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Alcala Again Given Death Sentence in Slaying of Girl, 12

Times Staff Writer

Rodney James Alcala, who got a reprieve from San Quentin’s Death Row a year ago, was given a death verdict for the second time Friday for the slaying of a 12-year-old Huntington Beach girl.

The jury’s death verdict came seven years to the day that Robin Samsoe disappeared near the Huntington Beach Pier, June 20, 1979. Her body was found 12 days later in the Sierra Madre foothills of Los Angeles County.

Samsoe’s mother, Maryann Frazier, was shaking moments before the jury verdict. When she heard the penalty, she sobbed aloud, “Oh, God,” and fell into the arms of her fiance, Harry Conley. She later hugged jury foreman Joyce Carey and told her, while wiping away tears, “Thank you. My daughter deserved this.”

Earlier Verdict Overturned

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Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. James Enright was also elated, saying, “This was a good trial. I’m confident this verdict will not be overturned.”

The state Supreme Court last year overturned an earlier death penalty verdict against Alcala, ruling that evidence about his previous attacks on women had been improperly used as evidence in the guilt phase of his trial.

Alcala, 41, who had calmly asked the jury Wednesday to spare him the death penalty, saying “I didn’t kill her,” was stone-faced when he heard the verdict.

The jury of six men and six women, who had to choose between the death verdict or life without parole, deliberated less than a day and a half.

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Orange County Superior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin set formal sentencing for Aug. 20. In California, a judge has the right to reduce a jury’s death verdict to life without parole, but that has never been done in Orange County.

Robin Samsoe was last seen after she had borrowed a bicycle from a friend near the Huntington Beach Pier so she could get to her dance class. Because her mother could not afford the classes, she had worked out an arrangement with the teacher to let her attend in exchange for working part time at the dance studio. It was to have been Robin’s first day.

Robin’s body was discovered 12 days later. The police investigation centered on Alcala, a part-time photographer from Monterey Park who had a prior record of molesting and beating young girls. Police were alerted after someone matching his description was seen taking pictures of the Samsoe girl and one of her girlfriends along Sunset Beach the day she disappeared.

Alcala was convicted of first-degree murder in Samsoe’s death and given a death sentence in 1980.

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After his second conviction, Alcala’s attorneys said the most recent trial has left plenty of room for more appeals to the state Supreme Court. A principal issue, they said, will be the testimony of Dana Crappa, a former U.S. Forestry Service employee, who said she had seen a man fitting Alcala’s description and a young girl in the area where the Samsoe girl was found.

Crappa testified in 1980 that it appeared that the man was forcing the girl to go with him, but because she wasn’t sure, she did not get involved. Crappa could not positively identify Alcala but gave a detailed description of the car she saw that day, which matched Alcala’s.

However, six weeks ago, at Alcala’s retrial, Crappa claimed amnesia and said she could not answer Deputy Dist. Atty. Thomas Goethals’ questions. Goethals then persuaded McCartin, over stringent defense objections, to let him read before the jurors Crappa’s previous testimony.

Admitted Molestations

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Alcala did not testify at the guilt phase of his trial. During the penalty phase, he admitted a history of molesting young girls but continued to deny he had ever met Robin Samsoe.

Jury foreman Carey said Alcala’s testimony “really didn’t make any difference.”

Carey complimented her colleagues on the jury for their conscientious effort to give Alcala a fair trial. She said the jury spent most of its time in the penalty deliberations going over the evidence, adding that there were no members in favor of a lesser penalty who had to be swayed over by the majority.

“The big thing with all of us was the brutal crimes inflicted on three young girls,” she said, referring to the Samsoe slaying and two previous Alcala assaults discussed during the trial’s penalty phase. “We think Robin must have suffered tremendously.”

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Alcala has admitted two previous incidents in which he raped and brutalized young girls, one of them just a few months before the Samsoe girl’s disappearance.

John Patrick Dolan, one of Alcala’s defense attorneys, had implored the jurors to remember that if they had any lingering doubts at all about Alcala’s guilt, it would be too late to do anything about it once he is executed.

“Obviously none of us had any lingering doubts,” Carey said.

Goethals added: “I am very happy for Maryann Frazier. The Supreme Court decision giving Alcala a new trial was very hard on her. It came at a time when she was just finally getting her life back together. Maybe she can now.”

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