A 1989 RETROSPECTIVE : VILLAINS
Four years after Southland residents were terrorized by a savage series of random attacks, Night Stalker Richard Ramirez was convicted of 13 counts of murder and sentenced to die in the gas chamber at San Quentin. The devil-worshiping drifter from El Paso delivered a chilling monologue before being escorted in chains from a Los Angeles courtroom for the last time. “I am beyond good and evil,” he declared. “I will be avenged.” Also sentenced to death was Randy Kraft, a Long Beach computer consultant convicted of murdering 16 young men in Orange County and suspected of 50 more killings, several of them in Los Angeles County. Southwest Los Angeles street gang member Durrell DeWitt Collins received a term of 27 years to life in state prison for the 1988 Westwood stray bullet shooting death of Long Beach graphic artist Karen Toshima. The slaying, having taken place in one of the city’s few fashionable, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods, stunned Los Angeles and brought the problem of gang violence to center stage. Another South Los Angeles resident was ordered by a federal judge to spend the rest of his life in prison without parole for possession of 4.4 ounces of crack cocaine. Richard V. Winrow, 22, was the second person in the nation to be sentenced under a new federal narcotics-trafficking statute that provides for vastly stiffer sentences whenever defendants have two or more prior drug offenses. The year also saw the first overturned conviction resulting from an ongoing scandal involving jailhouse informants. A judge ruled that a Montebello man serving a life sentence for murder, was entitled to a new trial. The ruling came after the district attorney’s office admitted it had failed to disclose knowledge that informant Stephen Jesse Cisneros, a convicted rapist who testified against Vargas, was an inveterate liar.