Most people are familiar with the terrible crimes of Richard Ramirez, the serial killer known as The Night Stalker, who terrorized Southern California until his dramatic capture in 1985.
But perhaps you’ve never heard the Original Night Stalker, an elusive killer who also committed dozens of rapes and murders – and who to this day remains at large. The Original Night Stalker roamed the streets of Northern and Southern California from 1976 until 1986 and put an entire region on edge. The killer was also given other nicknames by press, including the Golden State Killer and the East Area Rapist. Like the Zodiac Killer, the horrific crimes of this phantom slayer continue to confound investigators and citizens in California.
The crimes began in Northern California, east of Sacramento, in June 1976. A series of rapes across the Sacramento area shocked the region. Sacramento had a large transient population at the time due to two large nearby military bases. It was during this time that the press dubbed the man the East Area Rapist. From June 1976 until May 1977, the rapist struck nearly 25 times, sometimes with only a few days in between, breaking into homes and attacking women during the night. Then, as suddenly as the crimes began, they stopped. For a full three months.
The East Area Rapist resumed his crime spree in September 1977, committing ten more assaults over the next 7 months. It was during this stretch that he claimed his first murder victims. On February 2, 1978, US Air Force Sgt. Brian Maggiore and his wife Katie were shot and killed while walking their dog in Rancho Cordova, east of Sacramento. Area residents were terrified.
Until July 1979, the East Area Rapist continued to terrorize Californians, striking in the Sacramento area – Stockton, Davis, Modesto, and other towns. Witnesses described the assailant as a white man, six-feet tall, with an athletic build. His last known attack in Northern California occurred on July 5 in Danville. Then, again, the attacks abruptly stopped. Over a period of three years, the rapist had committed nearly 50 vicious assaults.
But more than just attacking civilians, the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker taunted some of his victims, leaving chilling messages on their answering machines.
Another brief pause in the terror gave the people of California a tenuous sense of relief…until the attacks resumed, this time in Southern California in October 1979. In the town of Goleta, a woman was tied up in her home in the middle of the night. Her attacker chanted to himself “I’ll kill ’em, I’ll kill ’em, I’ll kill ’em” as she lay bound on her living room floor. The woman somehow escaped from her bindings and the assailant escaped on a ten-speed bike. The East Area Rapist was now loose in the southern part of the state, and he began to kill even more frequently.
Police discovered the killer sometimes used a strange tactic when he tied his victims up. He’d place cups or plates behind their backs so he would hear them break if the victim struggled loose from their bindings and he was in another room.
From December 1979 until July 1981, the elusive stranger chose victims in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Orange counties. The killer’s M.O. followed a pattern: enter a home late at night, tie up the victims, rape the women present, and shoot or bludgeon everyone present to death.
The press called the killer the Original Night Stalker (ONS) because, Richard Ramirez, known to law enforcement as the Night Stalker until his capture, maintained a similar M.O. The ONS took an unusual five-year hiatus until claiming his final victim in May 1986, an 18-year-old woman in Irvine. Then the attacks mysteriously stopped once and for all.
Why did the attacks cease? Perhaps the Original Night Stalker was incarcerated for another crime or maybe he passed away.
Although the crimes began over 40 years ago, as recently as June 2016 the FBI offered a $50,000 reward to help capture the Original Night Stalker.
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