Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Rodney Alcala: Extreme Serial Killer


In September 1978, Rodney Alcala was a winning contestant on Chuck Barris's The Dating Game. Barris would later claim the show was a front for his work with the CIA; Alcala's tale is at least as lurid.

Rodney Alcala
Rodney Alcala

The game show had recently been revamped to be more suggestive. It was as corny as ever. Alcala, with his long hair, leisure suit, gold chain, earrings, and pushy charms, fit the part perfectly. The episode introduced him to bachelorette Cheryl Bradshaw as "a successful photographer who got his start at the age of 13 when his father found him in the dark room — fully developed." The host told Bradshaw that Alcala, from Los Angeles, was into skydiving and motorcycling.

Alcala managed to be somewhat less awkward than his two competitors. Bradshaw, a teacher from Phoenix, Ariz., asked the three bachelors — hidden from her view behind a screen — to describe themselves: "I'm serving you for dinner. What are you called and what do you look like?"

"I'm called the banana, and I look really good," the lean Alcala confidently told her. "Peel me!"

Intrigued, Bradshaw then asked him to pretend to audition for her drama class. She suggested he take the part of a dirty old man. As a convicted sex offender, it was something he had some experience with already, so he just growled, "Come on over here!"

Somehow, his come-ons worked, and the lucky pair won tennis lessons and a trip to Magic Mountain, one of the Los Angeles area's local amusement parks. But after talking to Alcala backstage, Bradshaw wisely decided that Alcala was less a swinging single than simply creepy. She never did accompany him on that date.

More than 20 years later Alcala would point to a tape of that Dating Game episode as proof that he'd already owned the pair of gold-ball earrings that prosecutors would contend he was keeping as a trophy of his kills, along with a collection of photographs of his sexual assault and murder victims and targets.

In January 2010, Rodney James Alcala started his third trial for the 1979 murder of a 12-year-old girl from Huntington Beach, Calif., Robin Samsoe. The courts had thrown out his two previous convictions on technicalities. Thanks to developments in DNA and blood-evidence technology, in the 2010 trial prosecutors would also charge him with the sexual assaults and deaths of Jill Barcomb, Georgia Wixted, Charlotte Lamb and Jill Parenteau.

He'd already been convicted of two sex crimes, and New York detectives now believe he also killed two women in Manhattan during the 70s.


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