Rodney Alcala, also known as the ‘Dating Game Killer’, was famous for being a brutal murderer that once appeared on the network game show The Dating Game. Alcala was one of the deadliest serial killers in American History and his appearance on The Dating Game was basically just a footnote to the gruesome legacy that he has left behind.
When he appeared on that show, Alcala was already on the FBI’s radar. He had also previously been arrested multiple times for violent crimes against women and had done time for these crimes in the California state prison system.
The fact that he was able to get onto a national game show is a sobering reminder of just how difficult it used to be to track down truly dangerous people before criminal records were digitized and networked.
By the time he appeared on The Dating Game, Rodney Alcala had already killed at least four innocent people. He was a charismatic, handsome, charming young man who claimed to be a fashion photographer to lure his victims back to his home. While nobody is certain how many people Alcala actually killed, the authorities estimate the number to be as high as 130.
He Displayed All OF The Warning Signs Of A Killer
Most details on Alcala’s childhood are fairly scarce. We know, however, that he was born in Texas in 1943 and was given the name Rodrigo Jacques Alcala Buquor. When he was still very young, Alcala’s family relocated to Mexico. When he was 11, his father abandoned his family. It was then that Alcala’s mother packed up the family and moved once again to Los Angeles.
When he was 17 years old, Alcala joined the Army and worked as a clerk for four years until he went AWOL. After abandoning his duties, Alcala paid a surprise visit to his mother at her home in L.A. During his stint in the Army, Alcala was accused of sexual misconduct. After being diagnosed by a military psychologist, he was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder and was discharged on medical grounds.
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And don’t go anywhere just yet. Keep watching to learn how justice finally caught up with Rodney Alcala.
Alcala’s First Victim Survived His Attack
The first act of violence committed by Alcala that we have documentation of occurred in 1968 in Hollywood. Tali Shapiro, an 8-year-old girl, was minding her own business while walking to school when Alcala noticed her and coaxed her into his vehicle. At one of his trials, Shapiro testified about all that she could remember from the incident.
She revealed that she was suspicious of him at first but he managed to convince her that he was a family friend and just wanted to show her a picture. Once she was in his car, he took her back to his apartment. Shapiro, luckily, doesn’t recall the details of the actual attack which is probably a good thing. And thankfully someone witnessed her getting into Alcala’s car and became concerned that the vehicle didn’t have any license plates.
That witness proceeded to follow the car and called law enforcement to give them the location. If it weren’t for that good Samaritan, Shapiro presumably would have been killed.
When the cops showed up and knocked on his door, Alcala was still at the apartment. He tried to stall for a minute but the officers kicked in his door. To their horror, they found Tali Shapiro lying naked in a pool of blood on the floor.
Alcala had sexually assaulted and beaten Tali with a metal bar. Unfortunately, he didn’t experience any consequences for his actions that day as he somehow managed to escape out the back door
Shapiro recovered from her attack and remains the only one of his victims to survive. Because her attacker fled the scene, the Shapiro family were afraid that he would come back to finish what he started, so they moved out of the country.
He Made The FBI’s Most Wanted List
After Rodney Alcala’s attack of Tali Shapiro, he was placed on the FBI’s infamous most wanted list. Without any of the authorities catching wind of his plans, Alcala fled California and made his way out to the east coast where he changed his name to John Berger. Back in the 70s, it was much easier to do something like that since background checks were fairly limited.
Alcala lived as John Berger for many years. Under that name, Alcala went to film school at NYU and studied under Roman Polanski. It was in Manhattan that he committed his first known murder although you should keep in mind that the majority of Alcala’s crimes aren’t documented so he may have already killed one or more people by that time.
In 1971, Cornelia Crilley was found strangled to death in her apartment. This case, unfortunately, went cold and wouldn’t be solved for another 40 years. A fingerprint, however, found at the scene of the crime was positively matched to Alcala in 2010.
After murdering Criley, Alcala moved to New Hampshire where he started working as a summer camp counselor. Three years after he brutally attacked Tali Shapiro, somebody finally recognized him. Two girls attending the camp saw the FBI wanted poster at the post office and turned Alcala in. After being arrested, he was sent back to California. There he would be prosecuted for his attack on Shapiro.
Frustratingly, the prosecution was at a disadvantage since the Shapiro family had relocated to Mexico and refused to allow Tali to testify at Alcala’s trial. Without her testimony, the prosecution found it difficult to convict him of attempted murder.
Alcala ended up pleading guilty to assault and served just under two years before he was released on parole. Just two months after he was released from prison, Alcala sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl on her way to school. He was fortunately caught and sent back to prison where he served another two years before being released on parole once again.
The Dating Game
Alcala worked for a while as a typesetter at the Los Angeles Times. He also claimed to be a successful photographer and used his sketchy photography business to lure victims back to his house to “model” for him. He took thousands of pictures, mostly nudes, all of women and teenage boys and girls.
In 1978, Alcala made an appearance on the television show The Dating Game. At the time, he already had a nasty rap sheet that included rape and assault right there in the state of California, so it’s rather alarming that they allowed him on the show in the first place.
But no one apparently bothered to check his background and being the charming man that he was, he actually managed to win the game. The bachelorette was a woman named Cheryl Bradshaw, and while Alcala managed to swoon her on camera, she never actually went out with him afterward.
Once the cameras were no longer rolling, Alcala showed his true colors. When Bradshaw spoke with him backstage, she reportedly found him to be ‘creepy’ and refused to go on a date with him. One of the other suitors who appeared alongside Alcala, Jed Mills, likewise noted that he was ‘very obnoxious and creepy’. According to Mills, Alcala quickly became very abrasive and rude – almost as if he was trying to intimidate the other contestants.
The Law Finally Caught Up With Him
Alcala’s appearance on the Dating Game occurred in 1978. A year later, while he was on a beach in Huntington Beach, California, he approached a 12-year-old named Robin Samsoe and her friend Bridgette. Alcala ended up running away when a neighbor walked over to see what Alcala was up to.
Robin later left her friend to go to dance class, but sadly that was the last time that she was seen alive. The little girl’s body was found forty miles away, twelve days after she disappeared.
Bridgette, Robin’s friend was able to provide the police with a description of the peculiar man that approached them at the beach. The composite sketch that she was able to assist in producing was then sent out to police stations throughout the state. Alcala’s parole officer saw it and recognized him and he was then promptly arrested.
While he was in jail, Alcala’s sister came to pay him a visit. Law enforcement was listening in on their conversation when Alcala asked his sister to clean out a storage unit that he had up in Seattle.
The cops were able to beat Alcala’s sister to the locker and in it, they would find a trove of photos that he had taken over the years documenting his many crimes. The images were all quite graphic and disturbing, but in that unit, they also found a bag of women’s earrings.
Samsoe’s mother was able to authoritatively identify one of the pairs of earrings at the ones that her daughter was wearing on the day that she was abducted. Alcala thus was found guilty of Samsoe’s murder and was sentenced to the death penalty.
The Wheels Of Justice Turn Slowly
In 1980, after being tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for Samsoe’s murder, the verdict was overturned by the California Supreme Court because jurors had been improperly informed of his prior sex crimes.
In 1986, a second trial took place that was essentially a repeat of the first one except for the omission of the prior criminal record testimony. Again, Alcala was found guilty and sentenced to death. A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel, however, nullified the second conviction because a witness was not allowed to support Alcala’s contention that the park ranger who discovered Samsoe’s body had been ‘hypnotized by police investigators’.
In 2003, prosecutors proposed that the Samsoe charges be combined with those of Alcala’s four other known victims. In 2006, the California Supreme Court ruled in the prosecution’s favor and in February 2010 Alcala stood trial on the five joined charges.
In March 2010, Alcala was sentenced to death for the third time.
In 2012, Alcala was indicted in New York for the 1971 slaying of Cornelia Crilley and the 1977 killing of Ellen Jane Hover. After he was extradited, he plead guilty and was sentenced to 25 years to life in 2013.
While awaiting his death sentence, Alcala died at the age of 77 of unspecified ‘natural cause in Corcoran, California on July 24, 2021, exactly 42 years after he was apprehended.
The fact that Rodney Alcala was able to successfully keep his killing spree going relatively unnoticed for so many years is absolutely terrifying. But fortunately, he’s no longer alive to harm anyone else. But even so, he still got the chance to live out the rest of his days while his victims did not.
What do you think society should do with people like Alcala? Should we lock them up and throw away the key so to speak or should we execute them so that they serve as an example to any would-be serial killers out there that haven’t yet gone on their killing sprees? Let us know in the comments section below.
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