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 59 Comments

  1. This article was so interesting to read since I had never heard of this case before. It’s insane that people like this roam the Earth alongside us! It makes you question who you should really trust. Apparently, Ramirez’s wife trusted him enough to speak and make physical contact with a man who had raped and murdered many people. This article makes me wonder exactly why she thought that getting hitched to a murderer in jail, who is undeniably guilty with all the evidence against him, was a good idea.

  2. Honestly I never heard of this case, but after the reading it just has thinking about our justice system. The fact that the jurrors had audacity to write to the criminal unproffesional things after their verdit, just gets me upset. I don’t like how in the U.S we all certain things to happen. I felt sorry for his wife, she basicallly lost everything for a man who couldn’t provide for her outside of jail. I understand that no one can pick and choose their love, but this lady picked a murder to marry. I understand that that her family were against her relationship, not only because of religion, but also this mans criminal background. I just imagine what if he would have killed her or done something to her.

  3. I have never heard the story about Richard Ramirez before, but I’m surprised at how much time Doreen had stayed with Richard even after everything he has committed. Not only being with him, but giving up everything else in her life, such as her family. It’s devastating to see how his childhood was like though, because he did have bad influences around him, and yet he couldn’t change. I think it’s crazy how we, can sometimes be blind in love, and it can be dangerous when we aren’t careful. This article overall was very interesting and it definitely grabbed my attention.

  4. This case is so unique to any others I have ever read or heard. When I first started reading, I thought that Doreen Lioy was a very respectful women for standing up for her love of Richard Ramirez even though everyone in the media hated him for his actions. It wasn’t until I kept reading that I now wonder why Doreen Lioy even fell for Ramirez in the first place knowing horrible the crimes he was accused of and had committed. All of the crimes he was tried for had sufficient evidence to rightfully convict him but Lioy wasn’t bothered. Oddly enough, when Lioy heard of the murder and rape of a nine-year old girl that was lacking evidence to convict Ramirez she immediately left him. I believe that Doreen Lioy might have been a little insane due to the ability to love such a monstrous man inconsistently.

  5. I never have understood how some people can fall in love with serial killers; is it their charm, manipulation? It is very unfortunate that Doreen Lioy spent eleven years writing letters and swearing up and down that Ramirez was innocent. I cannot imagine the embarrassment and defeat she must’ve felt after he was linked to the gruesome murder of a nine year old girl.

  6. Kathryn Martinez

    It amazes me every time how people can try to justify the horrors that these serial killers commit. These are real people who have gone out of their way to kill people, to end a human being’s time on earth. The fact that people are willing to marry these serial killers after the fact of conviction just goes to show that the human mind is unpredictable.

  7. This persona is unfortunately very common in people who know of serial killers, unfortunately. The psychology of someone who can actually love and even marry a person who has been convicted of multiple, heinous and repulsive crimes is astonishing. I hate that it is a normality for us to be learning about serial killers more often, it is a sad reality. Ramirez had a choice to take the correct path in life but didn’t because he allowed himself to be influenced by another (his cousin).

  8. I find it extremely interesting how people fall in love or become fans of serial killers. Before this article I had heard of other occasions where serial killers end up getting married to a fan. This article provides a bit of an insight at the beginning when the author mentions what Doreen’s first thoughts were when Ramirez’s picture was being displayed on the media. This article also provides information to Ramirez background and what they believe influenced him to become a serial killer. I find it interesting that in most cases these serial killers tend to have similar backgrounds. They tend to have had a troubled childhood, their parents were strong believers in a religion, and they’ve had encounters with drugs.

  9. It is definitely interesting how serial killers and felons alike receive tons of followers, specifically women. While meeting a murderer seems a terrifying and feared encounter, there is some wicked attractive factor which keeps some people intrigued from a distance. This seems somewhat wrong, though anyone is rightful of their thoughts and opinions. Anyways, great article overall but this lady seems a little insane.

  10. I had never heard of this crime case until now! It’s so crazy how serial killers like this manage to escape death row for as long as they can. Articles like this are super interesting because you get so many facts from the case, such as all the diseases Ramirez was diagnosed with at a young age due to drugs, his behavior after he witnessed his cousin kill his wife, the way he took advantage of Lioy’s position to make himself look good. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that Lioy fell in love and agreed to marry Ramirez though! Ramirez had so many charges held against him, and Lioy just continued to defend him. It makes you wonder how intense the manipulation Ramirez used on Lioy was, because she chose Ramirez, a known serial killer, over her own family.

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