Once dubbed as a “killing machine” by a detective, Rodney Alcala is one of the most notorious serial killers of the 20th century.
While most killers prefer to operate in the dark, Alcala likes the spotlight. In the very midst of his killing spree, he appeared as a contestant on ABC’s long-time TV matchmaking show “The Dating Game.” He successfully got the interest of a young lady in front of millions of viewers, but unknown to all he was keeping a deadly secret – he is a prolific serial killer.
Getting to Know the Serial Killer
Rodney Alcala’s youth was a troubled one. His father abandoned their family at a young age which is thought to have played a crucial factor in the disorders that caused him to be a killer.
He dropped out of school and joined the military at age 17. He experienced a nervous breakdown while serving in the army and was later discharged after being diagnosed with a severe antisocial disorder. This would be his first diagnosis among the long list of disorders leveled at him throughout the years, which includes – sexual sadism comorbidity, psychopathy, borderline personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.
Unfortunately, most of the mentioned disorders were only made known after Alcala was arrested in 1979. He was still able to study at UCLA School of Fine Arts and later at New York University (NYU). Alcala also made it as one of the competing three bachelors in a popular TV show to capture the heart of a female bachelorette. Despite Alcala’s disorders, he was able to quickly turn on the TV charm.
Alcala’s first known victim was Tali Shapiro, an 8-year old girl who he lured to go with him into his apartment. During the kidnapping incident, he was witnessed by a nearby motorist who followed them and informed the authorities. The police came and found Tali beaten, raped with a vast amount of blood all over the place. The young girl was rescued, but Alcala escaped.
It was later discovered that Alcala fled to the east coast and enrolled himself at a film school in NYU under a new name “John Berger.” He was later arrested after two campers saw Alcala’s FBI wanted poster and notified the police. However, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge when Tali’s parents refused to allow their daughter to serve as a primary witness during the trial. He was paroled after 34 months under the “indeterminate sentence” for demonstrating evidence of “rehabilitation.”
Two months later, Alcala was arrested for assaulting a 13-year old girl. The victim testified against him in the court, but Alcala was again paroled after serving 2 years under “indeterminate sentence.”
Alcala’s next known murder was committed in 1971 wherein he brutally raped and murdered a flight attendant in Manhattan. The case was not solved at the time, but later in 2011 his criminal involvement in the case, resurfaced. Because of Alcala’s prolific killings record, he soon became part of FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” in 1971.
The Dating Game Appearance
Despite being a registered sex offender and a convicted rapist, Alcala was accepted as a contestant on the famous matchmaking show The Dating Game in 1978. He was introduced as a successful photographer in the show, but he still failed to hide his behavior which was found by his co-contestants a bit odd. Jed Mills described him as a “very strange guy” with “bizarre opinions.”
In the show, Alcala won a date with bachelorette Cheryl Bradshaw who subsequently declined the rendezvous backstage because she got an odd feeling that something was a little off with Alcala. Turns out her intuition wasn’t wrong.
Pat Brown, a criminal profiler, noting that Alcala killed Robin Samsoe, a 12-year-old girl from Huntington Beach and at least 2 more women after his appearance on the popular TV show, speculated that the rejection he received could have been an exacerbating factor to his killings.
Alcala later earned the nickname “The Dating Game Killer” because of the numerous murder cases under his name.
Photo credit: CBS News
The Capture of the Dating Game Killer
Alcala was imprisoned for Samsoe’s murder in 1979. While being incarcerated, he has written “You, the Jury,” a book in which he attests his innocence from Samsoe’s case. However, given the number of odd photographs recovered from him, the detectives believed that he’s responsible for many more killings. Alcala has taken thousands of photos of various women, men and children naked, and most of these photographs were sexually explicit.
Alcala was convicted and sentenced for the Samsoe murder case, but his sentence was revoked again by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. While waiting for the third trial, DNA found from two murder scenes at Los Angeles were a match to Alcala’s. The DNA test proved a strong connection in the murders of four more women, namely Lamb, Barcomb, Wixted, and Parenteau.
In a bizarre situation during the third trial, Alcala represented himself as his defendant. He acted both as an interrogator and a witness, questioning and answering himself in third-person while changing his tone depending on who he was acting at the moment, as his lawyer or as himself.
On February 25, 2010, the jury came to a decision to hold Alcala guilty of 5 counts of capital murder, four counts of rape and one count of kidnapping. The jury also recommended the death penalty to which the judge of the court agreed.
Around the same time after Alcala’s conviction, the Huntington Police released 120 photos collected by Rodney Alcala during his killing spree. Suspecting that Alcala had more victims, the police asked for the public’s help to find the whereabouts of the women and children in the pictures and to know if there were more victims. About 21 women came forward to identify themselves. A few families also recognized their loved ones who went missing years ago.
According to the police, there are about 900 more photos that weren’t released to the public because of its explicit sexual content. It is suspected that there are more victims of Alcala to be uncovered since several of the unknown faces from the photographs have not been identified.
Alcala is also considered as the prime suspect in the two murder cases during the 1970s in New York.
Currently, Alcala who is now 74, is on death row at San Quentin State Prison.