'Trophies' and 'keepsakes' collected from victims linked him to more cases, each more horrifying than the other
Over time, while some serial killers rose in fame, others faded from the spotlight. Not many may remember the 'Dating Game Killer' of the 70's who had charmed his way to victory on a dating show and raped and killed over 130 women.
The man, Rodney Alcala, was described by the producer of The Dating Game as having an unnerving "mystique about him". Little did anyone know that the same 'suave, handsome, young man' would go on slay as many as 130 women.
The serial killer's modus operandi was to strangle his victims until they passed out, then resuscitate and rape them in a sick torture game. If producers had checked his background before featuring him on the show, they would have known that he had served prison time for sexual assault and had been charged with the attempted murder of an eight-year-old girl, the Daily Star explained.
Alcala, who has been compared to the 'handsome and charming' serial killer Ted Bundy, was selected for the Dating show, which he won with bachelorette Cheryl Bradshaw choosing him as her date. During the 1978 appearance, he told host Jim Lange, "I'm called the banana and I look really good." Cheryl dodged the bullet when she chose never to go on the date after but many women weren't so lucky.
The Daily Star reported that Alcala's first victim was 8-year-old Tali Shapiro who he had brutally raped and beaten in Los Angeles in 1968. He fled California to evade arrest and enrolled at the NYU film school in New York under the name John Berger. At the beginning of 1971, the FBI had added Alcala to their Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. Alcala on the other hand used a variation of his alias, John Burger, to get a job at an arts camp for kids. Later that year, he claimed his first victim, 23-year-old flight attendant Cornelia Crilley, in New York. Her naked corpse was found by police in 1971 with a bite mark on her breast and material in her throat which suggested that she had been gagged. Her murder remained unsolved until 2011.
The Daily Star reported that two children at the camp recognized Alcala from the FBI poster and he was extradited back to California the same year. Tali's parents didn't let her testify at his trial so prosecutors couldn't convict him of rape and attempted murder, instead, they had to settle for a charge of assault. He served 17 months in jail but was unfortunately released on parole in 1974. Barely two months later, he was arrested for assaulting a 13-year-old girl and was given a second "indeterminate sentence", before being released on parole for the second time in 1977.
Despite being a repeat offender, he was permitted to travel to New York where he claimed another victim, 23-year-old Ellen Jane Hover. Her body was found on the grounds of a hospital, badly decomposed. Investigators found that she had written on her calendar that she was going to meet a man called John Berger but they had no idea that it was Alcala's alias at the time. In 1979, a year after his appearance on The Dating Game, he was caught. This time he had claimed the life of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe, whose decomposing corpse was found in the Los Angeles foothills. Her friends told detectives that a stranger had approached them on the beach, asking if he could take pictures of them, reported the Daily Star.
The suspect's sketch was circulated and Alcala's parole officer recognized him immediately. Samsoe's earrings were later found during a search of a storage locker linked to Alcala where he had kept them as a sick trophy. He was then tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for Robin's murder in 1980, but unfortunately, the verdict was overturned because jurors were not informed correctly about his prior sex offenses. In 1986, a second trial returned the same verdict and sentence but was again nullified. By the time prosecutors were preparing for a third trial in 2003, Investigators found Alcala's DNA, specifically semen, at various crime scenes, linking him to more rapes and murders, reported the Daily Star.
The Daily Star further reported that he was found responsible for the murders of Jill Barcomb, an 18-year-old runaway found "rolled up like a ball" in a Los Angeles ravine in 1977; Georgia Wixted, 27, in Malibu in 1977; Charlotte Lamb in El Segundo in 1978; and Jill Parenteau, 21, in Burbank in 1979. In 2010, Alcala stood trial for five murders and bizarrely acted as his own defence lawyer, even taking the stand and cross-examining himself for five hours. He was found guilty of all five murders and sentenced to death in March 2010.
He later admitted murdering Cornelia Crilley and Ellen Hover too.
Later that month, 120 photographs taken by Alcala were released to the public, who were then asked to help to identify the subjects in case any were missing persons. Around 900 additional photos were deemed too sexually explicit to be shared. Christine Thornton, whose body was found in Wyoming in 1982, was identified by her relative. Alcala was charged with her murder in 2016 but was "too ill" to make the journey from California to stand trial. He was found to have killed as many as 130 people. 'Trophies' and 'keepsakes' linked him to more cases, each more horrifying than the other. Alcala was due to be executed on death row, but his lethal injection was postponed indefinitely when California outlawed the death penalty in 2019. He is now rotting in Corcoran State Prison in central California, reported the Daily Star.