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'Night Stalker' suspect shouts 'Hail Satan' in courtroom

By MICHAEL D. HARRIS

LOS ANGELES -- Accused 'Night Stalker' Richard Ramirez pleaded innocent to charges he murdered 14 people and committed 54 other felonies and shouted 'Hail Satan!' as he was led from the courtroom in heavy chains.

During an earlier court appearance Thursday in which Municipal Judge Elva Soper granted him a second change of attorneys, Ramirez grinned at the crowded gallery and flashed the palm of his left hand, revealing two satanic symbols -- a five-pointed pentagram and the numbers 666.

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Friends of Ramirez, 25, have described him as a devil worshipper and an obsessed fan of heavy metal rock music that may have influenced his alleged behavior in the 'Night Stalker' slayings that terrorized California this year.

Authorities said one victim's eyes were ritualistically gouged out, and pentagrams were found at some murder scenes.

Following a brief recess for Ramirez to confer with his new attorneys, Daniel Hernandez and Arturo Hernandez of San Jose, he returned to court and pleaded innocent.

As Ramirez was led out of the courtroom a second time, he shouted out, 'Hail Satan!'

Besides the 14 murder counts, Ramirez denied five attempted murder counts, 19 counts of burglary, six of robbery, seven of rape, five of forcible oral copulation, seven of sodomy, three of committing lewd acts on children and two of kidnapping.

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The charges stem from 20 different attacks on 28 victims in Los Angeles County from June 27, 1984, until August 8, 1985.

In another development Thursday, it was disclosed that the oldest victim of the 'Night Stalker' case, an 85-year-old woman who was robbed in her home in suburban Monrovia, died two weeks ago of natural causes.

Police said Clara Cecilia Hadsall's health began declining after the intruder broke into her home last May, but said investigators could not establish a direct link between the crime and her death.

Earlier this month, Judge Soper allowed Ramirez to hire attorney Joseph Gallegos of Oxnard, Calif., in place of two public defenders who had represented him since shortly afterhis arrest following a frantic chase through East Los Angeles Aug. 31.

The defendant's sister, Rosa Flores, said he decided to get rid of Gallegos after learning the attorney once was convicted of assault for shooting a reputed prostitute in the hand.

Gallegos, however, told reporters he and Ramirez had disagreed over what type of plea to enter and said bowed out because Ramirez's relatives wanted the Hernandezes.

Ramirez, who had delayed entering pleas several times since his arrest, has also been charged with one count of murder in San Francisco.

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On Thursday, Soper scheduled another hearing Dec. 13 to hear motions in the case, possibly including a request for a change of venue, and to set a date for Ramirez's preliminary hearing.

Ramirez was arrested the day his picture appeared in newspapers as the suspected 'Night Stalker,' the name given the serial killer who randomly slipped into darkened houses through unlocked doors and windows and attacked the victims as they slept.

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