Rodney Alcala is a convicted rapist, torturer and serial killer who evaded justice for 40 years. Dubbed the “Dating Game Killer” Alcala was once a contestant on the show, “The Dating Game,” where he won a date with another contestant, however the date never happened because the woman found him to be too creepy.
Alcala’s Childhood Years
Rodney Alcala was born on August 23, 1943, in San Antonio, Texas to Raoul Alcala Buquor and Anna Maria Gutierrez. His father left, leaving Anna Maria to raise Alcala and his sisters alone. At around the age of 12, Anna Maria moved the family to Los Angeles.
At the age of 17, Alcala joined the Army and remained there until 1964 when he received a medical discharge after being diagnosed with a severe anti-social personality.
Alcala, now out of the Army, enrolled in UCLA School of Fine Arts where is earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1968. This is the same year that he kidnapped, raped, beat and tried to kill his first known victim.
Tali Shapiro was an 8-year-old on her way to school when she was lured into Alcala’s car, an act that did not go unnoticed by a nearby motorist who followed the two and contacted police.
Alcala took Tali into his apartment where he raped, beat and attempted to strangle her with a 10-pound metal bar. When police arrived, they kicked in the door and found Tali laying on the kitchen floor in a large puddle of blood and not breathing. Because of the brutality of the beating they thought she was dead and begin to search for Alcala in the apartment.
A police officer, returning to the kitchen, saw Tali struggling to breathe. All attention went to trying to keep her alive and at some point Alcala managed to slip out the backdoor.
When searching Alcala’s apartment the police found several pictures, many of young girls. They also found out his name and that he had attended UCLA. But it took several months before they would find Alcala.
On the Run but Not Hiding
Alcala, now using the name John Berger, fled to New York and enrolled in NYU film school. From 1968 to 1971, even though he was listed on the FBI’s most wanted list, he lived undetected and in full view. Playing the role of a “groovy” film student, amateur photographer, single hot shot, Alcala moved around New York’s single clubs.
During the summer months he worked at an all girl’s summer drama camp in New Hampshire.
In 1971, two girls attending the camp recognized Alcala on a wanted poster at the post office. The police were notified and Alcala was arrested.
In August, 1971, Alcala was returned to Los Angeles, but the prosecutor’s case had a major flaw – Tali Shapiro’s family had returned to Mexico soon after Tali recovered from the attack. Without their main witness, the decision was made to offer Alcala a plea deal.
Alcala, charged with rape, kidnapping, assault, and attempted murder, accepted a deal to plead guilty to child molestation. The other charges were dropped. He was sentenced to one year to life, and was paroled after 34 months under the “indeterminate sentencing” program. The program allowed a parole board, not a judge, to decide on when offenders could be released based on if they appeared rehabilitated. With Alcala’s ability to charm, he was back out on the streets in less than three years.
Within eight weeks he returned to prison for violating his parole for providing marijuana to a 13-year-old girl. She told police that Alcala kidnapped her, but he was not charged.
Alcala spent another two years behind bars and was released in 1977, again under the “indeterminate sentencing” program. He returned to Los Angeles and got a job as a typesetter for the Los Angeles Times.
It did not take long for Alcala to get back into his murderous rampage.
- The Murder of Jill Barcomb, Los Angeles County
In November 1977, Alcala raped, sodomized, and murdered 18-year-old Jill Barcomb, a New York native who had recently moved to California. Alcala used a large rock to smash in her face, and strangle her to death by tying her belt and pant leg around her neck.
Alcala then left her body in a mountainous area in the foothills near Hollywood, where she was discovered Nov. 10, 1977, posed on her knees with her face in the dirt.
- Murder of Georgia Wixted, Los Angeles County
In December 1977, Alcala raped, sodomized, and murdered 27-year-old nurse Georgia Wixted. Alcala used a hammer to sexually abuse Georgia, then used the claw end of the hammer to beat and smash in her head. He strangled her to death using a nylon stocking and left her body posed in her Malibu apartment. Her body was discovered Dec. 16, 1977.
- Murder of Charlotte Lamb, Los Angeles County
In June 1979, Alcala raped, beat, and murdered 33-year-old legal secretary Charlotte Lamb. Alcala strangled Charlotte to death using a shoelace from her shoe and left her body posed in a laundry room of an El Segundo apartment complex where it was discovered on June 24, 1979.
- Murder of Jill Parenteau, Los Angeles County
In June 1979, Alcala raped and murdered 21-year-old Jill Parenteau in her Burbank apartment. He strangled Jill to death using a cord or nylon. Alcala’s blood was collected from the scene after he cut himself crawling through a window. Based on a semi-rare blood match, Alcala was linked to the murder. He was charged for murdering Parenteau, but the case was later dismissed.
- Murder of Robin Samsoe, Orange County
On June 20, 1979, Alcala approached 12-year-old Robin Samsoe and her friend Bridget Wilvert at Huntington Beach and asked them to pose for pictures. After posing for a series of photographs, a neighbor intervened and asked if everything was alright and Samsoe took off. Later Robin got on a bike and headed to an afternoon dance class.
Alcala kidnapped and murdered Samsoe and dumped her body near Sierra Madre in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. Her body was scavenged by animals and her skeletal remains were discovered July 2, 1979. Her front teeth had been knocked out by Alcala.
After the Samsoe murder, Alcala rented a storage locker in Seattle, where police found hundreds of photos of young women and girls and a bag of personal items that they suspected belonged to Alcala’s victims. A pair of earrings found in the bag were identified by Samsoe’s mother as being a pair she owned.
Alcala was also identified by several people as the photographer from the beach on the day Samsoe was kidnapped.
Following an investigation, Alcala was charged, tried, and convicted for Samsoe’s murder in 1980. He was sentenced to receive the death penalty. The conviction was later overturned by the California Supreme Court.
Alcala was again tried and convicted for the murder of Samsoe in 1986, and was again sentenced to the death penalty. The second conviction was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Three Times a Charm
While awaiting his third trial for the murder of Samsoe, DNA collected from the murder scenes of Barcomb, Wixted, and Lamb was linked to Alcala. He was charged for the four Los Angeles murders, including Parenteau.
At the third trial, Alcala represented himself as his own defense attorney and argued that he was at Knott’s Berry Farm on the afternoon that Samsoe was murdered. Alcala did not contest the charges that he committed the murders of the four Los Angeles victims, but rather focused on the Samsoe charges.
At one point he took the stand and questioned himself in third-person, changing his tone depending on if he was acting as his lawyer or as himself.
On Feb. 25, 2010, the jury found Alcala guilty of all five counts of capital murder, one count of kidnapping and four counts of rape.
During the penalty phase, Alcala attempted to sway the jury away from the death penalty by playing the song “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie, which includes the lyrics, “I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL.”
His strategy did not work and the jury quickly recommended the death penalty to which the judge agreed.
Immediately after Alcala’s conviction, the Huntington police released 120 of Alcala’s photos to the public. Suspecting that Alcala had more victims, the police asked for the public’s help in identifying the women and children in the photos. Since then several of the unknown faces have been identified.
New York Murders
Two murder cases in New York have also been linked through DNA to Alcala. TWA flight attendant Cornelia “Michael” Crilley, was murdered 1971 while Alcala was enrolled at NYU. Ciro’s Nightclub heiress Ellen Jane Hover was murdered in 1977 during the time that Alcala had received permission from his parole officer to go to New York to visit family.
Currently Alcala is on death row at San Quentin State Prison.