moniker 'Night Stalker'? Detective says California serial killer liked the name
Richard Ramirez, a serial killer who committed multiple murders in California between 1984 and 1985, gained the moniker of the 'Night Stalker' because he often broke into his victims' houses to kill them. The most common moniker used for Ramirez was “The Night Stalker” in the media. However, he also earned the titles like “The Walk-In Killer” and “The Valley Intruder” because of the nature of his crimes.
As the history of his deadly crimes, which involved 13 murders and various sexual assaults, was revisited by Netflix's 4-part limited docuseries titled, 'Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer' so was the origin of how he got the various monikers which would eventually be used by the mainstream media.
Lauren Erickson, a reporter with KNBC News, said in the documentary that the media wanted to give the "monster" a name. He was initially named the "walk-in" killer by the outlet she worked for, but it did not catch on. Some other outlet called Ramirez the "Valley Intruder" which briefly made a mark as more and more newspapers printed it in large bold letters in their headlines as they extensively covered the case. However, that moniker too faded away.
"Then one morning in August we woke up, the Herald Examiner called him 'The Night Stalker.' And that was the branding that stuck," Paul Skolnick, a producer at KNBC News said.
In the third episode of the series, retired Sergeant Frank Salerno of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and at the time, a lead detective in the Ramirez case said that the serial killer was aware of the media frenzy surrounding his crimes, including the fact that he was being popularized as the "Night Stalker."
On August 25, 1985, Billy Carns, 29, was asleep in his Mission Viejo home when Ramirez climbed through an open window, shot Carns with a .25-caliber handgun, and raped his girlfriend. Carns barely managed to survive the attempt on his life but the incident left the authorities with a crucial piece of information -- Ramirez was following the news. "During the conversation, while the suspect was at the location with the female, he made certain comments, one of which was, I am the Night Stalker," Salerno said.
Salerno's partner at the time and retired Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Lieutenant Gil Carrillo added: "So he's watching the news like we were. He liked that name."
After his image had been splashed across newspapers, he was finally recognized at a store near a downtown L.A. bus station, while coming back from a trip to Tucson, Arizona. Residents of an East Los Angeles neighborhood spotted him trying to steal two cars as he fled from the police and finally held him down until police arrived.
Ramirez was sentenced to death in 1989 following his conviction for 13 murders, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries. However, the state's plan to execute him never came to fruition as he died of cancer instead.
In 2013, Ramirez died of natural causes at Marin General Hospital north of San Francisco, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Ramirez became the 59th inmate in the state to die in this manner while awaiting execution, not including 22 who died by suicide and six who died of other causes.