MISSION VIEJO (CBSLA.com) — He’s a 45-year-old man now. Living hundreds of miles away from Los Angeles.
The years might be many — 32, in fact. And the distance vast, but not enough time or distance to erase the memories of a then-13-year-old boy living in Los Angeles who is credited with helping the Los Angeles Police Department stop and take down the infamous Night Stalker serial killer.
CBS2’s Tom Wait spoke to James Romero about coming face-to-face with evil, personified by Richard Ramirez.
It’s a story that is Only On 2.
The Night Stalker raped and murdered his victims and terrorized the city.
The fact that the powerful killer was brought down largely by a teen makes the story even more unbelievable.
“He looked right at me,” says Romero.
Romero is describing his face-to-face encounter with Ramirez on a summer night back in 1985, the night Ramirez stalked his home in Mission Viejo. James was up late in the garage after a family road trip.
“All of a sudden, I hear footsteps in the gravel. Crunch, crunch, crunch crunch. I could hear the footsteps literally stop – right where I’m sitting,” he recalls.
James bolted into the house, woke up his parents and they called 911. Ramirez took off but not before a fearless James ran outside.
“I look and I see the car and I get part of the plate,” Romero says.
Detectives quickly figured out James encountered the Night Stalker. They didn’t tell James, but he would soon connect the dots as investigators kept coming to the house and asking him to look at random cars.
“They kind of just coached me,” he says, “hey, we can’t stop and get out of the car. We can’t look at it, we’re going to drive through this parking lot and if you see a car that looks like the one you saw, let us know.”
Police would find Ramirez’s car. James confirmed it. With that confirmation, they lifted a fingerprint and ultimately identified Ramirez. It wouldn’t be long until his capture.
Seeing the Night Stalker in person was a moment James says he will never forget.
“When I was in court, I was in the room sitting with him – you know, I was on the witness stand eight hours. The defense attorney had me swear in, and they put the Bible, and they had me swear in right next to him.” Romero says.
James recalls that being a very scary experience and it’s not like the years have made it much easier on him.
The notoriety was difficult but he is still glad he was able to help solve the case.