Jury gets Alcala case; convictions in earlier trials were overturned

The case against alleged serial killer Rodney James Alcala went to the jury Tuesday, setting the stage for a possible third conviction of a man who has twice been condemned to death row in the kidnapping and murder of a 12-year-old Huntington Beach girl.

Each of those convictions was overturned. The case this time has expanded as authorities said they were able to tie Alcala to other 1970s-era slayings.

Alcala, 66, is accused in the 1979 kidnapping and murder of Robin Samsoe, 12. He is also charged with murdering four Los Angeles County women between 1977 and 1979. Investigators said they linked Alcala to the torture and murder of Jill Barcomb, 18; Georgia Wixted, 27; Charlotte Lamb, 32; and Jill Parenteau, 21, with DNA, blood and fingerprint evidence.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Matt Murphy called Alcala a “predatory monster.”

“Don’t feel sorry for him,” he told the jury.

Murphy told jurors Alcala tortured his victims by choking them until they were unconscious, allowing them to regain consciousness, then strangling them again. Alcala raped one victim with a hammer and beat another with a large rock, he said. Once the women were dead, Alcala, a former photographer, posed the victims and probably took photos, Murphy said.

In a long, somewhat rambling closing argument, Alcala -- who is acting as his own attorney -- mostly ignored the four Los Angeles cases and focused on rebutting the prosecution’s contention that he killed Robin Samsoe.

He denied being the photographer witnesses said approached Robin and a friend the day she disappeared after visiting the beach. He conceded taking pictures of a bikini-clad 15-year-old girl nearby.

Alcala also spent several minutes showing the jury photos of young girls and boys he took before his arrest and flipped casually through a book of photos he took in Mexico. The point appeared to be that the photos were harmless, not the stuff of the sadistic killer prosecutors portrayed.

The prosecution’s case, Alcala said, was based on “magical thinking.”

Throughout the trial, which started in January, Alcala has focused on disproving a handful of details he said prosecutors got wrong about the Samsoe case.

One of those details was whether the young girl’s ears were pierced. Prosecutors say earrings found in Alcala’s storage locker were taken as a “trophy.”

On Tuesday, Alcala told jurors the prosecution had failed to introduce photos of Robin showing her ears pierced. He also argued that Robin’s mother had failed to immediately tell police after her daughter’s disappearance that the young girl wore earrings.

An earring with Lamb’s DNA was also found in the storage locker, though it was not tested until earlier this decade.

Alcala’s insistence on focusing on details about the Samsoe case while ignoring the other murders left an “800-pound gorilla in the room,” Murphy told the jury.

“You’re going to convict him of those cases,” the prosecutor said. “He knows that. Everybody knows that.”