How connected was Rodney Alcala to San Antonio?

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There’s no shortage of content on serial killer Rodney Alcala and the unfathomable murders he committed.

Usually there’s a phrase in a blog or a mention in a documentary about Alcala’s connection to San Antonio. The connection surprised me a few years ago when I was watching an episode of a real crime series. I don’t remember the name of the show, but I remember my eyes widening when I heard the mention of San Antonio.

In a city as intertwined as San Antonio, where the belief that “everyone knows everyone” is generally true, how could I not have known that Alcala was from here? A family friend even informed me that Jeffrey Dahmer, another infamous serial killer, spent time here during his military service, but Alcala’s connection was lost to me until then.


San Antonio doesn’t seem to be very interested in Alcala. Google Trends, which examines searches around the world, shows that there aren’t enough local queries to even formulate an analysis.

Alcala died on July 24, 2021 of natural causes. The titles again included the local connection. The actual number of lives taken by Alcala’s hands is around 130. In 2010, he was sentenced to death for five murders in California between 1977 and 1979, including a 12-year-old girl. Then, in 2013, he pleaded guilty to two more deaths and 25 years of life was added to his original sentence. Three years later, investigators linked it to the 1977 death of Christine Thornton, a 28-year-old pregnant woman whose body was found in Wyoming.

Thornton was born in Hancock, Michigan, but was residing in San Antonio at the time of her death. The encounter between the San Antonio-born killer and a San Antonio resident appears to be an unfortunate coincidence.

Thornton’s younger sister, Kathy Thornton, who has spent nearly 40 years searching for him, told the Casper Star Tribune in 2016 that the victim left San Antonio on a trip with her boyfriend to Montana in search of Golden. What she didn’t know was that they got into an argument during the trip and went their separate ways. It was then that Thornton met Alcala, who told him he was a photographer.

Christine Thornton followed him to an isolated plain outside of Granger, Wyoming, where he killed her and left her body in the elements for years until her remains were discovered by a rancher in 1982.

In 2013, Kathy Thornton’s son sent her a CBS News link with pictures taken by Alcala of women he met and murdered. Investigators were asking the public for help in identifying the individuals in the footage.

SANTA ANA, CA – FEBRUARY 22: Orange County Assistant District Attorney Matt Murphy points out accused serial killer Rodney Alcala in the courtroom as the same man who is pictured in a police composite sketch during closing arguments of the death penalty trial in Santa Ana, Calif., Monday, February 22, 2010. (Photo by Michael Goulding / MediaNews Group / Orange County Register via Getty Images)

MediaNews Group / Orange County Re / MediaNews Group via Getty Images

In the 86th photo, the sister Kathy hadn’t seen since she was a teenager was looking at her, the Casper Star Tribune reported. The photo showed Christine Thornton smiling atop a motorbike on a plain like the one where her body was found.

Kathy Thornton was able to identify her sister in 2015 after a DNA match. Although charges were laid against Alcala, he was never convicted because prosecutors said he was too ill to be extradited. The case was closed after his death.

More is known about Christine Thornton’s life in San Antonio than Alcala’s. Aside from recent news reports covering his conviction and another public appeal to help identify the women in Alcala’s photo collection, not much is known about his time in San Antonio. .

According to records, he was born to Anna Maria Gutierrez and Raoul Alcala-Buquor on August 23, 1943.

The dating game killer, a book written by Stella Sands, discovered that Alcala was born into a middle-class family and lived near the city center. He attended St. Joseph’s Catholic Elementary School for kindergarten, then transferred to Mount Sacred Heart, writes Sands.

It looks like San Antonio’s connection ends there.

When he was 11, Raoul Alcala-Buquor moved the family to Mexico. After her father left, Alcala’s mother brought her children back to the United States and settled in California, which has been widely reported. He attended Cantwell High School before enlisting in the military, according to police writer Heather Monroe’s Medium blog.

The title of Sand’s book and Alcala’s monkier provide an extra layer of shock. In September 1978, Alcala appeared on the popular le Seduction game show as “Bachelor # 1,” despite being convicted of molesting a child in 1972. Alcala smiled and charmed single Cheryl Bradshaw so much that he ended up winning a date. She later backed down because she found him scary, according to reports.

His intuition was correct.

The show host described Alcala as a “successful photographer” who rode motorcycles and went skydiving. What no one knew was that Alcala had taken lives as well. Alcala had raped, beaten and killed Georgia Wixted, Charlotte Lamb and Jill Barcomb as he stepped onto the game show stage, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Rodney James Alcala, 36, was sentenced to death in the gas chamber on Wednesday for the sexual murder of Robin Samsoe, 12, of Huntington Beach.  Orange County Superior Court Judge Philip E. Schwab has ordered Alcala's return to court so he can dispose of the jury's death sentence.  Alcala is shown in a 1980 archive photo.

Rodney James Alcala, 36, was sentenced to death in the gas chamber on Wednesday for the sexual murder of Robin Samsoe, 12, of Huntington Beach. Orange County Superior Court Judge Philip E. Schwab has ordered Alcala’s return to court so he can dispose of the jury’s death sentence. Alcala is shown in a 1980 archive photo.

Bettmann / Bettmann Archives


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