WITH his shoulder-length brunette hair and dazzling smile, Rodney Alcala appeared to be the perfect bachelor when he appeared on matchmaking TV show, The Dating Game.
But little did the female contestant – or the studio audience – know that he was one of America’s most dangerous serial killers – who was secretly kidnapping, raping and murdering women and children… and that he was at the peak of his killing spree.
Alcala, later nicknamed the ‘Dating Game Killer’, would go on to be linked to over 130 women and children’s deaths – including a 12-year-old girl – and was known for biting his dead victims’ naked bodies before photographing them in sexually-explicit poses.
His sexual sadism has led to comparisons with Ted Bundy – the subject of new hit Netflix series Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, who was guilty of the abduction, rapes and murders of up to 30 women before being executed by electric chair in 1989.
Here, Sun Online examines how Alcala, now 75, went on a sickening and ritualistic crime spree, earning him the reputation of one of America’s most notorious serial killers.
Strangled with stockings and bitten on the breast
Alcala would strangle his victims until they passed out, then resuscitate them before beginning his torture, repeatedly raping and throttling them to within an inch of their life.
Once he’d had enough of torturing the women, he’d finally kill them, then rearrange their limbs into explicit positions and photograph their naked bodies.
His killing spree started with Cornelia Crilley, a 23-year-old flight attendant living in New York.
Police found her in 1971 stripped naked and strangled with a stocking, with a bite mark on her breast and material stuffed down her throat to stop her screaming.
His next victim – Ellen Hover – was found in the grounds of the Phelps Memorial Hospital in Westchester – but her body was so badly decomposed they had to identify her using dental records.
She had written on her calendar that she was meeting a man called John Berger – an alias that police didn’t realise was Acala’s decoy.
But it wasn’t just women he went after…
The 12-year-old victim
The year he was on the show, Acala came across 12-year-old blonde-haired Robin Samsoe at the beach with her friend Bridget Wilvurt and approached them.
Bridget later explained: “He honed in on us, like a shark in the water… and he goes, ‘Can I take your girls’ pictures?’ … And Robin goes, ‘Sure.’
Alcala later left the girls alone but Robin later rode off on her bike to a ballet studio where she was due to be attending work experience – but she never turned up and no on ever saw her alive again.
Then, in 1982, detectives in Granger, Wyoming, found the body of 25-year-old Christine Thornton who was six months pregnant.
She had split with her boyfriend and had the bad luck of bumping into Alcala on the way home.
Eight-year-old victim raped and left in pool of her own blood
As well as the murders, Acala raped an eight-year-old girl.
Tali Shapiro was just eight when Alcala raped and beat her with a steel bar, leaving her needing 27 stitches in her head.
A witness called the police after watching Tali get into his car outside school.
When they arrived at Alcala’s home they found Tali’s unconscious body on the floor with her legs spread apart, surrounded by a pool of blood.
He was arrested and spent 34 months in jail on a charge of child molestation.
‘Bachelor Number One’… and convicted rapist
Despite his rape conviction and secret heinous crime spree, Rodney’s bright eyes and cheeky smile earned him a place on Blind Date-style ABC TV show The Dating Game in September 1978.
Dressed smartly in a brown suit, he was an instant hit with the bachelorette, winning a date with pretty contestant Cheryl Bradshaw.
She later revealed she saw his true colours backstage and turned down their tennis lesson date, saying: “I started to feel ill. He was acting really creepy.”
Less than a year after Cheryl chose charismatic and attractive Alcala as her ‘dream date’ on prime-time TV, he was arrested and charged with his first murder.
‘He blew kisses at me across the courtroom’
He was first arrested and imprisoned in 1979 for the murder of 12-year-old Robin.
Her mum, Marianne Connelly, told ABC News at the time that the sick killer was “blowing kisses at me across the courtroom, and I thought I was going to lose my mind”.
In 2003, Alcala was convicted of Robin’s murder for a third time – after previous convictions were over-turned, as well as four more counts, and sentenced to death.
During his trial, Alcala decided to act as his own defence lawyer – at one point taking to the stand and questioning himself for five hours in front of jurors.
After less than two day’s deliberation the jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death.
The breakthrough came after new DNA technology linked him – via semen traces – to the murders of four Los Angeles women.
Jill Barcomb was found “rolled up like a ball” in a ravine, Georgia had been bludgeoned in her Malibu home, Charlotte had been raped, strangled and left in the laundry room of an apartment complex, and Jill Parenteau was also found dead in her home.
One victim was killed by blows from a claw hammer, and the other women were repeatedly strangled and resuscitated until they died.
He was also linked, but never tried to Crilley’s death after police matched a finger print on a letter lodged under her dead body to Alcala, as well as his teeth to the bite marks on her breast.
They also linked him to Hover’s death after discovering that he used the name John Berger.
1,000s of sexually explicit images
A collection of thousands of sexually explicit images were later found by police in his Seattle locker and in 2010 police released 120 of the images to the public in the hope of identifying more victims.
At that point, 21 women came forward to identify themselves and six families recognised relatives.
This was how victim Christine Thornton, then 28, was spotted by her sister Kathy Thornton.
She’d spent 39 years trying to track her down after she moved away and lost touch.
The location where her body was found was thought to be just yards from where the photograph of Christine, wearing a yellow top and riding a motorbike, was taken.
Police now still believe he could be responsible for over a hundred other missing women.
But for now, Alcala remains in California State Prison, awaiting his own death.