Major Crimes in History

The Original Night Stalker

The Original Night Stalker is a serial killer and rapist who operated in both the northern and southern parts of California from 1976 until the mid-1980s. He is assumed to be one of the most active serial rapists and murderers in California history. He is also one of the most active unidentified serial killers in world history. The only reasons we know he exists are the links between his horrific crimes and the DNA taken from several crime scenes. Even with the DNA database that California is now keeping of criminals, the killer has yet to be caught.

the original night stalker

Cheri Domingo and Gregory Sanchez, victims of the Original Night Stalker

The name “Original Night Stalker” derives from that of a serial killer/rapist arrested in California after the crimes of this serial killer were committed. The crimes of the “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez differed from those of the Original Night Stalker in many ways and other evidence rules Richard out as the perpetrator of the previous crimes. Richard was caught and nearly killed by a mob before police could catch him. His picture had been posted on the news. A sketch of the Original Night Stalker was also posted on the news, before he began killing his victims. It was of no use.

The crimes of the Original Night Stalker began in northern California in 1976. He would meticulously case houses, break in days or even weeks before the crime and ready the house for his rape. In many cases, he loosened window screens, so his passage into the house would be easy and quiet. In one case, he found the household gun and emptied the clip. He would then break into the house at a later date, parking his car away from the residence, so no one could report his vehicle.

His modus operandi was to enter the house quietly and then shine a flashlight in his victim’s face, yelling at her to wake up. He would then tie her up using a specific diamond knot. He would rape her and often stay in the house for hours, stealing small keepsakes and even eating in some residences. The women he attacked described his behavior as torturous. His attacks were both physically violent and psychological.

When it was posted on the news that he was attacking women alone, he changed his methods. He began attacking couples in their homes. He would tie up the woman and the man and then tell the man that if he tried to stop the rape, he would kill the woman. He had a gun with which to commit murder. However, he did not commit any murders during this time of which police are aware.

Over the course of three years, the Original Night Stalker raped more than 50 women. Profilers later said that he must have been intelligent and aware of police procedure. He wore a mask and gloves, but he was known to be white because women saw the bare skin of his legs. He would steal bicycles and use them to leave the scene of the crime so his car was not connected to them. He also began calling his victims after the rapes and making horrible threats, but he never stayed on the line long enough to get a trace. The recordings are a chilling record of his existence and one of the few records we have.

The rapist behind these rapes came to be known as the East Area Rapist. At least two witnesses believe they saw the man leaving a neighborhood or entering it at one time or another, so police were able to make a sketch of him. The sketch was released and the crimes stopped for some time. However, they began again in neighboring areas within months. Then, in 1979, they stopped altogether. It was not until 2001 that police were able to prove that the rapes stopped in northern California because the East Area Rapist had gone to southern California to commit a series of murders and murder/rapes.

During his killing spree, the Original Night Stalker killed four couples and two individual women. His murders were violent, particularly for the women. He would bludgeon them to death with blunt objects. In one case, he used a fireplace log to commit the murders. As before, he would do extensive casing of his targets. It is quite possible that, like with the BTK killer, several people got lucky when his planning went awry in some way. The murders stopped in California as suddenly as they started. Police tried to find a link to him elsewhere in the country, but thus far, nothing has turned up.

Some assume that the Original Night Stalker must be dead or in prison. It is almost guaranteed that he is not in prison in California. He may have been killed when entering someone’s house, but police followed that hypothesis as well and found nothing. Given the typical starting age of serial killers and the Original Night Stalker’s profile, it is assumed that he was in his twenties or early thirties when he was committing his rapes. That would make him 50 or 60 by now. Sadly, the case gets colder all the time. If he is dead, we may never know who he was. If he is alive, he may never pay for his crimes.

Click here to listen to an audio recording of the Original Night Stalker calling one of his victims.

THS Investigates: The Original Night Stalker, 2009
Santa Cruz, Nicole & Chawkins, Steve, DNA testing sheds new light on Original Night Stalker Case, retrieved 11/13/11, L.A. Times, May, 2011

Shelly Barclay writes on a variety of topics from animal facts to mysteries in history. Her main focus is military and political history. She is a writer for the Boston History Examiner, Military History Examiner and the Boston American Revolution History Examiner. She also writes for a local historical society newsletter. Shelly was a professional cook for 10 years and still has a passion for food. She cooks and writes about cooking nearly every day. She produces a wide variety of content, on top of her niches. Shelly is a stepmother, a former military, current veteran wife, sister of four and aunt of seven (so far).