Some years ago, I was working with adjudicated youth and became interested in the psychology of criminals, particularly those who kill. In my quest for understanding, one of the books I read was written by Dr. Helen Morrison, titled My Life Among the Serial Killers: Inside the Minds of the World’s Most Notorious Murderers.
What makes a serial killer? There is ample research that attempts to answer this, but I recently watched an interview with a serial killer who offered up a different reason for his madness (and madness in general): the Founding Fathers and the violence during the beginning of our democracy.
Richard Ramirez, aka the Night Stalker, terrorized the residents of Los Angeles and San Francisco in the mid-1980s. An avowed “Satanist,” Ramirez flat-out admits in this interview that he’s evil, although “not 100% evil.”
This nation, this country, was founded in violence. Violent delights tend to have violent ends. It’s….madness is something rare in individuals, but in groups, people..in ages…is a rule. Killing is killing, whether done for duty, profit, or fun. Men murdered themselves into this democracy.
To be fair, he blamed the devil, too, and is a confessed “devil worshiper,” which he calls “undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit.”
Ramirez’s victims ranged in age from nine to 79. He was convicted in 1989 of 13 counts of murder, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries and was sentenced to die in California’s gas chamber. His response?
“Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland.”
Many experts, including Dr. Morrison, believe that serial killers are genetically predisposed and that they are “created in the womb,” and while there has been some evidence presented that suggests that psychopathy is 60 percent heritable, this opinion isn’t completely backed by science. You can read more here and here.
Sadly, however, it appears that Ramirez was largely a product of his childhood environment (abusive) and a series of unfortunate circumstances that put him under the influence of some sickos. They included:
- Two serious “accidents” that occurred in his abusive childhood environment, one of which caused him to have epileptic seizures into his teens.
- A peeping-top brother-in-law who took “Richie” on his exploits
- A decorated U.S. Army Green Beret cousin who was a sadistic mofo in his own right. He tortured and raped Vietnamese women and took photos, which he was happy to share with an impressionable young Richie. In some of the photos, the cousin shows himself with the severed heads of his victims.
- His dad killed his mom in a fit of rage and was found not guilty by reason of insanity
As we know, there are people who suffer these kinds of trauma (or worse) and don’t grow up to be serial killers, but it’s hard to ignore the role environment and life experience plays in the creation of some of these monsters.
Ramirez was apprehended in a dramatic citizens’ arrest that involved multiple people who identified him and chased him down on foot to capture him. They subdued him and held him until the police arrived.
He died in 2013 from complications of B-cell lymphoma while awaiting execution. He was 53.
I don’t take advice/wisdom/life lessons from serial killers, and neither should you. But let me close with these words by Ramirez, a man who lived his life by the code of evil and murder and who knew more than a little about the evil that drives ego-maniacal people.
“Evil has always existed. The perfect world most people seek shall never come to pass, and it’s gonna get worse. The great epochs of our life is when we gain the courage to re-baptize our evil qualities as being our best qualities.”
Look around you at our capitalistic greed-based society, our political climate, and U.S. presidential candidates standing on a stage trying to outdo each other on who will be the best at torturing our “enemies.”
And then let Ramirez’s words sink in.