Halfway through the 80s, California was booming. Big movies, big music, big money, big life. However, during the same time, there was the horror of the Nightstalker. Los Angeles might have seemed glamorous and glittering from a distance but it also had a very dark underbelly. Detectives all over California ran pillar to post to capture the brutal serial killer who had terrorized Los Angeles for over a year. He was suspected of six to eight murders and anything between 25-30 attacks. A lot of factors played a part in the capture of Richard Ramirez, the dreaded Nightstalker, not the least of which were his teeth. The rotten condition of Richard Ramirez’s teeth was mentioned in all eyewitness accounts and eventually helped the detectives catch him and get him convicted. Let’s find out how it all went down.
Richard Ramirez Teeth: Did They Bring The Nightstalker to Justice?
Who was Richard Ramirez?
Richard Ramirez, the Nightstalker unleashed a reign of terror in California between June 1984 and August 1985. Initially, it just seemed like a spurt of unrelated violent crimes. He broke into houses and assaulted residents, sometimes kidnapped and molested children, and then set them free. In other attacks, he raped and killed adults, but it was the apparent randomness of his crimes that led to an unprecedented modus operandi. His victims didn’t fit any particular profile. They ranged across age, gender and race. He didn’t even kill people with a particular weapon. He just slaughtered them with whatever he could find. Some of his victims were stabbed, some were shot, and some were beaten to death with blunt objects.
Has Netflix made a show on Richard Ramirez?
While announcing the release of its docuseries called “Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer”, Netflix’s press release read: “Never before in criminal history has a single murderer been responsible for such a gruesome variety of crimes”.
The series covered the work undertaken by detectives Gil Carrillo and Frank Salerno. It showcased how they went about solving the grisly case. Because the crimes seemed so random, many people weren’t convinced of Gil Carrillo’s initial hypothesis of them being the handiwork of one person. However, as more and more pieces started fitting into the puzzle, people started believing the serial killer hypothesis. Prior to identifying Ramirez, the detectives managed to successfully identify his shoes. He always wore a rare Avia brand shoe. The detectives soon found out that a shoe of that model and size was only owned by one person across Los Angeles. The other extremely important clue behind Richard Ramirez’s capture were his teeth. They were in such a bad state that anybody who saw him, remembered his teeth in full detail.
What are some eyewitness accounts of Richard Ramirez’s teeth?
Richard Ramirez’s decaying and rotten teeth were present in all eyewitness accounts against him. Ramirez had also left his AC/DC hat at the crime scene. Ester Petschar had seen Ramirez picking up that hat from a thrift store. She also saw him on the freeway and remembered his ghastly smile. The rotting and missing teeth made him look like a killer clown, according to her.
Los Angeles Public Library’s librarian Glen Creaso also remembered the “absolutely disgusting rotten teeth” of Richard Ramirez. Adults and children unanimously described his teeth as “brown stained and hollow”.
How did the detectives find out about Richard Ramirez’s dentist?
In 1985, Richard Ramirez infamously escaped after being stopped in a stolen car. However, detectives found some business cards inside the vehicle. One of those cards contained the address of a dentist in Chinatown. Detectives Carrillo and Salerno went on to interrogate the dentist and he told them about Ramirez’s recent dental appointment. The dentist also shared dental X rays with the detectives and that showed that Richard Ramirez needed more work on his damaged teeth.
That’s why the department placed two of its own detectives in the waiting room to inspect the dental office, in case the suspect returned for a follow-up appointment. Someone from their department told them it was a waste of money, so days later they installed an alarm that, in theory, allowed the dentist to alert the police immediately if the suspect came in for more dental work. However, the same day that detectives were removed from the dental office, Ramírez returned. The alarm also malfunctioned, and investigators missed their chance.
What was the role of Richard Ramirez’s teeth in his conviction?
Richard Ramirez was convicted for a multitude of reasons. His teeth also played a small but significant part in ensuring his conviction. During his trial, three separate dentists came on the stand to give their testimonies. These testimonies went a long way in convincing the jury about Richard Ramirez’s extreme dental issues. They also made the eyewitness accounts more believable and eventually shattered a major alibi. Richard Ramirez’s father lied to the police and said that his son was in El Paso, Texas during the week when three vicious attacks happened in Los Angeles. Luckily, one of the dentists shattered that alibi by revealing that he had treated Ramirez’s rotten teeth during that time in Los Angeles. This testimony was enough for the jury to conclude that Ramirez’s alibi was false and went on to sentence him to death. However, that sentence was never carried out as Ramirez passed away from lymphoma in 2013. He was still in prison.