Netflix’s Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer chronicles a year of horror for the residents of Southern California. Between 1984 and 1985, Richard Ramirez, nicknamed the “night stalker” due to his early hours MO—breaking into homes and committing murder and sexual assault—killed at least 13 people and committed serial rape.
The docuseries has met criticism for its portrayal of the violence, including its use of graphic crime scene photos and slow-motion blood splatter, which some have found “tabloid-esque.”
Ramirez was arrested for the crimes in August 1985, having committed his first murder the previous year and at the age of 25. The arrest was made possible by details given to police by Inez Erickson, who Ramirez attacked and raped. Erickson identified Ramirez leaving her home in an orange Toyota station wagon. The vehicle was soon found alongside Ramirez’s fingerprints. He was identified by bystanders and soon after arrested.
But there was another feature that victims used to identify Ramirez and what would later aid in his conviction: Ramirez’s teeth.
© Bettmann Night Stalker Suspect Richard Ramirez How the Night Stalker’s teeth played a part in his conviction
On several occasions throughout his 16 months of violence, Ramirez was identified by his teeth. Victims who survived his break-ins and other witnesses described a man with bad or no teeth. Ramirez’s dietary history and cocaine usage likely explains why he had decayed and missing teeth.
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Ironically, it was Ramirez’s attempts to fix his teeth which undermined one of his alibis. Before his arrest, Ramirez fled from a traffic stop, leaving behind a dentist appointment card. That dentist, Dr. Peter Leung, would later testify to Ramirez’s whereabouts on May 30, 1985, the day he committed three rapes and a murder.
Ramirez’s father, Julian Ramirez, had before testified that his son was at home in El Paso for that day. Dr. Leung testified that Ramirez’s dental records showed otherwise.
The testimony was just one of many that helped convict Ramirez. He was sentenced to die by gas chamber, but died instead on death row in 2013. He was 53.