Rodney Alcala, called the "Dating Game Killer" because of an appearance he made on the game show in the 1970s, after he had allegedly already taken several victims, was sentenced to death yesterday for the murder of a 12-year-old girl. Alcala was also convicted of three other murders in Los Angeles and New York. After being charged with assault of an 8-year-old girl in LA and serving only a 34-month sentence, Alcala fled to New York and allegedly took more victims. Facing police scrutiny in one of the murders, Alcala returned to LA, where the 1979 murder of a 12-year-old led to two convictions, both overturned on technicalities. But in recent years, police had DNA evidence to link Alcala to the killing, resulting in yesterday's sentence. A possible element of the trial that led to the conviction? Alcala, apparently not learning anything from fellow death row convicts Ted Bundy and John Muhammed, represented himself.
One of Alcala's California victims was first thought to be a victim of Hillside Stranglers Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, due to the location of the victim and the method of strangulation. Some of Alcala's alleged victims were both strangled, often with their pantyhose like victims of the Boston Strangler, and had their skulls cracked, most likely with rocks found near the scene. Since either method would have been sufficient to kill on its own, the overkill seen is an interesting aspect of the murders about which I have yet to hear any theories.
With the conviction, authorities in every part of the country where Alcala has lived is trying to link unsolved murders to him. While it makes sense that missing persons could be tied to Alcala, there is a danger in trying so hard to close cases with the convenient scapegoat of an already convicted killer. When Ed Gein was arrested in the 1950s, police tried to link every unsolved murder to him, a task which ultimately proved fruitless. Gein had only killed two women, and the remains of both were found in his house of horrors. All other body parts, a fact confirmed by a visit to the local cemetery, were from recently deceased corpses. Henry Lee Lucas, with police desperate to close cases, confessed to just about every unsolved murder that was placed under his nose, and several of his "confessions" were later proved false. While it makes sense that police could make logical connections between unsolved murders and Alcala's MO, I hope they don't get overzealous in their quest, as other officials have done in the past.