Stalker Suspect Arraigned; Also Charged in S.F.
Standing with his head bowed, Night Stalker suspect Richard Ramirez was arraigned Tuesday on a single murder count and seven other charges stemming from two late night attacks in early May in the San Gabriel Valley.
Ramirez was charged with murder, burglary, robbery, rape, sodomy and forced oral copulation in the May 14 shooting death of William Doi, 65, of Monterey Park and an attack on Doi’s wife. Because of the allegation of special circumstances--that Ramirez killed Doi while committing the other crimes--he could face the death penalty.
In a second attack that had not previously been publicized, Ramirez was accused of robbing and burglarizing the Monrovia home of 85-year-old Clara Cecilia Hadsall on May 9. The woman, who was living alone, told authorities that a man appeared in her bedroom at 2:30 a.m., shined a flashlight in her eyes and robbed her of cash and jewelry.
Meanwhile, authorities in San Francisco said they have formally charged Ramirez, a 25-year-old drifter, with the Aug. 17 murder of accountant Peter Pan, 66, and the attempted murder of his wife, Barbara.
And in Orange County, the district attorney’s office said it expects to charge Ramirez today with attempted murder, rape, robbery and burglary in connection with an Aug. 25 attack on a Mission Viejo couple.
At a press conference before Ramirez’s arraignment in Los Angeles Municipal Court, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner said investigators are still developing evidence in “a number” of murders, attempted murders, burglaries, robberies and sexual assaults that tentatively have been linked to a nighttime intruder police have dubbed the Night Stalker.
Although the precise numbers have been in dispute, authorities believe that the assailant, who frequently entered victims’ homes through open doors or windows, may have committed as many as 14 murders and nearly two dozen other crimes, including sexual assaults and burglaries, since early February. Most of the attacks occurred in the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys.
“Assuming the evidence warrants,” Reiner said, “we will be filing additional charges (against Ramirez) within the next couple of weeks.”
At the request of deputy public defenders David Meyer and Bernadette Everman, Los Angeles Municipal Judge Elva R. Soper allowed Ramirez to delay entering pleas until Monday. Captured Saturday by East Los Angeles residents after he allegedly attempted to steal two autos, Ramirez is being held without bail in Los Angeles County Jail.
A Los Angeles law enforcement official said Tuesday that Ramirez is not talking to detectives about the crimes. He appears calm and relaxed, is sleeping and eating well, and is “recovering nicely” from injuries he suffered when he was captured, officials said. He has refused requests for interviews.
Sheriff’s deputies took unusual steps to protect Ramirez at his arraignment Tuesday, screening spectators with metal detectors before admitting them to Soper’s courtroom on the fifth floor of the Criminal Courts Building. The usually empty benches in the gallery were packed with reporters, photographers and spectators.
Asked why his office did not file charges in other cases that police have linked to the Night Stalker, Reiner said, “The evidence that we have presently with respect to the two cases that we have filed on . . . is clear . . . There is more than sufficient evidence for us to file.
“In terms of the rest of the case, understand that the suspect was arrested just over the weekend,” Reiner said. “There is a mountain of evidence that has to be collated, has to be analyzed, has to be investigated, there is scientific investigation that is still going on. Within the next couple of weeks, I expect it will all be pulled together and decisions will be made as to which cases will be filed.”
Outside Soper’s courtroom, Deputy Dist. Atty. P. Philip Halpin, who is prosecuting the case, said the charges filed against Ramirez in the Doi and Hadsall incidents are based on physical evidence. Neither surviving victim has yet been asked to identify Ramirez as her assailant, Halpin said.
However, Halpin said he expects that authorities will stage a lineup soon for victims of crimes believed committed by the Night Stalker.
Halpin said he expects that authorities in San Francisco and Orange counties will wait until court proceedings in Los Angeles are complete before moving to put Ramirez on trial in their jurisdictions.
“I would anticipate, assuming that we get going, that they will wait until we’re through,” Halpin said.
Information that emerged Tuesday about the events that led to Ramirez’ identification as the suspected Night Stalker indicated that new computerized technology and old-fashioned police work both played a role. But it was not clear which proved more important.
At a Sacramento press conference, Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp credited a new Department of Justice computer system with picking Ramirez’ fingerprints out of 380,000 other sets Friday, only three minutes after the system was fed a partial print lifted from a stolen car spotted in the vicinity of the Mission Viejo attack.
In that Aug. 25 incident, Bill Carns, 29, was critically injured when he was shot in the head while sleeping. His fiancee was raped.
Van de Kamp said that the need to capture the Night Stalker was so urgent that the installation of the new “Cal-ID” computer system, which is still in progress, was interrupted so the system could be reprogrammed to search for the Night Stalker’s prints.
It was a fluke that Ramirez’s fingerprints, taken after an arrest in December, 1984, showed up in the computer’s memory banks, Van de Kamp said. The only prints that so far have been fed into the system are those of offenders born since Jan. 1, 1960, Van de Kamp said. Ramirez was born in February of that year.
The same day the computer identified Ramirez’s prints, The Times learned, a San Pablo woman supplied San Francisco police with Ramirez’s last name and led them to another man who, it turned out, had purchased from Ramirez jewelry stolen from murder victims in San Francisco and Southern California.
Donna Louise Myers told The Times that San Francisco police contacted her Friday, four days after her daughter, who lives in Lompoc, had told local police about a longtime family acquaintance named Rick who seemed to resemble a composite drawing of the Night Stalker.
The daughter told Lompoc police that family members had recently purchased jewelry from Rick in San Francisco.
When San Francisco authorities knocked on Myers’ door in San Pablo, Myers said, she told them that Rick’s last name is Ramirez, and that she had been introduced to him six or seven years before in El Paso, Tex., his hometown, by Armando Rodriquez, a friend who lives in El Sobrante in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In an affidavit sworn by San Francisco police to obtain a warrant for Ramirez’s arrest, authorities said Rodriquez gave them a diamond engagement ring, a pair of cuff links and two other pieces of jewelry that had been stolen from the home of the Pans in San Francisco. Rodriquez told police he had purchased the jewelry from Ramirez, the affidavit said.
Los Angeles detectives later examined other pieces of jewelry that police obtained from Rodriquez and determined that some had been stolen from the homes of Night Stalker victims in the Los Angeles area.
The affidavit also disclosed that a bullet removed from Pan’s body was declared by a ballistics expert to have been fired from the same gun used to kill some of the Night Stalker’s Los Angeles victims.
The affidavit said that both Myers and the keeper of a San Francisco rooming house where Ramirez was believed to have stayed said the suspect showed an unusual interest in the occult and Satan.
Alex Melnikov, the manager of the Bristol Hotel at 56 Mason St. in San Francisco, told police that he had found an inverted, five-pointed star, known as a pentagram, inscribed on the door of a room adjacent to one occupied by Ramirez in late August. A similar star was found on the wall at the Pans’ home, the affidavit said.
A pentagram, believed by some to represent Satan’s horns, is frequently associated with the occult and devil worship.
However, at the press conference that followed Ramirez’s arraignment Tuesday, Reiner played down the role of devil worship in the case.
“In my discussions with investigators, I haven’t found anyone who has taken any of that seriously,” he said.
‘Not Playing Numbers’
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Police Department backed away from a statement it had released Friday that linked the Night Stalker with 16 murders. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which is coordinating the law enforcement task force investigating the Night Stalker attacks, had set the total of killings at 14.
Asked Tuesday if the LAPD’s tally of 16 murders still stands, Cmdr. William Booth said, “We’re not playing numbers. The detectives now are in a better position to sit down with the district attorney and determine which crimes they can close. We’re not going to talk numbers now.”
Reiner said, “We have sufficient evidence to convince us that the majority of these crimes were, in fact, committed by the same person. However, I would caution you that not all of these cases are necessarily attributable to the same person.”
In response to a reporter’s question, the district attorney said it “would not be conducive to the investigation” to say how many crimes that the district attorney’s office believes are connected.
Meanwhile, some of the merchants, clerks and others who live and work in Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood said Tuesday that Ramirez spent much time in recent months in hotels and in cafes near near the corner of Main and 7th streets.
Those who remembered Ramirez described him as a disheveled, wild-haired, wary loner.
“He was quiet. He used to come in, buy a Pepsi, chips. Sometimes he’d have some wine that he’d bought somewhere else, he’d drink a little of it on the street out there, talk to some guys I didn’t know,” said Larry Gaj, night clerk at Mike’s Market on 7th St. near Main.
“He used to wear a black jacket . . . what struck me most was his hair. It was so unruly. It just looked wild. He looked like one of the losers,” said Gaj, who said he has worked in the area for 25 years.
Gaj said he had seen Ramirez in the area “off and on for the past six to eight months.”
Others said they did not remember Ramirez frequenting the area for that long a time, but many said they believed he lived for at least several weeks at the 700-room Hotel Cecil, 640 S. Main St., where rooms are as low as $14 a night.
Recalls Hotel Events
Raoul Enriquez, a hotel night clerk, said a man he is certain is Ramirez lived in a 14th-floor room for several weeks in late July and August and for another two weeks in late August.
Enriquez, 36, who lives in a room on the same floor said he had a few brief conversations with Ramirez and said Ramirez told him he was from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. He said the men did not know each other by name.
Enriquez said Ramirez was a quiet person (“I don’t know his private life”). Once, he said, Ramirez offered him marijuana, and in turning him down Enriquez said, “You’re crazy for smoking that stuff.”
Ramirez answered, “‘No, you’re the one who’s crazy ‘cause you’re working a lot,’ ” Enriquez said.
He said Ramirez liked to play rock ‘n’ roll music on his hotel-room radio and, judging from odors Enriquez could smell, was smoking marijuana. Family members and acquaintences of Ramirez had previously described his love of both loud music and the drug.
Enriquez said there were three- and four-day periods in which Ramirez appeared to be staying in his room.
Nearby, at Margarita’s Place, a 24-hour restaurant, waiter Alfredo Leyva said Ramirez had come in to eat about 10 times, the most recent being two months ago. Leyva and the restaurant’s owner, Maria Mondaca, said he came to eat at all hours.
“He always come in alone,” Leyva said. “He don’t talk with nobody.”
Leyva said Ramirez would usually order a small meal--"a soft taco, or a beef taco, and a Pepsi . . . sometimes he wouldn’t eat it. He’d just let it sit there and go.
“This guy, he looked like he was scared of something,” Leyva said.
In another development Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors presented plaques to five East Los Angeles residents and to Sheriff’s Deputy Andres (Andy) Ramirez for their role in the capture and arrest of suspect Ramirez.
The residents honored for their role in the dramatic Saturday morning capture were Carmelo Robles and Frank Moreno, who started chasing Ramirez after he unsuccessfully tried to steal a car parked outside a barber shop; Faustino Pinon, who joined the chase after the suspect tried to steal his daughter’s Mustang; Manuel De La Torre, who hit Ramirez with a steel rod after the suspect struck De La Torre’s wife and then tried to steal her car; and Jose Burgoin, who also chased Ramirez and helped hold him until police arrived.
Deputy Ramirez, 25, who is not related to the suspect, was the first officer on the scene.
“Hollywood couldn’t have better planned it,” Supervisor Kenneth Hahn said at the presentation ceremony. “We had heroes of the Olympic Games. These are our heroes this year.”
“I’m happy to have done what I did,” De La Torre said, “because I did it to protect my family.”
Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley plans a similar award ceremony today at City Hall.
The supervisors also acted on the distribution of some of the total $80,095 offered by a variety of state and local government officials for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer.
The supervisors passed a motion introduced by Supervisor Pete Schabarum to convene a special panel, made up of county sheriff’s, legal and administrative personnel, to determine who will share in the $30,095 county reward.
“Any final determination of the amount of reward to be given to individuals should wait until it is determined whether others will step forward,” Schabarum said, “and offer information that will assist in the conviction of the person responsible for these heinous crimes.”