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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Yesterday's Crimes: The Marina Jewelry that ID'd the Night Stalker

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 3:32 PM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

Editor's Note: This is the third installment in a three-part series on the murderous trip of Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, to San Francisco in August 1985. Here are the links to parts one and two.


In the days after killing San Francisco accountant Peter Pan in his home on Aug. 18, 1985, Richard Ramirez, now known as the Night Stalker, shot dice on the streets of the Mission District. But the killer felt too confined by the city, and thought that people he knew here were growing suspicious of him.

He was right.

Donna Meyers of Lompoc, Calif. started to wonder about her friend Rick from El Paso, Texas after she heard about the Pan murder. Rick resembled the sketch of the Night Stalker she had seen on TV, and she met with him in the Bay Area around the time of the murder there. Rick gave her some pieces of jewelry to hang onto for him. The jewelry was engraved with what looked like a driver license number.

Meyers called the Lompoc police. She told Sgt. Harry Heidt about the jewelry and gave him the number from the engraving on a gold bracelet. Lompoc police checked the number with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The driver license belonged to a woman who lived on Baker Street in the Marina. A bracelet and a ring had been stolen from her house.

Heidt contacted the San Francisco police. SF homicide investigator Frank Falzon called back and told Heidt that he needed a last name for this "Rick." Meyers didn't know it, but she knew who did. She told police to contact an Armando Rodriguez in El Sobrante.

Falzon and other SFPD investigators questioned Rodriguez for hours. He wouldn't talk at first, but he finally told the detectives that Rick's last name was Ramirez. Police finally knew the name of the Night Stalker.

LA investigators also had a break in the case when they were able to link a fingerprint to a Toyota stolen by the Night Stalker to Ramirez using a new computerized fingerprint system. Police had a name, and two pieces connecting him to the Night Stalker murders. They also had a mug shot of Ramirez from a 1984 arrest for suspicion of driving a stolen car.

Police issued an all-points bulletin for Ramirez on Saturday, Aug. 30, 1985. Ramirez's face was on the front page of every Sunday paper in California the next morning.

On the day that Southern California police officials held a press conference to reveal their suspect for the Night Stalker murders, Ramirez had taken a bus to Tuscon, Ariz. to visit his brother. He returned on August 31 unaware that he'd been identified as the Night Stalker.

When he walked into a small liquor store at 8:30 a.m. and saw a newspaper with his picture on the front page, he knew he had to get out of California. He took a bus to East Los Angeles where he tried to steal a fire engine red Mustang, but was fought off by Faistino Pinon, 56, who was working on the car.

Ramirez then ran across East Hubbard Street, hit Angelina De La Torre, 28, in the stomach, and tried to snatch her keys as she was getting into her car.

According to the LA Times, the woman's husband, Manuel De La Torre, 32, "in a rage chased Ramirez, beating him as he ran with an iron rod."

Three of the De La Torres' neighbors — Jose Burgoin, 55 and his sons Jaime, 21 and Julio, 17— soon joined in the chase and subdued Ramirez. Many of the East LA residents didn't realize they were chasing the infamous Night Stalker. They just knew he was a bad man.

The men made Ramirez sit on the curb. When Ramirez tried to stand, Manuel De La Torre raised the iron rod over his head daring him to move.

When the police finally pulled up, Ramirez told them, "Thank God you came."

170px-richard_ramirez_1984_mug_shot.jpg
Clad in black jeans and a Jack Daniels t-shirt, Ramirez's "dark hair was matted with blood—his scalp gashed by repeated slashing blows from a slender steel rod wielded by the enraged De La Torre" according to the LA Times.
Ramirez was convicted of 13 counts of murder, 5 attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries on Sept. 20, 1989, and given the death sentence that November.

The Night Stalker died from blood cancer on June 7, 2013 after serving nearly 28 years in San Quentin.

A biopic starring Lou Diamond Phillips as Ramirez, titled "The Night Stalker," is coming out later in 2016.

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Bob Calhoun

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