Drugs caused a rift between father and son more than three years ago, but Julian Ramirez still found it hard Saturday to believe his son could be the brutal Night Stalker serial killer.
"Oh, my God," he told the El Paso Times in a copyrighted story for Sunday's editions.
Richard Ramirez, 25, who grew up in El Paso, was arrested Saturday and booked for investigation of murder in the Night Stalker slayings.
Interview in Spanish
Julian Ramirez, in an interview conducted in Spanish at his home in El Paso's Lower Valley, said he learned on television Friday night that his son was wanted by California police, but he didn't immediately understand the accusations.
He said he has not seen Richard in two or three years and that drugs had caused them to grow apart.
"I believe the marijuana he's been smoking put him out of control," said the elder Ramirez, an employee of the Santa Fe Railway in El Paso.
"There was a break between us. He didn't want to do what we told him to," Ramirez said.
"It was like this. 'I'm your father, and I tell you not to use drugs. And you want to keep using them. Do you understand?' "
'What Can We Do?'
Of the murder allegations, Julian Ramirez said, "In my heart, I can't believe he would have arrived at that. But if the authorities there have proof, what can we do?"
The elder Ramirez said he didn't plan to go to Los Angeles to visit his son, who is being held without bond until a hearing, or try to help in his son's legal defense.
"No," he said. "I don't have the money. In a case this heavy, it would be very difficult.
"How can I tell you it doesn't hurt? We haven't been in contact, but he's still my son."
Although he said his son was a "good boy," Julian Ramirez described Richard as "stubborn."
"When he wanted to do something, he did it. He wanted to go to L.A., and he went," he said.
Left for Los Angeles
When the younger Ramirez was 18, he left home for Los Angeles and returned only sporadically for visits, his father said. He said he last saw his son two or three years ago when his son dropped in for a visit.
The younger Ramirez was arrested three times by El Paso police, records show. The first arrest occurred in 1977, when he was 17. Subsequent El Paso arrests were in 1979 and 1982. All were on charges of possession of less than two ounces of marijuana.
Until four years ago, the Ramirez family lived in Central El Paso. Richard attended the Old Lincoln School, now the Lincoln Community Center, but dropped out of school when he was 14, six months before he was to have finished the ninth grade, his father said.
Julian Ramirez and his wife, Mercedes, have since moved to the Lower Valley, and their daughter, Rosa Ramirez, lives in the house in central El Paso.
Alma Gaytan, a schoolmate of Richard Ramirez's and one-time next-door neighbor, said Ramirez was an average student in elementary school who fell in with a group of students in junior high who used drugs.
'Some Bad Influences'
"Growing up he was an average student. But in junior high, he got in with some bad influences," said Gaytan, 25.
Maria Arredondo, another neighbor, said Richard was a quiet boy who kept to himself and didn't have many friends.
"He was quiet and always stayed at home. They (the family) kept to themselves. Just good morning, good night, that's all," she said.
When asked if he remembered any indication his son might have emotional problems that could lead to the crimes attributed to the Night Stalker, Julian Ramirez blamed El Paso schools for the availability of drugs to students.
"In the schools, it's easily available. And then afterward, they (students) look for it," he said.
The elder Ramirez said he was born in Mexico but is a resident alien in the United States. His wife; sons, Julian Jr., Ignacio and Roberto, and daughter, Rosa, are El Paso natives.