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The men who stopped the 'Night Stalker'

September 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The fear would spread with each brutal killing. From June of 1984 to August of the next year, 13 people would die. Those that survived the attacks were often raped, beaten and left clinging to life.No one felt the pressure to stop the killings more than detective Gil Carrillo.

Carrillo worked day and night to catch the man who will always be remembered as the "Night Stalker."

"Everything was sexually motivated," Carrillo said. "Those surviving victims are those that acquiesced to his commands, those who didn't died."

While sex drove the killer there was no consistent pattern for authorities to follow. His victims ranged in age from teenagers to seniors. Detective Carrillo says he used everything from knives and guns to ligature strangulations as methods of murder.

Pentagrams marked some of the crime scenes. The Night Stalker was a devil worshipper, and as grisly as his crimes were, Carrillo reluctantly admits he needed the suspect to strike again if he was going to catch him.

"We needed him to continue working, to get more evidence, to get that break," Carrillo said.

That break came in Mission Viejo when a teenager spotted a suspicious man driving a car through their neighborhood. Police later found the stolen car abandoned.

Inside they found a fingerprint belonging to a Richard Ramirez. The print matched another one found at one of the crime scenes. The Night Stalker now had a face and a name that authorities quickly released to the public.

"The next morning somebody sees him on a bus and they look at his photo and the rest is history," said Carrillo.

A man by the name of Julio Burgoin would play a part in that history.

After being spotted on a bus Ramirez fled on foot to an East L.A. neighborhood. He tried to steal a car and Julio, his father and others grabbed him, beat him and held him. Only then did residents realize who Ramirez was.

"People had newspapers and said 'That's him, that's him the murderer'," Ramirez remembered.

The Night Stalker was in custody, and now authorities had to keep him there. The evidence in court would be overwhelming.

Fingerprints tied him to the scene. There were shoe prints as well and of course there were the survivors who identified Ramirez as the killer.

"The M.O. in many of these events was to murder the husband, sexually assault the wife and let the wife live," said Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Alan Yockelson. "Some of these women did come in and testify and it was horrible."

The 27-year-old also did his part to seal his own fate.

"In his first court appearance he raised his right hand and said 'hail Satan' and he had a pentagram drawn on his hand," Yockelson recalled.

For jurors there was little doubt. Ramirez was found guilty and sentenced to death. And even though decades later he is still alive on death row, Yockelson is satisfied.

"A very very dangerous person was taken off the streets," Yockelson said. "Justice was served."

Richard Ramirez will never be free to harm anyone again. But even those who stopped him admit they will never forget the fear or the terror caused by the Night Stalker as he roamed from one city to the next on one of the bloodiest and cruelest killing sprees anyone can remember.

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