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Serial killer sentenced to death in ’70s spree

Serial killer Rodney Alcala is sentenced to death for the 1970s deaths of four women and a 12-year-old girl, the Los Angeles Times reports on its Web site.
Convicted serial killer Rodney James Alcala has now been sentenced to death three times in a 1979 murder case.
Convicted serial killer Rodney James Alcala has now been sentenced to death three times in a 1979 murder case.Sam Gangwer / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A judge on Tuesday sentenced serial killer Rodney Alcala to death before hearing emotional testimony from the families of four women and a 12-year-old girl he strangled in the 1970s.

Alcala showed little emotion when his sentence was announced and kept his head down afterward as families took their turn condemning the 66-year-old amateur photographer.

"There is murder and rape and then there is the unequivocal carnage of a Rodney Alcala-style murder," said Bruce Barcomb, the brother of victim Jill Barcomb. "Give up your debt, Rodney: all victims, all states, all occurrences. Own your truth."

The sentence was announced three weeks after a jury recommended death for Alcala, who was convicted on five counts of first-degree murder after a bizarre and sometimes surreal trial.

Alcala acted as his own attorney during the trial and unveiled a rambling defense that included questioning the mother of one of his victims, playing an Arlo Guthrie ballad and showing a clip from the 1970s TV show "The Dating Game."

After the verdict, authorities released more than 100 photos of young women and girls found in Alcala's possession in hopes of linking him to other unsolved murders around the country. Authorities from New Hampshire to Washington are now trying to determine if the UCLA graduate may have killed in their states.

Alcala has been sentenced to death twice before in the 1979 murder of young Robin Samsoe, but those verdicts were overturned on appeal. Prosecutors refiled charges in that case and added the four other murders in 2006 after investigators linked them to Alcala using DNA samples and other forensic evidence.

Those cases, which had gone unsolved for decades, went on trial for the first time this year.

The 12-year-old Samsoe disappeared on June 20, 1979, while riding a friend's bike to ballet class in Huntington Beach in Orange County. Her body was found 12 days later in Angeles National Forest, where it had been mutilated by wild animals.

Alcala was arrested a month after Samsoe's disappearance when his parole agent recognized him from a police sketch and called authorities. He has been in custody ever since.

He was first tried in Samsoe's murder in 1980. Prosecutors added the murders of the four women in 2006 after investigators discovered forensic evidence linking him to those crimes, including DNA found on three of the women, a bloody handprint and marker testing done on blood Alcala left on a towel in the fourth victim's home.

Alcala was convicted on Feb. 25, and also found true special-circumstance allegations of rape, torture and kidnapping, making him eligible for the death penalty.

During the guilt phase of trial, Alcala played a seconds-long clip of himself on a 1978 episode of "The Dating Game." He said the grainy clip proved that he was wearing a gold-ball earring almost a year before Samsoe was killed.

Prosecutors said the earring, found in a small pouch with other earrings in a storage locker Alcala had rented, belonged to Samsoe and that Alcala had taken it as a trophy. They also found the DNA of another victim of Alcala on a rose-shaped earring in the same pouch.

During the penalty phase, the trial took another bizarre twist when Alcala played Arlo Guthrie's 1967 song "Alice's Restaurant," in which the narrator tries to avoid being drafted for the Vietnam War by trying to persuade a psychiatrist that he's unfit for the military because of his supposed extreme desire to kill.

"I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth," the song's narrator sings. "Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean: kill, kill, kill, kill."

The song prompted Samsoe's brother to stalk out of the courtroom when it was played.

In addition to Samsoe, Alcala is charged with killing Jill Barcomb, 18, who had just moved to Los Angeles from Oneida, N.Y.; Georgia Wixted, 27, of Malibu; Charlotte Lamb, 32, of Santa Monica; and Jill Parenteau, 21, of Burbank.