‘Hail Satan!’ Yells Suspect in Killings : Ramirez Shouts as He Leaves Court After Plea of Not Guilty to Night Stalker Murder Charges

Times Staff Writer

Shouting “Hail Satan!,” Night Stalker suspect Richard Ramirez was led from a Los Angeles courtroom Thursday after pleading not guilty to 14 murder charges and 54 other felonies.

Ramirez’s new attorneys, Arturo and Daniel Hernandez of San Jose, said they did not hear their client’s comment as sheriff’s deputies ushered him into a holding cell.

But the stenographer in the court of Los Angeles Municipal Judge Elva R. Soper confirmed that Ramirez made the remark and that it is recorded in the court’s official transcript.


Ramirez, 25, a drifter originally from El Paso, has long had a fascination with Satan and devil worship, according to court records and interviews with friends and acquaintances.

During the first of two court appearances Thursday, Ramirez grinned at the crowded spectators’ gallery, where his sister and two brothers sat, and opened a manacled hand to reveal a circumscribed, five-pointed star that he had inked on his palm.

Drawings Found in Homes

Similar drawings of inverted pentagrams, believed by some to be associated with satanic rituals, were scrawled in the homes of some of the victims of the so-called Night Stalker, according to authorities.

However, Deputy Dist. Atty. P. Philip Halpin, who is prosecuting Ramirez, has discounted satanism as the primary motive for the Night Stalker crimes.

Ramirez is suspected of a series of brutal nighttime killings, robberies, burglaries and sexual attacks, mainly in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys, that occurred between June 27, 1984, and last Aug. 8. He also is charged with a murder, attempted murder and two other felonies in San Francisco.

At the request of the Hernandezes, Soper scheduled Ramirez’s next court appearance for Friday, Dec. 13, before Los Angeles Municipal Judge Candace D. Cooper, who will preside over his preliminary hearing. A date for the hearing, which could last as long as six months, will be set then.


Halpin, the prosecutor, complained that too much time already has passed since Ramirez’s arrest last Aug. 31 in East Los Angeles.

“This case should be rolling. There’s no reason to delay justice,” Halpin told reporters. “I hope the issue of who is going to represent Mr. Ramirez is finally over.”

Before he entered his pleas, Ramirez was given permission by Soper to change lawyers for the second time in two weeks. He discharged Oxnard attorney Joseph Gallegos and substituted the Hernandezes, who are not related. Gallegos took over the case Oct. 9, after Ramirez fired the two Los Angeles County deputy public defenders who had been representing him.

Won’t Discuss Payment

At a hearing Tuesday, Soper had noted that the San Jose attorneys, who together have been practicing law for about six years, would not meet the standards of experience required for lawyers who are appointed by the court at public expense.

Before permitting the switch Thursday, Soper said from the bench that Ramirez had turned down her offer to provide him with additional information about the Hernandezes and have an independent attorney examine the contract that Ramirez has signed with the new attorneys to “advise him (Ramirez) of any possible conflicts.”

The Hernandezes have refused to discuss how they will be paid. But legal experts following the Ramirez case have noted that indigent defendants in high-publicity cases frequently assign literary or movie rights to their lawyers.


Such arrangements, while permitted by the California Supreme Court, can create the type of conflicts of interest alluded to by Soper because the defendant’s story usually becomes less valuable if he is acquitted of the crime.

Outside Soper’s courtroom, Arturo Hernandez, 31, told reporters, “The law is clear. . . . The defendant has the absolute right to choose his attorney of record. . . . There is nothing any court can do to stop a duly licensed attorney in the state of California from representing any defendant so long as the defendant knows what he is getting.”

Both Arturo Hernandez and Daniel Hernandez, 41, refused to discuss details of the case, citing a gag order imposed by Soper on Sept. 27.

During the hearing, Soper said that the order explicitly applies to members of Ramirez’s family, who have frequently discussed the case with reporters. Two family members at various times have gone so far as to suggest that their brother might plead guilty to some or all of the charges against him, comments that were strongly criticized Thursday by Gallegos, Ramirez’s former attorney.

Comments ‘Uncalled For’

“I think it’s uncalled for,” Gallegos said.

Ramirez’s sister, Rosa Flores, 30, said after the hearing that family members would have no comment on the proceedings, although she denied that her brother made the remark about Satan.

Flores attended the court sessions with her brothers Robert Ramirez, 34, of Tucson and Julian Ramirez, 37, of East Los Angeles. Richard Ramirez’s mother, Mercedes, who was in court Tuesday, did not attend Thursday’s session.


Times staff writer Paul Feldman contributed to this article.