If convicted Night Stalker Richard Ramirez gets the death penalty for his Los Angeles crime spree, he may not be prosecuted for an attempted murder and rape in Mission Viejo, the prosecutor said Wednesday.
Orange County Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. James G. Enright said charges against Ramirez stemming from the attack on Aug. 25, 1985, might be dropped to save time, money and the pain it would inflict on the rape victim, who would be the key witness against Ramirez.
"She has indicated that she'd very much prefer not to testify," Enright said. "She'd prefer that we not go forward with the prosecution. But she's also said that if we felt it was necessary for her to testify, that she would."
The woman, who is now 33 and living in Northern California, told The Times that the verdict was the only just one but that it can never eliminate the emotional scars of the attack on her and William Carns, her fiance at the time, who was shot three times in the head.
"It feels good to know justice has been done, but it doesn't change what's happened to Bill or to me or to the other victims, or put our lives back the way they were," said the woman, whose name is being withheld. "It brings up a lot of old, hard memories.
"If (jurors) had come back with any 'not guiltys,' I wouldn't want to say what my behavior would have been," she said. "This is the best we can hope for under our justice system."
Carns, now 33, still is undergoing recuperative therapy in a Minnesota residential care facility. He cannot testify because his injuries caused memory loss, erasing any recollection of the attack, Enright said.
The prosecutor added that he was "very pleased" with the Los Angeles verdict. "It was a long time coming and it's an excellent verdict."
Enright said he will not decide whether to proceed with the Orange County charges against Ramirez until Ramirez is sentenced in the Los Angeles case.
"There's an awful lot of ifs involved," he said.
Once the sentence is imposed, Enright said, he will evaluate the Orange County case with the Sheriff's Department and will talk again with the female victim. The woman said Wednesday that she will testify--although reluctantly--if prosecutors decide to go forward.
Enright said that before he makes his decision, he will also consult with P. Philip Halpin, the Los Angeles prosecutor, to determine how well that verdict is expected to hold up on appeal.
The Orange County case is expected to cost at least $1 million and take five to six months, including three to four months to select a jury and resolve pretrial motions, Enright said.
On Nov. 13, 1987, an Orange County Municipal judge ordered Ramirez, 29, a drifter and self-described devil worshiper, to stand trial in Superior Court for allegedly breaking into Carns' home.
Carns' girlfriend was raped by a man who told her that he was the Night Stalker.
The woman, who is working in the personnel division of a large company and studying business administration, said that if Ramirez were tried and convicted for the Orange County attack, it would "feel like a victory for me, but it would be short-lived."
"It doesn't prove anything. It doesn't change anything, and I'm the one that would have to go through it all again," she said. "It's not fair to the victim to have to do all the enduring.
"Even after this many years, it's still a big part of my life. It changes you forever. You can never go back to the way you were. I've been through things I hope no one else would ever have to live through."
Enright said he could not predict the public's reaction to a possible dismissal of the charges against Ramirez.
"I don't know if the public would be relieved we're not going through another long trial down here when he's already been convicted up there, or if they'd feel differently," he said.
"But in this business, you use your best judgment and take your best chances."