To Love A Serial Killer

Richard Ramirez on his first day of trial | Courtesy of The Crime Museum

“This is a feeling that began for me as long ago as that Friday, August 30, 1985, the night before he was arrested and police broke into the television show I was watching to broadcast his picture. Looking back, I see it was a turning point for me. They showed his mug shot in the middle of ‘Dallas,’ and I saw something in his eyes. Something that captivated me. It wasn’t as if I knew him. But there was something in his eyes . . . maybe the vulnerability, I don’t really know.”—Doreen Lioy, on her first look at serial killer Richard Ramirez.1

Doreen and Richard on their wedding day | Courtesy of The San Francisco Gate

Soon after the arrest of the infamous serial killer Richard Ramirez was made public, he began to grow a fan base of followers, as many serial killers often do. While living in custody, Ramirez received hundreds of letters from dedicated fans telling him how much they admired him. Indeed, even one of the jurors wrote to him stating that she fell in love with him after seeing him in the court room. One of the most frequent senders of these love letters was young magazine editor Doreen Lioy. She began writing him letters after his arrest in 1985, and, after a while, she began visiting him too. In 1988, he proposed to her. In 1989 he was convicted of thirteen counts of murder, five attempted murders, fourteen burglaries, and eleven sexual assaults. For his crimes, he was sentenced to die in a gas chamber in California. For eight years, the only physical contact the couple had was through a phone and a thick Plexiglas partition. Four months before their wedding, they were offered the opportunity to have physical contact, albeit under the constant watch of armed guards. On October 3, 1996, they married in the San Quentin State Prison of California. Lioy claimed to truly love Ramirez and constantly told anyone who would listen that he was innocent, stating He’s kind, he’s funny, he’s charming… I think he’s really a great person. He’s my best friend; he’s my buddy.2 Despite their strong love for one another, however, she had to make sacrifices for their relationship. Her family disowned her after her marriage to Ramirez, and she claimed to live a lonely life secluding herself from her family. One of the family’s main reasons for disowning their daughter was their religion: they were Catholic while Ramirez was a satanist. Tragically, none of her family members attended the wedding, including her twin sister. Ramirez, on the other hand, had his older brother, sister, and niece attend, while his mother refused to travel to the prison.3

Doreen Lioy being escorted out of the prison on her wedding day | Courtesy of The San Francisco Gate

Richard Ramirez was the fifth and final child of Julian and Mercedes Ramirez. His parents were strict, old fashioned, and made him go to church every Sunday. Ramirez was raised to believe in God, but he ultimately strayed from his beliefs during his adolescence, being influenced by his older cousin to turn to satanism and drugs.4 His cousin had returned from the Vietnam War with gruesome stories and trauma from the battlefield, and convinced Ramirez to move to Los Angeles to help him refine his burglary skills in order to buy drugs. When Ramirez was only twelve years old, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. At fifteen, he became addicted to cocaine. Several years later, he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, most likely contracted by the constant use of intravenous drugs during his adolescence and young adult life. He was also diagnosed with B-cell Lymphoma, which is a type of cancer that forms in B cells that severely affect the immune system.5

Ramirez saw his first murder at a very young age: his cousin shot and killed his wife right in front of him and he did nothing to stop it. After the incident, his cousin was found not guilty by reason of insanity because of his combat record. He was incarcerated in the Texas State Mental Hospital for only four years. After his release, he continued to influence Ramirez. Starting in 1984, Ramirez went on a two-year killing spree. His first known victim was a seventy-nine year old woman, Jeannie Vincow, whom he stabbed and killed in her own home after robbing her. Most of his crimes were committed in a similar fashion, as he would usually break in, rob the individual, and subsequently mutilate and kill them in their own home. He raped and tortured over twenty-five men, women, and children, killing over a dozen of his victims. At the scene of the crime, he made a habit of leaving occult symbols, such as inverted pentagrams, to represent his belief in satanism. On top of it all, he would also force his victims to do things in the name of Satan. This unique action ultimately earned him the name “Night Stalker” by several media.6

In August 1985, a victim was able to get the license number of the car he fled the scene in. Once the police tracked down the car, they discovered it was stolen and his finger prints were found on the rear view mirror. Prior to his crime spree, he had his fingerprints put in the system for some minor traffic violations and for driving without a license.7 His face was all over the news, and the media emphasized his rotting teeth, which made him a very recognizable suspect. He was residing in Arizona when his sketch was released, so he was unaware when he returned to Los Angeles that he was even being looked for. He was then recognized by customers in a liquor store who chased him, beat him, and held him down until a police officer arrived. Days before his own trial, he said he would shoot and kill the prosecutor. This led the officials to take extra measures of safety at the court. On the day of the trial, one of the jurors did not appear. That afternoon, her body was discovered dead in her apartment. After Ramirez’s threats, this led people to believe he had an outside source kill her. After further investigation, however, it was confirmed that her boyfriend had killed her in an unrelated matter. Although Ramirez had nothing to do with it, the eerie nature of the murder struck an even greater fear in the people of California.8 Once he was arrested and his crimes were released to the public, many people wanted to talk to him, and he grew a cult following.9 Doreen eventually caught his attention because she was a magazine editor. It is believed that he used her position to his advantage, since she spoke out against his execution. He was able to avoid and postpone his execution for twenty-three years. Because of the complexity of his case, the trial record was nearly 50,000 pages long. The state Supreme Court didn’t hear Ramirez’s first appeal until 2006. His wife had the influence and voice that provided him a way to stall his death sentence. She wrote him over seventy-five letters in the course of eleven years while he was imprisoned. She even went as far as saying she would kill herself if he was executed. After their marriage, she visited him up to four times a week and was always the first in line. After several years, however, Doreen stopped visiting and stopped writing. After his death, his body wasn’t claimed, meaning that the couple had broken up when he died, but there was no file for a divorce.10

Police sketch of Richard Ramirez | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

It is believed that his diagnosis and the confirmation of his link to the murder of a nine year old girl is what lead Doreen Lioy to distance herself from Richard Ramirez. The nine year old girl was raped, murdered, and hung from the basement of a hotel Ramirez used to work in. His DNA was later confirmed to have been found at the scene, which tied him to the murder, although he was never put on trial for it because of a lack of evidence.11 After Lioy found out, she knew he had no remorse and decided to leave him. 

On June 7, 2013, Ramirez died in the Marin General Hospital in Kentfield, California. After twenty-three years on death row, Ramirez died due to complications from his B-cell lymphoma. Doreen Lioy now lives a life outside of the limelight. After her split with Ramirez, she hid from the media and it is unknown if she reconciled with her family or friends. Her love for serial killer Richard Ramirez may have brought her momentary fame, but the long-term effects that it had on her life will stand forever evident.12

  1. Pamela Warrick, “I saw something… that captivated me,” Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1996, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1996-10-03-ls-49781-story.html.
  2. Pamela Warrick, “I Saw Something… That Captivated Me,” Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1966, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1996-10-03-ls-49781-story.html.
  3. Pamela Warrick, “I Saw Something… That Captivated Me,” Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1966, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1996-10-03-ls-49781-story.html.
  4. Douglas Martin, “Richard Ramirez, the ‘Night stalker’ Killer Dies at 53,” The New York Times, June 7, 2013, https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/08/us/night-stalker-killer-richard-ramirez-dies-at-53.html.
  5. Richard Winton, “‘Night Stalker’ Richard Ramirez died of complications from lymphoma,” Los Angeles Times, June 17, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-xpm-2013-jun-17-la-me-ln-nightstalker-died-of-complications-due-to-lymphoma-also-had-hep-c-20130617-story.html.
  6.  Douglas Martin, “Richard Ramirez, the ‘Night stalker’ Killer Dies at 53,” The New York Times, June 7, 2013, https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/08/us/night-stalker-killer-richard-ramirez-dies-at-53.html.
  7. Cyril H. Wecht, Crime Scene Investigation (Elwin Street Limited, 2004), 62-63.
  8. Douglas Martin, “Richard Ramirez, the ‘Night stalker’ Killer Dies at 53,” The New York Times, June 7, 2013, https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/08/us/night-stalker-killer-richard-ramirez-dies-at-53.html.
  9. David Freed, “Citizens Capture Stalker Fugitive,” Los Angeles Times, September 1, 1985, http://documents.latimes.com/citizens-capture-night-stalker/.
  10. Marsha Ginsburg, “Stalkers Bride,” San Francisco Gate, October 3, 1996, https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/STALKER-S-BRIDE-3121711.php.
  11. Lois Timnick, “Ramirez Must Die ‘Stalker’ Judge Decides,” Los Angeles Times, November 8, 1989, http://documents.latimes.com/convicted-night-stalker-richard-ramirez-sentenced-death/.
  12. Douglas Martin, “Richard Ramirez, the ‘Night stalker’ Killer Dies at 53,” The New York Times, June 7, 2013, https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/08/us/night-stalker-killer-richard-ramirez-dies-at-53.html.

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This Post Has 68 Comments

  1. Avatar

    I think it’s interesting that serial killers tend to have personality traits that spark charm rather than disgust in others. Doreen Lioy was a strange individual to have fallen in love with Richard Ramirez, a serial killer. This article does a good job at speaking about the different instances in which Ramirez had began his killings and problems with police. I think Doreen Lioy separating from Ramirez is great, but it affecting her personal life is what is going to be the most challenging to accept.

  2. Avatar

    There are love strories of any kind and some that you can’t even imagine. This story is one of them. You can’t believe how someone can fall in love with someone that makes such serious crimes and is a murderer. How can someone expose herself/himself to that kind of danger. Why is it crazy that Doreen Lioy married Richard Ramirez? Because he was a murderer, rapist, stalker and much more things. This article is very interesting as you want to understand why she fell in love with him.

  3. Avatar

    There was plenty to take in from this article. I don’t know and will never know why someone would fall in love with a man who committed such heinous acts. I am also puzzled by the thought of many people claiming their love for this man. This article was intriguing because this woman fell in love with Ramirez after he was arrested for the crimes committed and it makes me want to read more to search for her reasoning as to why she fell in love with him.

  4. Avatar

    This article was quite shocking due to expressing how Doreen came to love a serial killer. In fact, it was quite rare and surprising to see that Ramirez who was the actual serial killer, had a whole bunch of fans. I would imagine the opposite of the way people would react to. I clearly have no words at this point. However, this article was well written and made me interested in reading more. It was a crazy and shocking story to tell.

  5. Avatar

    This was a well written article in that I was intrigued throughout the whole reading. I found it interesting that when he was arrested for being a serial killer, he gained a huge amount of fans that admired him. That is quite bizarre. Another thing is that he got married to a woman that he met after he was already imprisoned.

  6. Avatar

    When I first saw the title of the article, I figured whoever loved the serial killer must’ve had a sort of Stockholm syndrome, but upon reading the article, I’m completely stumped as to why Doreen Lioy fell in love with Richard Ramirez. This is especially true with the nature of the murders he committed. I mean, it’s one thing if Ramirez had killed someone if he had to, but it’s a whole other that he just killed and raped them just because he wanted to steal from them. However, I’m glad Mrs. Lioy’s love for Ramirez never led to her committing a crime or hurting anyone. It’s ironic to me that Ramirez didn’t even die due to his sentance but because of his B cell Lymphoma, a disease that life and nothing else gave him, not something he’d caused through his poor decisions.

  7. Avatar

    The very beginning of the article itself is kind of strange. How can someone love a serial killer? It is really odd that one would marry someone even if they know that the one is sentenced to death. This article is really interesting that it make the readers to continue reading to get answers for at least a few of their questions. I have heard killers doing weird things as he did like an inverted pentagram but what makes the article different is the love and the fan falling that a serial killer had.
    Congratulations for the great work!

  8. Avatar

    Its mind boggling that a person can love someone that has committed such horrid crimes. Murder, Rape, attempted murder, and being satanist. He would even leave satanic symbols on men, women, and children he murdered. Its crazy to me that Doreen Lioy could marry a person she can’t even touch, or who you know would never get out and die in prison. Its also crazy to me that serial killers have fans and get love letters and letters from fans. How could Doreen give up her family and secluded herself to devote her life to a serial killer in prison? I guess love is love.

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