A prolific murderer who became known as “the Dating Game Killer” died on Saturday while awaiting execution in California, authorities said.
Rodney James Alcala was 77. He died of natural causes at a hospital in San Joaquin Valley, California, prison officials said.
Alcala was sentenced to death in 2010 for five murders in California between 1977 and 1979, including that of a 12-year-old girl. Authorities estimate he may have killed up to 130 people across the US.
He received an additional 25 years to life in 2013 after pleading guilty to two homicides in New York. He was charged again in 2016 after DNA evidence connected him to the 1977 death of a 28-year-old woman whose remains were found in a remote area of Wyoming. A prosecutor said Alcala was too ill to face trial in the death of the woman, who was six months pregnant.
California’s death row is in San Quentin state prison near San Francisco, but for years Alcala was housed more than 200 miles away at a prison in Corcoran where he could receive medical care round the clock. Governor Gavin Newsom has imposed a moratorium on executions while he is governor.
Prosecutors said Alcala stalked women and took earrings as trophies from some.
“You’re talking about a guy who is hunting through southern California looking for people to kill because he enjoys it,” the Orange county prosecutor Matt Murphy said during Alcala’s trial.
The mother of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe testified at Alcala’s murder trial that a pair of gold ball earrings found in his storage locker belonged to her daughter.
Alcala claimed the earrings were his and that a clip from his 1978 appearance on The Dating Game showed him wearing the studs nearly a year before Samsoe died. He denied the murders and cited inconsistencies in witness accounts.
California prosecutors said Alcala took earrings from at least two of his adult victims as trophies. All were repeatedly strangled and resuscitated, they said. Investigators said one victim’s DNA was found on a rose-shaped earring in Alcala’s possession, and his DNA was found in her body.
He was sentenced to death twice before in Samsoe’s murder but both convictions were overturned. More than two decades later he was also charged over the killings of the four adult women, 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, aiming to link him to unsolved murders around the US.