SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – A prolific serial torture killer dubbed “The Dating Game Killer” died on Saturday awaiting execution in California, authorities said. Rodney James Alcala was 77 years old.
He died of natural causes at a hospital in San Joaquin Valley, Calif., Prison officials said in a statement.
Alcala was sentenced to death in 2010 for five murders in California between 1977 and 1979, including that of a 12-year-old girl, although authorities estimate he could have killed up to 130 people across the country.
Alcala was sentenced to another 25 years in 2013 after pleading guilty to two homicides in New York.
He was charged again in 2016 after DNA evidence linked him to the 1977 death of a 28-year-old woman whose remains were found in a remote area of southwestern Wyoming. But a prosecutor said Alcala was too ill to stand trial for the death of the woman, who was six months pregnant when she died.
California’s death row is in San Quentin State Prison near San Francisco, but for years Alcala had been housed more than 200 miles away in a Corcoran prison where he could receive medical treatment 24 hours a day.
Prosecutors said Alcala stalked the women as prey and took earrings as trophies from some of his victims.
“You’re talking about a guy hunting in Southern California for people to kill because he likes it,” Orange County, California prosecutor Matt Murphy said during his trial.
Investigators say his true death toll may never be known.
The earrings helped him get sentenced to death, although Gov. Gavin Newsom has placed a moratorium on executions while he is governor.
Robin Samsoe’s mother, 12, said during her murder trial that a pair of gold earrings found in a jewelry pouch in Alcala’s storage locker belonged to her daughter.
But Alcala claimed the earrings were his, and a music video from his 1978 appearance on “The Dating Game” shows him wearing the studs nearly a year before Samsoe died. He denied the killings and cited inconsistencies in the accounts and descriptions of witnesses.
California prosecutors said Alcala also took the earrings of at least two of his adult victims as trophies.
Two of the four women were posed nude after their deaths, one was raped with a claw hammer and all were strangled and resuscitated multiple times to prolong their agony, prosecutors said.
Investigators said a victim’s DNA was found on a rose-shaped earring in Alcala’s possession, and his DNA was found in his body.
He had already been sentenced to death twice in the murder of Samsoe, but both sentences were overturned. He was charged with the murder of the four adult women more than two decades later based on new DNA and other forensic evidence.
After the verdict, authorities released more than 100 photos of young women and girls found in Alcala’s possession in hopes of linking it to other unsolved killings in the country.
“There is the murder and the rape, then there is the unequivocal carnage of a Rodney Alcala-style murder,” said Bruce Barcomb, the brother of victim Jill Barcomb, 18, as Alcala was condemned to death.
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