On a 1978 episode of television game show The Dating Game, the host introduced a handsome, long-haired, gentleman by the name of Rodney Alcala as one of the week's eligible bachelors. Alcala blurted out some cheesy lines, no different to any other episde of the show, but behind this smooth-talking facade was something much more sinister.
At the time of Alcala's appearance on the show, he was already a convicted sex offender and suspected serial killer. When Alcala's crimes were exposed, he became forever known as the Dating Game Killer, and later became a suspect in a staggering 130 murders. Here's everything you need to know about Rodney James Alcala.
He Raped An 8-Year Old Girl
Rodney Alcala was born in San Antonio, Texas, in August 1943. When he was 8 years old, he and his family relocated to the Los Angeles foothills. Alcala was a gifted student, possessing a genius level IQ in his teenage years, and he eventually found a desk job in the military at 17 years old. However, only five years into his service, Alcala suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by a personality disorder.
In 1968, Alcala committed the first of his known crimes. Alcala lured 8-year-old Tali Shapiro in his apartment where he beat her with a metal bar, raped her and left her for dead. Fortunately, an onlooker saw the odd couple heading into Alcala's apartment and notified the authorities. When the police arrived, Alcala slipped out of his apartment and evaded capture.
Tali Shapiro survived the attempted murder but had no recollection of how it happened. Inside the apartment, police investigators discovered Alcala's ID and the FBI issued a warrant for his arrest. However, Rodney Alcala remained free for another 11 years, and by this point, he'd already racked up a staggering victim count.
He Was A Successful Photographer
After eluding the police and leaving his military post, Alcala began working as a freelance photographer in 1971. With an alluring smile and boundless confidence, Rodney Alcala found it very easy to seduce women, so persuading models to pose for him was a simple task. Over the next few years, Rodney Alcala lured hundreds of ladies to his apartment under the pretense of snapping them.
Many years later, the authorities discovered a treasure chest of photographs inside Alcala's Seattle storage locker. They found more than 1700 photographs, most of which were sexually explicit, and many featuring underage girls and boys. It was later confirmed that Alcala met at least 4 of his murder victims through his photography ruse.
Disturbingly, not all of the people in these photos have been tracked down, prompting the belief that they may be as-yet unidentified victims of the dating game killer. The pictures are currently hosted a database run by the Huntington Beach Police Department. They take down ones that have been identified and have left up the others in hopes that new information might be forthcoming.
He Murdered At Least 7 Women
Alcala's murderous reign began with flight attendant Cornelia Crilley in 1971. Alcala offered Crilley help moving into her apartment, and once inside, he strangled her to death. Alcala's involvement in Crilley's murder wouldn't come to light until 40 years later. He didn't strike again for another 6 years.
Ellen Jane Hover was Alcala's next victim; a girl described as 'so beautiful she could stop traffic.' Alcala and Hover went on a date, and Hover was never seen alive again. 18-year old Jill Barcomb came next, who Alcala strangled with a pair of pants and left in the Hollywood hills. The same year, Alcala bludgeoned 27-year-old Georgia Wixted to death in her Malibu apartment.
In 1979, Rodney Alcala committed 3 murders. The first was 33-year-old Charlotte Lamb, raped, bludgeoned and strangled and left in an apartment laundry room. Next was 21-year old Jill Parenteau, strangled to death in her apartment and posed nude on her bed. One week later, Alcala raped and strangled 12 year old Robin Samsoe and left her remains in the Los Angeles foothills. Samsoe's murder marked the end of his killing spree.
He Appeared On A Reality Dating Show... And Won
In 1978, Rodney Alcala appeared on the hit reality show The Dating Game. The show featured a bachelorette who had to choose from three potential suitors based on how they responded to her questions. The gimmick was that the bachelorette wouldn't see the faces of these men until she'd made her decision.
The host introduced bachelor number one as a "successful photographer who got his start when his father found him in the darkroom at the age of 13, fully developed. Between takes you might find him skydiving or motorcycling." The man was serial killer Rodney Alcala, who by this point had already committed a series of brutal slayings.
Unsurprisingly, the smooth talking Alcala won over the bachelorette and the two were scheduled to go on a date. However, the date never came to fruition as the Alcala reportedly gave off creepy vibes backstage, so the bachelorette canceled it. A fellow bachelor on the show also described Alcala as "a very strange guy with bizarre opinions." Apparently, Alcala told other contestants: "I always get my girl."
He Confessed To 30 Murders
In 1979, Alcala's murderous reign finally came to an end. An eyewitness had seen Alcala with the 12-year-old Robin Samsoe on the day of her disappearance and informed authorities. A sketch artist drew up a composite sketch of the suspect and circulated it throughout Los Angeles. A former parole officer recognized it was Alcala and police zoned in on the local photographer.
During their investigation, police found a receipt in for a storage locker in Seattle amongst Alcala's belongings. Inside this storage locker they found Robin Samsoe's earrings and piles of amateur photographs - some featuring murdered California women. There was no doubt that Alcala was the man responsible for her abduction and murder.
Police captured Alcala in July 1979 and held him without bail. During his 1980 trial, Alcala exhibited some very bizarre behavior. He acted as his own attorney, asking himself questions in a deep voice and referring to himself as 'Mr. Alcala' before answering in his natural tone. At one point, Alcala played a song with the lyrics "I wanna kill, I wanna kill," for seemingly no apparent reason.
He Was Sentenced To Death
Alcala maintained his innocence throughout his trial, and only pleaded guilty to the assault of Tali Shapiro in 1968. However, the evidence against him in Robin Samsoe's murder was concrete and eventually awarded Alcala the death penalty. He was sentenced to death row by the California Supreme Court.
However, this verdict was overturned by the federal appeals court because jurors had been improperly informed of Alcala's prior sex crimes. A second trial followed, and California investigators soon discovered that Alcala's DNA matched evidence from two rape-murder scenes in Los Angeles. Alcala made no attempt to dispute the new claims, and the Orange County jury found him guilty on 5 counts of first degree murder.
New evidence called for a third trial, and this time, Wyoming prosecutors charged Alcala with the murder of Christine Ruth Thornton, 28, who was six months pregnant. He was also linked to other murders in Los Angeles and Marin County in California; Seattle, Washington; New York; New Hampshire and Arizona. Prosecutors admitted they would never know the extent of Alcala's murder spree.
The Truth About The Dating Game Killer
Rodney Alcala, the handsome, intelligent gentleman who once had the world in his hands, was now a convicted serial killer. Police found that Alcala's preferred method of killing was to strangle his victims until they passed out, revive them and then strangle them again. His motivation was that he was simply a sadistic monster who achieved sexual gratification from toying with his victims.
Much doubt was cast on the belief that police had uncovered the true extent of Alcala's atrocities. His storage locker contained hundreds of photographs of young women, many of whom were unidentified. Exactly how many other victims did the Dating Game Killer actually have? Some people believe that Alcala might actually be one of the most prolific serial killers of all time, with a potential victim count in the hundreds.
Furthermore, police concluded that the fact Rodney went through long cooling-off periods was a cause for concern. To a sadistic, thrill-seeking offender like him, it would be difficult to stop from killing for any significant length of time. Psychologists also theorized that his rejection by Cheryl Bradshaw, the bachelorette on The Dating Game, may have contributed to Alcala's desire for blood.
The Dating Game Killer Dies
Today, the case of the Dating Game Killer remains one of the most disturbing and eye-opening of all time. How did such a gifted individual transform into a convicted serial killer? Rodney Alcala draws parallels with Ted Bundy; charming, good-looking, egotistical, manipulative, and ultimately slaves to their depraved sexual urges.
In 1994, still in prison but avoiding the death penalty, Alcala wrote a book called You, the Jury in which he claimed his innocence and fingered another suspect for Samsoe’s murder. It was a transparent attempt to reduce his sentence, but the book fell on deaf ears. He also filed two lawsuits against the California penal system, for a slip-and-fall incident and for refusing to provide him a low-fat diet.
While he was awaiting execution on California's death row, the California Department of Corrections announced that Alcala had died of natural causes in July 2021. He passed away in a hospital near Corcoran State Prison. Today, the search for unidentified women in Alcala's photos continues on.