Judge weeps as ‘Dating Game’ serial killer Rodney Alcala sentenced
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California serial killer Rodney Alcala was sentenced to additional prison time in New York for the murders of two more women, a case that brought a veteran judge to tears during the hearing.
Alcala, who is already on death row in California for the murders of four women and a girl, pleaded guilty in December to the 1971 murder of Cornelia Crilley and the 1977 murder of Ellen Hover, both in New York. On Monday, New York Supreme Court Judge Bonnie Wittner handed down a sentence of 25 years to life in prison, the Wall Street Journal reported.
‘This kind of case is something I’ve never experienced, hope to never again. I just want to say I hope these families find some peace and solace for these inexplicably brutal and horrific acts,’ Wittner said, according to the Journal.
Wittner then dissolved into tears. ‘As I said, in 30 years I’ve never had a case like this,’ she said.
Alcala raped and strangled Crilley, a 23-year-old TWA flight attendant, inside her Upper East Side apartment in 1971. Six years later, he killed Hover, also 23 and living in Manhattan. Her body was found in Westchester County, not far from her family’s estate.
The Journal reported that many in attendance at Monday’s sentencing wore stickers bearing the black-and-white photograph that initially appeared in stories about Crilley’s death. ‘Cornelia Always in Our Hearts,’ the stickers read.
Crilley’s sister, Katie Stigell, spoke to the court, using most of her time talking about her sister, who ‘was in her prime’ and ‘wouldn’t hurt anybody.’ But Stigell also had words for Alcala.
‘Mr. Alcala, I want you to know you broke my parents’ hearts,’ Stigell said. ‘They never really recovered.’
Hover’s stepsisters declined to appear in court. Instead, prosecutor Alex Spiro read a letter on their behalf, the Journal reported.
‘Ellen was a sweet, kind, generous, compassionate, loving and beautiful young woman. She chose to see the good in everyone she met because she had a huge and open heart,’ the letter read. ‘Her senseless murder irreparably damaged our family.’
Alcala, a self-styled playboy who once appeared on ‘The Dating Game’ TV match-making show, spent much of the 1970s eluding police by changing identities and locales. He has been behind bars since 1979, when he was arrested in the death of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe of Huntington Beach. Twice he was sent to death row for murder, but both convictions were overturned on appeal. In February 2010, he was convicted again for Samsoe’s murder and for the murders of four women in Los Angeles County. He is now awaiting execution.
At a news conference after Monday’s hearing, Manhattan Dist. Atty. Cyrus Vance said Alcala would be returned to California, where he is appealing his death-penalty conviction. Should that conviction be overturned, Vance said, Alcala would return to New York for his sentence.
The extent of Alcala’s crimes were revealed as a task force formed by the Los Angeles Police Department and other agencies that was examining cold cases tied him to slayings across Southern California. New York police had long considered Alcala a suspect in the slayings of Crilley and Hover and had taken impressions of his teeth in 2003. Alcala had lived in New York periodically between 1968 and 1977.
During that period, Crilley was found raped and strangled with her nylon stockings in her Manhattan apartment. Around that time, Alcala was working at a summer camp for girls in New Hampshire, authorities said.
Hover went missing in July 1977 and her body was discovered the following year. Before she disappeared, she had written the name ‘John Berger’ in a planner, a name police believe Alcala used as an alias while in New York.
The Southern California killings began just a few months later.
THE ALCALA CASE: A TIMELINE
1972 — Alcala is convicted in the 1968 rape and beating of an 8-year-old girl.
Nov. 10, 1977 — The body of 18-year-old Jill Barcomb is found in the Hollywood Hills. She had been sexually assaulted, bludgeoned and strangled with a pair of blue pants.
Dec. 16, 1977 — Georgia Wixted, 27, is found beaten to death at her home in Malibu. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.
1978 — Alcala appears in an episode of “The Dating Game” as Bachelor No. 1.
June 24, 1978 — Charlotte Lamb, a 32-year-old legal secretary from Santa Monica, is found in the laundry room of an El Segundo apartment complex. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled with a shoelace.
June 14, 1979 — Jill Parenteau, 21, of Burbank is found strangled on the floor of her Burbank apartment. June 20, 1979 – Robin Samsoe, 12, disappears near the Huntington Beach Pier. Her body is found 12 days later in the Sierra Madre foothills.
July 24, 1979 — Rodney James Alcala, an unemployed photographer, is arrested at his parents’ Monterey Park home.
September 1980 – Alcala is convicted of the 1978 rape of a 15-year-old Riverside girl and sentenced to nine years in state prison.
June 20, 1980 — Orange County Superior Court Judge Philip E. Schwab sentences Alcala to death after he is convicted of Samsoe’s murder.
July 11, 1980 — The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office files murder, burglary and sexual assault charges against Alcala in the slaying of Parenteau.
April 15, 1981 — The L.A. district attorney’s office tells a judge that prosecution of Alcala in the Parenteau case could not proceed because a key witness admitted that he had committed perjury in another case.
Aug. 23, 1984 — The state Supreme Court reversed Alcala’s murder conviction in connection with Samsoe, ruling that the jury was improperly told about Alcala’s prior sex crimes.
June 20, 1986 — For the second time, Alcala is convicted for Samsoe’s murder and sentenced to death in Orange County Superior Court.
Dec. 31, 1992 — The California Supreme Court unanimously upholds Alcala’s death sentence.
April 2, 2001 — A federal appellate court overturns Alcala’s death sentence in the Samsoe case, ruling that the Superior Court judge precluded the defense from presenting evidence “material to significant issues.”
June 5, 2003 — The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office files murder charges against Alcala alleging that he killed Wixted during a burglary and rape.
Sept. 19, 2005 — Additional murder charges are filed against Alcala in connection to the deaths of Barcomb, Wixted and Lamb.
Jan. 11, 2010 — Alcala’s trial for the five murders begins. He represents himself.
— Kate Mather and Richard Winton
Convicted serial killer Rodney Alcala appears in a New York courtroom on Monday, where he was sentenced for two murders in the 1970s. Credit: David Handschuh / Associated Press