The 'Night Stalker' From 'American Horror Story: 1984' Was A Real-Life Serial Killer

Richard Ramirez, a self-professed Satan worshiper, reportedly terrorized California in the 1980s.

September 25, 2019
Mug shot of Richard Ramirez [Los Angeles Police Department]

Photo by: Mug shot of Richard Ramirez [Los Angeles Police Department]

Mug shot of Richard Ramirez [Los Angeles Police Department]

By: Mike McPadden

This season, the anthology series "American Horror Story: 1984" on FX is paying tribute to slasher movies of the Reagan era. The first episode featured escaped psychos, pastel fashions, aerobics, and a summer camp reminiscent of the "Friday the 13th" film series.

The episode also injected a bit of all-too-true horror into the proceedings via the presence of Richard Ramirez, played by actor Zach Villa. A real-life serial killer, Ramirez terrorized California and horrified the world during the mid-1980s period which the series is based.

Between June 1984 and August 1985, Ramirez reportedly ran homicidally rampant in a series of home invasions in and around the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Authorities described Ramirez's typical modus operandi as breaking into a home during the overnight hours, ransacking it for valuables, and attacking one or more residents who had been asleep. Ramirez primarily targeted females, but later reportedly assaulted men and women alike.

Police records indicate Ramirez tortured, raped, and murdered many his victims, using his fists and an array of other types of weapons, including guns, knives, a hammer, a machete, and tire iron.

Both during and after his deadly spree, Ramirez reportedly declared himself a devotee of Satan. He also allegedly left occult symbols at some crime scenes and was said to love heavy metal music.

Richard Ramirez gesturing in courtroom [Bettmann/Getty Images]


Suspect Richard Ramirez, accused of being the Los Angeles area serial killer called the "Night Stalker", gesturing in courtroom. Ramirez pleaded innocent at the hearing to 68 felony counts, including 13 murder charges. He was eventually found guilty.

Photo by: Richard Ramirez gesturing in courtroom [Bettmann/Getty Images]

Richard Ramirez gesturing in courtroom [Bettmann/Getty Images]

The killer's media-dubbed nickname, "Night Stalker," reportedly stemmed from Ramirez breaking into homes under cover of darkness. But speculation arose between the moniker and an AC/DC song, "Night Prowler," after the killer allegedly left behind a hat bearing the band's logo at an attack site. AC/DC's members insist, however, that "Night Prowler" is actually about a teenager sneaking into his girlfriend's bedroom for after-hours romance.

Toward the end of his run, Ramirez reportedly drove a stolen Toyota to the home of 13-year-old James Romero III, who heard suspicious noises and woke up his parents. Ramirez allegedly fled before entering the house, but Romero was able to write down the license plate number of the vehicle as it left the home. The teen’s keen eye and quick action would prove to be a crucial step in finally bringing Ramirez to justice.

Some of Ramirez's victims actually survived, including Bill Carns and Inez Erickson, who fell prey to the killer's final rampage.

On August 24, 1985, Ramirez reportedly broke into the couple's Los Angeles home. After Ramirez shot Carns in the head, he reportedly raped Erickson, ordered her to swear she loved Satan, and told her, "Tell them the Night Stalker was here."

Two days later, police reportedly found the Toyota spotted by James Romero III abandoned in a parking lot. Investigators found a single fingerprint in it, which police said matched Ramirez, who had a prior criminal record.

Pairing the fingerprint with the physical description provided by Carns and Erickson, police announced they were looking for Ramirez as a person of interest in the Night Stalker crimes. In short order, his name and photograph flooded the media.

Following the Carns-Erickson crime, Ramirez allegedly took a quick trip to Arizona. He hopped a Greyhound bus back to Los Angeles on August 30, 1985, utterly unaware authorities had plastered his name and face on the front page of every newspaper in the area.

The killer's return to California reportedly led to his dramatic capture by members of the public.

Ramirez exited the bus in the Boyle Heights area. He then walked to a nearby store where he reportedly noticed his photo on the front page of a newspaper. Recognized by shoppers who yelled and pointed at him, Ramirez took off on foot.

Out on the street, Ramirez allegedly tried twice to steal vehicles. During his second attempt, which reportedly involved trying to carjack a woman, a neighbor pulled Ramirez from the vehicle. The woman's husband then reportedly struck the killer with a steel fence post. Over the next hour, Ramirez allegedly kept running from various citizens who continually updated police as to his whereabouts.

Authorities dispatched officers by ground and air until, ultimately, a mob reportedly overpowered Ramirez and beat him into submission. Witnesses claimed he cried out in Spanish, "It's me! It's me! I'm lucky the police caught me!"

During his trial, Ramirez reportedly flashed a hand sign intended to depict "devil horns," and otherwise played up his Satanic image. On September 20, 1989, a jury convicted Ramirez for 13 murders, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries. The jury subsequently voted for him to receive the death sentence.

Ramirez's final comment in the courtroom was reportedly one word: "Evil." On his way to the prison bus, he allegedly added, "Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland."

For the next 24 years, Ramirez resided on California's Death Row. In 1996, he reportedly married Doreen Lioy, a woman with whom he corresponded via mail. On June 7, 2013, at age 53, he reportedly died from complications related to cancer. Unlike his victims, the Night Stalker succumbed to natural causes.

For more on Richard Ramirez, watch Investigation Discovery’s “Horror at the Cecil Hotel” on ID GO now!