Crimes of the '80s

This Is How A 13-Year-Old Caught The Night Stalker Serial Killer

In the summer of 1985, James Romero helped stop the serial killer who terrorized Los Angeles by committing 13 murders and 11 sexual assaults.

Oxygen Digital is kicking off its first-ever themed month in June with Crimes of the '80s. We'll explore big trends (drug cartels), sensational cases ("The Preppy Killer"), the decade's most lethal and infamous serial killers (The Night Stalker, The Grim Sleeper) and more. 

In the 1970s and '80s, California was gripped by a serial killer and rapist known as The Night Stalker. It was a 13-year-old boy named Joe Romero who helped authorities finally catch the culprit (real name: Richard Ramirez). Romero, 32 years later, opens up about how he helped crack the case.

In the summer of 1985, Ramirez stalked Romero's home in Mission Viejo. The teen was in the garage at the time. “All of a sudden, I hear footsteps in the gravel. Crunch, crunch, crunch crunch. I could hear the footsteps literally stop – right where I’m sitting,” he tells CBS LA. The teen ran into the house and woke up his parents who called 911. As Ramirez escaped, Romero ran outside and saw his car and part of his license plate. “I look and I see the car and I get part of the plate,” Romero says.

Detectives pieced together that Romero had seen the infamous Night Stalker. Authorities found the car and Romero confirmed it was the vehicle he saw. They lifted a fingerprint and captured the man who had terrorized the area.

In 1989, Ramirez was convicted of 13 murders and 11 sexual assaults. He died in 2013 of natural causes while on death row.

 

 

 

 

 [Photo: Dept of Corrections]

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