Week in Review : MAJOR EVENTS, IMAGES AND PEOPLE IN ORANGE COUNTY NEWS. : COURTS : For Mother of Murdered 12-Year-Old, Justice Is Served Again
For the mother of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe of Huntington Beach, justice finally was served.
Seven years after her daughter’s body was found in the mountains, Rodney James Alcala was convicted last week of first-degree murder.
“I thank God,” Marianne Frazier said after the verdict. “Maybe now my daughter can go to sleep for the first time in seven years. Maybe the rest of my family can go back to life.”
It was the second time Alcala had been convicted for killing Robin. The first time, he was sentenced to die, but the state Supreme Court overturned his conviction.
Robin Samsoe was last seen alive on June 30, 1979, in the Sunset Beach area. A man had approached her and a girlfriend and asked to take their pictures. Afterward, Robin borrowed her friend’s bicycle and was not seen alive again.
Armed with a composite drawing, police arrested Alcala, 41, a Monterey Park part-time photographer. And they found evidence in a rented storage locker in Seattle that showed Alcala had been taking pictures at Sunset Beach that day.
In his first trial, Alcala was convicted of first-degree murder. But two years ago, the state Supreme Court overturned the ruling, eliminating some key prosecution evidence, including information about Alcala’s criminal past. That past included abductions of three girls, two of whom he had beaten unconscious.
The Supreme Court ruled that the information about Alcala’s past had an “inflammatory impact” on the jury and that there were not enough similarities between the earlier attacks and the Samsoe slaying to waive the general rule that prosecutors may not refer to a defendant’s criminal past.
Alcala, who is in custody at County Jail, was ordered to return to court June 9, when the same jury must recommend the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
After Wednesday’s verdict, Keith C. Monroe of Santa Ana, one of Alcala’s attorneys, said there is “overwhelming evidence” to appeal the conviction.
An appeal would focus on the testimony of a forest service ranger who at the first trial said she saw a blond girl and a man in the mountain area where Robin’s body was later found. She gave a close description of Alcala’s car and said Alcala looked similar to the man, but she could not positively identify him.
In the second trial, she testified that she could not remember anything from that day, and the judge allowed the jury to hear a transcript of her earlier testimony. Alcala’s attorneys protested the judge’s decision and contended the ranger had been hypnotized to recall details at the time of her first testimony. But outside the presence of the jury, the judge decided there was no evidence of such a hypnosis.