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Who is Doreen Lioy, the pen-pal-turned-wife of serial killer Richard Ramirez?

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Jan 21, 2021 1:45 am

Doreen Lioy, a freelance teen magazine editor from Burbank, California, started writing Richard Ramirez shortly after the serial killer and rapist was arrested in 1985 for his horrific crimes.

Ramirez, also known as the “Night Stalker,” terrorized neighborhoods in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the mid-‘80s, where he went on a spree of murders and rapes—grisly crimes that he was unremorseful of.

He brutally attacked and mutilated random victims—men, women, and children—who were aged six to 83 from different communities and killed them with a wide range of weapons. He is also known for leaving satanic symbols on the scenes of his crime.

The story of Ramirez’s murders have been retold numerous times, including in the series American Horror Story, and most recently, the Netflix true crime docuseries Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer.

Despite—or because of—his notoriety, Ramirez, gained scores of love-struck “groupies” who wrote him love letters and visited him over the years while he was incarcerated in San Quentin Prison awaiting execution. Because of this, Ramirez, who was 25 years old when he was incarcerated, earned the nickname “Death Row Romeo.”

One of Ramirez’s “fans” and pen pals was Lioy, 41, who reportedly wrote him dozens of letters in 1985. The two met after Lioy sent Ramirez a birthday card, where she expressed her concern that Ramirez wasn’t being treated fairly while awaiting trial. Ramirez invited her to visit him eventually.

It was reportedly on Lioy’s third visit to Ramirez in 1988 when she decided he was the man of her dreams and immediately accepted his marriage proposal.

Doreen Lioy marries serial killer and rapist Richard Ramirez in 1996. 'I love him more than anything in the world,' she said. Photo from AP

As their relationship made a serious turn, Lioy started visiting Ramirez in prison four times a week, often the first person in the visitor line. She also sat through Ramirez’s trial and continued to believe that he was innocent despite his conviction.

“He’s kind, he’s funny, he’s charming, “ Lioy said in an interview with CNN. “I think he’s really a great person. He’s my best friend; he’s my buddy.”

After Lioy revealed to The Examiner their wedding plans, it gained national attention and reached her family, whom Lioy said disowned her, including her twin sister who found Lioy’s situation “unfortunate” and it’s been a “painful event for the family.”

Speaking to the Seattle Times, some of Lioy’s relatives described her as someone who grew up in a very normal household but is a reclusive woman who lives in a fantasy world.

The relatives also believe that Lioy’s attraction to Ramirez probably has more to do with her craving attention and affection as she lived as the “submissive twin to a domineering sister” and never got the attention she wanted.

Though many criticized Lioy with her decision (she was  Catholic and Ramirez was a satan worshipper), she believed “that is coming about because of love, and I’m very proud.”

"I love him (Ramirez) more than anything in the world," Lioy told The Examiner.

Lioy on the way to the San Quentin Prison on her and Ramirez's wedding day. Photo from AP 

She eventually married Ramirez at the San Quentin Prison in a 15-minute service officiated by a state employee. At the wedding were Ramirez’s brother, sister and niece, lawyers and Philip Carlo, the author of the book claiming Ramirez’s innocence.

Lioy admitted in an interview with CNN that being married to a death row inmate was a “lonely lifestyle” and she knew it was hard to understand why anyone would want to marry such a man.

But Lioy remained steadfast with her love for Ramirez until DNA evidence linking Ramirez to the brutal death of a nine-year-old girl in San Francisco in 1984 surfaced in 2009. They separated after 13 years of marriage. 

Since their separation, Lioy had been out of the public eye. She did not even comment on Ramirez’s death in 2013.

One of the last known photos of Ramirez before his death in 2013. 

Ramirez, who was convicted of 13 counts of murder and 11 counts of sexual assault, refused  visitors during the last few years of his life.

He died at 53 years old due to complications related to B-cell lymphoma while on death row, awaiting execution via gas chamber.

Though listed as “married” at the time of his death, no one claimed Ramirez’s remains so the authorities cremated him.

There is no known information about what happened to Ramirez’s ashes—or the whereabouts of Lioy, who seem to have quietly vanished into the night.

Banner image photos from AP