Night Stalker: Richard Ramirez's unique Avia shoes helped link the serial killer to at least 8 murders

Night Stalker: Richard Ramirez's unique Avia shoes helped link the serial killer to at least 8 murders
Richard Ramirez (The California Department of Corrections)

Richard Ramirez aka the Night Stalker was convicted of 13 murders in 1989 and had terrorized neighborhoods between 1984 and 1985. While he was on the move and committing his crimes, it took detectives some time to be able to track him down and tie him to the murders he had committed. He was also known to sexually assault children, steal from homes and rape women, besides killing people. 

Netflix's new documentary series titled 'Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer' will be releasing on January 13. Here is a look at his gruesome crimes and his unique 'Avia' shoes which helped link him to several of the murders that he had committed. 

Richard Ramirez

Ramirez was born in El Paso, Texas, and was raised by Mexican immigrants. There were many monikers used for Ramirez, the most common being 'The Night Stalker' in the media. Some of the others included, 'The Walk-In Killer' and 'The Valley Intruder'. 


Ramirez’s crimes appeared to be random — “there was no pattern” and “anyone could be a victim.” Ramirez's choice of murder weapon also varied from guns, knives, hammers, and tire irons. It is said that he was heavily influenced by his older cousin Miguel who had been a soldier in the Vietnam war. He would often tell Ramirez about the torture and sexual assault inflicted upon the Vietnamese women. He also shot dead his wife in front of Ramirez when he was just 13 years old. 


Shoe prints at crime scenes

During the 1980s, the Avia shoes had been gaining some popularity, and even when it was not known who was behind the terrifying murders taking place across California, it was known that the killer was wearing a pair of Avia shoes. Around seven murders committed by Ramirez were linked together based on the shoe print left at the crime scenes.

According to detectives Frank Salerno and Gil Carillo, the prints left at the murders were checked off across various shoe brands to find that they matched Avia shoes with the killer being size 11 and a half. In the case of the murders of Vincent Zazzara, 64, and Maxine Zazzara, 44, a shoe print was found in the flower beds around the house. 


The same shoe print was then found at a construction site where fresh concrete had been set, which was where Ramirez had sexually assaulted an eight-year-old girl. While the detectives were able to recognize the print, it was considered to be circumstantial evidence that could not be used. 

The shoe print was also found in the house in Sierra Madre where a 16-year-old was brutally beaten up when she was sleeping. The print was found on a bloodied pink blanket and was recognized as the same one in the Zazzara house and the construction site.


Loraine Rodriguez and her husband John were lucky enough that Ramirez wasn't able to break into their home as he had done so in the other cases. John who was a police officer had found a very distinct footprint in the flower beds outside and had even covered it with a box, preserving it as is until detectives arrived.

The print was also found at the murder scene of Mabel Bell and Florence Yang's home in Monrovia, CA, as well as at the house of Joyce Nelson located in Monterey Park. All the same prints tied Ramirez to the various crime scenes. 


Avia shoes

When the detectives came to realize that their serial killer was sporting a pair of Avia shoes, they decided to do some digging. They were able to match the prints they had to a specific Avia shoe which was being manufactured. The owner of the company even gave them soles of shoes to compare their prints to.  

Based on witness accounts and survivors, it was known that the suspect would wear dark clothing and so it was likely he was wearing a pair of dark-colored Avia shoes. It was found that there were only six size 11 and a half's manufactured and given in the US with five going to Arizona. 


Only one pair went to Los Angeles where Ramirez was on his killing spree. While they were unable to track the shoe any further, it was clear that there was a serial killer on the loose with the same shoe print being found across so many crime scenes. 

The biggest mistake

When it comes to the Avia shoes the biggest mistake was when the former mayor of San Francisco, Dianne Feinstein, held a press conference in 1985 to try and ease the public's fears over the growing murders. During the press conference, she ended up giving away vital information, including about the Avia shoes, which were information only known to the killer. 


She described the evidence that had tied together so many of the crimes throughout the state which was a big mishap on her part. LA County Sheriff Don Block had reportedly said, "It places this community in jeopardy because it impedes our ability to go forward fully with the investigation."

Getting caught and sentencing

Ramirez was eventually caught by a bunch of neighbors in a community after authorities had released sketches of his face in all newspapers and media in 1985. He was recognized while trying to evade police and was nabbed by brave neighbors who joined together to make sure he did not escape. 


Ramirez was convicted of 13 murders, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries in 1989. He was also sentenced to die in California's gas chambers but ended up dying in 2013 from B-cell lymphoma at age 53 while in prison.

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 Night stalker Richard Ramirez serial killer Avia shoes link 8 murders