LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Richard Ramirez, the drifter charged with 68 crimes, including 14 slayings and 22 sex assaults blamed on the ''Night Stalker,'' wants to plead guilty because he fears for his life, his sister says.

Ramirez, a 25-year-old Texas drifter, was arraigned Friday, but was not in court. Municipal Court Judge Elva Soper announced, ''Mr. Ramirez is in lockup and the proceedings are being piped into the lockup for his benefit.''

The arraignment came after prosecutors announced additional charges against Ramirez, who had faced only eight charges.

''Mr. Ramirez today is no longer a suspect. He is accused,'' District Attorney Ira Reiner said at a news conference. ''Our assessment of the evidence is complete. This is the case as we expect it will go to preliminary hearing and a trial.''

Ramirez's sister, Rosa Flores, said late Friday in an interview with KCBS- TV that she wanted to relay a message from her brother.

''Due to the extensive publicity, he says he cannot receive a fair trial and wants to give himself guilty,'' she said. ''He just said that his life was in danger in there (jail) and that's the plea he wanted to enter.''

Ms. Flores said she came from Texas with other family members.

During the brief court proceeding Friday, screams and the sounds of banging on bars could be heard from the jail near the courtroom. Neither court officials nor Ramirez's public defender would comment on whether the shouts and clanking came from Ramirez.

Earlier Friday, Ramirez was charged with 68 felonies based on 20 attacks with 28 victims, which occurred in Los Angeles County between June 27, 1984, and Aug. 5, 1985, Reiner said. The charges include eight filed earlier, one of them a murder count.

Deputy Public Defender Allen Adashek told reporters there had been a brief meeting in chambers between the judge and lawyers, who decided to postpone the entering of Ramirez's plea until Oct. 17.

When asked why Ramirez was not in the courtroom, Adashek repeatedly said he could not comment. Normally, a defendant is removed from court only if he is disruptive or it is believed his life is in danger.

Adashek, mobbed by reporters and camera crews outside court, said he was considering a motion to move the case out of Los Angeles because of publicity.

The judge has imposed a gag order which forbids attorneys and investigators from discussing the case with reporters.

The Radio & Television News Association of Southern California protested the gag order Friday, saying, ''No highly publicized defendant, from Charles Manson to John DeLorean, has been denied a fair trial because of press coverage.''

The Night Stalker attacks occurred mostly at homes in quiet neighborhoods from Mission Viejo in Orange County to San Francisco, 400 miles away.

A huge task force of detectives pieced together evidence in an effort to identify the man with stained, gapped teeth who sneaked through unlocked doors and windows.

Authorities said one victim's eyes were gouged out, and inverted five- pointed stars known as pentagrams - sometimes used as symbols of Satan - were found at some murder scenes.

Ramirez, originally from El Paso, Texas, was arrested Aug. 31 after being chased down and beaten by angry East Los Angeles residents who caught him allegedly attempting to steal a car.

He is being held without bail in county jail.