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    What Influences Criminal Behavior?

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    Many sociological, psychological, biological, and ecological factors are considered in determining causes for crime (Schramm, 2018). Some theorize criminals are biologically predisposed to crime (Schramm, 2018), others claim that crimes are a caused by environmental factors such as exposure to trauma in childhood, completion of school, and being employed, among others (Schramm, 2018). One theory proposed by Travis Hirschi, in 1969, was bonding theory (Schramm, 2018).

    It established that criminal behavior is determined by the bond one has with conventional society (Schramm, 2018). He claimed that the stronger the social bond, the less likely it is for that individual to commit a crime, and this social bond was made on the foundation of four characteristics: 1. attachment, 2. commitment, 3. involvement, and 4. beliefs (Schramm, 2018). Another theorist, Terrance Thornberry, wished to add more to the conversation. His theory borrowed Hirschi’s idea of attachment, commitment, involvement, and beliefs, but then additionally adds the association with delinquent peers and the adoption of their values (Schramm, 2018). He labeled his theory as Thornberry’s Interactional Model and it can be used to explain the influence of delinquent peers to criminal behavior, particularly that behavior of one criminal, Richard Ramirez.

    Over the span of one year in 1984, Ramirez murdered thirteen individuals and tortured as many as twenty-five others (author, 2017). Prior, Ramirez had been charged with burglaries, possession, and had even been a witness to the murder of his cousin’s wife. The feedback loop, proposed by Thornberry, is clearly demonstrated in Ramirez’s behavior. Thornberry’s Interactional Model, encompasses five major concepts: commitment to school, attachment to parents, belief in conventional values, adoption of delinquent values, and association with delinquent peers, all of which can be used to describe Ramirez’s criminal behavior (Schramm, 2018).

    Richard Ramirez was the youngest of five children to Mexican immigrants, living in El Paso, Texas (Richard Ramirez: The Night Stalker, 2017). According to the Department of Psychology at Radford University (year?? and also would likely not be according to the Department…), Ramirez would often witness his father beat his siblings. The child endured multiple head injuries early in life and by five he had begun experiencing epileptic fits (Richard Ramirez, 2017). During early adolescence, Ramirez’s cousin returned from the Vietnam War and began exposing the pre-teen to graphic images of beaten and raped women (cite). Shortly after witnessing his cousin shoot Miguel’s wife, Ramirez began burglarizing homes (Richard Ramirez, 2018).

    He started to hang out with a crowd that indulged in criminal behavior which he, as well, would partake in. The adolescent was sent to a juvenile detention center for a string of crimes and was later put on probation for possession of marijuana (Richard Ramirez: The Night Stalker, 2017). Soon after his release from the juvenile penitentiary, his cousin was released and the two began associating with one another, again (Dietrich, Gorbet, Peterson , & Pegler, 2007). The two would partake in the use of marijuana and by ninth grade Richard Ramirez would drop out of school and move to southern California, which would follow with several burglary arrests in 1981 and then again in 1984 and explicit drug use (Richard Ramirez, 2017).

    The young man not only associated himself with a lifestyle of crime, but he also was a self-proclaimed Satan worshipper. His devotion to the cult-like religion, paired with his chronic drug use of cocaine and psychedelics, played a substantial role in his criminal behavior as he believed that Satan was protecting him (Dietrich et al., 2007). The first heinous crime that Ramirez was found guilty of was that of Jenni Vincow, a 79-year-old woman, whom Ramirez sexually assaulted and stabbed (Who Was Richard Ramirez?, 2017).

    His second victim, a couple months later, on March 17, 1985, was that of Maria Hernandez who was able to escape from a shot fired by Ramirez (Harris, 1986). Unfortunately, her roommate, Dayle Okazaki, was not as lucky as he was fatally shot by Ramirez. That same night he also shot and killed Tsai Lian Yu who was founded outside of her running car. Proceeding these murders, came that of a 64-year-old-man by the name of Vincent and his wife Maxine (Who Was Richard Ramirez?, 2017). This is when Richard Ramirez began to leave an identifiable mark: the male victims were almost immediately killed with no signs of torture, whereas the women victims were sexually assaulted and tortured. Ramirez would also often leave some sort of Satanic symbolism.

    The spree came to a close finally on the night of August 24, 1985 when a witness contacted the police with a description of Richard Ramirez’s car and license plate number (Richard Ramirez, 2017). That same night, he attacked and raped a woman only to release her and shoot her husband. His face became plastered all over the country as it was apparent he was no longer attacking in one target area any longer. After a year-long crime spree, he was identified by several people and, in a car jacking attempt, was beaten by those in the neighborhood until police arrived. Ramirez was subsequently arrested and charged of a total of 43 felonies.

    Thornberry’s Interactional Model is composed of five components as aforementioned. The first three aspects Ramirez, ultimately struggled with indefinitely; the first being a commitment to school. It is not noted if Richard Ramirez had a diagnosed learning impairment, but he did drop out in only the ninth grade and did not pursue any further education. Secondly, is the attachment to parents, which Ramirez did not have much of, if any. It is noted that he would often spend nights in cemeteries in order to avoid his father (Dietrich et al., 2007). Richard left his childhood home at an early age to dwell with his sister and her husband in Southern California and there are no other mentions of him ever reconnecting with his parents (Dietrich et al., 2007).

    Thirdly, is a belief in conventional values, which Ramirez made it quite clear he did not possess. The practices that he partook in comprised of Satanic rituals, drug usage, soliciting prostitutes, thievery, car burglaries, and sexual assaults; none of which correlate with conventional values. The first three parts of the Thornberry’s model fit Ramirez very well for defining his criminal behavior, but these first parts were merely borrowed from social control and bonding theory of Hirschi (Schramm, 2018). The two last aspects of Thornberry’s model are what looks to have contributed to Ramirez’s behavior most.

    The last two counterparts of the Interactional Model are what really developed Richard Ramirez into a career criminal. Ramirez quickly picked up traits which could be characterized as delinquent, such as the use of drugs, the purchasing of prostitutes, cruelty to animals, and deterrence from authority. The last aspect contributed by Thornberry was the association of delinquent peers (Schramm, 2018). These last two aspects coincide one another quite well. Now, this is not to say that Ramirez would not have engaged in horrific acts had he not become introduced to his cousin, but it is to say that that particular relationship had a lasting influence on Richard.

    As prior mentioned, Miguel and Richard formed a bond, one that formed while Richard was highly moldable. Miguel had shown photographs to Richard of women who could be seen on their knees with guns with their heads, appearing to be forced into giving men oral sex (Dietrich et al., 2007). A picture shown to Ramirez during this time also depicted Miguel holding the severed head of a woman who appeared to have been giving oral sex to Miguel in a previous picture (Dietrich et al., 2007). According to Thornberry, associating with delinquents results in criminal behavior or vice versa, criminal behaviors results in the association of delinquents (Schramm, 2018).

    Despite his crimes being done solely by him, they seemed to strongly influenced by those who were around him. The fact that Ramirez would often swiftly murder the males, but prolong the murder of the female with forced oral sex and torture shows that the war stories told and pictures shown by his cousin may have driven his disdain for women. All of these characteristics put together would best classify Ramirez’s criminal behavior under Thornberry’s Interactional Model.

    A man of pure evil was eventually sentenced to death row in September of 1989 (Richard Ramirez, 2018). He was convicted of thirteen counts of murder, five counts attempted murders, eleven counts of sexual assaults, and fourteen burglary charges (Richard Ramirez, 2017). It is believed that he committed a multitude of other offenses, including murders, that he was not charged. Richard Ramirez showed no remorse for his actions and throughout his trial he continued to show pride in his Satanic beliefs. Some who shared his Satanist beliefs even seen him as a prodigy; a woman, Doreen Lioy, even became infatuated with him and eventually married him during his incarceration in California’s San Quentin State Prison during October of 1996 (Who was Richard Ramirez?, 2017). After 23 years, Ramirez passed away on death row from lymphoma at the age of 53 on June 7, 2013 (Who was Richard Ramirez?, 2017).

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    What Influences Criminal Behavior?. (2021, Jun 08). Retrieved from

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