How Dating Game Killer Rodney Alcala charmed justice system and continued his rape and murder spree for years

His commanding officer in the Army described Alcala as a selfish man who manipulated others and was only driven by his own need and personal gain

                            How Dating Game Killer Rodney Alcala charmed justice system and continued his rape and murder spree for years

Rodney Alcala, infamously known as the Dating Game Killer, is one of the most prolific killers ever captured in the history of the United States. Alcala, well aware of his psychopathic charm, continued raping and killing children and young women despite being listed in the criminal justice system as a sexual offender. In fact, the serial killer surprisingly also appeared as a contestant who earned a date on a television show called 'The Dating Game' in 1978 despite his criminal history.

The appearance gave notoriety to Alcala along with his infamous moniker. Alcala, at the time, was also under investigation for multiple murders, however, fortunately his date sensed something odd about him and called it off.

Who is Rodney Alcala?

Born in 1943 in San Antonio, Texas, Alcala had a seemingly normal upbringing, not typical of many serial killers. His mother moved to suburban Los Angeles when he was 11. He joined the US Army after graduating from high school in 1961. However, a few years later, he suffered a mental breakdown and went AWOL. He reportedly hitchhiked from the camp in North Carolina to his mother's house in California.

Alcala later turned himself to military authorities, where an army psychologist suggested that he should be hospitalized for psychiatric treatment. He was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder and was discharged from the army on medical grounds. Although no one had imagined at the time what Alcala was capable of, his commanding officer's review of him became prophetic.

The officer described Alcala as a selfish man who manipulated others and was only driven by his own need and personal gain. After being discharged, Alcala began pursuing his dream of becoming a photographer and enrolled in the University of California, Los Angeles, to study fine arts. He graduated in 1968 with a Bachelors in Fine Arts and later that year Alcala embarked on his criminal journey.

In the fall of 1968, he followed an eight-year-old girl named Tali Shapiro while she was heading to school and lured her into his car, claiming he knew her parents. However, an eyewitness — finding him suspicious – followed him to his apartment and as Alcala took the girl upstairs, he called the police. After authorities broke open his door, Alcala fled but they found the eight-year-old fighting for her life.

Alcala had raped the child and was attempting to strangle her with a metal bar when he was interrupted. With a arrest warrant under his name, Alcala fled to New York and enrolled in the NYU film school under the name of "John Berger".  Alcala also managed to find work as a counselor at a New Hampshire arts camp for young girls in 1971.

In June that year, a 23-year-old stewardess, Cornelia Crilley, was found raped and strangled in her Manhattan apartment. Her murder would not be solved until 2011. The FBI, in early 1971, had added Alcala to their Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list and coincidentally two of the girls at the camp spotted his picture on a flyer in a local post office.

Alcala was arrested and taken to LA. However, considering Shapiro's family by then had moved to Mexico, he received a year to life in prison. Alcala, after three years, was evaluated by a prison psychologist who found his mental state to be improved and he was released in 1974. 

Less than two months after his release, Alcala was arrested again for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl identified as Julie J. She said that she had what she thought would be a ride to school. He served two years of an "indeterminate sentence" and was let out on parole. After his release in 1977, Alcala convinced his parole officer that he was not a flight risk and traveled to New York City.

Authorities believe that it was after the week he arrived in Manhattan that he killed 23-year-old Ellen Jane Hover, the goddaughter of Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.

Over the years he is believed to have killed many victims. Alcala posed as a professional fashion photographer, and convinced hundreds of young girls to pose for him, many naked for his "portfolio". In July 1979, he approached two girls sitting at a beach in Los Angles and took their photograph, telling them that it was for a contest.

However, he stalked one of them, 12-year-old Robin Samsoe, eventually raping and killing her. Her body was unrecognizable when it was found and it took authorities three days to confirm Samsoe's identity. But in her case, there was a witness. Her friend at the beach gave authorities a description and a sketch was circulated. It was then that Alcala's parole officer recognized the sketch. There was no doubt left. 

Alcala was arrested, and during a visit from his sister soon after, he told her of a storage unit in Seattle. He wanted someone to remove the contents from the unit. Authorities got to know of it and when they opened the unit, they were surprised by what they saw.

There were boxes of around 1700 photographs of girls, women and even some men and along with it was a pouch full of dozens of jewelry pieces — his murder trophies. In 1980, Alcala was tried, convicted and sentenced to death for Samsoe's murder, 

Authorities are still connecting Alcala to cold cases through 120 photographs that were made public after his trial in 2010 when he was sentenced to death again after DNA breakthrough linked him to four more murders in LA. Since the publication of the pictures, 21 missing women have been accounted for through the online database. Authorities fear there are many more of Alcala's victims who may never be accounted for.

'Dating Game Killer: The Lost Victims' premieres on Reelz on Saturday, October 10, at 10 pm ET/ 7 pm PT.

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