It's a classic love story: Boy commits heinous crimes, girl sends constant letters to boy in jail, boy and girl get married. At least, that's how it went for Richard Ramirez, dubbed the "Night Stalker," and Doreen Lioy. The pair tied the knot in 1996, while Ramirez was living on death row in California's San Quentin State Prison after being convicted of a shocking string of murders, sexual assaults, robberies, carjackings, and more throughout Los Angeles and San Francisco in 1985.
A new Netflix docuseries, Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer, follows L.A. detectives Frank Salerno and Gil Carrillo's investigation of Ramirez's seemingly random crime spree, ending with his successful capture in August 1985. However, that's where the series ends, without going into detail about Ramirez's tumultuous trial, sentencing, and the barely 24 years he spent on death row, including his relationship with Lioy. To fill in the blanks, here's everything you need to know about Lioy and her marriage to the Night Stalker.
Who is Doreen Lioy?
When she began her relationship with Ramirez, Lioy was a freelance teen magazine editor from Burbank, California. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, she sent Ramirez dozens of letters beginning in 1985, shortly after he was arrested and imprisoned while awaiting trial. According to an account from a Los Angeles Times reporter who observed one of Lioy's visits to Ramirez in jail, Lioy had initially been struck by the "vulnerability" she saw in Ramirez in TV reports of his crimes; after their relationship had developed, she reportedly visited him at San Quentin four times a week.
Once her relationship with the convicted killer and rapist became serious, Lioy's family all but disowned her, with her twin sister telling the San Francisco Examiner in 1996, "It's unfortunate for me that I've been linked with all of this. I was taken aback by the news. To be related by birth is fine. ... I don't want to be a part of this. It's been a painful event for the family."
Ramirez proposed in 1988, but the two weren't married until 1996, Lioy told the Examiner around the time of their wedding at San Quentin, which was attended by Ramirez's brother, sister, and niece, lawyers, and the author of a book claiming to outline Ramirez's innocence. At the 15-minute service, Lioy reportedly wore a short white dress and gave Ramirez a platinum band—because self-described Satanists don't wear gold, of course.
What has Lioy said about being married to a serial killer?
After claiming to love Ramirez "more than anything in the world" in her 1996 interview with the Examiner, Lioy—then going by Doreen Ramirez—continued to unabashedly declare her love for the infamous Night Stalker in their ensuing years as husband and wife. "He's kind, he's funny, he's charming," she told CNN in 1997. "I think he's really a great person. He's my best friend; he's my buddy."
As for how she was able to fall in love with a convicted murderer, Lioy's answer was simple: an unwavering belief in his innocence. "I just believe in him completely," she told CNN.
And while she admitted that being married to someone on death row was a "lonely lifestyle" that precluded her from achieving her dream of having a family of her own (since death row inmates aren't allowed conjugal visits), Lioy seemed content with having replaced that dream with a new one: "being with Richard."
Where is Doreen Lioy now?
Despite her seemingly steadfast love for Ramirez, however, Lioy's affection reportedly dwindled after about 13 years of marriage. In 2009, DNA evidence linked Ramirez to the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in San Francisco in early 1984, well before his 1985 rampage as the Night Stalker began; Lioy is believed to have severed ties with Ramirez after learning of that crime.
Lioy never commented on her relationship with Ramirez after those reports arose, but their alleged separation was seemingly confirmed by a Daily Beast article published after Ramirez's 2013 death that revealed that nobody had claimed his body several weeks after his death. Additionally, a spokesperson for San Quentin noted that Ramirez hadn't been allowed any personal visits in 2010 and, in his final years, refused to allow visitors, implying that he and Lioy had separated by that time.
For the last decade, since the time of her possible separation from Ramirez, Lioy has successfully remained out of the public eye; the only recent mention of her is in her father's 2019 obituary, in which she is listed as Doreen Ramirez. Other than that, her current whereabouts are unknown, and she made no statement after Ramirez's 2013 death, which was attributed to complications from B-cell lymphoma, among other chronic health issues.