A little girl slaughtered
in 1979 police investigated the shockingly brutal murder of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe, who had been abducted, sexually assaulted and beaten near Huntington Beach, California.
The detailed forensic work following the discovery of the girl’s body would eventually uncover links with the rape and murder of four other women, with the crimes going back to 1977 in a series of sadistic killings that shocked the country. The investigations unmasked a serial killer, Rodney Alcala, who was eventually sentenced to death for the murders.
The dating game
Jim Lang, the host of the popular television show “The Dating Game” introduced a new contestant one night in September 1978 – Rodney Alcala – described as a successful photographer. Competing against another two men, Alcala won a date with “bachelorette” Cheryl Bradshaw, who later refused to go out with him because he was “creepy”. This decision likely saved her life.
Alcala was in fact a convicted rapist and registered sex offender who had somehow slipped through the screening procedure for the show. He later became known as “The Dating Game Killer” who amassed a total of seven murders, although the actual number is suspected to be far higher. Five of these murders were committed in California and two in New York.
Rodney Alcala was born in Texas in 1943 but moved to Los Angeles with his mother and sisters in 1955. He joined the US Army in 1960 but was discharged four years later on the advice of a military psychiatrist after having been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.
He began committing violent crimes around 1968, being implicated in several rapes involving both adults and children. He began posing as a fashion photographer, using this as a pretext for approaching his victims.
Rape turns to murder
The rapes then turned to killings, and in 1980 he was found guilty of the murder of Robin Samsoe.
Then DNA evidence led to further rape and murder charges involving four other women with the crimes going back to 1977. He was also suspected of two other killings, with the earliest one a cold case originating in 1971.
He was arrested and tried, initially for the Samsoe murder, but then the four other victims were added to the prosecutors list in two further trials during 1986 and 2003.
Prosecutors alleged that Alcala’s murders were particularly sadistic, involving partial strangulation, revival and then repetition until the victims expired.
In the courtroom
Psychiatric evaluation during these trials indicated several major issues including “malignant narcissistic personality disorder with psychopathy and sexual sadism comorbidities”. One of the investigating detectives described him as “a killing machine”.
Alcala was found guilty of the five California murders and sentenced to death in 2010.
He received an additional 25 years in another trial in 2013 for the two New York murders. He now awaits his fate on death row in California.
By: R. Whitaker
Image: The death penalty map that shows which countries that has totally abolished it and not, (original upload date), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.