Rodney Alcala, a former Monterey Park resident who was sentenced to death in March for the murders of five women and girls in the 1970s, has been indicted in connection with two additional murders in New York, authorities said Thursday.
A cold-case unit established last year in the Manhattan district attorney’s office built on the California case and other evidence collected over the years to obtain an indictment, officials said.
“Cold cases are never, ever forgotten cases,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a written statement. “Our prosecutors, investigators and partners in the NYPD do not give up.”
Long after the slayings were relegated to cold-case files, Alcala, now 67, who had long been suspected in the New York cases has been indicted, prosecutors said.
The killings made headlines, spurred extensive investigations and frustrated authorities for decades: A 23-year-old flight attendant found raped and strangled with a pair of stockings in her Manhattan apartment in 1971. A Hollywood nightspot owner’s 23-year-old daughter whose remains were found in the woods in 1978 after she disappeared in Manhattan the year before.
Though he remains on California’s death row for now, Rodney Alcala is expected to be extradited to New York to face murder charges in the deaths of Cornelia Crilley and Ellen Hover. Alcala, 67, was convicted last year of strangling four women and a 12-year-old girl in California in the 1970s, in killings prosecutors said were laced with torture.
The indictment was the result of an “exhaustive re-examination” of the two unsolved murders last year, which included the interview of more than 100 witnesses, New York County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Erin Duggan said in a written statement.
“This re-focus on these cases, combined with information made available during the defendant’s trial in California, finally gave prosecutors the evidence needed to secure today’s indictment,” she said.
Alcala represented himself in his California case, and it wasn’t immediately clear whether he would have an attorney in New York.
Alcala was sentenced in March to death for five murders in the 1970s. His victims were Robin Samsoe, 12, of Huntington Beach; Jill Barcomb, 18, of New York; Georgia Wixted, 27, of Malibu; Charlotte Lamb, 32, of Santa Monica; and Jill Parenteau, 21, of Burbank.
Samsoe’s body was discovered in the Angeles National Forest north of Sierra Madre.
After the verdict against Alcala last year, authorities released more than 100 photos of young women and girls found in the amateur photographer’s storage locker, and prosecutors said authorities were exploring the possibility of tying Alcala to cases in other states including New York.
The database of photographs remains posted at the Orange County District Attorney’s website, orangecountyda.com.
“As we often do in cold cases, detectives made connections and his victims piece by piece, year after year, including last April’s public release toward that end of 226 images of women photographed by Alcala.
New York District Attorney’s officials declined to discuss specific details of the case Thursday, saying it may jeopardize the prosecution.
He had been suspected in Hover’s death since at least 1979, according to newspaper reports at the time; California prosecutors even sought unsuccessfully to mention her killing in the first of Alcala’s several trials in the 12-year-old’s death, in 1980.
In 2003, police detectives investigating the Crilley slaying went to California with a warrant to interview Alcala and get a dental impression from him.
The New York Police Department’s cold-case squad also discovered while investigating the Crilley slaying that Alcala had used an alias, John Berger, while living in New York, and that name was also in the Hover case file, said Paul Browne, the NYPD’s chief spokesman. A private detective working for Hover’s family said at the time of her disappearance that she had a lunch date with a photographer with a similar name.
Alcala initially denied he ever visited New York, but after police showed him the warrant, he said, “What took you so long?” Browne said.
Alcala had been convicted and sentenced to death twice before in the California girl’s 1979 murder, but the verdicts had been overturned on procedural grounds. Drawing on DNA samples and other evidence, prosecutors refiled charges in her death and added the four other murder charges in 2006.
Alcala was living with his mother on Abajo Drive in Monterey Park when he was first arrested for murder in July of 1979.
He grew up in a middle-class home in Monterey Park and claimed to have a near-genius IQ of 135. He went to Cantwell High School in Montebello and earned a bachelor’s degree from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in 1968.
His trial was both gruesome and bizarre. Prosecutors portrayed him as a killer with a penchant for torturing his victims, raping one with a claw-toothed hammer and posing several victims nude in sexual positions after their deaths.
Alcala, acting as his own attorney, offered a rambling defense that included questioning the mother of one of his victims, playing Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 song “Alice’s Restaurant” and showing a TV clip of himself on a 1978 episode of “The Dating Game.”
– The Associated Press contributed to this story.