by Donald Thompson | The Associated Press
Sacramento, Calif. — A prolific serial torture-murderer named “The Dating Game Killer” died Saturday in California, officials said. Rodney James Alcala was 77 years old.
Prison officials said in a statement that he died of natural causes at a hospital in the San Joaquin Valley.
Alcala was sentenced to death in 2010 in California for five murders between 1977 and 1979, including that of a 12-year-old girl, although officials estimate she may have killed 130 people nationwide.
Alcala received an additional 25 years of life in 2013 after pleading guilty to two murders in New York.
He was rediscovered in 2016 after DNA evidence linked him to the death of a 28-year-old woman whose remains were found in a remote area in southwest Wyoming. But a prosecutor said Alcala was too ill to face trial for the death of the woman, who was six months pregnant when she died.
California’s death row is at San Quentin State Prison near San Francisco, but for years Alcala was held in a prison in Corcoran more than 200 miles away where he could receive round-the-clock medical care.
Prosecutors said Alcala chased the women like a victim and took earrings from some of his victims as trophies.
“You’re talking about a guy who’s hunting through Southern California because he’s looking to kill people,” Orange County, Calif., prosecutor Matt Murphy said during his trial.
Investigators say his true victim numbers may never be known.
The earrings helped serve him the death penalty, although Governor Gavin Newsom has put a moratorium on executions as long as he is governor.
The mother of 12-year-old Robin Samso testified at her murder trial that gold ball earrings found in a jewelry pouch in Alcala’s storage locker belonged to her daughter.
But Alcala claimed the earrings were hers and a video clip from her 1978 appearance on “The Dating Game” showed her wearing the studs almost a year before Samso’s death. He denied the killings and cited discrepancies in the accounts and descriptions of witnesses.
California prosecutors said Alcala also took earrings from at least two of his adult victims as trophies.
Prosecutors said two of the four women were presented nude after their deaths, and all were repeatedly strangled and resuscitated to increase their suffering.
Investigators said a victim’s DNA was found in a rose-shaped earring near Alcala and her DNA was found in her body.
He had been sentenced to death twice in the murder of Samso, but both convictions were overturned. He was charged with the murder of four adult women more than two decades later, based on new DNA and other forensic evidence.
Following the verdict, authorities released more than 100 photographs of young women and girls in Alcala’s possession, to link her to other unsolved murders across the country.
“There’s murder and rape and then there’s the apparent massacre of Rodney Alcala-style murder,” said Bruce Barcombe, brother of 18-year-old victim Jill Barcombe. Alcala was sentenced to death.