All About the Real Serial Killer Who Inspired the A24 Horror Film? Is MaXXXine Based on a True Story

Ti West’s MaXXXine is the final film in the X trilogy, following 2022’s X and Pearl

Published Time: 05.07.2024 - 16:31:09 Modified Time: 05.07.2024 - 16:31:09

Ti West’s MaXXXine is the final film in the X trilogy, following 2022’s X and Pearl. The movie picks up years after Maxine Minx (Mia Goth) survived the events of X, and she’s now an adult film star trying to break into Hollywood.

Set in Los Angeles in 1985, the project also has a sinister subplot: As Maxine tries to build her reputation, she catches the eye of an elusive (and real) serial killer who stalked the streets of Los Angeles during the mid-80s.

Originally known as the “Walk-In Killer” and the “Valley Intruder,” Richard Ramirez sparked fear and terror throughout California for over a year between April 1984 and August 1985. During that short time, he murdered at least 14 people and attacked numerous others. He was later called the “Night Stalker” because he killed many of his victims by sneaking into their homes through unlocked doors and windows in the middle of the night.

Although MaXXXine isn't a true story, Goth told Total Film that blending in elements of Ramirez's case helped ground the film. “It sets out a breadcrumb trail back to reality,” the actress and producer said. “It’s not just some big sweeping horror movie that’s purely for entertainment value. It’s rooted in something."

But who was the real Night Stalker, and what did he do? Here’s the true story behind Richard Ramirez, the serial killer featured in MaXXXine.

Born in El Paso, Texas, in 1960, Ramirez was allegedly always troubled. He began stealing at a young age and dropped out of high school, eventually moving to L.A. at the age of 22, per CBS News. After relocating to the West Coast, Ramirez continued breaking into homes and was arrested for stealing a car. This would later prove helpful since Ramirez was fingerprinted upon his initial arrest.

In June 1984, when Ramirez was about 25 years old, he killed 79-year-old Jennie Vincow. She was found stabbed numerous times and had her throat slashed. According to her son's court testimony reported by the Los Angeles Times, Vincow's front door was unlocked — a telltale sign of Ramirez, who would break into homes through unlocked doors or open windows.

Ramirez’s next killing wouldn’t happen until March 1985, but once he began attacking victims again, it was at an alarmingly frequent rate. From March 17 to March 27, Ramirez attacked several people, killing three, according to United Press International. Until August of that year, Ramirez was killing almost weekly and attacking numerous others.

What made Ramirez so elusive was his wide range of victims, all of whom had no connection to the killer. He attacked and sexually assaulted adults, kidnapped and raped children, and often violently stole automobiles, sometimes killing the driver, per CBS News.

When profiling a serial killer, it’s rare for a single murderer to attack and sexually assault both men and women and everyone from kids to senior citizens. The Department of Justice states that serial killers normally choose their victims based on some kind of characteristic, but the Night Stalker’s victims were completely random.

When Ramirez was finally tried and convicted, he was deemed guilty of 11 counts of sexual assault, 13 counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder and 14 counts of burglary. In 2009, his DNA was also linked to the 1984 murder of a 9-year-old girl, according to the L.A. Times.

While the true motives behind Ramirez’s killings may never be known, he claimed he was doing it for Satan. He often drew pentagrams, and in some instances, he forced his victims to swear to Satan instead of God. During his trial, he also said “Hail, Satan” in the courtroom.

A 1986 Los Angeles Times article quotes one of Ramirez’s rape victims who testified against the killer. After killing her husband, Ramirez told the -

woman not to scream as he violated her.

“I said, ‘I swear upon God I’m not going to scream.’ He said, ‘Don’t swear upon God, swear upon Satan,’ ” the victim recalled in court.

Still, the Night Stalker was attacking during the height of America’s “Satanic Panic,” so it’s possible that Ramirez was influenced by the mass hysteria around him or was simply preying upon the cultural fear that was prevalent at the time.

As the summer of 1985 went on, the city of L.A. became more and more frantic to catch the killer, and while Ramirez’s crimes mounted, so did the evidence against him.

He didn’t always kill his victims, sometimes only torturing or sexually assaulting them, which meant there was a growing number of witnesses who gave profiles of the Night Stalker to police. He also left shoeprints at numerous crime scenes, and when police found one of Ramirez’s stolen cars, they discovered a business card for a dentist that he had visited a week earlier, according to CBS News.

In August 1985, he made his way up to San Francisco, where he committed a double murder and drew a pentagram on the mirror of a hotel bathroom, per SF Weekly. With the local police department now on the case, a new lead emerged that was vital to the investigation. A Bay Area man claimed he knew the Night Stalker and told officers his real name: Richard Ramirez.

Shortly after, L.A. police found another car stolen by Ramirez, which had a fingerprint. Both the name and the fingerprint matched those in the police database from Ramirez’s previous arrest years earlier, and investigators realized out who they were looking for.

“He left us enough clues that we could figure out who he was,” Detective Frank Salerno said on the Night Stalker episode of Murder Made Me Famous. “We had to get him off the streets.”

Ramirez’s picture was posted in newspapers and shown around the city on the local news. The El Paso Times reported that after Ramirez saw his photo had been released, he ran through the East L.A. neighborhood of Boyle Heights and attempted to steal a car, but locals recognized him and formed a mob around him until police arrived.

In late 1989, Ramirez was put on trial for his crimes, and after a month of deliberating, the jury found him guilty on all 43 counts, according to The New York Times.

At his sentencing later that November, he received the death penalty and the L.A. Times reported his reaction. “I am beyond good and evil. I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells in us all. That’s it," he said.

On June 7, 2013, Ramirez died while awaiting execution at San Quentin State Prison. He was 53 years old, and his cause of death was a combination of lymphoma and hepatitis C.

Afterward, one of Ramirez’s victims told the L.A. Times, “Finally, justice has been served ... I’m glad it’s over.”

Ramirez’s story has been told various times in documentaries and dramatized stories. In 2021, Netflix released the docuseries Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer, which gives an in-depth look into the Night Stalker’s crimes and how investigators pieced together the evidence to identify him.

Five years prior, Lou Diamond Phillips portrayed Ramirez in the TV film The Night Stalker, which premiered on A&E. “It truly is one of the most challenging, interesting, complex roles I’ve ever played,” Phillips told Variety in 2015. “It’s maybe the biggest transformation I’ve ever undertaken.”

The Night Stalker has also been featured in episodes of true crime series, like Dark Minds, Born to Kill? and World’s Most Evil Killers, among other titles.

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