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Scary Stories: Staring Down the Night Stalker

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There are some people, mostly retirees, who haunt the halls of the downtown LA courthouses, attending trials for entertainment. High-profile trials are mobbed, but the regulars know the secret is to attend the preliminary hearings instead. When the hearings were held for the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, the courtroom was practically empty. I only worked half-days, and I had graduated from taking acid to pills, so I had a lot of patience for just hanging out. Sometimes I took the bus to the courthouse and watched the afternoon sessions of the preliminary hearings. This is where Ramirez pulled a lot of the antics you saw in the newspaper, like drawing pentagrams on his hand, and lunging at the DA.

I often left the courtroom for a smoke when victims took the stand. The "regulars" knew when a particular witness was going to be harrowing or horrifying and warned each other. I was mainly interested in the detective work and forensics - the shoeprint outside a window, the blood spatter - what we now know as "CSI". I didn't want to witness people's tortured tales of horror and fear.

I did hear one survivor testify who inspired me with her courage. She awoke to see the a silhouette in her doorway. He asked, "Where's the money, bitch?" He then shot her husband in the head, and proceeded to shoot her in the head, twice. After he left, she ran to the neighbor's, where no one answered the door, so she started the car. Meanwhile, her husband, who had also survived, ran out with their baby, who was unharmed and she drove them to the hospital - with two bullets in her head. When the prosecutor asked if she saw the person who shot her in the courtroom, she pointed out Richard Ramirez with incredible satisfaction.