In an unusual procedure that excluded him from court, Night Stalker suspect Richard Ramirez was arraigned Friday on 13 new murder counts and 47 additional felony charges, including attempted murder, rape and lewd conduct with children.
The new charges bring to 15 the number of killings in which Ramirez is formally accused--14 in Los Angeles County and one in San Francisco.
Because the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has alleged special circumstances in each of the killings in its jurisdiction, the 25-year-old drifter from El Paso, if convicted, could face as many as 14 death sentences.
Besides the 14 murders, Ramirez now stands accused of 54 other serious crimes in Los Angeles County. They are 5 attempted murders, 22 sexual assaults, 19 burglaries, 6 robberies and 2 kidnapings. The sex crimes include seven rapes and three lewd acts involving children as young as 6 years old.
“Our assessment of the evidence is complete,” Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner said at a news conference at the Criminal Courts Building. “This is the case as we expect it will proceed to the preliminary hearing and later to trial.”
The attacks in which Ramirez is charged occurred between June, 1984, and last month, according to a statement released by Reiner. The district attorney said he could not discuss the evidence supporting the charges, citing a gag order imposed by Los Angeles Municipal Judge Elva R. Soper.
Ramirez, who is being held without bail in Los Angeles County Jail, did not enter pleas to the charges Friday. At the request of Ramirez’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Allen Adashek, Soper ordered Ramirez returned to court Oct. 17 to plead to the charges.
Ramirez did not appear in court Friday under a procedure worked out during a closed conference in Soper’s chambers. Instead, Ramirez listened to the brief court proceedings over a loudspeaker placed near his holding cell behind Soper’s courtroom.
Neither Adashek nor the prosecutor in the case, Deputy Dist. Atty. P. Philip Halpin, would explain why Ramirez was excluded. Both men declined to comment on the case in any detail.
A disturbance in the holding cell area was clearly audible to spectators as Adashek waived the formal reading of the new complaint. However, neither Adashek nor sheriff’s deputies would say whether the shouts came from Ramirez.
Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Gilbert I. Garcetti said he could not comment specifically on the proceedings in Soper’s court Friday.
However, he explained that a judge has the legal right to exclude a defendant from court as long as the defendant can hear the proceedings. That can occur even over the defendant’s objection, Garcetti said, as long as the request for the exclusion is made by the defendant’s attorney.
All of the killings with which Ramirez is now charged had been previously linked by authorities to the serial killer dubbed the Night Stalker.
However, three sexual assaults named in the new complaint had not been connected to the killer. Those incidents, in which homes were burglarized and two women and a 6-year-old girl were raped and sodomized, occurred in May, June and July in Burbank, Arcadia and Monterey Park.
From Mission Viejo to S.F.
The Night Stalker terrorized communities from Mission Viejo to San Francisco earlier this year by entering homes late at night, usually through open doors or windows, and assaulting and sometimes killing the occupants.
The assailant occasionally scrawled five-sided stars on the walls of victims’ homes. Some have interpreted the markings as satanic symbols, but law enforcement officials have discounted satanism as a motive for the killings.
Most of the incidents occurred in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. Ramirez was captured Aug. 31 in East Los Angeles by angry residents who had spotted him as he allegedly try to steal two autos.
The capture occurred about 12 hours after Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block identified Ramirez as the Night Stalker suspect and released his photograph to newspapers and television stations.
Before new charges were filed Friday, Ramirez already faced eight felony charges in Los Angeles County that had been filed Sept. 3. They involved the May 14 shooting death of William Doi, 65, of Monterey Park and the sexual assault on his wife, who survived. In a second attack, Ramirez was charged with robbing Clara Cecilia Hadsall and burglarizing her Monrovia home May 9.
San Francisco Charge
In San Francisco, Ramirez was charged with the Aug. 17 killing of accountant Peter Pan and the attempted murder of his wife, Barbara.
In the new charges filed Friday, Ramirez was accused of killing:
- Jennie Vincow, 79, in the Eagle Rock area on June 27 or 28, 1984.
- Dale Okazaki, 34, in Rosemead on March 17, 1985.
- Tsai-Lian Yu, 30, in Monterey Park, also on March 17.
- Vincent Zazzara, 64, and his wife, Maxine, 44, in the Whittier area on March 28.
- Mabel Bell, 83, in Monrovia, between May 29 and June 1.
- Patti Higgins, 32, in Arcadia on June 28.
- Mary Louise Cannon, 75, in Arcadia on July 2.
- Joyce Lucille Nelson, 60, in Monterey Park on July 7.
- Maxon Kneiding, 68, and his wife, Lela, 66, in Glendale on July 20.
- Chainarong Khovananth, 32, in Sun Valley on July 20.
- Elyas Abowath, 35, in Diamond Bar on Aug. 8.