Unlike many other entries in the true crime genre, Netflix's newest docuseries places its central focus not on the criminal, his crimes, or his victims, but on the police's efforts to collect clues, piece them together, and track him down. Obviously, Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer includes plenty of (very graphic, often disturbing) details about so-called Night Stalker Richard Ramirez's horrific crime spree across California throughout 1985. But, as the show's full title hints, Ramirez's string of murders, burglaries, carjackings, and sexual assaults is retraced specifically through the lens of the detectives who spent months trying to figure out who he was and bring him to justice.
The detectives in question were Frank Salerno and Gil Carrillo. While Salerno was already a well-renowned detective with decades of experience under his belt, including as the lead detective in the "Hillside Strangler" case that plagued Los Angeles in the late 1970s, Carrillo was a relative newcomer to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department homicide team, which caused many of his theories about the Night Stalker case to be initially dismissed due to his "rookie" status. Once Salerno started taking Carrillo's hunches seriously, though, the case began to come together, leading to Ramirez's arrest in August 1985 and Carrillo's rise to the ranks of the country's best homicide detectives.
Here's what Carrillo has been up to since he helped close the Night Stalker case and put Ramirez behind bars.
Carrillo continued his detective work after catching Ramirez.
Carrillo remained at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Homicide Bureau for a total of 38 years, including 24 years after solving the Night Stalker case. During that time, Carrillo investigated between 700 and 800 homicides, he estimated to the Pasadena Star-News in 2015.
By the time of his retirement in 2009, Carrillo had been promoted to lieutenant detective, making him the first Latino to reach a rank higher than sergeant in the bureau, according to a report from the Daily Breeze upon his retirement.
He became well-regarded among the LASD.
Though many of his coworkers discounted his theories about the identity and M.O. of the Night Stalker in the early days of that investigation, Carrillo's role in Ramirez's arrest quickly made him one of the LASD homicide bureau's most respected detectives.
At the time of Carrillo's 2009 retirement, another detective, Philip Guzman, praised his sense of humor, creativity, and dedication. "He was always one of the people you could ask his opinion of. Somewhere in the vast channels of all his experience you knew he had some idea or advice that would help you in your investigation," Guzman told the Daily Breeze. "He was enthusiastic and he took a lot of pride in not only the Sheriff's Department but the Homicide Bureau in particular. When you have somebody who's been around that long and still enthusiastic about the job, it's always inspiring to everyone."
He hasn't been able to fully give up detective work in retirement.
In the decade since his retirement, Carrillo has finally learned to slow down—at least a little bit. He has traveled the world with his wife Pearl, sometimes just to sightsee and sometimes to give lectures at major institutions and universities about his work and about digging into homicide cases.
His long-lasting marriage to Pearl was the subject of a piece of advice he gave new deputies around the time he retired, according to the Daily Breeze: "This job is not easy, and it's not easy on family life. But you need the family and the family needs you."
Regardless of the long workdays and the strain that the job put on his marriage, though, Carrillo added that he had no regrets about his illustrious career with the LASD, saying, "If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing."
The entire Night Stalker series was built around Carrillo.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Tiller Russell, director of the Netflix series, shared that the rookie detective was meant to be the star of the show from the earliest stages of production, since Russell wanted to honor the people impacted by Ramirez's crimes, rather than glamorize the serial killer.
"My team and I decided to tell this story from Gil's perspective because he had this amazing story, and he's not typically who you think of as an ordinary hero," Tiller explained. "He's a guy from the streets who had a dream to be the first person in his family to go to college. He never imagined he'd one day work for the sheriff's department, much less that he'd join the legendary homicide department known as the Bulldogs. He was the youngest guy to make it that far and then he got assigned the case of a lifetime. And he did it all for his dad, his family, and the neighborhood."
Tiller added, "That's the hero's arc that fascinated me, and I really loved him as a character."
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Andrea Park is a Chicago-based writer and reporter with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the extended Kardashian-Jenner kingdom, early 2000s rom-coms and celebrity book club selections. She graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2017 and has also written for W, Brides, Glamour, Women's Health, People and more.
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