Today on Glimpse.org, we are going to take a glimpse into the life of Doreen Lioy, a magazine editor most famous for marrying Richard Ramirez, a serial killer known as the “Night Stalker” in 1996.
Doreen Lioy – Who is she?
Born in Burbank, California, Doreen Lioy seems to have worked and lived in the area for most of her adult life. Outside of her relationship with Ramirez however, not much is known about her personality or her history. Lioy once told journalists that her relationship with her family was tense, mostly due to her marriage with Ramirez, to the point that they had disowned her.
She also claimed to love children. “I’ve never made any secret to [Richard Ramirez],” she was quoted saying, “that I wanted five or six children. But that dream didn’t come true for me and I’ve just replaced it with a different dream […] Which is, being with Richard.”
Doreen Lioy – Her relationship with Richard Ramirez
Richard Ramirez, who the press at the time nicknamed “the Night Stalker,” is mostly known in the United States for the infamous home invasion killing spree that he went on throughout the mid-1980s. Ramirez’s crimes reportedly began in 1984 with the murder of a nine-year-old girl who lived in the basement of his building. According to reports released later on, this little girl was raped, beaten, then stabbed to death by Ramirez before he hung her from a pipe.
In 1985, Richard Ramirez went on to commit a series of gruesome murders through a string of home invasions attacks resulting in his arrest a few weeks later, thanks to a portrait that the police had previously circulated amongst the public. He famously selected his victims at random, sneaked into their homes in the middle of the night and left them shot, stabbed, beaten and raped, their bodies sometimes mutilated to the point that their eyes were ripped out. Recognized by a couple of policemen while he attempted to board a bus with his brother, Ramirez then attempted to run before being stopped in his escape by a group of nearby civilians who delivered him to law enforcement.
Reportedly, this is when he was first noticed by magazine editor Doreen Lioy, who saw him on her television and decided to write to him. She later told reporters that when she saw his mugshot on screen, she spotted something “captivating” in his eyes. Doreen Lioy was later believed to have attended court every single day of trial, as well as having exchanged a series of over seventy-five letters with Ramirez, also visiting him in prison four times a week. Soon, although it was often suggested that Ms Lioy was not Richard Ramirez’s only female correspondent, the pair became a couple. With time, Ramirez’s other relationships fiddled out and he ended up proposing to Doreen Lioy in 1988. Interestingly, however, the pair only officially tied the knot in 1996.
In 1997, Doreen Lioy was quoted talking about Ramirez saying: “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.”
At his trial, Richard Ramirez was convicted on thirteen counts of murder, fourteen counts of burglary and eleven sexual assaults. He claimed to worship Satan, displaying to the journalists present that day a pentagram that he had drawn on the inside of his palm (a symbol that he had also left drawn at a number of his victims’ houses) and seemed not to exhibit any sign of remorse. According to CNN, Richard Ramirez was once quoted saying that “he wanted to go down as the most famous serial killer there ever was.” At the time, his trial was also known as one of the most expensive in US history, billing up to $1.8 million in fees.
Richard Ramirez was later sentenced to death for his crimes and Doreen Lioy took on the public fight to save his life, rising against the death penalty, and organizing his appeals in front of the upper California courts. Doreen Lioy always claimed to believe her husband to be innocent of the crimes he was convicted for and often said that she would commit suicide if her husband ever was executed. In her 1997 CNN interview she also reportedly added: “In my opinion, there was far more evidence to convict O.J. Simpson, and we all know how that turned out.”
Ultimately, due to California’s state laws and thorough appeals process, Richard Ramirez ended up spending the rest of his life on death row, rather than being executed. He passed away from cancer in 2013.
Doreen Lioy – Education
While it is assumed that as a magazine editor, Doreen Lioy likely studied either journalism or English at university level, not much else is known about her education or curriculum prior to her getting famous for marrying Ramirez.
Doreen Lioy – Career
Doreen Lioy initially worked as a magazine editor though gradually, she began to spend more and more of her time working on her husband’s defense. She appeared on a number of TV shows centered around death row inmates and serial killers, including Love Behind Bars and also reportedly wrote a biography on her husband’s life. However, that book is not currently available online.
Doreen Lioy – Net Worth
Sources estimate that through her work, Doreen Lioy reached a net worth set between $300,000 and $600,000, mostly thanks to her salary as a magazine editor.
Doreen Lioy – Why are women drawn to men who live behind bars?
In 2003, The Guardian reported on known British murderer named Ian Huntley, a man charged with the brutal murders of two ten-year-old girls in August 2002. Denise Mina, writing the article at the time said that Huntley was known to receive “bundles of fan mail every day” and that “meanwhile, more than 100 British women [were] engaged or married to men on death row in the US.”
This is the result of a paraphilia known as “hybristophilia,” where someone is turned on by a person who commits or has committed a violent crime. The subject of countless studies in psychology, this disorder mostly manifests in women who will write to, seek encounters and possibly relationships with men who have been arrested and sentenced for the most gruesome crimes. As Doreen Lioy pointed it out herself, some would naturally think that these women are delusional, crazy or naïve, but they often reportedly believe that they see something in their boyfriends or husbands that others do not.
Although this isn’t true for Doreen Lioy, these encounters often first happen through Christian groups where the main objective is to either restore the prisoner’s faith or see him through acts of repent and forgiveness. These groups are often allowed to visit inmates in a more relaxed and sharing environment than other visitors, which obviously facilitates the building of relationships. On this topic, one of the leaders of one of these groups was quoted by ABC news saying: “I try to caution my volunteers not to confuse Christian compassion and concern, with romantic love.”
Outside of these faith groups, however, it seems that women still seeking to interact with prisoners must go through a number of hurdles. As Denise Mina writes: “It takes considerable effort to meet men in secure containment facilities. Many women will write to a number of prisoners before they finally make a sustainable connection. They may even take on voluntary jobs in prison, or go on blind-date visits with men they know only by reputation.”
In 2000, Sheila Isenberg, an American researcher published a book on this topic entitled “Women Who Love Men Who Kill.” In it, she cites a fascination with violence and sometimes even vicarious murder as one of the motivators for seeking out these relationships. Interestingly, as Denise Mina points out in her Guardian article: “It is certainly true that many prison brides have a history of violent relationships. Isenberg draws positive conclusions from this, arguing that an imprisoned partner may be a healthy strategy for women who are attracted to violent men, allowing them to engage without putting themselves in physical danger.”
In a similar vein, a series of interviews carried out by Australian writer Jacquelynne Willcox-Bailey suggests that for the women involved, because one party is incarcerated, the relationship can basically remain mostly within the realm of fantasy. As clinical psychologist Dr Stuart Fischoff is quoted saying, the love object is “almost irrelevant at this point. He’s a dream lover, a phantom limb.” As these men are often jailed for life, their spouses remain relatively sheltered and never truly have to live with the day to day consequences of their violent personality.
While it is difficult to draw any conclusions from these generalities to understand Doreen Lioy’s particular motivations, these considerations can be interesting and relevant to shed some light on her relationship with Ramirez.
Doreen Lioy – What is she doing now?
Even prior to her husband’s passing in 2013, it appears that the couple had split, with a number of sources reporting an erosion of their relationship dating back from the late 2000s. For the last few years of his life Richard Ramirez seemed unwilling to receive visitors. The couple however never divorced and Doreen Lioy officially remained his wife until his death from cancer in 2013.
Doreen Lioy’s current whereabouts and activities are unknown.