"Dating Game Killer" Gets 25 Years to Life for NYC Slayings

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A California serial killer and one-time contestant on "The Dating Game" was sentenced Monday to another 25 years to life for killing two women in New York in the 1970s.

    Rodney Alcala was brought to New York to face charges here last year, and pleaded guilty last month so he could get back to California to pursue his appeal there. The New York charges stemmed from a flight attendant's strangling death in 1971 and the death of a former nightclub owner's daughter whose body was found in 1978 after she disappeared the year before.

    The former photographer and dating-show contestant represented himself at his sometimes-bizarre 2010 California trial that ended with his convictions in the strangulations of four women and a 12-year-old girl in Southern California in the 1970s. 

    In those killings he was sentenced to death. The judge on Monday choked back tears as she gave Alcala a concurrent 25 years to life sentence.

    Alcala had long been suspected in at least one of the Manhattan cases. But he was indicted only in 2011, after the Manhattan district attorney's cold-case unit re-examined the cases, looked at evidence that emerged during the California trial and conducted new interviews with more than 100 witnesses. California authorities had said they were exploring whether Alcala could be tied to cases in New York and other states, and they had released more than 100 photos, found in his storage locker, of young women and girls.

    One of the women, Cornelia Crilley, a flight attendant for Trans World Airlines, was found, strangled with a stocking, in her Manhattan apartment in 1971.

    The other woman, Ellen Hover, also was living in Manhattan when she vanished in 1977. Her remains were found the next year in the woods on a suburban estate.

    Hover had a degree in biology and was seeking a job as a researcher, a private investigator for her family said at the time.

    Her disappearance and Crilley's death made headlines and spurred extensive searches. TWA offered a $5,000 reward for information about Crilley's killing. Hover's relatives papered walls and kiosks with posters.

    A note in Hover's calendar for the day she vanished showed she planned to have lunch with a photographer she had recently met, according to the family's private detective and news reports at the time. Her lunch date's name, authorities later said, was an alias that Alcala used.

    Alcala also had been eyed in Crilley's death for at least several years. NYPD detectives investigating her killing went to California in 2003 with a warrant to interview Alcala and get a dental impression from him. A forensic dentist later found that a bite mark on Crilley's body was consistent with Alcala's impression, a law enforcement official has said. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Alcala has been behind bars since his 1979 arrest in one of the California killings. Before that arrest, he also served a total of about 4 ½ years in prison on convictions of furnishing marijuana to a minor and kidnapping and trying to kill an 8-year-old girl.

    He also had attended college and worked briefly as a typist at The Los Angeles Times, according to a 1979 story in the newspaper.

    And he had made his way onto a 1978 episode of "The Dating Game."

    Introduced as a photographer with a yen for motorcycling and skydiving, the long-haired, leisure-suited Alcala won the contest. But the woman who chose him over two other contestants ultimately didn't go on a date with him, according to news reports.

    Unbeknownst to the TV audience, Alcala was a killer whose attacks were accompanied by sexual abuse and torture, prosecutors would later say.

    His conviction in 2011 came after a series of trials, overturned convictions and strange courtroom moments. Acting as his own lawyer, Alcala — whose IQ is said to top 160 — offered a rambling defense that included questioning the mother of one of his victims, showing a clip of his appearance on "The Dating Game" and playing Arlo Guthrie's 1967 song "Alice's Restaurant."