Alcala was born Rodrigo Jacques Alcala Buquor in Texas in 1943. His father, Raoul Alcala Buquor, abandoned the family when he was young. When he was 12, he, his mother Anna Maria Gutierrez, and his sisters, Christine and Marie, had moved to suburban Los Angeles. At the age of 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served four years as a clerk. After he suffered a nervous breakdown, he was medically discharged when the military psychiatrist diagnosed him with antisocial personality disorder. In 1968, he graduated from the UCLA School of Fine Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and later studied film under Roman Polanski at the New York University under the name “John Berger”. In the summer, he worked as a counselor at a drama camp for children in New Hampshire.
Alcala’s first known victim was an eight-year-old girl named Tali Shapiro, whom he abducted as she was on her way to school. After he lured her into his car, a witness followed him back to his apartment on De Longpre Avenue and called the police. By the time they arrived, Alcala had struck Shapiro with a steel rod and raped her. When they knocked on the door, he escaped out the back and evaded arrest. He was placed on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted list. Though badly injured, Shapiro survived. He fled to the East Coast and enrolled in the NYU. In 1971, Alcala is believed to have raped and strangled Cornelia Crilley, a Trans World Airlines flight attendant, in her Manhattan apartment. The same year, two children at the camp saw the FBI’s Wanted poster and told the camp’s staff about it. They reported Alcala to the authorities, leading to him being extradited to California. Because Shapiro’s family had moved to Mexico and wouldn’t let their daughter testify, Alcala got off with a guilty plead for a lesser assault charge. He received indeterminate sentencing, which meant he would be released from incarceration when he proved himself rehabilitated (the system was popular in the 1970s when sex offenders were convicted). After 34 months, in 1974, he was released and kidnapped a 13-year-old girl named as “Julie J.” in court records, forced her to smoke marijuana and kissed her. In spite of what he had done, he was only found guilty of giving marijuana to a minor and violating his parole and was released after two more years of indeterminate sentencing.
Rodney Alcala’s appearance on The Dating Game in 1978
In 1977, Alcala got permission from his parole officer to visit relatives in New York City. Shortly after arriving (coincidentally during the time that Son of Sam was active), he is believed to have killed Ellen Jane Hover, a 23-year-old socialite. Her datebook showed that she had a meeting with one “John Berger”, Alcala’s alias, on the date of her disappearance. Upon returning to L.A., Alcala got a job as a typesetter for the Los Angeles Times. When the FBI connected him to his old alias, they questioned him. He confessed to knowing Hover, but denied committing the murder. Since her body hadn’t yet been found, he was let go. He was also questioned as a convicted sex offender in connection with the Hillside Strangler investigation. In 1978, in spite of his criminal record, Alcala was admitted as “Bachelor No. 1” to The Dating Game. The host introduced him as a successful professional photographer. Though Alcala won the contest, the female contestant wouldn’t go on a date with him because she thought he was “creepy”. Criminal profiler Pat Brown later suggested that this rejection angered Alcala further since he afterwards killed at least three more women within two years. His last known victim was 12-year-old Robin Samsoe, who was abducted on her way to ballet class in 1979 in Huntington Beach and her decomposing body found in the Sierra Madres 12 days later.
Earlier on the day of Samsoe’s disappearance, Alcala had been seen trying to get her and one of her friends to get into swimsuits so he could take pictures of them, but was chased away by a neighbor. The previous day, he had tried to convince two teenage girls to do so by offering them marijuana. A Los Angeles National Forest ranger later testified that a man matching Alcala’s description and driving the same make and model of car as him leading a girl down a stream on June 20. On July 24, he was arrested for Samsoe’s murder. When the investigators searched Alcala’s mother’s house, they found a receipt for a storage locker in Seattle which turned out to contain hundreds of photos, mostly of young girls. In many of the photos, the subjects are nude or dressed in swimwear. Alcala himself is present in a few. The locker also contained a pair of earrings which had belonged to Samsoe and another pair that was later found to have the DNA of Charlotte Lamb, a 31-year-old woman killed in her apartment building’s laundry room in El Segundo in 1978, on them. Alcala went on trial for Samsoe’s murder and was found guilty and sentenced to death in 1980. The sentence was overturned twice, first in 1984 because the jury was told about his previous convictions before the trial and then again in 1986 on the grounds that a witness had been hypnotized. While in prison, he published a book titled You, The Jury, in which he denied killing Samsoe and posited another suspect. He also tried to sue the California penal system twice; once for a slip-and-fall accident and once because the prison hadn’t given him a low-fat diet.
In 2003, while a third trial of Alcala was being planned, his DNA, which had been sampled during his time in prison, connected him to two other victims. In 2010, Alcala was tried for a total of five murders: Samsoe, Jill Barcomb, Georgia Wixted, Charlotte Lamb and Jill Parenteau. He was found guilty on all counts and is currently on death row in San Quentin State Prison. In 2011, he was indicted for the New York murders of Cornelia Crilley and Ellen Hover and may be extradited to the state in the future. In December of 2012, he plead guilty to both murders. On January 7 the following year, he was given another life sentence. He is also believed by investigators to be responsible for the 1977 murder of 19-year-old Pamela Jean Lambson in San Francisco, but isn’t charged with it since there are no fingerprints or DNA evidence that implicates him. 120 of the photos found in Alcala’s locker have been publicly released with the hopes that the subjects will come forward and identify themselves. Approximately 900 other sexually-explicit photos still haven’t been release including many photos where the women are nude which have been censored. Approximately 21 women have come forward and identified themselves, and six families have claimed that a photo contains a long-lost family member. One theory is that some people in the photos are unknown victims of Alcala.
Robin Samsoe, an innocent 12-year-old girl from Huntington Beach, California disappeared somewhere between the beach and her ballet class on June 20, 1979. Her precious body was found 12 days later in the foothills of Los Angeles. Police subsequently found her earrings in a Seattle locker rented by Alcala.
Jill Barcomb was a woman from Oneida, NY, who was killed in Southern California at age 18 in 1977 by serial killer Rodney James Alcala.
Barcomb had been in Southern California for about three weeks when her body was found on a dirt path near Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles.
Barcomb was found in a knee-to-chest position and naked from the waist down. There were signs of sexual assault, and she had been strangled with a pair of blue slacks and beaten. She also had three bite marks on her right breast, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.
Charlotte Lamb was a legal secretary from Santa Monica who was killed at age 32 by serial killer Rodney James Alcala.
Lamb’s naked body was found on June 24, 1978, in the laundry room of a large apartment complex in El Segundo. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled with a shoelace. The apartment manager found her body lying face up with her hands behind her back, but residents said they had never seen her before.
Georgia Wixted was a registered nurse who was killed at age 27 by serial killer Rodney James Alcala.
Wixted’s bruised and battered body was found on the floor of her Malibu studio apartment near her brass bed on Dec. 16, 1977. She was naked and had been sexually assaulted before she was tortured, bludgeoned and strangled. A hammer was found next to her body.
She was discovered after her co-workers at Centinela Hospital became concerned when she did not show up for work. Her case was unsolved for more than a quarter of a century.
For years, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detectives hoped that a palm print found on her brass bed would lead to her killer – but they could not identify a suspect.
Alcala was eventually charged with her slaying after his DNA popped up when authorities tested a sample found at the Wixted crime scene.
Jill Parenteau was a computer program keypunch operator who was killed at age 21 by serial killer Rodney James Alcala.
Parenteau was killed on June 14, 1979 by an intruder broke into her Burbank apartment by jimmying window louvers. She was 21.
Her nude body was found on the bedroom floor propped up by pillows. A rape test was performed, but the evidence was not preserved. Detectives also found two types of blood at the crime scene. One type was hers. The other had characteristics that would eliminate 96 per cent of the population but include Alcala. Detectives also learned that Alcala was seen dancing with Parenteau at a local bar a few days before she was killed.
Parenteau was murdered just six days before 12-year-old Robin Samsoe was kidnapped and murdered in Huntington Beach by Alcala.