Kenneth Bianchi & Angelo Buono: two murderous cousins, working together to unleash a reign of unprecedented terror on the women of Los Angeles.
Larry Eyler: a lethal psychopath who trawled the freeways of the American Midwest for victims who he literally tore apart.
Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins: dubbed the “Meanest Man in America,” the diminutive Gaskins may have claimed as many as 100 victims.
H.H. Holmes: evil doctor who built a vast torture castle in Chicago in the late 1800’s, then lured countless young women to their horrific deaths.
Patrick Kearney: a.k.a. The Trash Bag killer. Despite standing just 5'5”, Kearney cut a swathe of destruction across southern California, leaving at least 35 dismembered corpses in his wake.
Edmund Kemper III: a double murderer at 15, Kemper was set free to unleash a reign of terror on the student population of Santa Cruz, California.
Bobby Joe Long: a sex-obsessed psychopath who graduated from rape to murder, with devastating results for the women of south Florida.
Earl Nelson: the inhuman “Gorilla Killer”, who rampaged through 1920's America and into Canada, killing and raping as he went.
Joel Rifkin: a born loser who failed at everything he tried - except murder. Rifkin killed and dismembered as many as 17 women.
Arthur Shawcross: having escaped the death penalty for the murder of two children, this sadistic killer turned his attention on the prostitutes of Rochester, New York. But did he cannibalize his victims?
Coral Eugene Watts: a vicious killer who enjoyed slashing, strangling and drowning the helpless young women he targeted for death. Responsible for as many as 80 murders.
Click the "Read More" link below to read the first chapter of
The Deadly Dozen Volume 2
The Dating Game Killer
In September 1978, a handsome young man by the name of Rodney Alcala appeared as a contestant on a popular TV game show. He was articulate and witty, his somewhat crude brand of humor perfectly suited to the new, racy format of The Dating Game. The smooth-talking Alcala won that episode and earned a dinner with pretty bachelorette Cheryl Bradshaw, although she later declined to go on the date. It was a wise move on her part. Although Bradshaw couldn’t have known it at the time, Rodney Alcala was a serial killer. By the time he made that appearance on The Dating Game, he had already raped and murdered at least five women.
Rodney James Alcala was born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1943. His father abandoned the family while Rodney was still a boy and he and his two sisters were raised by their mother who later moved them to Los Angeles. There, Alcala attended high school, graduating in 1960 at age 17.
After leaving school, the young Alcala opted for a career in the military and joined the Army, where he served as a clerk. Four years later, he suffered a nervous breakdown resulting in his eventual discharge on medical grounds. That was in 1964 and already the first warning signs had appeared. An army psychiatrist described Alcala as an anti-social personality type.
Alcala returned to L.A. At a loose end, he decided to go back to school and enrolled in a Fine Arts course at UCLA. Four years later, in 1968, he emerged with a Bachelor’s degree and a near obsessive interest in photography, something that he’d soon put to sinister use.
The year after he graduated, Alcala had his first run-in with the law. A passerby spotted him luring an 8-year-old girl into his car and followed him as he drove the child back to his apartment. After Alcala took the girl inside, the concerned citizen called the police. By the time officers arrived on the scene, Alcala had already knocked the girl unconscious with a metal pipe and was raping her. When they banged on the door, he climbed through a rear window and escaped, leaving the child lying on the bed, comatose and surrounded by photography equipment. She would almost certainly have died had the bystander not alerted the police.
With a warrant out for his arrest, Alcala fled to New York, where he adopted the name, John Berger. Not that he made any attempt to lay low. He was soon hobnobbing with Manhattan’s in-crowd, attending New York University, and taking a film class taught by acclaimed director Roman Polanski. The handsome Alcala had a steady stream of lovers during this time but, of course, that was not enough for a predator like him. On June 12, 1971, he committed his first known murder.
The victim was a 23-year-old TWA flight attendant named Cornelia Crilley. Detectives would later develop the theory that Alcala had befriended Crilley by helping her move into her 83rd Street apartment. He then began pestering her for sex but she turned him down as she had a boyfriend. Alcala responded in typical fashion, raping and murdering the woman.
This theory, however, would only come later, when Alcala was in custody on other charges. For the time being, Crilley’s boyfriend, Leon Borstein, was the main suspect, with Alcala not even on the radar. He, in any case, had absconded for New Hampshire, where he took a job as a counselor at a drama camp near Lake Sunapee.
The prospect of a sexual predator like Rodney Alcala overseeing a group of teenaged girls is a frightening one. Fortunately, a chance set of circumstances was about to unmask him for the miscreant he was. During a summer storm, two camp attendees took shelter from the rain inside the local post office. There they saw a poster for a man named Rodney Alcala, wanted in connection with the rape of a child in Los Angeles. It struck the girls that Alcala bore a remarkable resemblance to their camp counselor, John Berger. When the storm subsided, the girls walked directly to the local sheriff’s office and reported their suspicions.
Alcala was taken into custody and held until he could be extradited to California. There, he was found guilty of kidnapping, rape, and assault, although the punishment hardly fit the crime. For the brutal rape that would no doubt scar his young victim for life, Alcala served just 34 months.
And that brief prison spell did nothing to discourage Alcala from his criminal behavior. Back on the streets in 1974, he was soon up to his old tricks again. After kidnapping a 13-year-old girl, he drove her to an isolated spot near Bolsa Chica State Beach, where he forced her to smoke marijuana and then tried to rape her. The girl escaped and called the police. Alcala, still on parole for his previous attack on a minor, got another lenient sentence - just two years.
After he got out, Alcala charmed his parole officer into allowing him to visit relatives in New York. This was in the summer of 1977, the summer of Sam, when David Berkowitz was creating havoc on the streets of New York City. Alcala soon added his own brand of mayhem to the mix.
During the summer that Alcala spent in New York, 23-year-old heiress, Ellen Hover, disappeared. Ellen, daughter of Herman Hover, the owner of legendary Hollywood nightclub, Ciro’s, was last seen on July 15, 1977. Her datebook for that day showed that she had an appointment to meet with “John Berger.”
The disappearance of such a prominent person was big news in New York and a massive effort was launched to find her. When the police appeared to be making little headway in the case, the Hover family hired a team of private investigators and also took out a full-page ad in the New York Times, asking for information about the mysterious John Berger. Neither of these efforts produced any results because “Berger” was back in L.A., working as a typesetter for the Los Angeles Times and using his real name, Rodney Alcala.
It wasn’t until a year later that the authorities linked the “John Berger” wanted in New York, with the man who’d been arrested in New Hampshire a few years before, under the same name. It was then a simple matter for FBI agents to track Alcala to Los Angeles. But finding him and proving murder were two different things entirely. Alcala admitted that he’d known Ellen, but denied having anything to do with her disappearance. Without evidence to the contrary, investigators had no option but to let him go.
(Ellen Hover’s body would eventually be found buried on the Rockefeller estate in North Tarrytown, New York, just yards from where Alcala had once held a photo shoot with an aspiring model)
Back in Los Angeles, Rodney Alcala wasn’t the only predator on the streets. This was at the height of the Hillside Strangler murders, and with the strangled bodies of young woman turning up with horrific regularity, the city was living under a state of virtual siege. Alcala’s next victim, in fact, was at first thought to have been killed by the elusive strangler.
Jill Barcomb was an 18-year-old runaway, originally from Brooklyn, New York. At barely five-feet tall and weighing less than 100 pounds she looked younger than her age, and perhaps that is what attracted Alcala to her. He picked her up on Sunset Boulevard and drove her into the Hollywood Hills. There he raped her, beat her on the head with a rock, and finally strangled her to death. Then he posed her in an explicit kneeling position. Her body was discovered by a film crew in November 1977.
Just a month later, Georgia Wixted, a 27-year-old nurse, was discovered dead in her Malibu apartment. The previous evening, she’d driven a co-worker home from a bar. When she didn’t show up for work the next day, the co-worker reported her missing. Police arrived at her apartment to find signs of forced entry. Georgia Wixted was found naked and posed in a kneeling position on her bedroom floor. She’d been strangled, and her skull had been caved in with a hammer. She’d also been sexually assaulted and her genitals had been mutilated.
Six months later, Alcala struck again. In June 1978, Charlotte Lamb, an attractive, 32-year-old legal secretary from Santa Monica, was found dead in the laundry room of her apartment building. There were many similarities to the Wixted homicide. Lamb had been raped, beaten and strangled, and was posed with her hands behind her back.
A short while after, Alcala was back in prison, serving a short term on a drug possession charge. He was also questioned by detectives from the Hillside Strangler Task Force (a matter of routine, since he was a known sex offender). By September, he was back on the streets and enjoying his 15 minutes of fame as a contestant on The Dating Game.
In February 1979, Rodney Alcala picked up a 15-year-old hitchhiker in Riverside County. He took her to his apartment where, according to his later confession, they had consensual sex. The next morning, he drove with the girl into the mountains where he took some nude photographs of her. But something made the girl panic and as she tried to get away from him, he beat and then raped her. Inexplicably, given Alcala’s M.O., he later drove the girl back to Riverside and released her. She immediately reported the abduction and rape to the police. Alcala was arrested and then bailed by his mother.
Awaiting trial on the rape charge, Alcala committed two more murders in June 1979. The first was Jill Parenteau, last seen alive when she left work early to attend a baseball game. When she didn’t show up the next day, friends reported her missing. Police checking on her apartment found the 21-year-old dead on her bathroom floor. She’d been sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled. Her assailant had posed her body suggestively, using pillows to prop her up. There were signs of forced entry to the apartment and her killer had cut himself climbing in through a window. Blood evidence matching only 3% of the population did not finger Rodney Alcala as the perpetrator, but it didn’t rule him out either.
Just weeks later, on June 20, 1979, 12-year-old Robin Samsoe from Huntington Beach, disappeared on her way to a ballet class. Earlier in the day, Robin’s neighbor, Jacky Young, had chased a man away who’d been pestering Robin and a friend, trying to get them to pose for him in their swimsuits. Several other teenaged girls testified that a man had approached them on the beach that day, asking if he could photograph them. They later identify that man as Rodney Alcala.
Twelve days after Robin Samsoe disappeared, William Poepke, a park ranger, found her decomposing remains in the foothills of the Sierra Madres. A kitchen knife was found nearby but the level of decomposition meant it was impossible to determine whether she’d been raped.
With positive identification from several witnesses putting Alcala at the scene of Robin Samsoe’s abduction, police moved in and arrested him on July 24, 1979. They then obtained a search warrant for his mother’s home where they found a receipt for a storage locker in Seattle. Inside the locker were hundreds of photographs of young girls. Detectives also found a pair of gold earrings matching those worn by Robin Samsoe on the day she went missing. A second pair of earrings would later be found to carry traces of Charlotte Lamb’s DNA.
With the evidence from the storage locker and the testimony of several eyewitnesses, prosecutors brought Alcala to trial for the murder of Robin Samsoe. Alcala claimed an alibi, one that was backed up by his mother and two sisters. He claimed that he had been at Knott’s Berry Farm that day, applying for a job as a photographer. Phone records were produced to prove that a call had been made from that location to his mother’s house, but there was no proof that Alcala had been the one who’d actually made the call. And anyway, the jury wasn’t buying it. They found Alcala guilty of first-degree murder and recommended the death penalty.
But the story doesn’t end there. Alcala’s conviction was overturned by the California Supreme Court in 1984. He was then retried for the same offense, again found guilty and again overturned - this time by the U.S. Supreme Court of Appeals.
Alcala must have thought he had a charmed life, must have thought (like many serial killers) that he was invincible. Unfortunately for him, his earlier crimes were about to catch up with him, courtesy of a new tool in the investigator’s forensic arsenal, DNA matching.
When evidence from the Barcomb, Wixted, Lamb and Parenteau murder scenes were subjected to DNA analysis, they each provided a forensic link to Rodney Alcala. The elusive serial killer had been backed into a corner at last.
Rodney Alcala went on trial in 2010, charged with the murders of Robin Samsoe, Jill Barcomb, Georgia Wixted, Charlotte Lamb and Jill Parenteau. He conducted his own defense, producing some bizarre evidence, that included a video of his appearance on The Dating Game, and an extract from Arlo Guthrie’s song, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre.” He urged jurors not to seek the death penalty, warning them, “You know I’ll fight it.”
Fortunately, the ladies and gentlemen of the jury were not intimidated. On February 25, 2010, they found Alcala guilty on five counts of first-degree murder and recommended that he be put to death for his crimes. The judge duly complied with that recommendation.
Rodney Alcala currently resides on death row at San Quentin state prison. He has since been convicted of the New York murders of Ellen Hover and Cornelia Crilley, drawing a sentence of 25 years to life. In addition, police in Washington and New Hampshire have linked him to unsolved homicides committed there, all of which bear his unique signature.
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