From Monster to Love Object: Richard Ramirez and His Groupies

Whether you class yourself as a “Belieber”, “Directioner” or a “Swifty” (generally speaking), it is likely that it was their catchy tunes and youthful good looks that first caught your eye. It certainly wasn’t their love for Satan or catalogue of criminal activity that attracted you to their fandom.

The truth can’t be said be for a group of people who became besotted with notorious serial killer Richard Ramirez. Known as the Night Stalker before he was caught, Ramirez raped and tortured more than twenty-five people over a period of two years. He killed at the very least thirteen people, however claimed to have killed twenty.

Ramirez usually broke into his victim’s home in the middle of the night (earning him the name the “Night Stalker”), wearing all black. His general operation plan was to burgle the home, kill the husbands and rape the wives. His favoured method of murder was a .22 revolver but he sometimes changed his approach — sometimes stabbing them, slashing them with a machete or beating them with a hammer.

I love to kill people. I love to watch them die. I would shoot them in the head and they would wiggle and squirm all over the place, and then just stop. Or I would cut them with a knife and watch their faces turn real white. I love all that blood.

In August 1985, police finally got a crucial lead in the form of a single fingerprint left by Ramirez on the rear view mirror of a car he had stolen from his last victims. Having been booked before for traffic and drug violations, Ramirez’ name was flagged when the print was run through the database.

Subsequent to this, his mugshot was widely distributed — the Night Stalker finally had a face. Unaware of his new found fame, Ramirez was shocked when a group of women at a convenience store in East Los Angeles identified him as “El Matador” (“The Killer”). Although he tried to escape, he couldn’t outrun the police and was brought into custody.


Everyone loves a bad boy

It didn’t take long for Ramirez to attract a group of fiercely loyal followers and admirers. Never had he received so much female attention — women practically lined up outside the prison walls to visit him. During Ramirez’ trial, women would flock to the courtroom to merely get a glimpse of him. This in spite of the fact that, while on the run, he was described by a witness as having bad teeth and an even worse smell.

While many believed him to be innocent, the same number, if not more, were attracted to him on a physical level. Have you heard of hybristophilia? This is a type of sexual deviance where people are aroused by those that have committed an outrage or a gruesome crime. While the cause of this is unclear, one theory holds that people believe that they can “change” the accused or want to nurture them.

Ramirez became somewhat of a sex symbol for Satanism. Not only did he sometimes leave pentagrams in lipstick at the crime scenes and on his victims, at his first court appearance in 1988 he raised his palm which had a pentagram drawn on it and yelled “Hail Satan”. He even attracted the attention of the daughter of Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan and author of The Satanic Bible. Rumour has it that she extended to him honorary membership to the Church of Satan.


Fans in the stands

Cindy Haden was an alternate juror during Richard Ramirez’ trial.

When one of the primary jurors got dismissed, she accepted his position with visible excitement. Ramirez, aware of her affections, thought that with her on his side he had a chance of getting a hung jury. He made sure to make eye contact with her frequently in order to feed her devotions. On Valentine’s Day, she even sent him a cupcake with the message “I love you” written in icing on the top.

However, not only was Ramirez convicted of these crimes, he was also given the death penalty. Clearly Haden was not as “on team” as she portrayed. Nevertheless, when the verdict was delivered, she made a series of gestures to Ramirez indicating that she was sorry and had no choice.

Seeming to forgive Haden, Ramirez invited her to visit him in jail where she expressed her deep love for him. She even introduced him to her parents. After his sentencing, she made television appearances, insisting that he had been poorly represented. She even went so far as to claim that Ramirez was possessed by the devil when he committed his crimes and this really should have been an issue his lawyers raised during the trial.


The ball and chain

Of the hundreds of followers Ramirez collected along the way, including Cindy Haden, there was one woman who caught his eye more than all others. Doreen Lioy claims that she fell in love instantly when she saw Ramirez’ picture for the first time. Feeling that he needed a friend, she wrote to him. They reportedly exchanged seventy five letters before they finally met.

Lioy stuck strong (and often, vocally) beside him throughout the trail despite the fact that Ramirez often allowed visits from “fan girls”. He proposed to her in 1988 and the two finally wed in October of 1996.

As Ramirez sat on death row, Lioy promised she would commit suicide when he was finally executed. In an interview in 1997, Lioy insisted that, despite the evidence and witness identifications, he was innocent and not capable of what he was accused. She proclaimed that he was funny, charming, and kind.

At aged fifty three, Ramirez succumbed to complications related to B-cell lymphoma in 2013. Little is written about Lioy’s reaction to his death — the pair reportedly separated when his DNA was identified in a cold case relating to the murder of a young girl.

Your turn: What do you make of serial killer groupies? Do you think this behaviour is related to underlying psychological stress or just simply exceptionally bad taste?



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