Haunting Pictures from a Killer's Past - NBC New York

Haunting Pictures from a Killer's Past

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    Haunting Pictures from a Killer's Past
    Rodney Alcala

    He's been called "the Devil's own," by a grieving mother; "a near genius" given his IQ: the "Dating Game Killer" for being on that '70s show; and a Ted Bundy for his dangerous charm and cruelty.

    Now police want names for scores of unidentified children and young women photographed decades ago by California Death Row serial killer Rodney Alcala, who was notorious for torturing his victims.

    Police found the pictures in 1979 but only released them after Alcala's long slog through California's criminal justice system -- a process which included two overturned murder convictions but finally ended last month with a death sentence for killing four women and a 12-year-old girl.

    Authorities believe his murder spree extended to the East Coast. The NYPD has linked Alcala, now 66,  to the 1971 rape and strangulation of airline stewardess Cornelia Crilley, 23, in her Upper East Side apartment and the 1977 slaying of socialite Ellen Jane Hover, 23, found in a shallow grave in Tarrytown the following year.

    Hover's murder made national headlines: Her father ran the legendary Ciro's nightclub in Hollywood, befriending stars like Sammy Davis jr. and Dean Martin, and her wealthy stepfather was a Manhattan attorney who put up a hefty reward for her killer. Alcala also had his own brush with the famous, once studying film with director Roman Polanski.

    A graduate of UCLA's School of Fine Arts, Alcala had lived in New York sporadically in the 70s, attending New York University, hanging around Greenwich Village and sweet-talking womenand children into posing for his camera. 

    The dozens of photos released by the NYPD and the Huntington Beach, CA, police form a haunting montage, with women, some in provocative poses, staring ahead or looking wistful.

    Authorities want to know how many were lucky enough to have crossed paths with Alcala -- and lived to tell -- or if these faces may be among the missing. So far, Huntington police have identified about 20 women in the photographs as being alive and well.

    Alcala has been behind bars since 1979, the year he killed 12-year-old Robin Samsoe, who disappeared while riding her bicycle to ballet class near Huntington Beach, California.

    "She never again has to face the defendant because he is the Devil's own," said the girl's mother last month at Alcala's sentencing.

    He was only picked up for Robin's murder when a California detective recognized him while watching a 1979 episode of the "Dating Game."

    Alcala was the bachelor who won the date but he subsequently spooked the bachelorette, who refused to go out with him.