The Cecil Hotel front doors
The Cecil Hotel front doors

Serial Killers Who Stayed at the Cecil Hotel

Feature Image Credit: Wilrooij, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Cecil Hotel is mostly known for one thing, and one thing only: A long, tragic history of death. In its heyday, it was the hotel of nightmares. Of course, we can see the whole macabre painting in hindsight. The deaths started early, almost as soon as the hotel opened its doors. This dark piece of Las Angeles history has seen more than its fair share of suicides, overdoses, and, of course, murders. But what might surprise you – though it’s actually quite fitting for the Cecil – is that at least two serial killers have called this building “home” for a time.


Now, the two killers in this article certainly weren’t the only criminals to stay at the Cecil Hotel, and there’s a possibility that more serial killers have bunked there in the past. These types try their best to stay under the radar. Either that or their deranged fun gets cut short, and the Cecil was a good place for hiding. It would’ve been easy for killers to go unnoticed in the slummy crowd of a hotel known for unwittingly harboring every type of degenerate under the Sun. Especially, if you take into account that most of the years the Cecil was open, authorities and businesses didn’t have very advanced surveillance technology. Nothing like what we have today.


So, what we’re really trying to say is that this list is of the known serial killers who stayed at the Cecil Hotel. Others, outside of the two in this piece, may have slipped through the cracks. But with the kill counts of these killers, it might be best not to add any more bodies to the Cecil’s list.

Richard Ramirez Mugshot
Los Angeles Police Department, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“Nightstalker” Richard Ramirez stayed at the Cecil Hotel in the ‘80s

Richard Ramirez, known as the “Nightstalker” killer, was an active serial killer in California during the mid-’80s. He was only 24 years old when he started what CBS says was a 14-person killing spree. For being so young, he accomplished a load of terrible deeds in a short time. As far as the evidence suggests, Ramirez was only murdering for about two years before he was captured, tried, and convicted to 19 life sentences. Murder wasn’t Ramirez’s only twisted vice either. Among his other crimes was the sexual assault of his victims, which is more common among these types of murderers than you’d think.

Classically, serial killers have very specific types of victims. Ramirez, however, seemed less discriminative than average. His victims ranged from his elderly mother to a 9-year-old girl. If evil exists as a function of the universe, Ramirez is truly among the damned.

In 1985, the Nightstalker moved into the Cecil Hotel, where he rented a top-floor room for cheap. Yes, he was active at the time. So, it’s likely he was walking in and out the front door, waving at the bellhop who undoubtedly knew his name, pretending like he hadn’t been out the night before unjustly ending the lives of women around LA. At least during the daylight. The back door was Ramirez’s preference when returning from a “night out.” It put him in the perfect position to dump his blood-covered clothes in the dumpster, and since the 1980s’ forensics were – well – not great, that single trick helped keep him unnoticed for months.

The Nightstalker was captured in September of 1985. It’s a funny story, really, since he was beaten by an angry mob before the authorities could put him in handcuffs.

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A man choking a woman
Image by Diana Cibotari from Pixabay

Austrian Johann “Jack” Unterweger stayed at the Cecil Hotel in the ‘90s

The second of the known serial killers who stayed at the Cecil Hotel was Johann “Jack” Unterweger. Jack moved into the Cecil around half a decade after Ramirez’s capture, as if a moth drawn to a flame, likely in homage to the previous killer.


The story of Jack Unterweger is a dark one. Not only because of his sick, murderous hobbies but because darkness was part of his job. Unterweger moved from Austria to Las Angeles on assignment. See, this killer was a journalist who worked for an Austrian press, and his task was to report on the darker aspects of California’s most famous city. His editors couldn’t have known he’d become one of the darkest aspects himself. Or could they have?


Unterweger’s criminal life didn’t begin when he came to the United States. It started back in Austria where he strangled at least nine women. It started in his home country where he littered the forest with bodies, then reported on a wave of crime as if he’d never been a part of it. But even then, it had started before that. Unterweger had served time in prison for both murder and sexual assault before becoming a celebrity writer, pulled to the top of the intellectual ladder. He was a success story, a completely reformed man, and proof that the Austrian prison system was working as intended.


In truth, Unterweger was none of those things. He was an actor, and everyone else was diluted. Unterweger would strangle at least 12 women to death, three of which – sex workers – he killed in the United States. And these murders occurred – you guessed it – while the Austrian strangler was staying at the Cecil Hotel.

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