Defendant in Serial Slayings Told to Stand Trial
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A judge Tuesday ordered Richard Ramirez to stand trial for 14 murders and 36 other felonies in the string of ″Night Stalker″ slayings that terrorized Californians last year.
Municipal Court Judge James Nelson ruled at the end of a two-month prelimary hearing during which six victims identified Ramirez as the serial killer.
The series of crimes began in June 1984 and continued through last August, when Ramirez was chased and captured by angry residents in East Los Angeles who beat him and held him for sheriff’s deputies. The residents recognized him after viewing a police sketch of a possible suspect in the slayings.
Nelson found there was probable cause to believe at least 10 of the counts against Ramirez contained special circumstances, a finding that could bring the death penalty upon conviction.
Ramirez, who once startled court spectators by flashing a pentagram on his palm and proclaiming ″Hail, Satan,″ was ordered to remain in custody without bail. Arraignment in Superior Court was set for May 21.
Ramirez had been charged with 14 murders and 54 other felonies in Los Angeles County. But Deputy District Attorney Philip Halpin asked that 18 counts be dropped because evidence had not been presented on them.
The 36 counts in addition to murder that Ramirez faces include burglary, attempted murder, robbery, rape, sodomy and oral copulation. Three counts of kidnapping were among those prosecutors asked be dismissed.
The preliminary hearing, in its ninth week, ended swiftly when both prosecution and defense declined to give closing statements and the judge immediately issued his ruling.
In Orange County, Ramirez is charged with eight felonies in the attempted murder of a Mission Viejo man and the rape of his fiancee. San Francisco authorities are investigating him in connection with a slaying there.
Ramirez’s attorneys, Daniel and Arturo Hernandez, who are unrelated, say their client is innocent.
During the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Philip Halpin tied Ramirez to possessions stolen from Night Stalker victims and presented six survivors who identified Ramirez as their assailant.
″I tell you I saw this man in my house. He sits right there next to you 3/8″ said a witness who bristled at a defense challenge of her identification of Ramirez.
The woman told how her assailant raped, beat and sodomized her in a bedroom where her slain husband’s body lay under a sheet. The attacker then sodomized her 8-year-old son, she testified.
The witness’ identity was not made public because she was a rape victim.
During such testimony, Ramirez sometimes yawned or fidgeted. He occasionally put his head down on the counsel table. His attorneys had asked that he be excused from attending the hearing, a request the judge denied.
On Tuesday, sheriff’s criminalist Melvin Kong testified that a pubic hair found at one crime scene was similar to Ramirez’s. Under cross-examination, Kong said blond hairs found at three or four crime scenes were not tested for similarities.