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Blood cancer killed the ‘Night Stalker’

Officials say a form of blood cancer was the cause of the death of the “Night Stalker” — the man who terrorized California during a killing rampage in the 1980s.

Marin County coroner’s officials said on Monday that 53-year-old Richard Ramirez died from complications of B-cell lymphoma.

Lt. Keith Boyd, Marin County’s chief deputy coroner, says Ramirez also suffered from what he termed other “significant conditions” including chronic substance abuse and a chronic hepatitis C viral infection.

Because of privacy rules, Boyd could not say how long Ramirez had suffered from lymphoma. But he told SFBay that Ramirez:

“… might have had hepatitis C  for a long, long time.”

Chronic hepatitis C is often linked to drug use, with the disease spread by users sharing needles. It is considered a “serious” disease by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the agency noting it can lead to serious health problems, including death.

Boyd says the hepatitis Ramirez suffered from “was associated with drug use prior to incarceration.”

Ramirez had been sent to San Quentin State Prison’s death row after being sentenced to death when he was convicted in 1989 of 13 counts of murder, and a number of other counts of attempted murder, sexual assault and burglary for a series of brutal killings and rapes.

His string of violent attacks began in 1984 and ended in August of 1985 when he was captured by an angry mob.

Ramirez had been taken from the prison to Marin General Hospital for medical treatment when he died on the morning  of June 7.

Among Ramirez’s final known victims was 66-year-old Peter Pan, killed in August 1985 in his Lake Merced home. His wife Barbara survived and identified Ramirez as the attacker.

Investigators in 2009 linked Ramirez’s DNA with the April 1984 rape and slaying in the Tenderloin of 9-year-old Mei “Linda” Leung. Police believe Ramirez lived in the neighborhood at the time.

Prison officials say Ramirez was one of 59 condemned inmates who have died of natural causes since 1978 when California reinstated capital punishment. There are 735 convicts awaiting execution in the state.

The last inmate executed in California was Clarence Ray Allen, put to death in January 2006 for a 1980 triple murder. California executed 14 inmates between 1992 and 2006, each having spent an average of 17-1/2 years on death row.

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