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San Francisco police link 'Night Stalker' Richard Ramirez to girl's 1984 slaying

A cold hit in a national DNA database leads to the accusation in the 9-year-old's death. A new genetic sample is taken from the death row inmate for confirmation.

October 23, 2009|Ruben Vives

San Francisco police announced Thursday that DNA evidence had linked Richard Ramirez, the Southern California serial killer known as the "Night Stalker," to the 1984 slaying of a 9-year-old girl.

Ramirez, who is on death row for a string of murders committed more than two decades ago, submitted DNA samples to detectives Wednesday morning at San Quentin State Prison, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

Authorities are also trying to determine whether Ramirez is connected to any other slayings in the San Francisco area during that time.

The unsolved case of the young girl's killing was reopened five years ago when Police Inspector Holly Pera recalled it from her days as a young patrol officer.

"That's part of the reason why the case was relooked at," Pera said during a news conference. "It's the type of case -- as a new officer, a case involving a little girl -- that you can't forget."

On April 10, 1984, Mei Leung was found dead in the basement of a residential hotel in the Tenderloin district, police said. Investigators did not release details about the slaying.

Police said Mei lived at the hotel with her family. Before her death, she and her 8-year-old brother were seen walking home from a friend's house.

At the time, Ramirez was staying at two hotels in the general area, said Deputy Chief David Shinn.

Mathew Gabriel, the DNA technical leader at the crime lab, said numerous items from the scene were tested, and one resulted in a "cold hit" when run through a national database. The Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) holds about 1.2 million profiles of convicted offenders, and arrestees from past felonies.

The DNA sample from the crime scene will now be compared to the new DNA sample from Ramirez to confirm the cold hit, Gabriel said.

In 1985, Ramirez went on a months-long rampage of sexual assault and murder that generated widespread fear throughout Southern California.

In most of the cases, Ramirez entered homes in the early morning hours through open windows or doors.

Some of the victims were found strangled, others had their throats slashed, but most had been fatally shot.

Spray-painted pentagrams -- a distinctive Satanist symbol -- were also found on the walls of the some of victims' homes.

The killings led to an increase in the sale of guns, ammunition, locks and window bars throughout Los Angeles County.

Ramirez's killing rampage finally ended on Aug. 31, 1985, when he was captured and beaten by angry citizens in East Los Angeles after he tried to steal a woman's car.

On Sept. 20, 1989, Ramirez was convicted by a Los Angeles jury of 13 slayings. The following month, the jury voted for the death penalty.

Ramirez was quoted as saying, as he left the courtroom: "Big deal. Death always went with the territory."

--

ruben.vives@latimes.com

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