Serial killer Richard Ramirez, dubbed the "Night Stalker" during a series of Southern California slayings in the mid-1980s, died of natural causes Friday after more than two decades on death row at San Quentin State Prison.
San Quentin State Prison spokesman Lt. Sam Robinson said that Ramirez had been sick earlier this week and died at Marin General Hospital. An autopsy is pending, but authorities at the hospital told the Associated Press that he died of liver failure.
Robinson said that Ramirez had been far from a model prisoner since he came there in 1989, even masturbating in front of the staff.
But for some reason, Ramirez was popular: He received the most mail of anyone in prison, Robinson said. When he came to San Quentin, Ramirez acted like a rock star, Robinson said. But over the last few years, Robinson said Ramirez had become more withdrawn.
In 1996 Ramirez married one of his admirers. The wedding took place in a visiting room at San Quentin. Doreen Lioy, a 41-year-old freelance magazine editor, lives in Richmond. She refused comment Friday. Relatives have called Lioy a recluse who lived in a fantasy world.
Ramirez, 53, was sent to San Quentin after he was convicted of 13 murders in 1989. After his conviction, Ramirez flashed a two-fingered "devil sign'' to photographers and muttered the word "'Evil.''
On his way to a jail bus, he sneered in reaction to the verdict, muttering: "Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland.''
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.
Some of the victims were shot to death, others were strangled or had their throats slashed. When he was captured in August 1985, angry residents surrounded Ramirez and beat him in East Los Angeles after his attempted carjacking.
The 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.
Two years after his arrest, San Francisco police said DNA linked Ramirez to the April 10, 1984, killing of 9-year-old Mei Leung. She was killed in the basement of a residential hotel in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood where she lived with her family. Ramirez had been staying at nearby hotels.
Ramirez previously was tied to killings in Northern California. He was charged in the shooting deaths of Peter Pan, 66, and his wife, Barbara, in 1985 just before his arrest in Los Angeles, but he was never tried in that case.
Prison officials said since 1978, 59 condemned inmates in California have died from natural causes, 22 have committed suicide and 13 have been executed. There are 735 inmates on death row in California.
Here's the statement from the Marin County Sheriff Coroner:
On June 7, 2013, at approximately 0928 hours, the Marin County Sheriff’s Office
Coroner Division was contacted by personnel from San Quentin State Prison and
advised inmate Richard Ramirez (53 year old male) had been pronounced deceased at
9:10 am while receiving medical treatment at Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, Ca.
The Coroner Division has initiated an investigation, in collaboration with San Quentin
State Prison, into the cause, manner, and circumstances of Ramirez’s death.
Preliminary information developed from the investigation at this time indicates the
deaths appears to be related to a natural medical mechanism
The Coroner Division will have no further comment on this investigation until the cause
and manner of Ramirez’s death is certified.