The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez

The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez

by Philip Carlo


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“I couldn’t put the book down…very scary indeed.” —Los Angeles Times

 The Classic Account Of One Of The World’s Most Feared Serial Killers

Decades after Richard Ramirez left thirteen dead and paralyzed the city of Los Angeles, his name is still synonymous with fear, torture, and sadistic murder. Philip Carlo’s classic The Night Stalker, based on years of meticulous research and extensive interviews with Ramirez, revealed the killer and his horrifying crimes to be even more chilling than anyone could have imagined. From watching his cousin commit murder at age eleven to his nineteen death sentences to the juror who fell in love with him, the story of Ramirez is a bizarre and spellbinding descent into the very heart of human evil.

Incredibly, after The Night Stalker was first published, thousands of women from all over the world contacted Carlo, begging to be put in touch with the killer. Carlo interviewed them and here presents their disturbing stories and the dark sexual desires that would drive them towards a brutal murderer. And in an exclusive death row interview, the killer himself gives his thoughts on the “Ramirez Groupies”—and what he thinks they really want.


“An astonishing portrait of a killer not seen since In Cold Blood.”  —New York Daily News

“An exceptionally well-told true crime tale.” Publishers Weekly16 Pages Of Shocking Photos

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780806538419
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 08/30/2016
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 78,034
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Philip Carlo was born and raised in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. His research for The Night Stalker included spending over 100 hours with Richard Ramirez at San Quentin’s Death Row. The photo above was taken on the day of Ramirez’s wedding on Death Row. He also wrote the true-crime bestsellers The Ice Man, The Butcher, and Gaspipe.

Read an Excerpt

The Night Stalker

The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez

By Philip Carlo


Copyright © 1996 Philip Carlo
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8065-3851-8


The downtown area around the Los Angeles Greyhound Bus Terminal is a very dangerous place after dark. Colorful legions of thieves, muggers, fences, crackheads, junkies, alcoholics, and ten-dollar whores prowl like hungry sharks around a bleeding man. Known as skid row, people here often sleep in the filthy, vermin-infested streets where they dropped the night before. If the great, grand City of Angels had an asshole, the downtown area around the terminal would undoubtedly be it.

It was from this place that he came, nameless and nocturnal, as silent and deadly as cyanide gas. He always wore black, with the brim of a black baseball cap pulled down low; even his socks and shoes were black. Thus attired, he moved about in shadows, blending and becoming one with them, rarely seen until it was too late.

At 8:30 on the evening of June 27, 1984, he copped two grams of cocaine from Roberto, a skinny Colombian who sold pure rock from the little park with the benches and the palm trees just in front of the terminal. It was a simple matter of saying, "Two grams" and shaking Roberto's hand, and all of a sudden the coke was in his hand. Roberto shook hands with dozens of people a day and was adept at passing the drug without being seen. It was like a magic trick.

Tonight, the man in black was driving a stolen dark-blue Toyota. However, no one paid particular attention to what he was driving; that was his business and, for the most part, people who moved through the underground empire of degradation and crime in downtown Los Angeles minded their own business. It was a very easy place to get lost in. There were transient hotels all over that rented rooms for eight to twelve dollars a night, no questions asked, no ID necessary. The Huntington, Cecil, Rosslyn, Ford, and Frontier were some of the places he'd go and binge on cocaine for several days straight, not eating or sleeping, answerable only to his addiction and the hot winds of his psychosis.

But tonight all his money had gone for the cocaine and he'd have to make do out in the open. He got into the car, drove a few blocks, and parked. He knew the mean, stinking, urine-stained streets and alleys as intimately as the palms of his large-knuckled hands. He had prearranged places where he'd go to get off without being disturbed. He got out of the car and walked to the back of an abandoned building just off Pico, anxious and in a hurry to get the drug into his system.

He removed two of the four glistening rocks from a neatly folded piece of aluminum foil and put them into a cut-down Pepsi can he carried in a little paper bag. He then spilled a tablespoon of bottled water into the can and quickly the coke melted and became one with the liquid. Moving his long, powerful fingers deftly, he took a syringe out of the bag and drew the cocaine-laden water into it. He then tied a piece of cord around the sinewy bicep of his left arm and waited for the basilic vein to swell.

It was a clear, hot summer night. He used light from a street lamp to see. Rats scurried about, not happy about his presence. When the vein stood out like a thick purple worm, he untied the cord and slowly slid in the needle, injecting the drug. The cocaine raced to his brain and limbs like a speeding train on its way to no good. He put the works and rocks back in the bag, stashed it, and hurried to the car — the drug heightening his senses, dilating his pupils.

Sweating, he began to cruise downtown, driving up and down its foul, sweltering streets — thinking about a hooker, a specific kind of sex. But he had to have money for that.

By trade he was a burglar, and he was good at his chosen profession. He knew how to get into any kind of home, even one with an alarm system, though he avoided alarms and dogs when possible. He drove in widening circles around the terminal. While he cruised, he listened to heavy metal music — Judas Priest, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Billy Idol. He found the frantic beats and often violent lyrics stimulating. To him there were hidden, important messages in the music he related to and made his own. He thought that Idol's "Eyes without a Face" — about a murderer on a bus — very much reflected what he was about, for he often fantasized about killing people he saw on the bus as he was returning downtown after dropping off a hot car.

He returned to the alley a third time, shot up the rest of the cocaine, and resumed his cruising. He saw a few street hustlers who made him slow down and wave, but none who made him want to stop.

Money! To get what he wanted he had to have money.

As he drove and watched people walking on the sidewalks of Main, Broadway, and Spring, sitting in their cars waiting for red lights, he thought about violent sex and domination. The right time and place were essential for successful murder. He'd later reveal: To be a good killer you have to plan things out carefully. You've got to be prepared in every way when the moment comes to strike; you cannot hesitate.

Under the influence of cocaine, time goes by quickly; he was beginning to come down. The euphoric rushes he'd been traveling with were leaving him, replaced by an edgy, nervous anxiety, which could only be relieved with more cocaine.

He got on the 10 Freeway and drove for a few exits, got off at Alhambra, and looked for a situation he could exploit. He couldn't find one, returned to the freeway, and drove over to Glassel Park — a small community inhabited by low-income working people. Its population was 42,000. He drove without directions or map, his dark eyes searching the night, looking for a place where he could get in, get what he wanted, and get out.

He parked on Chapman Street, which ran parallel to the gentle, peaceful rolling hills of Forest Lawn Memorial Park. He sat in the car a few minutes and collected himself, put on dark-colored gardening gloves, and made sure no one was watching him.

When he was satisfied he was unobserved — he had a sixth sense about such things — he got out of the car and walked along the dark green cemetery wall, staying in shadows, taking long, silent steps.

Above, an ink-black sky was punctuated with glistening stars. Light from the stars and street lamps put a kind of luminous frosting on the tombstones, all neatly lined up and well cared for. Gauze-thin, silky clouds scudded across the night, momentarily blocking out the stars. In his mind he heard the howl of a wolf, imagined he was walking through thick fog.

He stopped in front of a two-story pink apartment building, not too well cared for, fifty feet wide, a hundred fifty feet deep. It was a barracks-like structure with an alley on the right that ran to the back of the building. The apartments were off this alley, five on the upper level, five on the lower, connected by rusting outdoor metal stairs.

He walked to the yard, studying the doors and windows with the experienced eye of a seasoned jeweler looking through a loupe. He quickly decided not to break into one of the rear apartments. If things went wrong back there, he could be trapped. He started back toward Chapman and stopped at apartment 2, the home of seventy-nine-year-old Jennie Vincow.

Jennie had thinning hair as white as salt, was 5'9", and weighed 190 pounds. She had two sons: Jack, who lived in apartment 9, upstairs, and Manny, who resided in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

Jennie had been living in Brooklyn with Manny until November 11, 1981. Manny had some "mental problems," Jack would later say, and he often fought with his mother. He had even struck her on several occasions. Jack thought it best if he brought his mother out to sunny California, where he could watch over her and get her what she needed. She had a very low electrolyte count and was always tired; just the act of walking was strenuous for her.

On this night her window was open, but there was a screen covering it. He made sure he wasn't being observed. A tall, bushy palm tree at the front of the building blocked any light from the street. He had no idea who lived in apartment 2, but it didn't matter. He'd make it his, neutralize whoever was inside and take what he wanted. He'd dominate; he'd control.

He was certain that Satan, archenemy of Christ, of all: hings good, was traveling with him, and that Satan would protect him so long as he stayed evil in his heart and showed no mercy.

The gloves made getting the screen off difficult, and he had to remove one. He rarely took off his gloves, but tonight he was wired and jammed with the coming down of the cocaine, and his motor movements were off.

Carefully he pried the screen loose, silently put it down inside the apartment, and opened the window ever so slowly. He put his glove back on, grabbed the sill, and hoisted himself up and into the apartment in two easy movements, catlike, as silent as the turning of a page. Inside, he got down low and let his eyes adjust to the dark.

It was, he could quickly discern, a one-bedroom, and as soon as his eyes registered the poverty in which Jennie Vincow lived, he knew he'd come to the wrong place. It made him angry. Furious. Anger was a very difficult emotion for him to control.

Staying low, on the balls of his feet, he walked toward the bedroom and made out the form of Jennie Vincow, sleeping deeply under a brown-and-white plaid blanket, her breathing slow and labored. When he was sure she was alone, he took out a penlight and looked around the apartment. There was just about nothing worth stealing there, except, of course, Jennie Vincow's soul ...

He spotted a suitcase at the foot of the bed and silently went for it, hoping there might be something in it he could sell — turn into currency, cocaine and sex. He opened it and found only wrinkled clothing. There was a dresser against the wall. Soundlessly he went through its drawers, but again he found nothing of value — no jewelry, no hidden cash. He stared at the sleeping form of Jennie Vincow, hate and anger welling up inside him, contorting his face into an animal-like snarl. He took out a razor-sharp six-inch hunting knife, approached the bed, and stood there, his heart now beating rapidly. He could feel hot blood pulsating at his temples and at the backs of his eyes.

Sexually excited by the prospect of what he was going to do, he raised the knife and plunged the full length of the blade into Jennie Vincow's chest. She woke up screaming; he kept stabbing. She tried to fight him off, but that was impossible: he slammed his hand over her mouth, raised her chin, and stabbed, then slashed her throat from ear to ear, cutting so deeply he nearly severed her head. Her body shook violently. She choked and gagged on her blood. The last image her dying eyes registered was of him — standing over her, killing her.

He pulled down the blanket and stabbed her deeply in the chest three more times, sexually charged by the plunging of the blade, propelled and spurred on by the certainty that he was one with Satan — one with evil.

Fascinated by what he'd just done — the blood, her gaping wounds, his omnipotent power — he excited himself for nearly an hour, drinking glass after glass of water, the small, hot, humid room filling with the fetid smell of blood, sweat and death.

Finished, he washed his hands in the bathroom sink and left the apartment as soundlessly as he'd come, taking a small, portable radio. Quickly, though not so fast that he'd draw attention to himself, he made his way back to the stolen car, got into it, and drove toward the corner.

It was now 5 A.M. and dawn was slowly filling a sad, tranquil sky. The horizon in the east was a deep indigo above big, puffy clouds that were stitched with the fiery threads of the rising sun. It was the time filmmakers call the "magic hour," when there is no glare in the air and color and dimension are sharper and more defined. People were on their way to early-morning jobs. Sparrows and finches chirped in trees that dotted the cemetery and lined the block.

He came to a stop sign on the corner of Weldon Avenue. He was going to run it, but something made him slow down; something held him back. As he started out again, an LAPD black-and-white came to a slow stop on the corner to his immediate right. His heart rolled over at the sight of the cruiser. The officer watched him pull away just half a block from where Vincow had been murdered. He had her blood all over his clothes and was in a stolen car with stolen property.

But Lucifer was with him, and he drove one way as the police cruiser took a left and moved in the opposite direction.

At 1:20 that afternoon, ten hours after the killer had left, Jack Vincow went to visit his mom. It was his custom to look in on her about that time every day. She liked Chicken McNuggets, and he'd gone and bought her some. He wanted to surprise her with them.

Jack was a pharmacist who had recently been laid off. The air conditioner in his car hadn't been working properly and he'd had it fixed that morning. Jennie liked to take rides in the cool car, and Jack thought today he'd take her for one after she'd had her McNuggets.

As soon as he got to the front door, he noticed the window screen was missing. Strange. He turned and looked for it but couldn't find it. He took out his keys to open the door. He expected it to be locked and didn't want to make his mom get up, but the door was open. That, too, registered as peculiar; his mother always kept the door locked. Chapman Street was not in a good area, and there were often break-ins and burglaries. As Jack entered his mother's apartment, he saw the screen sitting in the middle of the living room floor. There were blood smears on the walls, and the house had been ransacked.

"Mother ... Mother, are you here? Mother?" he called into the ominous silence. There was no response. With trepidation he walked toward Jennie's bedroom, a feeling of dread welling up in him. The light in the bedroom was not good. Jennie was covered by a blanket. He grabbed it, lifted it, and saw the terrible destruction — the gaping, obscene wounds, the nearly detached head. He turned and ran from the apartment, yelling, "My mother's been murdered! Call the police!" He went straight to the managers of the building, a married couple named Laui and Rene Trinque, and banged on their door, calling out, "My mother's been murdered. Oh, God, please call the police!"

Rene hurried to the phone and dialed 911. Jack thought he'd better call, too. He ran up to his apartment, dialed 911, and repeated, "Someone's murdered my mother; please come quick!" He gave them the address and was told a car had already been dispatched.

He returned to the front of the building to wait for the authorities. It was now 1:40 P.M., hot and sticky. Up and down the block word spread quickly that there had been a murder, and a crowd was gathering. Jack walked back and forth, tears streaming down his face, sobbing, brokenhearted. He returned to his mother's apartment, opened the drapes, looked about for a few seconds, then went back outside.

The first police officer to get there was Lt. Buster Altizer. He'd been the watch commander at the LAPD Northeast Station on North San Fernando Road when the call, a 187 — a murder — had come in over the radio. The station was four blocks from Chapman, and Lt. Altizer was there in minutes. He parked out front and reluctantly got out of his air-conditioned car; it was a suffocating 96 degrees. Jack Vincow approached.

"Police?" he asked.

"That's right."

"I called; my mother's been murdered."

"Was it you who found the body, sir?"

"Yes ... in her apartment, in the house. I'll show you."

Lt. Altizer followed Jack, dazed, round-shouldered, still crying, to the doorway of apartment 2. Jack did not want to go back in. He couldn't take seeing his mother like that again, he said.

"She's in the bedroom," he told Altizer, and pointed.

As soon as Altizer entered the apartment he could smell the murder; human death has a very distinct odor, one never forgotten once experienced. Slowly he made his way to the bedroom and saw the ransacking, the blood on the walls. He approached the bed, took in the destruction, the glassy stare in her eyes, and knew immediately this was a murder, a particularly sadistic, very brutal one. His job now was to contact LAPD Homicide and to seal the apartment. He went back outside and called for back-up and Homicide people. He then used yellow crime-scene tape he'd gotten out of the trunk of his car and cordoned off the alley and apartment. He asked Jack a few questions that Jack answered as best he could, but he was distraught, and talking coherently was difficult.


Excerpted from The Night Stalker by Philip Carlo. Copyright © 1996 Philip Carlo. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Critical Acclaim for The Night Stalker,
Title Page,
Copyright Page,
Special Update of the Tenth-Anniversary Edition,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Night Stalker 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Rebubula More than 1 year ago
Ten Reasons Why This Book Is Shocking And Should Be Read- 1. Most fictional horror is based on reality. This nightmare of a tale is one for the books (oh yeah-we're good there; carry on) 2. Knowing that someone is terrorizing the whole state of California with multiple rapes, robberies and murders is bad enough. Finding out he is an IV coke using Satanist drifting through skid row and the L.A Greyhound terminal makes it seem even more icky. 3. Child abuse stories told from the point of view of Richard Ramirez's brother truly strange. "I didn't report it because it felt good." 4. The nightstalker was never paid attention to by women throughout his life. After dozens of sodomy rapes and murders Richie Ramirez is treated like a rock star with gorgeous women flocking to his trial and waiting up to 20 hours to visit him in his cell. 5. An "upstanding" woman married Richard Ramirez claiming he is "misunderstood" 6. The pictures inside are not violent but are certainly shocking and thought provoking. 7. Did I mention this? I did... The man is a Satanist! 8. A Death Row Interview is included in the ten year anniversary edition. 9. Richard Ramirez is described as the most famous person to come from El Paso, TX. What about Townes Van Zandt? 10. Like The Manson Family's "White Album" worship. Mr. Ramirez makes AC/DC seem more evil by living out one a fantasy through one of their earlier tunes, "The Nightstalker" Enjoy but beware. Disturbing reading abound. The info I just listed is well known and shouldn't be considered as any sort of "spoiler alert"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Night Stalker is a really good book. its full with vivid writeing and it tells you about a young men and how he became the night stalker how his family was very respectful and that sometimes seeing some one dieing infront of you can really mess you up. its a good book for people that is into crimminal justice or love reading about killers. it can show you the life of richard ramirez but the book is very detail when it comes down to the killing and how he did it. but beside all that i think the night stalker is a very great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is fabulous hard to let go, there wasn't anything more interesting then reading it, scary in a sense that had me looking around more than ever at night, as I read it, it felt like it was really happening at the time and not something that was hopefully over.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an incredible read! It is absolutely terrifying and extremely difficult to put down! One of the BEST true crime books I've ever read, and I've read tons! A MUST for anyone interested in serial killers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Growing up in the Los Angeles area where these crimes took place and being scared out of my mind at the time this book gives the exact story how it happened and how scared people from Los Angeles were. I read this book while visiting Las Vegas and sat in a casino and read the book. I could not put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down. I'm not much of a reader but I have always been interested in this case and the facts behind it. The book gives so much insight to Richard Ramirez's thoughts and crimes. It was a bit scary at times but a GREAT BOOK!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is divided into 3 sections: his killing spree up to his capture, his history (childhood and adolescence), and his capture and trial. I agree with the other reviewers - the first section of the book puts you on the edge of your seat from the very first page. The crimes were described in vivid detail and it was shocking to read but impossible to put it down. The section on his childhood gave a little insight into how he ended up doing the things he did. The section on the trial was way too long and tedious but necessary to complete the story I guess. I'd be very interested to read about Ramirez now that he's been imprisoned for 20 years. I lived in Southern California as a child during his crime spree and reading this really brought back memories of how terrified everyone was of the Night Stalker.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like the previous reviewer stated, the first half of this back is phenomenal, while the second part pretty much falls flat. With the exception of the victim's families impassioned pleas, and the actual interviews with Ramirez, the trial itself tends to be drag on in a redundant way. Still, it's a good book and I enjoyed it for the most part. You really felt like you were there with the Stalker, breaking into homes of innocent people and brutalizing them for one man's perverse pleasure. You'll be creeped out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The minute I picked up this book, I was hooked. The Gruesome details of this maniacs actions were just unbelievable. I have lived in the Los Angeles area all my life so I know first hand the fear he placed in every ones lives when these murders were occuring. Then reading this book and knowing how he killed these innocent victims, makes me grateful that he did not harm anyone I know. This is a terrific book from the beginning to the end. I highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Phillip Carlo, explains the story of Richard Ramirez in such a vividly way. It almost feels like your there witnessing the crimes. I had a hard time putting the book down at night, even thouught I was soooooo scared. I had nightmares at night and imagined Richard standing right besides my bed. Although I was scared this book is soooooo worth it. You must read it!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Richard Ramirez was one of the most disturbing serial killers I have ever read about. What is so terrifying is how he gets into your home without a sound. I am so thankful I have dogs. If you read this book, you'll want a dog too. This book kept me up nights. I read it a few years ago and I have yet to read a book that was as horrifying as this one. Richard Ramirez is the closest thing to pure evil I have ever read about. Not only that, this book was very well written and you are given plenty of background info. You actually feel like you know Richard. It's scary to think somebody like him exists on this planet. Scary! A MUST READ!
Anonymous 8 months ago
D_Soler More than 1 year ago
This book is extremely descriptive and informative. The way the book is written and broken down makes for an extremely easy read and I'd recommend this book to any reader. If you're looking for a one stop shop into the mind of a psychotic then look no further, this book is for you.
M-Pritchard More than 1 year ago
TERRIFYING!!! I've read about every true crime book is out there and this is the one that still is the best I've ever  read. Very intense!!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Great Book! The whole book was great except some points in the trial section of the book, too many details there. Otherwise I def recommend this book. Richard is nuts, I loved it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The night stalker! Have you ever read a book so interesting, full of suspense, filled with bone chilling facts that you don¿t want to put it down? Well Philip Carlo has mastered this way of writing. Richard Ramirez is the normal middle aged guy to the naked eye. His daily task to just live it up and work that¿s it basic simple everyday life for everyone obviously nothing major. That¿s his life during the day but when it¿s after daylight it is a whole other story. He wandered the streets of L,A by skid row and places where drugs were sold regularly and where homeless people slept as if the streets were a bedroom. He was very good at outsmarting the police and the local authority such as rent a cops etc¿ the way he lived life was to do whatever he wants I assume because he killed people like he was some powerful god like person. There this err weird kind of feeling you get when you read the book, It gives you the feeling of that someone is over your shoulder or someone is watching you. But the weird this about it is I couldn¿t put it down because I wanted to see what happened next. For instance there is a part in the book where he was in a girls house trying to murder her and the writer used very specific detailing such as the way he was tip toeing and the way every time he got nervous he started to shake witch caused his jacket zipper to jingle along with his keys and change in his pocket. I think that made the book even more suspenseful. I also think the way the writer would tell it like it is and not hold anything back. He described everything down to the blood on the blade. The major conflict was him attempting to kill and killing innocent people. Along with the way he stole old ladies purses .Which in my opinion is one of the lames and most pathetic thing to do. Besides putting his hands on women when they told him not to or holding them against there will. But his personal conflict was to just survive. He didn¿t have a job so it¿s not like he had an income other than stealing and selling drugs. One thing I didn¿t like about the writer was that he sometimes said the same thing over and over which was very annoying. But I did like the way he described everything and the way that he had all facts and reports from the officers and the witnesses. I give this book 2 thumbs up. If you like horror/suspense/ and thriller books that will keep you on your toes. But I do not recommend this book if you have a weak stomach and if you do not like to read about people getting killed and what not.