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San Francisco police chief: "Night Stalker" was "pure evil"

June 07, 2013|By Maria L. La Ganga
  • Richard Ramirez is escorted from the courtroom after testimony at his preliminary hearing on March 4, 1986.
Richard Ramirez is escorted from the courtroom after testimony at his preliminary… (Los Angeles Times )

SAN FRANCISCO--When San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr heard Friday that Richard Ramirez -- the “Night Stalker” -- had died of natural causes in a Marin County hospital, his reaction was clear.

“I know it’s probably not right,” he said, “but I was happy."

Ramirez, who terrorized Californians north and south during a 1980s killing rampage, was identified for the first time in San Francisco, recalled Suhr, who worked on the San Francisco Police Department task force investigating the crimes at the time.

“I remember he was just a pure evil person,” Suhr told reporters Friday afternoon. “Growing up in San Francisco, I remember as a little kid, we were scared of the Zodiac, scared of the Zebra….As an adult police officer, [Ramirez] would be at the top of my list. That was a scary time in the city, the six months he was out and about.

“If you go back to the old news stories, there were tips,” Suhr recounted. “Make sure your windows are locked. If you have a dog, put your dog out. It was a very anxious time in San Francisco.”

Ramirez is believed to have shot and killed a 66-year-old accountant named Peter Pan in his home in San Francisco’s Lake Merced neighborhood on April 17, 1985, and beat and shot his wife, Barbara. Suhr said that a criminalist working with the Police Department connected the murder with a burglary in the Marina District.

The criminalist “processed the Marina scene and the homicide scene and was positive that the same person had committed both crimes,” Suhr recalled. A police officer named Dan Falzon was working the burglary and “wrote down in the incident report all the numbers from the [stolen] jewelry.

“As the story goes, Ramirez gave a piece of the stolen jewelry to his girlfriend,” Suhr continued. “Her mom reported it to the police.”

Fingerprints gathered from both scenes were identified through law enforcement’s database as Ramirez’s, Suhr said.

In 1989, Ramirez was convicted by a Los Angeles jury of 13 murders, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries in the Southland. Twenty years later, San Francisco police linked Ramirez’s DNA to a Tenderloin crime scene.

The body of 9-year-old Mei Leung had been found in the basement of an O’Farrell Street apartment building. She had been beaten, raped and stabbed in April 1984, months before any of the murders previously linked to Ramirez.

Ramirez is believed to have lived nearby at the time.

Ramirez “scared me,” said Suhr. The chief recalled walking down a hallway on the sixth floor of the Hall of Justice here, the jail floor, when he saw Ramirez in a holding room.

“He was in the window, just standing there, looking out,” Suhr said.“One of my brother officers just about jumped into my arms. Jeez, can you imagine that in your closet?

If you look up the definition of evil in the dictionary, there’d be a picture of Richard Ramirez.”


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Twitter: @marialaganga

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