Richard Ramirez, also known as the “Night Stalker” is currently sentenced to capital punishment for multiple counts of murder, attempted murder, sexual assaults, and burglaries. For a final request before his death, Mr. Ramirez has requested a psychological assessment be conducted as to evaluate his mental health when committing his crimes. In order to conduct the assessment, I will be reviewing Mr. Ramirez’s criminal history and prior events leading up to his crimes analyzing any patterns relevant to the assessment. In concluding the review of Mr. Ramirez’s history, I will conduct a psychological assessment and determine in my professional view any mental illness Mr. Ramirez has and state the symptoms he may have using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DMS-V; American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Description of the Crime
Between the years of 1984 and 1985, Mr. Ramirez committed several acts of sexual assault, murder, attempted murder, and burglaries until his arrest on August 29, 1985 (Crime Investigation, 2014). Mr. Ramirez’s first victim, Jennie Vincow, was burglarized and sexually assaulted during a burglary in her home (Crime Investigation, 2014). Nine months after the death of Jennie Vincow, Mr. Ramirez attacked Angela Barrios and killed her roommate, Dayle Okazaki (Crime Investigation, 2014). However, unsatisfied with the results from his assault that evening, Mr. Ramirez stabbed Tsai Lian Yu in the same night (Crime Investigation, 2014). Throughout the next five months, Mr. Ramirez repeated the same assault with his victims, in which, his attacks escalated rapidly that had murdered, injured, and sexually assaulted 22 other people until his arrest (Crime Investigation, 2014).
Prior to his criminal convictions, Mr. Ramirez had a criminal record from his youth that had began with petty crimes such as robberies in 1977 placing him in juvenile detention (Crime Investigation, 2014). Years later, Mr. Ramirez engaged in criminal acts such as burglary and car theft in 1983 which led to a sentence in jail where he was released in April 1984.
Mr. Ramirez’s social history has exhibited persistent patterns of exposure of criminal behaviour and violence. At and early age, Mr. Ramirez was exposed to an abusive nature as his father was abusive (Famous People, 2016). During his childhood, Mr. Ramirez was influenced by his older cousin, named Mike, which had told and shown pictures of violent acts that he acquired while serving in the Vietnamese War, introduced Mr. Ramirez to drugs, and had killed his wife in the presence of Mr. Ramirez (Crime Investigation, 2014). As an adolescent, Mr. Ramirez moved to San Francisco, then Los Angeles. While residing in San Francisco and Los Angeles, he had continued petty theft crimes to fuel his drug addiction as he then used cocaine and LSDs, which led Mr. Ramirez in an interest of Satanism (Famous People, 2016). With being exposed to violence and crime, Mr. Ramirez dropped out of high school and ventured into criminal acts (Famous People, 2016)
Current Psychological Functioning
In this section of the assessment, I will conduct an analysis of Mr. Ramirez’s criminal history and the relationship between any potential mental disorders that may lead to any recidivism. This section will discuss two subtopics. First, I will provide a quick assessment of Mr. Ramirez in relations to Conduct Disorder and the symptoms outlined by Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-V; American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Second, I will then assess Mr. Ramirez for psychopathy using the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R; Hare, 2016).
According to the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), Conduct Disorder refers to “a repetitive and persistent pattern of behaviour in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated” (p. 469). In order to be diagnosed with Conduct Disorder at least three of the following 15 criteria must be shown within 12 months, with at least one characteristic present within 6 months (American Psychiatric Association, 2013):
- Bullies, threatens or intimidates others
- Often initiates physical fights
- Has used a weapon that can seriously cause physical harm to others
- Has been physically cruel to people
- Has been physically cruel to animals
- Has stolen while confronting victim
- Has forced someone into sexual activity
- Deliberately engaged in fire setting with intention of causing serious damage
- Destroyed others’ property (other than fire setting)
- Broken into someone else’s house, building, or car
- Often lies to obtain goods, favours, or to avoid obligations
- Stolen items of nontrivial value without confronting the victim
- Staying out at night despite parental prohibitions
- Runs away from home overnight at least twice while living with a guardian or once without returning for a lengthy period of time
- Is often missing from school
Based on the details of Mr. Ramirez’s report and the diagnosis of Conduct Disorder that Mr. Ramirez does acquire the symptoms of the mental illness. Mr. Ramirez exhibits ten out of the possible symptoms listed above. During childhood and adolescent years, Mr. Ramirez would have often dealt with using drugs with his older cousin, Mike, and missed/dropped out of school to pursue a life of crime. With all of his victims, Mr. Ramirez has displayed violent intentions by intimidating, torturing, and sexually assaulting his victims before physically harming or killing them with either a knife or a gun. In assaulting and murdering his victims, Mr. Ramirez would initially engage in burglarizing his victims’ houses and cars.
The Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R)
The definition of psychopathy can be defined as “persuasive emotional and interpersonal deficits, impulsivity and antisocially” (Hosker-Field, Molnar, & Book, 2016). To measure psychopathy on an individual, the use of a psychological instrument called a Psychopathy Checklist-Revised is used as it assesses the characteristics of psychopathy by reviewing any reports, interviews, or various sources of the individual to determine their level of psychopathy (Storey, Hart, Cooke, & Michie, 2016). During the assessment of the PCL-R, it is comprised of two factors. The first factor or Factor 1, is comprised of the interpersonal and affective characteristics of psychopathy (Hare & Neumann, 2010). The second factor or Factor 2 reflects more of the antisocial characteristics of the individual (Hare & Neumann, 2010). The total of characteristics being applied are 12 with six characteristics in both factors. On a point system of 0 to 2, a score of 18 and over out of 24 will determine that the individual is have psychopathy. A score that is 12 or under will determine that the individual is a non-psychopath. As a result of the PCL-R assessment, Mr. Ramirez had scored a 9 out of a possible 12 in Factor 1, and scored a 9 out of a possible 12 in Factor 2. In conclusion, Mr. Ramirez, in my professional opinion meets the criteria of being a psychopath in the assessment of the PCL-R.
Relevant Psychological Function
Based on Mr. Ramirez’s criminal history and the early exposure of violent and criminal life events, the most relevant theory for understanding his criminal behaviour is the trauma-control model. Trauma-control model argues that with the combination of predispositional factors, such as biological, sociological, and psychological factors, and early traumatic events interact with other factors over the individual’s life may determine their criminal psychopathy (Correction Service Canada, 2007). At a young age, Mr. Ramirez witnessed his cousin, Mike, killed his wife, which may have increased his development of psychopathy and with being surrounded with criminal and violent influences it could have increasingly developed his psychopathy even more when Mr. Ramirez started to use drugs such as cocaine and LSD (Famous People, 2016). Relating trauma-control model to Mr. Ramirez’s history, by residing in an environment that had engaged with criminal, violent, and drug abuse activities it increased the development of psychopathy.
Hare, R. D., & Neumann, C. S. (2010). The role of antisociality in the psychopathy construct: Comment on Skeem and Cooke (2010). Psychological Assessment, 22(2), 446-454. doi:10.1037/a0013635
Hosker-Field, A. M., Molnar, D. S., & Book, A. S. (2016). Psychopathy and risk taking: Examining the role of risk perception. Personality and Individual Differences, 91, 123-132. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2015.11.059
Storey, J. E., Hart, S. D., Cooke, D. J., & Michie, C. (2016). Psychometric properties of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) in a representative sample of Canadian federal offenders. Law and Human Behavior, 40(2), 136-146. doi:10.1037/lhb0000174
Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. (2013). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
Richard Ramirez Biography. (2016). Retrieved November 15, 2016, from http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/richard-ramirez-6730.php
Richard Ramirez: The Night Stalker. (2014). Retrieved November 13, 2016, from http://www.crimeandinvestigation.co.uk/crime-files/richard-ramirez-the-night-stalker
The Role of Escalating Paraphilic Fantasies and Behaviours in Sexual, Sadistic, and Serial Violence: A Review of Theoretical Models. (2007). Retrieved November 13, 2016, from http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/research/shp2007-paraphil06-eng.shtml