Bill Carns and his girlfriend were the last people to be attacked by Richard Ramirez, the "Night Stalker" serial killer who murdered 13 people in 1984 and '85 and was convicted of dozens of other felonies, including rape. On Friday, the day that Ramirez died of natural causes, Carns welcomed the death of his attacker.
“It’s about time,” Carns told The Times by telephone from his home in Bismarck, N.D. “Finally, justice has been served…. I’m glad it’s over.”
Carns was a 29-year-old electrical engineer living with his girlfriend in Mission Viejo in Orange County on the night of the attack. Just a few days before the attack, his mom called, warning him to keep his windows shut.
“She told me to lock your doors and windows. ‘There’s a guy called the Night Stalker,’” he recalled her saying. The attacker was known for entering the homes of victims, shooting adult males and then raping the females. But Carns felt safe in his suburban home, and assured his mom that the killer was far away from him.
After all, many of the attacks happened in the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys, and one of them was in San Francisco. To calm his parents, he focused on the attack in Northern California.
“I said, ‘Don’t worry, mom and dad,’” Carns said. “He’s 1,000 miles away from me.”
A few days later, on an oppressively hot August night, after finishing up some work in the garage, he left the living room window open a few inches to let in the cool night breeze.
Ramirez slipped through the window, crept into the bedroom, and fired three bullets into Carns. Ramirez then bound his girlfriend with neckties and beat and raped her. He dragged her around the house by her hair looking for valuables and forced her at gunpoint to say she loved Satan.
They were Ramirez's 21st and 22nd victims.
The attack on the night of Aug. 25, 1985, permanently paralyzed Carns on his left side and marked his forehead and neck with gunshot scars. His left arm is in a sling, his left leg in a brace. He can no longer run. A bullet remains lodged in his skull.
He and his girlfriend eventually broke up, both unable to handle the aftermath of the ordeal. It took years of treatment for Carns to retrain his once-sharp brain and muscular body.
“Sometimes I get mad, and say, ‘Why did this happen to me?’” Carns said.
“Those were some of the prime years of my life," he recalled. "The reason I moved to California was to advance my engineering career. Things were really starting to happen for me, and things got cut short.”
“I was at the top of the world,” Carns said. He said he had “a beautiful young girlfriend. We had a good home, and good neighbors. It didn’t get any better than that.”
Referring to his youth, he said, “I was a young man when I was injured, and he stole 15 or 20 years of my life. And how do you repay that?”
“But I try to make the best with what I have.”
It was one of Carns’ neighbors, a sharp-eyed teenager, who took down the clue that ultimately led to Ramirez's identification and capture.
As Carns recalls it, before he was attacked, Ramirez had tried to break into another house, and the teenager scared him off. According to Times reporting at the time, the teenager noted he drove off in an orange Toyota station wagon, and remembered a partial license plate number: 482 T.
Days later, the Toyota with the license plate 482 RTS was found in a shopping center in Los Angeles. Sheriff’s officials found fingerprints on the car that didn’t match the owner’s, but were matched late in the day Aug. 30 to Ramirez on fingerprint files held by law enforcement.
The next morning, a witness called police to report a man matching Ramirez’s profile in Boyle Heights. As the LAPD closed in on the suspect, Ramirez tried to steal a Mustang. But the car owner’s father leaped and grabbed the suspect by throat. By the end of the struggle, four people had grabbed and subdued the Ramirez after a footrace down the street.
“He should have been put to death an awful long time ago,” Carns said Friday. “Unfortunately, the judicial system didn’t allow for that.”
Ramirez has been on death row since 1989 and died of natural causes at a Bay Area hospital Friday morning.
Carns said he has never recovered from the attack. He is reminded of the attack daily. Without the use of his left arm, it’s difficult to do just the little things -- “tying your shoes, opening jars.” He lives off disability payments and Social Security.
“How does a guy with one arm open a can of soup? Or spaghetti sauce?” Carns said. “I get reminders of it, constantly.”
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