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Rodney Alcala
Birth name: Rodney James Alcala
Also known as: Rod Alcala, John Berger, John Burger
Span of killings: 1968 – 1979
State(s): California, possibly New York
Date apprehended: 1979

Rodney James Alcala (b. August 23 1943) is a convicted rapist and serial killer. Upon his 2010 conviction for five murders from the 1970's, American mass media dubbed him the "Dating Game Killer". This moniker stems from a successful appearance on the 1970's American television show The Dating Game.[1]

He raped one of his victims with a claw hammer, and all of them were repeatedly strangled and resuscitated during their deaths to prolong their agony. Though he has been convicted of five murders in California, some investigators have speculated that the total could be as high as 30 and may extend as far east as New York. He has been likened to notorious serial killer Ted Bundy as well as to Adolf Hitler.[2][3] Authorities state that as investigations go on, he may be recognized as the most prolific serial killer in American history. [4]

Alcala is the first defendant eligible for the death penalty in Orange County to represent himself at trial in 12 years. His IQ has been measured at over 160. [2][3] On March 9, 2010, the trial jury concluded the penalty phase of the trial with a verdict recomendation for death; this is Alcala's third death sentence, given for victim Robin Samsoe and four others. [5]


Early Life

Rodney James Alcala was born in San Antonio, Texas. By the time he was 12, he and his mother and sisters were living in suburban Los Angeles. His father had abandoned the family.

Alcala joined the Army when he was 17 and served as a clerk. In 1964 he had a nervous breakdown; a military psychiatrist described him as an anti-social personality. Discharged, he returned to Los Angeles and enrolled at UCLA, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1968.

Criminal History

Alcala committed his first reported crime in 1968, when he raped and battered an eight-year-old girl referred to in police reports as "Tali S." A "good Samaritan", witnessing the kidnapping, notified authorities, who were dispatched to Alcala's California residence.[6] Alcala fled the residence and spent three years hiding under an assumed name; during this time he gained employment at a New Hampshire arts camp for children. Responsibility for tracking the 25-year old fugitive fell on rookie Juvenile crimes Detective Steve Hodel (author of 2003 NY Times bestseller Black Dahlia Avenger) who succeeded in having Alcala added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list in 1971. Two campers noticed Alcala's flier at the post office and notified camp directors. Under the "indeterminate sentencing" premise that offenders could be rehabilitated (common for the time period) Alcala served 34 months for the attack on "Tali" before being paroled. Alcala was released in 1974 and had his second brush with the law less than two months later. [7]

Alcala was encountered by authorities in the company of a 13-year old girl who claimed she had been kidnapped. Convicted of violating parole and providing marijuana to a minor, Alcala was again incarcerated. Released two years later, his Los Angeles Parole Officer permitted the now-registered child rapist to travel to New York City. He is the main suspect in the cold case murder of Ciro's Nightclub heiress Ellen Jane Hover, who was murdered approximately one week after Alcala's arrival in New York. He is also suspected in the 1979 murder of TWA flight attendant Cornelia "Michael" Crilley. Crilley's boyfriend, then-Brooklyn Assistant Distric Attorney Leon Borstein, stated "I am now almost 71, and this occurred 40 years ago, and I am still affected by it. I was crazy about her at the time. ... I was devastated by her death." Though Borstein was initially suspected, the NYPD has now focused their attention on Alcala. The cases of both Hover and Crilley are officially unsolved.[8]

Robin Samsoe was Alcala's first officially documented murder (though not first chronologically). Alcala has been tried and convicted three times for her 1979 murder. Both early convictions were overturned for procedural misconduct; while working on a third prosecution in 2003, Orange County investigators were notified that Alcala's DNA sample (taken under a then-new state law) matched two cold case victims from Los Angeles. Another cold hit was made in 2004, bringing Alcala's official tally to four murders. Alcala initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but has since modified that to a plea of not guilty. [9]

Of the two new Los Angeles victims, 18-year old Jill Barcomb was originally credited as a victim of The Hillside Strangler, active at that time; DNA profiling nearly 30 years later would prove otherwise. Barcomb was killed within line of sight of Marlon Brando's Mulholland Drive estate, and the investigation into her death included LAPD Detective Philip Vannatter, who would later gain notoriety as one of the lead detectives on the O.J. Simpson case.

Alcala's 2010 conviction results from relatively rare inter-agency cooperation between investigators and prosecutors in Los Angeles and Orange counties in Pacific-coast California and New York City on the Atlantic seaboard. Alcala continues to deny all involvement in the crimes for which he was convicted.

Officials in New York have displayed confidence in their evidence against Alcala, but they are yielding to California in prosecution. New York still has the option of filing charges against Alcala; whether they will has yet to be officially declared. [10]

Education and Career

Alcala is described as highly intelligent, reportedly having a "near genius IQ of 135" (though some outlets put the score as high as 160). He has been able to maintain reliable, though somewhat inconsistent, employment despite his travels and legal troubles.

He is a graduate of the UCLA school of Fine Arts, has attended New York University under the alias "John Berger", and has studied film under Roman Polanski. He is also a published "true crime" author (You, the Jury, 1994) and a former US Army clerk. In 1977 he was hired as a typesetter to aid the Los Angeles Times in their coverage of the Hillside Strangler murders, much to the consternation of local authorities. A Los Angeles prosecuting attorney has been quoted as stating '"They hired him, with his name, having kidnapped and raped an 8-year-old ... How did he get a job there? He was using his name. It wasn't like he was using an alias. He was a convicted child molester and registered sex offender."' [11] During at least one trip to New York, Alcala obtained employment as a security guard.


  • Rodney Alcala (legal name)
  • Rod Alcala
  • John Berger
  • John Burger


year of event Event, victim name indicates date of crime (offense; offender status. location) Alias used
1961-64 US Army Rodney Alcala
1968 Graduated UCLA, Bachelor of Fine Arts (California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1968 "Tali S." age 8 (Rape, Battery; Convicted. California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1968-71 Fugitive
1968-1971 enrolled at NYU (New York, USA) John Burger
1970-71 Camp Counselor (New Hampshire, USA) John Burger
1971 Cornelia Crilley age 23 (Murder; Suspected. New York, USA)
1971 FBI Ten Most Wanted Rodney Alcala
1971-1974 incarcerated ("Tali S.") (California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1974 "Julie J." age 13 (Parole Violation, providing pot to minor; Convicted. California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1974-78 Ted Bundy (Colorado/Florida/Idaho/Oregon/Utah, et al., USA) *for time-line comparison
1974-77 incarcerated ("Julie J.") (California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1975-77 Son of Sam aka David Berkowitz (New York, USA) *for time-line comparison
1977 Ellen Hover (Murder; Suspected. New York, USA) John Berger
1977 Los Angeles Times typesetter (California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1977-78 Hillside Strangler (California, USA) *for time-line comparison
1977 Jill Barcomb age 18 (Murder; Convicted. California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1977 Questioned by FBI regarding Hover (California, USA) Rodney Alcala, John Berger
1977 Georgia Wixted age 27 (Murder; Convicted. California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1978 Charlotte Lamb age 32 (Murder; Convicted. California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1978 interviewed as part of Hillside Strangler investigation (California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1978 incarcerated (Posession-drugs) (California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1978 "The Dating Game" TV game show contestant (USA) Rod Alcala aka Bachelor Number One
1979 "Monique H." age 15 (kidnapping, Rape, battery; Convicted California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1979 Jill Parenteau age 21 (Murder; Convicted. California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1979 Robin Samsoe age 12 (Murder; Convicted. California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1979 incarcerated pending trial (Samsoe) (California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1980 sentenced to death (Samsoe) (California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1984 Samsoe overturned by CA Supreme Court (first conviction) (California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1986 sentenced to death (Samsoe) (California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1994 You, the Jury true crime book Rodney Alcala
2001 Samsoe overturned by 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals (second conviction) (USA) Rodney Alcala
2002 DNA collected (California, USA) Rodney Alcala
2003 Samsoe third prosecution begins; join with 4 others proposed; join contested by Alcala (California, USA) Rodney Alcala
2006 Case join granted (California, USA) Rodney Alcala
2010 convicted and sentenced to death (Samsoe, Parenteau, Lamb, Wixted, Barcomb) (California, USA) Rodney Alcala
1965-1983 (collectively) Freeway Killer (California, USA) *for time-line comparison

See Also

Criminal Sentencing in the United States


  1. ^ "Convicted serial killer won on 'Dating Game'". Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  2. ^ a b Arthur, Nick (26 Feb 2010). "US serial killer Rodney Alcala could be 'new Ted Bundy'" (in English). Los Angeles: Retrieved 12 March 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Rodney James Alcala - OC Register Wiki". Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  4. ^ "Hunt for girls in serial killer Rodney Alcala’s photos | The Sun |Features". The Sun. 2010-03-13. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  5. ^ Mail Foreign Service. "Serial killer Rodney Alcala sentenced to death in California | Mail Online". Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  6. ^ Finlay, Melissa (23 March 2010). "Rodney Alcala Case: Child rape, Tali S. and Corrine ‘Michael’ Crilley (photos, slideshow)" (in English). Retrieved 13 March 2010. 
  7. ^ Comments (13) By CHRISTINE PELISEK Thursday, Jan 21 2010 (2010-01-21). "Rodney Alcala's Murderous Romp Through Polite Society Brings Him to an Orange County Courtroom Again - Page 5 - News - Orange County". OC Weekly. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  8. ^ "serial killer true crime library * serial killer news * list of serial killers * serial murder * female serial killers * crime scene investigation * tueur en serie * omicidi seriali *". Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  9. ^ "As Rodney Alcala's third murder trial winds to a close, victim's brothers wait for closure, justice - Los Angeles Times - Page 4". 2010-02-24. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  10. ^ Hamilton, Brad (2009-01-04). "California 'Devil' May Be Nyc'S Top Serial Killer". Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  11. ^ Comments (44) By Christine Pelisek Thursday, Jan 21 2010 (2010-01-21). "Rodney Alcala: The Fine Art of Killing - Page 4 - News - Los Angeles". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 

External links

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