Serial killer Richard Ramirez, dubbed the "Night Stalker" during a series of Southern California slayings in the mid-1980s, has died of natural causes after more than two decades on death row at San Quentin State Prison.
Ramirez, 53, died Friday morning of natural causes at Marin General Hospital, according to a statement from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Ramirez was sent to death row at the prison north of San Francisco after he was convicted of 13 murders in 1989. The slayings and sexual assaults terrorized Southern California in 1984 and 1985 with reports of Satanic symbols at bloody crime scenes and a killer who entered through unlocked windows and doors -- a method that led to his original nickname, the "Walk-In Killer."
Some of the victims were shot to death, others were strangled or had their throats slashed.
"The death of Richard Ramirez in prison today closes a dark chapter in the history of Los Angeles," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. "Let's not forget the victims who suffered at his hands and the victims families who are still suffering with the memories of their lost loved ones."
When he was captured in August 1985, angry residents surrounded Ramirez and beat him in East Los Angeles after his attempted carjacking. His capture brought to an end serial slayings began in March 1985 and continued through several tense months before two major breaks in the case.
In August 1985, Ramirez shot and killed a man and beat the victim's wife in San Francisco, but the woman survived and provided investigators with a description of the attacker that matched police sketches.
About one week later, Ramirez was back in Southern California, where he broke into a Mission Viejo apartment. He shot and killed a resident before attacking the man's fiancee.
The woman provided investigators with a description of her attacker's vehicle. Police located the vehicle and found a fingerprint belonging to Ramirez.
His mug shot was broadcast on television and printed in newspapers, and Ramirez was tracked down in East Los Angeles just days after the Mission Viejo killing and attack. Video showed Ramirez with his head bandaged -- because of injuries suffered when residents captured him -- as police took him into custody and placed him in the back of a squad car.
He was admitted to the prison in November 1989.
Frank Salerno was one of the detectives on the Ramirez investigation. He said Ramirez had no empathy or feelings about his killings.
"He never showed any remorse for what he had done," Salerno said. "He wanted to be known as the greatest serial killer that ever lived.
"It’s too bad that the death penalty took so long," he added.
Ramirez is the 59th condemned inmate to die from natural causes on death row since California reinstated capital punishment in 1978.
Twenty-two inmates have committed suicide on death row, 13 have been executed in California and one inmate was executed in Missouri, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Six have died from other causes, according to the department.
There are now 735 offenders on California's death row.
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