On July 26 1979, homicide detectives from Huntington Beach, California, found hundreds of photographs of unidentified women in a Seattle storage locker belonging to a man named Rodney Alcala. They were investigating the murder of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe, who had been seen talking with Alcala a month earlier. Tellingly, her earrings were found in the locker along with the photos.

Alcala was sentenced to death on May 8, 1980, but successfully appealed the ruling in 1984, claiming the case’s inclusion of some previous convictions had prejudiced the jury. His next trial, in 1986, was also overturn‚Äčed because the judge had “precluded the defense from developing and presenting evidence material to significant issues in the case.” Alcala was most recently convicted in March 2010, and again received the death penalty.

Despite the difficulty in making his convictions stick, there was never much doubt that Alcala was a prolific killer. In the three trials between 1980 and 2010, he was proven to have murdered seven young women, and detectives maintain that tally is incomplete. Playing out this theory, Huntington Beach Police Department publicly released Alcala’s photos at the end the last trial, hoping some of the hundreds of women could be identified, or confirmed missing.

During this period Alcala convinced hundreds of young men and women that he was a professional fashion photographer, and photographed them for his portfolio. Most of the photos are sexually explicit and most remain unidentified. Police fear that some of the subjects may be additional cold-case victims.

In 1978, despite his status as a convicted rapist and registered sex offender, Alcala was accepted as a contestant on The Dating Game. By then he had already killed at least two women in California and two others in New York. Host Jim Lange introduced him as a “successful photographer who got his start when his father found him in the darkroom at the age of 13, fully developed. Between takes you might find him skydiving or motorcycling”.

Alcala won the contest, and a date with “bachelorette” Cheryl Bradshaw, who subsequently refused to go out with him, according to published reports, because she found him “creepy”.


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