Killer Groupies an unexplained mystery
Stefan Tomik, Chronicle Staff Writer
Even in his death row cell, satanic serial killer and rapist Richard Ramirez, the "Night Stalker,"receives bags of mail. And of the dozens of people who try to contact him each year, officials say, about 90 percent are women.
It's not just Ramirez who gets the attention, nor is Scott Peterson alone in the way he attracted admiring women even after he was sentenced to die for killing his wife and unborn child.
Death row prisoners often join the horde of grooms married in group ceremonies such as the one planned Saturday at San Quentin State Prison.
It's a phenomenon that's little understood and seldom studied: Women who fall hopelessly in love - or at the least become wildly infatuated - with the most feared killers.
"Our high notoriety inmates get the most interest," said Lt. Sam Robinson, a San Quentin spokesman. "I have tried to figure this out, but I don't have an answer."
Ramirez was convicted in 1988 of 13 murders and 30 other felonies, among them rape and sodomy. He had terrified Southern California in the mid-1980s and was called "the Night Stalker" because he killed his victims in their beds.
After he was caught and arrested, he met freelance editor Doreen Lioy. In 1988, the year he was convicted, he proposed. They married in the San Quentin visitor waiting room in 1996.
Ramirez had a choice. Other women had proposed to him, and today there are a handful of women who regularly maintain contact.
Some of them write to him or visit him, including a 30-year-old woman from Washington. The woman, who did not want to be identified by The Chronicle, said most relatives don't know about her relationship with Ramirez, although her disapproving husband does.
She said she started writing to the Night Stalker - a habit that sometimes exceeded 20 letters a week and frequent visits - because she was fascinated with his case.
"He is good looking and I loved his big hands," she said of Ramirez. "The thrill of danger of going up to a state penitentiary made it all worth it because to me it was like a dream come true to face one of the world's most feared men.
"Like my mom used to say, you can love someone but you don't have to like them," she says.
And Ramirez, despite being her "best friend," deserves to die for his crimes, she said.
A reader writes:
I have a few oddball speculations to explain this, such as womens' drive for 'bad-boy' alpha male types, like, say, the Menendez twins, that are willing to break social norms & laws to get ahead. These guys could be seen as ruthless providers of security & money, if a confused woman were inclined to squint the wrong way.
Other draws might be a mixed-up maternal instinct trying to 'mother' them back to the fold, a test of the womens' sexual attraction (Am I hot enough to tame this murderer with my feminine wiles?), or simple lust for fame & noteriety.
Good old fashioned mental illness & female irrationality might explain some of this too, but, if so, then similar #'s of women would be throwing themselves at other norm breakers (homeless) or better providers (accountants) when they are not.
One person quoted in the article suggested that guys on Death Row have more time on their hands to write back than do other kinds of celebrities.