Yesterday's Crimes: How Dianne Feinstein Tipped Off the Night Stalker

This is part two of a three-part series.

Richard Ramirez had killed Peter Pan, 69, in his Lake Merced area home on August 18, 1985, over a year after he had raped and killed a 9-year-old girl in a Tenderloin basement (a crime in which he may have had help).

The evidence linking Pan's murderer to the suspect in a string of Los Angeles County killings — now called the Night Stalker — made its way through the ranks of the San Francisco Police Department up to then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein. She held a press conference on August 23 to sooth citizens' fears.

It almost ruined the whole statewide investigation.

[jump] The mayor, who had come to power when Mayor George Moscone was assassinated by former San Francisco supervisor Dan White on Nov. 27, 1978, sounded stern enough as she addressed the murderer that had come to her city.

“This is a very serious situation. The killer goes into a home at night and kills . . . at random,'' the future senator said.

“Somewhere in the Bay Area, someone is renting a room, an apartment or a home to this vicious serial killer. I am hoping that people will look at this composite drawing,” she continued, holding up a police sketch of the suspected Night Stalker, looking far more ugly than Ramirez turned out to be.

The drawing, depicting the killer with a mop of curls topping off a long face filled with rotten teeth showed none of the demonic sex appeal that would stir the passions of so many jailhouse groupies after Ramirez's capture. However, anyone who had lived to describe Ramirez had also survived being beaten and raped by him. What they saw was a monster — not a rock star.

If Feinstein had just offered her office's $10,000 reward for the capture and conviction of the Night Stalker and stopped there, she would have made a stirring statement. But she went on to describe the evidence that tied together so many crimes throughout the state.

She spoke of how ballistics tests matched the gun used in San Francisco to the same one used in two of the killings in Los Angeles. She also mentioned a pair of Avia sneakers found at some of the crimes scenes.

“Cops winced at Feinstein statement,” according to the headline of an Aug. 23, 1985 San Francisco Chronicle article.

LA County Sheriff Don Block expressed his displeasure with Feinstein's goof during a press conference shown on CBS News.

“It places this community in jeopardy because it impedes our ability to go forward fully with the investigation,” Block said.

According the Chron, one unnamed cop called Feinstein's TMI “a buffoon statement.”

“There goes the gun into the bay,” said another unnamed officer.

And that's essentially what happened. According to author Philip Carlo's biography of Ramirez, The Night Stalker: The True Story of America's Most Feared Serial Killer, after hearing Feinstein's press conference, Ramirez walked to the center of the Golden Gate Bridge and “dropped the size 11 1/2 Avia sneakers into the water.”

Ramirez kept the gun.

To be continued: Be here next week to find how evidence from Ramirez's San Francisco rampage helped to finally identify the Night Stalker.

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