The Night Stalker is the reason people lock their doors at night. My grandma always said, “Nothing good happens late at night,” and she was absolutely right. In fact, she remembers these upsetting crimes as if they were yesterday. The Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is the latest docuseries about the heinous crimes committed by Richard Ramirez in 1984 and 1985 throughout Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Known as the Night Stalker, Ramirez murdered and assaulted residents throughout California as he broke into their homes in the middle of the night. Directed by Tiller Russell, Netflix’s four-part docuseries goes in depth about Ramirez’s crimes. He murdered 14 people, raped, burglarized, and assaulted men, women, and children of different ages and races throughout the state. The docuseries interviews survivors, family members of the victims, and detectives to discuss this terrifying story.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detectives Gil Carrillo and Frank Salerno became partners at the time of murders and took on one of the biggest cases in the state to catch the Night Stalker. The Herald Examiner first called Ramirez “The Night Stalker” after other publications and outlets went through other names including, “The Walk-In Killer” and the “The Valley Intruder.”
There are a lot of great layers to this docuseries with compelling interviews, precise timelines, deep police involvement, and fascinating insights. The entire series focuses on Ramirez’s victims and his disorganized crime scenes that left very little evidence. He sexually assaulted children as young as 6, killed women in their 80’s, murdered a husband and assaulted his wife, and sometimes committed multiple crimes in the same night.
Detectives were constantly thrown off due to the lack of evidence, the range of different crimes, and odd behaviors observed by survivors. Ramirez would brutally murder his victims and oddly eat the food in their fridge with his victims in the next room. He proudly would claim, “I am the Night Stalker” as he attacked his victims.
The docuseries really focuses on police involvement, the survivors’ stories, archival footage, and the devastating effect the murders had on the families and community. Numerous victims are presented and their stories are handled with extreme respect.
At one point, I had to pause the show and take a break due to the intensity but it’s worth every second of watching to understand the full scope of his crimes. It’s important to listen to each story to understand the nightmare these people were put through and the scope of Ramirez’s crimes.
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It’s always hard to hear about any death but when children and the elderly are involved, it makes it a thousand times harder for me to stomach. One of his victims, Joyce Nelson (60-years-old) was murdered in the middle of the night by Ramirez. According to her family, one of her biggest fears in life was being raped. He brutally murdered her but she didn’t go down without a fight as her body displayed evidence of a struggle. The docuseries pulls you into the story and makes it feel as if these events happened yesterday.
The Night Stalker’s violent nature was evident as the stories continue. My throat started tightening and my palms started sweating after seeing evidence photos of a murdered woman who was beaten to death with her head caved in from being stomped on. The detectives mentioned one of the most important pieces of evidence was a shoe print left behind by Ramirez at several crime scenes. Devastatingly, the woman had an imprint of a shoe mark on her head and that same night, Ramirez went less than a mile away and sexually assaulted another woman.
The viewer gets pulled in as the detectives talk about inching closer to catching him. The story is extremely personal to the detectives and the impact it had on their lives. Not only did it affect the relationships with their families but their own neighbors were assaulted by the Night Stalker.
The docuseries takes you through each episode in a timely manner as his full identity comes into the picture. As we finally get closure on his capture and court ruling, we’re brought back to the real reason this docuseries is impactful. And it’s certainly not to glamorize this monster. The families of the victims and the survivor’s stories felt important and the story stays “human” all the way through. It felt very respectful to the victims’ families and survivors of the Night Stalker. I also respected the docuseries for not diving deep into his childhood or tough upbringing. This isn’t his story, after all. Rather, it’s the story of those whose lives he forever changed.
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The Night Stalker is a gut-wrenching story that goes above and beyond to chronicle a trying and terrifying time in history. For those that aren’t familiar with the Night Stalker, this is a very informative and frightening viewing experience. It feels incredibly real. The Night Stalker is the reason we’re told to lock our doors at night.
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer premieres on January 13th on Netflix.