LOS ANGELES (AP) — Richard Ramirez, the demonic serial killer who left satantic signs at murder scenes and mutilated victims' bodies during a reign of terror in the 1980s, died early Friday in a hospital, a prison official said.
Ramirez, 53, had been taken from San Quentin's death row to a hospital where authorities said he died of liver failure.
He had been housed on death row for decades and was awaiting execution, even though it has been years since anyone has been put to death in California.
At his first court appearance, Ramirez raised a hand with a pentagram drawn on it and yelled, "Hail, Satan."
His marathon trial, which ended in 1989, was a horror show in which jurors heard about one victim's eyes being gouged out and another's head being nearly severed. Courtroom observers wept when survivors of some of the attacks testified.
Ramirez was convicted of 13 murders that terrorized Southern California in 1984 and 1985 as well as charges of rape, sodomy, oral copulation, burglary and attempted murder.
Satanic symbols were left at murder scenes and some victims were forced to "swear to Satan" by the killer, who entered homes through unlocked windows and doors.
Ramirez was finally run down and beaten in 1985 by residents of an East Los Angeles neighborhood while attempting a carjacking. They recognized him because his picture had appeared that day in the news media.
The trial of Ramirez took a year, but the entire case which was bogged down in pretrial motions and appeals lasted four years, one of the longest criminal cases in U.S. history.
Because of the notoriety of the case, more than 1600 prospective jurors were called.
After his conviction, Ramirez flashed a two-fingered "devil sign" to photographers and muttered a single word: "Evil."
On his way to a jail bus, he sneered in reaction to the verdict, muttering: "Big deal. Death always went with the territory. See you in Disneyland."
The black-clad killer, unrepentant to the end, made his comment in an underground garage after a jury recommended the death penalty for his gruesome crimes.
Inexplicably, Ramirez, a native of El Paso, Texas, had a following of young women admirers who came to the courtroom regularly and sent him love notes.
Some visited him in prison, and in 1996 Ramirez was married to 41-year-old freelance magazine editor Doreen Lioy in a visiting room at San Quentin prison.
Relatives called Lioy a recluse who lived in a fantasy world.
In 2006, the California Supreme Court upheld Ramirez's convictions and death sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court refused in 2007 to review the convictions and sentence.
Two years later, San Francisco police said DNA linked Ramirez to the April 10, 1984, killing of 9-year-old Mei Leung. She was killed in the basement of a residential hotel in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood where she lived with her family.
Ramirez had been staying at nearby hotels.
Ramirez previously was tied to killings in Northern California. He was charged in the shooting deaths of Peter Pan, 66, and his wife, Barbara, in 1985 just before his arrest in Los Angeles, but he was never tried in that case.
Thompson reported from Sacramento.
Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch covered the Night Stalker trial of Richard Ramirez..
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.