Series Offers A Haunting Look Into The Mind Of A Serial Killer

Los Angeles Police Department, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Los Angeles Police Department, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Chiara Douglas, Arts and Entertainment Editor

A once glamorous and vibrant city has been sent into a stirring panic- dozens of torturous murders, long and dead end investigations, and dark stories that lay in the deep graves of California remain a mystery no one will ever know. Premiered on Netflix in January of 2021, the Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer, follows the intense findings and investigation of over thirteen murders, five attempted murders, eleven sexual assaults, and fourteen burglaries, all committed by one demonic individual: Richard Ramirez.

Through June 1984 to August of 1985, Richard Ramirez, one of the most copious and vicious serial killers to terrorize the streets of Los Angeles, invaded the homes of innocent people, where he murdered and sexually assaulted powerless residents using a variety of weapons. From beating victims with hammers and cutting

eyeballs out as trophies, the audience is finally able to get an inside look into gruesome reenactments, real-life photographs, and interviews of investigators, traumatized victims, and memorable families, that will keep you looking over your shoulder. 

In an emotional tell-all, primary detective Sgt. Frank Salerno and his partner Gil Carillo reminisce on their youth, and the downsides of “detective technology.” As investigators throughout the area worked together in hopes to identify the serial killer, the extreme fears and confusion the tight community experienced were revealed. After an attack close to Carrillo’s home, he explained how terrified his wife was for their safety, and helplessly expressed, “I’m nothing without my family. My family is everything to me.”

Graphic created by Chiara Douglas

Patterns of disoriented and bone-chilling behavior from Ramirez are also explored. A crucial identifier throughout each crime was crumpled wrappers and miles of crumbs… Ramirez would often torture his victims and enjoy a variety of treats, furthering the accused’s satanic and unstable capacities. Following his own leftovers, interviewees found that each survivor reiterated the same thing- the wretched smell he gave off. Ramirez experienced a severe case of halitosis, which many interpreted as the scent of an unhealthy goat. This vivid and constant scent followed him to his incarceration, and remains as a distinct memory everyone that encountered him reflects on. As his wrongdoings continued, he began to use one of his elderly victims’ red lipsticks to transcribe satanic messages and symbols on the walls of his “stage” and bodies of the injured, adding to the insecurity and overall eeriness of the docuseries. 

As common identifiers like DNA and AFIS (automated fingerprint identification system) weren’t introduced to the investigative world until the late 1980’s and 90’s, Richard Ramirez was able to hide from police for over a year. Gil Carillo and surrounding detectives were forced to go off of matching shoe prints, the remnants of snacks, and bloodied symbols calling for the devil to link each crime to each other. The Night Stalker captures the misfortunes of technology as early as forty years ago, and the true skill one needs to possess in order to discover the accused- along with the tragedies that follow it.

 After months of news coverage, personal experiences, and long, fearful nights, Richard Ramirez’s mugshot was released to the public after finding prints on a stolen car. He was later subdued by a group of residents, and beaten before cops could interfere. Ramirez was finally convicted for his known crimes and put on death row, where he died a long twenty-five years later in prison from cancer. 

In Netflix’s conscious and memorable rendition of the Night Stalkers killings, viewers throughout the country are reminded that they are never alone. Through relentless discoveries, painful interrogations, and thorough examinations, viewers are reminded to lock their doors, watch their backs, yet as Richard Ramirez demonically recites, “in the end, we all die.”