Night Stalker Suspect Tied to ‘84 Killing : Fingerprint on Screen Where Glassell Park Woman, 79, Was Slain
Night Stalker suspect Richard Ramirez has been linked through a fingerprint to the June, 1984, slaying of a 79-year-old woman in Glassell Park, Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates said Wednesday. The murder is the earliest yet attributed to the accused killer.
“We have discovered that he is potentially responsible for the murder of Jennie Vincow,” Gates told a news conference. “We have identified Richard Ramirez’s fingerprint from a screen. He apparently entered through an open window. . . .” Gates’ disclosure came as authorities in Los Angeles and San Francisco were examining dozens of unsolved slayings to see if any can be linked to Ramirez, the Night Stalker suspect to whom 15 homicides have now been attributed.
Files From 1981 Checked
Gates said his detectives are checking crime files “as far back as 1981,” when local law enforcement officers initially encountered Ramirez.
Ramirez is believed to have first arrived in California in 1981, when he was arrested by Pasadena police on a petty theft charge.
The 25-year-old drifter from El Paso subsequently compiled a sizable arrest record in the Los Angeles area involving mostly vehicle and drug-related violations, authorities have indicated.
“We’ve been looking at a wide variety of crimes that might fit his trademarks,” Gates said. One of the cases under scrutiny was the one revealed Wednesday, the throat-slashing death of Vincow.
Shooting in Rosemead
Police earlier speculated that the first Stalker killing occurred March 17, when 34-year-old Dayle Okazaki was shot to death in her Rosemead condominium.
In San Francisco, detectives Wednesday began combing through files on each of more than 60 unsolved murders dating to early 1983, said Lt. George Kowalski, head of the San Francisco Police Department’s Homicide Division.
“We feel Mr. Ramirez may have been in San Francisco (for visits) at least beginning in early 1983,” Kowalski said.
Seeking to pinpoint the dates of Ramirez’s visits, police were also checking welfare rolls in San Francisco. Kowalski said that Ramirez applied for welfare in California, but it is not known if he received payments.
Meanwhile, Gates disclosed that Los Angeles officers had stopped Ramirez at least twice in the months before his arrest Saturday in East Los Angeles.
Gates said the first stop was made by a motorcycle officer in the department’s Northeast Division on June 15. The officer pulled Ramirez over on suspicion of driving a stolen car. Ramirez fled on foot and avoided capture.
The second incident occurred Aug. 26 when Central Division officers stopped Ramirez on a motorcycle for a minor violation, cited him and let him go.
The August incident came one day after an attack on a Mission Viejo couple that has been linked to the Night Stalker and weeks after a composite drawing of the Stalker suspect had been widely circulated.
“In the first (stop) he ran,” Gates said of the June incident. “In the second (stop) there was no recognition on the part of the officers. They simply wrote him up on a traffic violation.
‘Difficult to Fault Officers’
“It’s difficult to fault the officers,” Gates said, adding that the Stalker composite produced by the Police Department was not particularly accurate.
Ramirez was arraigned Tuesday in Los Angeles Municipal Court on a single murder count and seven other charges stemming from two late-night assaults in early May in the San Gabriel Valley. He is being held in a maximum-security section of the Los Angeles County Central Jail.
He also is charged with one murder in San Francisco, that of accountant Peter Pan, 66, who was shot through the head on Aug. 17. Pan’s wife, Barbara, remains in critical condition with a gunshot wound in the head.
Besides the Pan killing and the 13 other slayings already attributed to Ramirez, detectives are holding him “potentially responsible” for the Vincow slaying, Gates said Wednesday.
Her body was found by her son, who lived above her ground-floor apartment at 3330 Chapman St., just south of Glendale’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Her throat had been slashed, and she had been stabbed repeatedly.
Her attacker had apparently removed a mesh screen and slipped in through an open window, Gates said.
Police investigating the murder scene discovered a single fingerprint on the screen but were unable to immediately determine the identity of the assailant. Gates said investigators were hampered by the Police Department’s lack of a computerized, “single fingerprint system” through which partial or single prints can be quickly identified.
Only after Ramirez’s arrest and the obtaining of a full set of prints from him were investigators able to manually match his prints with the one found on Vincow’s window screen.
S.F. Slayings Studied
In San Francisco, police said they are closely studying at least four homicides that fit the Stalker’s general pattern--the slayings were committed late at night by an attacker who entered through an open window or door.
On Feb. 21, police discovered the mutilated bodies of Christina Caldwell, 58, and her sister, Mary, 70. They were stabbed dozens of times.
A coroner’s report said a window of their ransacked flat was left open. Bloody fingerprints, palm prints and shoe prints were left behind, although Kowalski said most of the prints turned out to be those of neighbors.
Another slaying being checked is that of Masataka Kobayashi, 45, part owner and chef of Masa’s, a fashionable restaurant on Nob Hill, Kowalski said.
The fourth killing involved Edward F. Wildgans, 29, who was shot June 2 through the right temple by a late-night intruder. He died two days later. His girlfriend fought off the attacker.
Wildgans was killed by a small-caliber, copper-jacketed bullet, the coroner’s report said. Several other Night Stalker victims were shot with small-caliber weapons, according to authorities.
Los Angeles police confirmed Wednesday that they have recovered a pistol believed used by Ramirez in at least one slaying. The .22-caliber weapon was discovered in Tijuana, but detectives would not disclose how it was found.
However, officials from the three major police agencies in the Mexican border town said that no one from their agencies had recovered a pistol thought to belong to Ramirez, nor had they turned any weapons over to Los Angeles investigators.
Meanwhile, police continued to search for another gun that they believe Ramirez had and dropped while being pursued Saturday.
Area Combed for Pistol
About 40 Los Angeles County sheriff’s cadets using metal detectors combed the area around 8th and Mott streets in Boyle Heights on Wednesday for the small pistol but found no trace of it, said Deputy Lynda Edmonds, a sheriff’s spokeswoman.
Several miles away, another 20 cadets conducted a similar search of 200 square yards bordering the York Avenue on-ramp to the northbound Glendale Freeway in the Glassell Park area, apparently searching for evidence relating to the Night Stalker murders or related assaults.
The cadets recovered six “articles” of interest to investigators, who would not indicate the nature of the discoveries.
In another development Wednesday, Orange County prosecutors did an about-face and decided to wait, perhaps for several weeks, before filing their own charges against Ramirez.
The accused Night Stalker is suspected of shooting a 29-year-old man in the head and raping his fiancee on Aug. 25 in Mission Viejo.
The shooting victim, Bill Carns, remains in serious but stable condition in Mission Community Hospital.
Orange County Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. James Enright had said that his office expected to file charges against Ramirez on Wednesday. But Wednesday morning, the chief deputy changed his position and said Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigators will not be ready to present their case to the district attorney’s office for two weeks, mainly because they are awaiting results of scientific tests.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County Public Defender Wilbur F. Littlefield named Deputy Public Defender Allen R. Adashek, 42, a 16-year veteran of the office, to represent Ramirez in the Los Angeles case.
The deputy public defender said he talked with Ramirez for about an hour Wednesday afternoon at the Los Angeles County Jail but declined to describe the meeting or Ramirez’s state of mind.
Ramirez has not yet entered pleas to the eight felony counts filed against him in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Times staff writers Bob Baker, Leonard Greenwood, Carol McGraw, Victor Merina, Michael Seiler and Robert W. Stewart in Los Angeles, Jerry Hicks in Orange County, H. G. Reza in San Diego and Dan Morain in San Francisco contributed to this story.