Rodney James Alcala is a convicted rapist and serial killer who was sentenced to death in California in 2010 for five murders committed between 1977 and 1979, and is thought to be responsible for others.
He is sometimes labeled the "Dating Game Killer" due to his 1978 appearance on the American television show The Dating Game in the very midst of his murder spree.
Alcala is also notable for exceptional demonstrations of cruelty: Prosecutors say he "toyed" with his victims, strangling them until they lost consciousness, then waiting until they revived, sometimes repeating this process several times before finally killing them.
Investigators have found a collection of hundreds of photos of women and teenaged boys photographed by Alcala, and speculate that he could be responsible for many more murders in California. He is also a suspect in at least two unsolved murders in New York. Authorities have compared him to Ted Bundy, and fear that, as evidence continues to mount, he may prove to be one of the most prolific serial killers in American history.
Alcala committed his first known crime in 1968: A motorist in Los Angeles witnessed him luring an eight-year-old girl named Tali Shapiro into his Hollywood apartment and called police. The girl was found in the apartment raped and beaten with a steel bar, but Alcala escaped. He fled to the east coast and enrolled in the NYU film school using the name "John Berger." During the summer months he also obtained a counseling job at a New Hampshire arts camp for children, using a slightly different alias, "John Burger."
In 1971, after two campers noticed Alcala's FBI wanted poster at the post office and notified camp directors, he was arrested and extradited back to California. By then, however, Tali Shapiro's parents had relocated her family to Mexico, and refused to allow her to testify at Alcala's trial. Unable to convict him of rape and attempted murder without their primary witness, prosecutors were forced to permit Alcala to plead guilty to a lesser charge.
He was paroled after 34 months, in 1974, under the "indeterminate sentencing" program popular at the time, which allowed parole boards to release offenders as soon as they demonstrated evidence of "rehabilitation."
Less than two months later, Alcala was arrested for violating parole and providing marijuana to a 13-year old girl who claimed she had been kidnapped. Once again, he was paroled after serving two years of an "indeterminate sentence."
In 1977, despite his criminal record and official registration as a sex offender, he was hired as a typesetter by the Los Angeles Times in the midst of their coverage of the Hillside Strangler murders.
During this period Alcala also convinced dozens of young women that he was a professional fashion photographer, and photographed them for his "portfolio." Most of those photos remain unidentified, and police fear that some of the women may be additional victims.