In 1985, Richard Ramirez went on a murderous rampage that terrorized the residents of Los Angeles. Known as the “Night Stalker,” Ramirez broke into homes at night, raping and torturing his victims before killing them in cold blood. By the time he was caught, he had killed 14 people. But even after his capture, he still managed to attract the admiration and devotion of a most unlikely person – magazine editor Doreen Lioy. Their bizarre relationship shocked the nation and remains one of the strangest love stories of all time.

Early Life of Doreen Lioy

Doreen Lioy was born in 1962 and had a relatively normal suburban upbringing in Burbank, California. After graduating high school, she attended California State University, Northridge and worked various jobs before becoming a freelance editor of teen magazines like Tiger Beat.

Young Doreen Lioy from an interview

In 1985, Lioy, then 23 years old, first saw a mugshot of Richard Ramirez on TV during news coverage of Ramirez’s trial and conviction for 13 counts of murder, 5 attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries. Ramirez had terrorized Southern California in the mid-1980s as the infamous “Night Stalker” killer. His savage attacks and satanic pentagrams left at murder scenes had spread fear across Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Lioy later said she felt an instant attraction to the sadistic killer, claiming his eyes were the “eyes of a lost puppy”. She began writing him letters in prison and after a year of correspondence, they met in person for the first time in 1988 when she visited him on death row. Lioy would visit Ramirez frequently over the next several years, declaring her love for him despite his horrific crimes.

How Did Their Relationship Develop?

Lioy claims she felt an instant attraction to Ramirez the first time she saw his mugshot in the papers. While most people saw a monster, she saw a “vulnerable, handsome guy.” She began cutting out articles about him and pasting them in a scrapbook. She would write letters to him in prison declaring her love. This obsession persisted even after Ramirez was sentenced to death row in 1989 for his gruesome crimes.

Against all odds, Lioy’s persistence paid off. After years of writing him letters, Ramirez finally wrote back in 1991. This opened the floodgates for a bizarre courtship between the magazine editor and the murderer. Over the next few years, Lioy and Ramirez exchanged dozens of letters and phone calls, eventually professing their love for each other. Lioy was permitted to start visiting Ramirez in prison starting in 1993.

By 1996, Lioy and Ramirez decided to get married. They were wed in California’s San Quentin State Prison in a short ceremony on October 3, 1996. Lioy told press that she would “be there” for Ramirez and that she planned to move closer to the prison so she could visit him more often. She also indicated she hoped to eventually secure his release from prison.

The Prison Wedding

In 1996, after a long courtship conducted entirely through letters and supervised prison visits, Ramirez proposed to Lioy from behind a plexiglass window. She accepted and they were married in San Quentin Prison that October.

Doreen Lioy and her marriage with richard Ramirez

Lioy was a 41-year-old magazine editor, self-described virgin and practising Catholic at the time she married Ramirez — it seemed that opposites attracted this Satanist and church-going duo. Although she knew the pairing would seem crazy to others, it was a risk she was willing to take.

Lioy told the media she believed strongly in Ramirez’s innocence and that he had reformed behind bars. “He’s kind, he’s funny, he’s charming. I think he’s really a great person. He’s my best friend; he’s my buddy,” Lioy said.

The wedding was attended by over a dozen members of Ramirez’s family, while Lioy’s parents refused to participate. The bride wore a black chiffon dress and the murderer was handcuffed throughout the ceremony. The wedding cake’s frosting featured handcuffs and a pentagram – Ramirez’s satanic symbol he left at several murder scenes.

Life as Doreen Ramirez

After their wedding, Lioy acted like any conventional new wife, with one major exception – her husband was a convicted serial killer behind bars. She continued diligently visiting and writing letters, professing her devotion to Ramirez.

In 1997, Lioy told CNN, “I’m very loved and taken care of by Richard – he’s very kind and considerate to my feelings.” She claimed he was her “best friend” and they were “very compatible in many ways.” She also indicated she would commit suicide when he was executed.

However, most of the world saw their relationship as bizarre and questioned Lioy’s sanity. Headlines called them “Beauty and the Beast” and experts weighed in on why an ordinary woman would marry a sadistic killer. Many speculated Lioy was unstable or desperate for attention.

After the wedding, Doreen Lioy took her husband’s last name and was thereafter known as Doreen Ramirez. She continued visiting him weekly in prison until his death from cancer in 2013 at age 53. Lioy never had any children with Ramirez and has largely stayed out of the public eye in recent years.

But in 2009, after DNA evidence linked Ramirez to the rape and murder of 9-year-old San Fransisco girl Mei Leung, Lioy and Ramirez split. Little is known about her current whereabouts or situation today. Some reports say she resides in Southern California near where she grew up. Details about her personal life remain scant, as she has avoided media attention for over two decades.

Explaining the Bizarre Obsession

Doreen Ramirez’s bizarre love and devotion to the sadistic serial killer Richard Ramirez sparked global intrigue and remains one of the strangest true crime tales of obsession. While her morbid love defied explanation to most, Ramirez died knowing he still had the unconditional love and support of the woman who insisted she saw good in even the worst monsters.

Doreen Liyo dtays away from media

Psychologists have theorized that hybristophilia, or attraction to dangerous criminals, may explain some of Lioy’s unusual fixation. Some key traits of hybristophiliacs include:

  • A desire to feel needed by someone “bad”
  • The belief they can “fix” or reform their criminal partner
  • Low self-esteem and sense of identity
  • A history of trauma or abuse
  • The thrill and excitement from proximity to notorious crimes

However, Lioy did not display many typical signs, living a relatively normal life herself before meeting Ramirez. In the end, the roots of her obsession remain a mystery. But her story serves as a reminder that human attraction follows few set rules and even the most deranged killers can still find love.

The Crimes of Richard Ramirez

Richard Ramirez was convicted of a string of home invasion murders, rapes and burglaries in California from 1984 to 1985. Dubbed the “Night Stalker”, his highly publicized crime spree terrorized the state and earned him 13 death sentences. Some key facts about his crimes:

  • Murdered 13 people and attempted to kill 5 more
  • Sexually assaulted 11 women and girls
  • Burglarized over 25 homes, often stealing valuables
  • Left satanic symbols and pentagrams to shock and confuse police
  • Targeted a wide range of victims from ages 6 to 82
  • Broke into homes at night and attacked victims in their sleep
  • Beat victims, slashed throats and shot some execution-style
  • Showed no remorse for his crimes and shouted “Hail Satan” at his sentencing

Ramirez’s trial was followed closely across California as residents feared the Night Stalker would escape conviction. However overwhelming forensic evidence linked him conclusively to the murders and assaults. He was sentenced to death row in San Quentin Prison where he met and married Doreen Lioy.

The bizarre love story of Doreen Lioy and Richard Ramirez fascinated the public due to its strange contradiction – a seemingly wholesome young woman falling for a notorious serial killer. While her motives remain largely unexplained, Lioy provided unwavering support and loyalty to Ramirez until he died in prison. Their unusual union will live on as one of the most shocking true crime tales of obsession.


Now that you’ve read about Doreen Lioy, you might also like reading about Carole Anne Boone – The Woman who married Ted Bundy while he was on a death trial.

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