Friday, June 7, 2013

Good Riddance to the Night Stalker



"I love to kill people. I love to watch them die. I would shoot them in the head and they would wiggle and squirm all over the place and then just stop. Or I would cut them with a knife and watch their faces turn real white. I love all that blood."

Richard Ramirez

Ordinarily, it is not my habit to rejoice upon hearing that another human being has died.

But there are exceptions to that rule. And Richard Ramirez is one of them.

If you are under 35, you might not know who Ramirez, who died in custody today of natural causes, was.

He was known as the "Night Stalker," a brutal serial killer who absolutely terrified southern California in the mid–1980s. In 1989, he was convicted of 13 murders, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries. He was given the death penalty but remained on Death Row nearly 25 years later because of California's lengthy appeals process.

Frankly, I was never quite sure what there was to appeal. From everything that I read, the case was a slam dunk. But appeals are mandated by California law.

(Since California reinstated the death penalty in the late 1970s, it has been more likely that an inmate who was sentenced to be executed would die of other causes.

("Ramirez is the 59th inmate condemned in California to have died of natural causes since the state reinstated capital punishment," reports CNN. "Twenty–two others committed suicide, and six died of other causes. The state ... has executed 13 inmates since 1979; one other California offender was executed in Missouri.")

The name "Night Stalker" was given to him in a newspaper report because his crimes always took place at night. It was inspired by the name of a TV movie from the 1970s starring Darren McGavin as a newspaper reporter.

McGavin was the original night stalker, but he committed no crimes — so, in that sense, the name was a misnomer. Ramirez was named after a fictional character who tried to prevent people like Ramirez from committing violent acts.

It would have been more appropriate to name him after the title of one of the songs ("Night Prowler") on his favorite record album, AC/DC's "Highway to Hell."

An avowed satanist, Ramirez's reign of terror began in 1984 and ended in 1985 when, the day after his picture had been made public, he was cornered and beaten by a group of angry Los Angeles residents. They held him until police arrived.

His trial began in 1988; he was convicted the next year and had been in prison ever since.

Because he had been in custody for nearly 25 years, Californians almost certainly gave him no thought anymore — until today when they learned he had died.

No doubt, there are some for whom his death will be the closure for which they have been waiting — perhaps some of his victims who were not killed (and there were a few of those).

For those people, I am happy — especially if the knowledge that Ramirez was behind bars all these years brought them no peace.

Perhaps they will find peace now.

As for Ramirez, well, I'm just glad he's gone.

If he, too, has found some measure of peace, I'm glad.

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