It all started in 1978 in the United States. Viewers were glued to the television's ABC network, where a top-rated show was on: The Dating Game. Men and women between the ages of thirty and forty participated, trying to find a soulmate through a series of affinity games.
The twist was that they could not see each other, as a divider separated them, moved when the participant had chosen the lucky one among the candidates.
The woman looking for a husband was the young and sparkling Cheryl Bradshaw. She immediately established a playful and witty banter with Rodney Alcala, one of the three suitors.
Rodney Alcala, The Dating Game Killer
The sympathy started immediately, but Cheryl was not satisfied. She was pressing, stimulating Rodney Alcala with ironic questions, to which he answered without delay. Often, they had two-way conversations that had the effect of eliciting a cheerful laugh. This entertained both of them and the audience in the studio; even home viewers loved it. In no time at all, Rodney Alcala becomes the darling of the game, along with Cheryl.
In one of the many teasing back and forth, Rodney said to Cheryl mischievously, "We're going to have a blast together, Cheryl." This phrase triggered laughter among the audience, who knew what he was alluding to. And to the umpteenth question asked by Cheryl, "What is the most beautiful moment of the day?" Rodney replied with equal confidence: "It's night. The night is when the most beautiful things happen. "
In hindsight, this banter took on a much darker connotation.
The courtship between Cheryl and Rodney Alcala lasted for several episodes until the final decision. It was the one that everyone expected, and needless to say, he was the man she chose. The partition was moved, Rodney stepped forward with his toothy grin, and Cheryl greeted him with an equally dazzling smile. Yet something happened that no one expected.
The Female Intuition
After choosing, Cheryl went out with Rodney Alcala for the expected first date. But, she would never contact him again because she felt strange and terrible during that meeting off the set. Later she would say that the feeling was something "she could never have forgotten. "
That man had a look that transmitted profound discomfort, and the woman felt a shiver run down her spine. In short, her intuition prevailed, and it was shouting at her loudly not to go out with the charming guy who, on closer inspection, had hidden something sinister.
Later it turned out that Rodney had already been on the police's radar. He was a suspect in murders, harassment, and sexual violence, always on young women.
Without any evidence against him, it was challenging to incriminate him. Rodney Alcala was intelligent, shrewd, not easy to frame, even if his strategy was always the same.
Even at The Dating game, Rodney introduced himself as a professional photographer. He would attract young girls (even minors) with the excuse of taking artistic photos of them. Then he would force them to his perversions and kill them.
Rodney Alcala's Background
Rodney Alcala's life has never been a bed of roses: born in the suburbs of San Antonio (Texas) in 1943, he grew up in a very dysfunctional family. His father abandoned him when he was just 11, and his mother decided to move to Los Angeles to live a new life.
Rodney, at seventeen, decided to earn his living by joining the army. He did not stay for long due to nervous breakdowns that led him to go home to his mother.
A psychiatrist diagnosed him with an antisocial personality disorder, which led him to reject any social norm regulating civil life. In addition, he also had a narcissistic personality disorder, or the constant need to arouse admiration from anyone.
But the mental health problems that plagued Rodney Alcala did not end there. The third diagnosis revealed a borderline personality disorder, which generates "borderline" moods, such as uncontrollable anger, depression, and instability.
However, Rodney Alcala continued his life with no intention of seeing a treatment.
The Lucky Escape Of The First Victim
At 25, he lured an 8-year-old girl, Tali Shapiro, to his apartment, but a witness warned the police because he was suspicious of the circumstance. The police arrived on the spot. Unfortunately, they did not stop the rape of the little girl and the violent blows that almost killed her.
However, the perpetrator of the crime had already escaped and changed his name: he became John Berger.
Another act of violence, which ended with his first real murder, was done when Rodney Alcala killed Cornelia Michel Crilley. She was a twenty-three-year-old woman, a flight attendant, raped and killed by strangulation in a Manhattan apartment.
Rodney still got away with it and managed to disguise his instincts by giving a mask of normality to his life. He graduated in arts and started working in summer camps as a helper and consultant for boys. However, some of them recognized him as the man who appeared in a poster on the most wanted people, released by the FBI, posted in a post office.
Alcala was then arrested and forced to return to California to answer in court over the violence against Tali Shapiro. The child's parents refused to let the girl testify at the trial. Rodney got away with it: accused of assault but not of rape, he soon obtained probation.
In 1977 Rodney Alcala was arrested again for assaulting a thirteen-year-old girl. He attracted her with the same modus operandi used with Tali Shapiro: a ride in the car with the excuse of accompanying her to school. The assault charges led to a light sentence in a script already seen, and Rodney Alcala was released from prison after two years.
A "Talent" For Professional Photography
Rodney knew the police were targeting him, but he also knew that the investigators did not have enough evidence to set up a trial that could cost him a life sentence. He did not give up; he wanted to satisfy his filthy fantasies. He discovered an easy way, which enabled him to meet many other preys, playing the card of the professional photographer.
Using his charisma, he managed to attract hundreds of boys and girls (more than a thousand photos will be found later) with the excuse of taking artistic pictures of them. His collection of potential prey increased dramatically.
With that excuse, he got what he needed, although later, at the trial, he admitted to having raped and killed only one of the girls photographed, Monique Hoyt, aged fifteen. To all the other murder charges, he always responded in the same way: "I don't remember doing it."
The criminal enterprises came to their end in 1979 when Rodney started participating in The Dating Game. Despite knowing that the police suspected him and were breathing down his neck, he showed himself in that famous game. Pompous and too sure of himself, he presented himself as the perfect candidate. Things, however, did not go as planned.
The Death Penalty For The Dating Game Killer
After Cheryl Bradshaw refused to go out with him, Rodney took out his anger on a twelve-year-old girl, Robin Samsoe. The little girl had been missing for about two weeks. The certainty of her death came when the police finally managed to find her body and evidence that pined Rodney to the trial for murder.
Rodney Alcala was arrested in 1980. However, there was not enough evidence. The police still suspected that he had committed over 130 murders. He could not escape the accusations at the trial, but he got away from the death penalty, thanks to legal quibbles.
The case against Rodney Alcala, repeated in 1986 (again for the murder of Robin Samsoe), was to confirm or reject the death sentence, ended up again invalidated, and had to be redone.
In 2010, a new trial was organized. The charges for six other murders discovered in the meantime were added, for which DNA evidence existed. The accused staged a real show in court, in which he defended himself, "playing" both the role of lawyer and defendant. Rodney Alcala was even changing the tone of voice in both roles. An absolute farce that did not convince the jury.
Once the final sentence, which was a death sentence, had been read, Rodney invoked clemency, claiming he needed treatment. He even sang the song Alice's Restaurant (a cult piece of protest blues) to escape the death penalty:
"I mean, I want, I want to kill. Kill. I want, I want, I want to kill, I want to see blood and guts and veins in my teeth. Eating burned corpses. I want to kill, kill, kill, kill... "
One Of The Most Ruthless Serial Killers Died Of Natural Causes
In reality, Rodney Alcala was not executed - despite the seven murders for which he was found guilty and the dozens and dozens that seem to be attributable to him because of those he photographed and then disappeared.
He remained for years waiting on death row. Ill for some time, he died on July 24, 2021, at the age of 77. He was on death row for 41 years.
Rodney Alcala can easily be placed among the ranks of the most ruthless serial killers of all time, together with Ted Bundy or Issei Sagawa, sick minds competing for a dreary record.
Summing up, with a thought addressed to the victims, it can be said that Cheryl Bradshaw saved her life by listening to her instinct, or if you like, her intuition. If she hadn't, she would probably have ended up on Alcala's list of victims. Her words about that man leave no room for doubt:
"He was quiet but now and then he would interrupt me and get aggressive. At one point he became very mean, rude and aggressive as if he were trying to intimidate me. Not only did I not like him at all... He was one of the most disturbing men I've ever dated. "