From June 1984 to August 1985 Richard Ramirez terrorized Los Angelesand later parts of San Francisco. The search for the person behind the Spree is the subject of a new documentary series, Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer, Inside are the two lead investigators on the case, Gil Carrillo and Frank Salerno.
Carrillo was a freshman on the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Homicide Squad when he worked with Salerno, a veteran investigator, to investigate the crimes of Ramirez, who was eventually named “Night Stalker” by police LA Herald Examiner.
Carrillo suspected there was a man behind them early on, but his colleagues didn’t buy it at first because the cases didn’t fit a single profile.
The crimes varied from murder to rape to robbery. They occurred across the city and in different jurisdictions. The victims included both children and adults. This series of crimes is unknown, Carrillo said.
“It was hard to believe that one man was responsible for everything because no one was documented in crime history what Richard did,” Carrillo told our newsroom’s Take Two news and culture show, which airs on 89.3 KPCC .
One of the first clues was how Ramirez approached those he murdered, Carrillo said:
“I’ve never been to profiling school before, but there was a professor in Cal State, LA named Dr. Robert Morneau, and I did two semesters of advanced criminal investigation, and he instilled that into me as part of a sign of A sexual deviation is that they like to see the frightened look on people’s faces and dominate people. “
In at least three cases, there was evidence that Ramirez was letting his victims know he was coming – and a survivor, Maria Hernandez, gave a physical description that matched an artist’s rendering of a suspect in a child abduction attempt that year.
Eventually, a print from the bottom of a shoe showed a man was behind the crimes, but then a San Francisco police inspector was given the suspect’s full name during interrogation: Richard Ramirez. That led to the man everyone was looking for.
After all, it was a group of onlookers who brought Ramirez to justice. After witnessing an attempted carjacking by Ramirez, they tracked him down and held him until the police arrived.
“I remember going in [to the station to see Ramirez] and he knew exactly who I was and who Frank was, ”said Carrillo. “It was a great feeling – we had been chasing an unknown person until the night before and now he was in custody.”
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