Rodney James Alcala (born August 23, 1943) is a
convicted rapist and serial
killer who was sentenced to death in California in 2010 for five
committed between 1977 and 1979, and is thought to be responsible for
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
Alcala is also notable for exceptional demonstrations of
Prosecutors say he "toyed" with his victims, strangling them until
consciousness, then waiting until they revived, sometimes repeating
several times before finally killing them.
Investigators have found a collection of hundreds of photos of women
teenaged boys photographed by Alcala, and speculate that he could be
for many more murders in California. He is also a suspect in at
unsolved murders in New York. Authorities have compared him to Ted
and fear that, as evidence continues to mount, he may prove to be one
most prolific serial killers in American history.
Alcala was born Rodrigo Jacques Alcala-Buquor in San Antonio, Texas to
Alcala Buquor and Anna Maria Gutierrez. He and his sisters were
raised by his
mother in suburban Los Angeles. His father abandoned the family.
He joined the United States Army in 1960, where he served as a clerk.
after what was described as a "nervous breakdown", he was diagnosed
antisocial personality disorder by a military psychiatrist and
Alcala, who claims to have a "genius-level" IQ, graduated from the
of Fine Arts after his medical discharge from the Army, and later
York University using the alias "John Berger", where he studied film
Early criminal history
Alcala committed his first known crime in 1968: A motorist in Los
witnessed him luring an eight-year-old girl named Tali Shapiro into
Hollywood apartment and called police. The girl was found in the
and beaten with a steel bar, but Alcala escaped. He fled to the
and enrolled in the NYU film school using the name "John Berger."
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
and notified camp directors, he was arrested and extradited back to
By then, however, Tali Shapiro's parents had relocated her family to
refused to allow her to testify at Alcala's trial. Unable to
convict him of
rape and attempted murder without their primary witness, prosecutors
to permit Alcala to plead guilty to a lesser charge.
He was paroled
months, in 1974, under the "indeterminate sentencing" program popular
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
providing marijuana to a 13-year old girl who claimed she had been
Once again, he was paroled after serving two years of an "indeterminate
In 1977, despite his criminal record and official registration as a
offender, he was hired as a typesetter by the Los Angeles Times in the
their coverage of the Hillside Strangler murders.
During this period Alcala also convinced dozens of young women that he
professional fashion photographer, and photographed them for his "portfolio."
Most of those photos remain unidentified, and police fear that some of
may be additional victims (see below).
Samsoe murder and trials
Robin Samsoe, a 12-year-old girl from Huntington Beach, California
somewhere between the beach and her ballet class on June 20, 1979. Her
decomposing body was found 12 days later in the foothills of Los
Police subsequently found her earrings in a Seattle locker rented by
In 1980 Alcala was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for
but his conviction was overturned by the California Supreme Court
Orange County Superior Court trial judge had allowed the jury to hear
Tali Shapiro case, and Alcala's other rape and kidnapping convictions.
1986 he was convicted for a second time and again sentenced to death,
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel overthrew his conviction once
part because a witness was not allowed to support Alcala's contention
park ranger who found Samsoe's body had been "hypnotized by police
Third (joined) trial
While preparing their third prosecution in 2003, Orange County
learned that Alcala's DNA, sampled under a new state law (over his
matched semen left at the rape-murder scenes of two women in Los
Another pair of earrings found in Alcala's storage locker matched the
DNA of one
of the two victims.
Additional evidence, including another cold
match in 2004, led to Alcala's indictment for the murders of four
women: Jill Barcomb, 18, killed in 1977 and originally thought to have
victim of the Hillside Strangler; Georgia Wixted, 27, bludgeoned in
apartment in 1977; Charlotte Lamb, 31, raped and strangled in El
1978; and Jill Parenteau, 21, killed in her Burbank apartment in 1979.
In 2003, prosecutors entered a motion to join the Samsoe charges with
the four newly-discovered victims. Alcala contested the motion. In
California Supreme Court ruled in the prosecution's favor, and in
stood trial once again. At the third trial Alcala, acting as his own
told jurors, often in a rambling monotone, that he was at Knott's
when Samsoe was kidnapped. (He offered no defense of any kind in the
As part of his closing argument, he played the portion
Guthrie's song "Alice's Restaurant" in which the protagonist tells a
psychiatrist he wants to "kill." He was convicted on all five
surprise witness during the penalty phase of the trial was Tali
Alcala's first known victim. In March 2010, Alcala was sentenced to
a third time.
Dating Game appearance
In 1978, Alcala — who had by then already killed at least two women —
accepted as a contestant on The Dating Game, despite being a convicted
and registered sex offender. Host Jim Lange introduced him as "...a
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
motorcycling." He won a date with "bachelorette" Cheryl Bradshaw, who
subsequently refused to go out with him, according to published
she found him "creepy." Jed Mills, an actor who sat next to
as "Bachelor #2", later described him as a "very strange guy" with "bizarre
opinions." (The third contestant, Armand Chiami, has not publicly
Criminal profiler Pat Brown, noting that Alcala killed Robin Samsoe
and at least
two other women after his Dating Game appearance, speculated that
rejection might have been an exacerbating factor. "One wonders what
that did in
his mind," Brown said. "That is something he would not take too well.
killers] don't understand the rejection. They think that something is
that girl: 'She played me. She played hard to get.'"
Alcala has been incarcerated since his 1979 arrest for Samsoe's murder.
prison he has written You, the Jury, a 1994 book in which he asserts
innocence in the Samsoe case and points to a different suspect. He has
filed two lawsuits against the California penal system for a slip-and-fall
claim, and for failing to provide him a low-fat diet.
New York officials have the option of filing additional charges
who is the main suspect in the case of Ciro's Nightclub heiress Ellen
Hover, murdered in 1977 while Alcala was working in New York as a
guard. He is also suspected in the murder of TWA flight attendant
"Michael" Crilley, which occurred in 1971 while Alcala was enrolled at
Alcala continues to maintain his innocence, and currently remains on
at San Quentin State Prison.
In April 2010, the Huntington Beach Police Department made public 120
Alcala's photographs in an effort to identify some of the women and
any could be additional victims. Anyone willing to provide
any of the photos was asked to call Det. Patrick Ellis at (714)
In the first few weeks, approximately 20 women had come forward to
Rodney Alcala (legal name)
year of event
Event, victim name
indicates date of crime
Offense; offender status
Graduated from UCLA
Tali Shapiro, age 8
Rape, Battery; Pleaded guilty to
Enrolled at NYU Film School
New York, NY
Cornelia Crilley, age 23
Murder; Suspected/New York
FBI Ten Most Wanted List
Incarcerated (Tali Shapiro
"Julie J.", age 13
Parole Violation, providing
marijuana to minor; Convicted, 1974/California
for time-line comparison
Incarcerated ("Julie J." conviction)
Son of Sam aka David Berkowitz
New York City
for time-line comparison
Murder; Suspected/New York
Worked as Los Angeles Times
for time-line comparison
Jill Barcomb, age 18
Murder; Convicted, 2009/California
Questioned by FBI regarding Hover
Rodney Alcala, John Berger
Georgia Wixted, age 27
Murder; Convicted, 2009/California
interviewed as part of Hillside
The Dating Game
Charlotte Lamb, age 32
Murder; Convicted, 2009/California
Jill Parenteau, age 21
Murder; Convicted, 2009/California
Robin Samsoe age 12
Murder; Convicted, 1980, 1986,
Arrested on suspicion of Samsoe
Conviction #1, sentenced to death
for Samsoe murder
Conviction #1 overturned by
California Supreme Court
Conviction #2, sentenced to death
for Samsoe murder
You, the Jury
"True crime" book, asserting his
Conviction #2 overturned by 9th US
Circuit Court of Appeals
DNA collected, 4 additional murders
Motion to join Samsoe case with 4
others proposed; contested by Alcala
Case join granted by California
Conviction #3, sentenced to death
for murders of Samsoe, Parenteau, Lamb, Wixted, and Barcomb
Serial killer Rodney Alcala
sentenced to death
By Paloma Esquivel - Los Angeles Times
March 30, 2010
An Orange County judge on Tuesday sentenced
serial killer Rodney Alcala to death for five killings in the 1970s,
marking yet another turn in a three-decade-long legal drama.
Judge Francisco Briseno's decision came several
weeks after a jury recommended the death penalty for Alcala after convicting
him on charges of slaying four women and a teenage girl.
Briseno said photos of the women taken by Alcala
show he had "sadistic sexual motives" and that "some of the victims
were posed after death." The judge said Alcala had an "abnormal
interest in young girls."
It was the third time that Alcala, 66, had been
convicted for the murder of Robin Samsoe, 12, last seen riding her
bike to ballet class in June 1979. He had been condemned to death both
times, but the convictions were overturned. He has been in custody
since his 1979 arrest.
Before the third trial began in January, he was
linked through DNA, blood and fingerprint evidence to the deaths of
Jill Barcomb, 18, whose body was found in the Hollywood Hills; Georgia
Wixted, 27, of Malibu; Charlotte Lamb, 32, of Santa Monica; and Jill
Parenteau, 21, of Burbank.
During his closing arguments earlier this month,
Alcala -- a onetime photographer and “Dating Game” contestant who
acted as his own attorney in this trial -- asked jurors to spare him
from the death penalty, saying they would become killers themselves if
they sent him to death row and arguing that the sentence would lead to
decades of appeals.
A sentence of life in prison without parole "would
end this matter now," he said.
Alcala: The long road to justice
By Kimi Yoshino
1972 — Alcala is convicted in the
1968 rape and beating of an 8-year-old girl.
Nov. 10, 1977 — The body of 18-year-old
Jill Barcomb is found in the Hollywood Hills. She had been sexually
assaulted, bludgeoned and strangled with a pair of blue pants.
Dec. 16, 1977 — Georgia Wixted,
27, is found beaten to death at her home in Malibu. She had been
sexually assaulted and strangled.
1978 — Alcala
appears in an episode of “The Dating Game” as Bachelor No. 1
June 24, 1978 — Charlotte Lamb, a
32-year-old legal secretary from Santa Monica, is found in the laundry
room of an El Segundo apartment complex. She had been sexually
assaulted and strangled with a shoelace.
June 14, 1979 — Jill Parenteau,
21, is found strangled on the floor of her Burbank apartment.
June 20, 1979 – Robin Samsoe, 12,
disappears near the Huntington Beach Pier. Her body is found 12 days
later in the Sierra Madre foothills.
July 24, 1979 — Rodney James
Alcala, an unemployed photographer, is arrested at his parents’
Monterey Park home.
September 1980 – Alcala is
convicted of the 1978 rape of a 15-year-old Riverside girl and
sentenced to nine years in state prison.
June 20, 1980 — Orange County
Superior Court Judge Philip E. Schwab sentences Alcala to death after
he is convicted of Samsoe's murder.
July 11, 1980 — The Los Angeles
County district attorney’s office files murder, burglary and sexual
assault charges against Alcala in the slaying of Parenteau.
April 15, 1981 — The L.A. County
district attorney’s office tells a judge that prosecution of Alcala in
the Parenteau case could not proceed because a key witness admitted
that he had committed perjury in another case.
Aug. 23, 1984 — The state Supreme
Court reversed Alcala’s murder conviction in connection with Samsoe,
ruling that the jury was improperly told about Alcala’s prior sex
June 20, 1986 — For the second
time, Alcala is convicted of Samsoe’s murder and sentenced to death in
Orange County Superior Court.
Dec. 31, 1992 — The California
Supreme Court unanimously upholds Alcala’s death sentence.
April 2, 2001 — A federal
appellate court overturns Alcala’s death sentence in the Samsoe case,
ruling that the Superior Court judge precluded the defense from
presenting evidence “material to significant issues.”
June 5, 2003 — The Los Angeles
County district attorney’s office files murder charges against Alcala
alleging that he killed Wixted during a burglary and rape.
Sept. 19, 2005 — Additional murder
charges are filed against Alcala in connection to the deaths of
Barcomb, Wixted and Lamb.
Jan. 11, 2010 — Alcala’s trial for
the five murders begins. He represents himself.
March 9, 2010 — Alcala is again
sentenced to death.
The 'most prolific' serial killer
in U.S. history is sentenced to death as police fear he could be
behind 130 murders
By David Gardner - DailyMail.co.uk
1st April 2010
Police have released more than 100 photographs of
unidentified women and girls amid fears they could be the victims of
America's worst ever serial killer.
The pictures were taken by Rodney Alcala, who was
sentenced to death by lethal injection for the savage murders of a 12-year-old
girl and four women.
However, the 66-year-old has admitted killing
another 30 women in the 1970s and police believe there could be many
They have already linked him to the deaths of two
Seattle teenagers aged 13 and 17, and a 19-year-old who vanished from
the same area, as well as two women in New York and several more in
The photos were discovered hidden in a storage
locker in Seattle, Washington, where Alcala, an amateur photographer,
kept his possessions before his arrest.
Although many of the 1,000 pictures were innocent
poses in a park or on the beach, some women had stripped off for the
Police believe that Alcala - who is known in the
U.S. as the Dating Game Killer because he once appeared on America's
version of Blind Date - kept the photographs as sick souvenirs of his
The women in the photos range in age from
schoolgirls to women in their 20s and 30s, and are believed to come
from across the U.S. Two of the pictures may have been taken after the
women were murdered.
Prosecutor Matt Murphy said: 'We'd like to locate
the women in these pictures. Did they simply pose for a serial killer
or did they become victims of his sadistic, murderous pattern?
'He committed unspeakable acts of horror. He gets
off on the infliction of pain on other people. He's an evil monster
who knows what he is doing is wrong and doesn't care.'
Detective Claiff Shepard said: 'He's right up
somewhere below Hitler and right around Ted Bundy. It is not humane
what he does to these victims. It is tortuous.'
Alcala - who defended himself during his trial -
preyed on women and girls by offering to take their photographs.
He then raped his victims, strangled them until
they were unconscious before reviving them and killing them.
The photographer, who is said to have a genius IQ
of 160, often boasted of his winning an episode of the American
version of Blind Date.
However, the woman who chose him later cancelled
their date because she found him 'too creepy'.
Alcala appeared unconcerned about his fate on
Tuesday, when he was given the death sentence for kidnapping and
murdering 12-year-old Robin Samsoe, who disappeared after leaving home
for ballet class on her bicycle in 1979.
He laughed and talked throughout the trial at
Orange County Superior Court, even after also being convicted of
murdering four Los Angeles women - Georgia Wixted, 27, Jill Barcomb,
18, Charlotte Lamb, 32, and Jill Parenteau, 21 - between 1977 and
It took nearly 30 years for the law to catch up
with him. He was previously convicted twice of killing Robin, but the
verdicts were overturned. An earring that belonged to the little girl
was also found with the photo cache.
America's most prolific serial killer is often
considered to be Henry Lee Lucas, who was convicted of four murders in
the late 1970s although police believe he may have been responsible
for more than 200.
After his imprisonment, Lucas confessed to 600
killings although he later claimed he had lied to become famous.
Ted Bundy is believed to have raped and murdered 35
women between 1973 and 1978, although police believe there are many
more victims. He was executed in 1989 by electric chair for his last
murder in Florida.
Calif. Man Convicted of 5 Serial Slayings
Rodney Alcala Found Guilty of Murdering 4 Women, 12-Year-Old Girl
in Late 1970s
Feb. 25, 2010
A jury convicted a Southern California man Thursday
of murdering four women and a 12-year-old girl in the late 1970s.
Jurors took less than two days to reach guilty
verdicts against Rodney Alcala after six weeks of testimony. He could
face a death sentence when the penalty phase of the case begins
The 66-year-old Alcala, who acted as his own lawyer,
had previously been sentenced to death twice for the murder of 12-year-old
Robin Samsoe of Orange County, but both convictions were overturned.
Prosecutors added the murders of four women in 2006
after investigators discovered DNA and other forensic evidence linking
him to those cases.
The jury heard grueling testimony that two of the
four adult victims were posed nude and possibly photographed after
their deaths; one was raped with a claw hammer; and all of them were
repeatedly strangled and resuscitated during their deaths to prolong
Prosecutors also alleged Alcala, an amateur
photographer, took earrings from at least two of the victims as
trophies and carried one 18-year-old to a remote canyon road where he
raped and sodomized her before bashing her head with a rock.
At trial, Orange County prosecutor Matt Murphy told
jurors DNA found in the bodies of three of the women proved Alcala had
committed those murders. Witnesses said Alcala and the fourth woman
were seen in the same club on the night she was killed.
The Samsoe case, which was first tried in 1980,
presented more of a challenge for prosecutors because it was built
largely on circumstantial evidence.
The young girl's body was found in Angeles National
Forest 12 days after she disappeared.
No one saw the blond-haired girl being abducted on
June 20, 1979 as she rode her friend's bike to ballet class. In
addition, investigators were unable to recover forensic evidence
because of the condition of her remains.
The current trial focused almost entirely on
evidence in the Samsoe case, with Alcala choosing not to testify about
the murders of the four adult women when he took the stand in his own
Prosecutors relied on witnesses who testified about
seeing a curly haired photographer taking pictures of Samsoe, her
friend and other teenagers on the beach minutes before Samsoe
disappeared. Photos of one of the girls were later found in Alcala's
Also key to the trial was a pair of gold ball
earrings that Samsoe's mother said belonged to her daughter.
The earrings were found in a jewelry pouch in a
storage locker that Alcala had rented in Seattle, where he was
arrested a month after her murder.
Investigators found other earrings in the same
pouch, including a small rose-shaped stud that contained a trace of
DNA from another of Alcala's alleged victims, Charlotte Lamb.
Alcala maintained, however, that the gold ball
earrings were his and introduced as evidence a video of himself as the
winning contestant on a 1978 episode of "The Dating Game." He told
jurors the seconds-long, grainy clip from the video showed him wearing
the gold earrings a year before Samsoe was killed.
In his closing argument, Alcala accused prosecutors
of lumping the four Los Angeles women in with Samsoe to inflame the
jury. He also pointed out inconsistencies in the case and lapses in
witnesses' recollections of that day.
Alcala noted that one witness who saw him on the
beach said he was dark-skinned and 175 pounds when Alcala is light-skinned
and weighs 150 pounds.
Two other witnesses disagreed on the clothing he
was wearing. An initial police bulletin said the suspect in the Samsoe
case was balding, but Alcala pointed out he has as full head of long,
The other women murdered were Georgia Wixted, 27,
of Malibu; Charlotte Lamb, 32, of Santa Monica; Jill Parenteau, 21, of
Burbank; and Jill Barcomb, 18, who had just moved to Los Angeles from
State Supreme Court takes on
notorious 1979 O.C. murder case
High court to decide if
prosecutors can try Rodney Alcala for 4 old L.A.
murders along with kidnapping and murder of H.B.
By Larry Welborn - The Orange
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
SANTA ANA – Former death row
inmate Rodney James Alcala has twice been put on
trial for killing a 12-year-old Huntington Beach
girl in one of Orange County's most notorious murder
Twice he's been convicted. Twice
he's been sentenced to death. And twice his
convictions and sentences for killing Robin Samsoe
in 1979 were reversed on appeal.
He's back in the Orange County
court system for round three of People v. Alcala.
But his court-appointed defense
attorneys are arguing that the now-65-year-old
defendant can not get a fair trial in Orange County
because prosecutors want to try Alcala for four
additional murders at the same time. They say that
would overwhelm the defense with a mountain of
They claim in documents filed in
Superior Court, the 4th District Court of Appeal and
most recently the California Supreme Court that the
Orange County District Attorney's Office is unfairly
piling on Alcala.
Justices on the state's highest
court – in a rare move – will hear arguments this
afternoon during a session in Los Angeles.
Defense attorney Richard
Schwartzberg isn't arguing that Alcala can't get a
fair trial just because it is the third time around,
but because Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt
Murphy wants want to try Alcala for five murders
instead of just one.
Murphy raised the stakes after an
Orange County Grand Jury returned an indictment in
2005 accusing Alcala of strangling or beating four
women in neighboring Los Angeles County nearly three
Those cold cases allegedly link
Alcala through DNA evidence to murder scenes in the
1970s, investigators contend. DNA evidence was not
available during the 1970s.
Orange County can charge the Los
Angeles County cases – prosecutors claim – because a
1998 law allows serial killers who commit murders in
separate counties to be tried in one.
That law was prompted by the
recognition that serial killers who go on brutal
killing rampages do so without consideration of
county lines, said Deputy District Attorney James
Mulgrew, who is handling the motions part of the
Mulgrew also insists there is a
legitimate interest in judicial economy and that
there would be a reduction of inconvenience and
trauma for witnesses and victim family members by
having one trial with multiple murder counts rather
that several trials on individual counts in multiple
But Alcala's court-appointed
defense attorneys, Schwartzberg and George Peters
are crying foul.
Schwartzberg contends that
Alcala's first two trials in Orange County in the
Samsoe case were close decisions for the juries, and
that two separate appellate courts found sufficient
errors in those trials to justify reversing the
"Our focus is to fight the Samsoe
case, and it always has been," Schwartzberg said
Tuesday. "If a third jury hears he has potentially
killed four other women, any doubt he killed Robin
Samsoe will evaporate in a second."
Schwartzberg also disputes
whether the evidence in the four Los Angeles cases
would be admissible if Alcala stood trial again for
the Samsoe murder alone.
In 2006, Orange County Superior
Court Judge Francisco Briseno agreed with
prosecutors, allowing all five slayings to be
combined in one trial to be heard in Orange County.
But the 4th District Court of
Appeal in Santa Ana later over-ruled Briseno,
finding that adding all four murder cases to the
Samsoe trial would be too much. The appellate court
decided that Murphy can add two Los Angeles cases to
the Orange County prosecution, but not all four.
That decision prompted both
Schwartzberg and Mulgrew to appeal to the California
Supreme Court: Schwartzberg wants the state's
highest court to strike all four Los Angeles
slayings from the Orange County prosecution, while
Mulgrew wants the court to reinstate the two counts
removed by the appellate court.
Both lawyers said Tuesday that it
is rare for the state's high court to review any pre-conviction
issue from a local county. Schwartzberg said it
probably happens out of Orange County Superior Court
only once every three or four years.
Serial Killer Facing Third Trial Enters Plea
November 23, 2005
SANTA ANA, Calif. -- A man facing a third trial
for the murder of a 12-year-old Huntington Beach girl in 1979
pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of murdering four Los Angeles-area
women in the 1970s.
Rodney James Alcala, 62, has spent much of the
last 20 years on death row in connection with the slaying of Robin
Samsoe. His two previous convictions in the case were overturned,
and a date for the third trial has not yet been set.
Alcala was indicted Sept. 9 for the murders of
Jill Barcomb, 18; Georgia Wixted, 27; Charlotte Lamb, 32;, and Jill
Parenteau, 21. The slayings occurred between late-1977 and mid-1979.
The women were sexually assaulted, then beaten or
The indictment also alleges the special
circumstance allegations of torture, multiple murder, robbery, rape,
burglary and oral copulation.
Los Angeles County prosecutors already have
announced they will seek the death penalty against Alcala on the
four new cases if he is convicted.
Alcala has been in Orange County since 2003 while
awaiting a new trial in the Samsoe case.
Los Angeles County prosecutors want to combine
the Los Angeles County cases with the Orange County case, using
prosecutors from both district attorney offices.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Francisco
Briseno set a hearing on Jan. 13 to determine if the cases can be
combined and tried in Orange County.
Defense attorney Richard Schwartzberg told
Briseno he will oppose consolidation.
Mindful that the appeals court has twice tossed
out Alcala's convictions for the Samsoe killing, defense attorney
George Peters later told reporters that consolidation is an attempt
to shore up a weak case with new charges that could bias a jury.
Schwartzberg told Briseno that the statute
allowing consolidation is new and that there is no settled case law
regarding it. If the ruling goes against his client, Schwartzberg
indicated he would appeal the ruling while trial is still pending.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas
told reporters earlier that "by consolidating the charges, we will
be able to pool our resources and give the public a clearer
understanding of who Mr. Alcala is and what he did."
Prosecutors also said it will allow for judicial
economy and for overlapping evidence to be presented.
Briseno also signed an order giving prosecutors
access to Alcala's dental records from San Quentin.
According to the motion submitted by Los Angeles
Deputy District Attorney Gina Satriano, evidence of a bite mark was
recovered from the body of Barcomb by the coroner in 1979 and
prosecutors want to compare the evidence collected from the victim's
body to Alcala's teeth impressions.
According to Satriano, the bite mark severed the
victim's right breast nipple.
The records will be turned over to prosecutors on
Samsoe disappeared near the Huntington Beach Pier
in July 1979, and her remains were found 12 days later in the San
Gabriel Mountain foothills.
Alcala was convicted in 1980 of murdering Samsoe.
He won a second trial in 1984 when the California Supreme Court
ruled that evidence of prior attacks against young girls should not
have been allowed at trial.
Alcala served time for attacking an 8-year-old
girl with a pipe in 1968, and completed another term for an attack
on a 14-year-old girl.
In 1986, he was tried again and convicted in the
Samsoe case, although a key prosecution witness -- a Forest Service
firefighter who was among those who found the girl's body and later
linked Alcala to the site -- did not testify again because she said
she had amnesia.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals unanimously upheld a trial judge's order that Alcala
should be retried or released.
The retrial had been delayed by the death of
attorney David A. Zimmerman, who had represented Alcala on his first
appeal of the case.
After Peters was appointed, Alcala was set to go
to trial on Oct. 3 but that date was vacated with the addition of
the new charges.
Satriano could not estimate when trial would
begin on the case, saying a lot has to do with the consolidation
accused in serial killings
LOS ANGELES - A California man who twice has had
death sentences overturned for the 1979 murder of a 12-year-old girl
has been indicted for strangling four Los Angeles area women in a
serial killing spree, prosecutors said Monday.
Rodney James Alcala, who won new trials after both of his death
sentences for the slaying of Robin Samsoe, was linked to four other
unsolved murders from the 1970s through DNA and blood evidence,
“Clearly the only punishment
appropriate for Mr. Alcala is the death penalty, and we will pursue
it again,” Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said at a
joint press conference with Los Angeles prosecutors.
The indictment charges Alcala, a freelance photographer, with
killing Jill Barcomb, 18, and Georgia Wixted, 27, in 1977, Charlotte
Lamb, 32, in 1978 and Jill Parenteau, 21, in 1979. All four were
beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled.
Prosecutors from both Los Angeles and Orange counties will work on
the case and will try Alcala, 62, for all five murders together. He
was in jail awaiting a retrial for Samsoe’s murder when the
indictments came down.
Alcala, who has prior
convictions for assault and served two years in prison for the 1968
kidnapping and rape of an 8-year-old girl, was in court briefly
Monday for an arraignment but that hearing was postponed until Oct.
Authorities believe Alcala used his above-average
intelligence and charm in approaching girls to take their pictures.
He once appeared on television’s “The Dating Game.”
Samsoe, an aspiring gymnast from Huntington Beach, Calif., vanished
on June 20, 1979, while on her way to a ballet lesson. Her skeletal
remains were found in a national forest some two weeks later.
Alcala, who was seen with a girl matching Samsoe’s description near
the spot where her body was found, was convicted of her murder in
1980 and sentenced to die. The California Supreme Court later
overturned the guilty verdict, saying jurors should not have been
told about his prior convictions.
forestry worker who saw Alcala near the scene of the crime developed
amnesia and could not testify again, he was convicted a second time
of murdering Samsoe. A federal judge overturned that conviction,
citing concerns about his defense.
Defendant Is Now Called Serial Killer
Rodney Alcala, facing a second retrial in the abduction and death of
an O.C. girl, allegedly killed four L.A. County women in the late
By Claire Luna and Seema Mehta - Los
September 20, 2005
A man behind bars for the last 25 years for allegedly killing a 12-year-old
Huntington Beach girl is now accused of slaying four women in Los
Angeles County in the late 1970s during a serial-killing spree,
officials said Monday.
Rodney James Alcala, 62, who is in Orange County
jail awaiting his second retrial in the 1979 kidnapping and killing
of Robin Samsoe, made a court appearance Monday on charges of
sexually assaulting and murdering four women, who were strangled in
or near their homes. His arraignment was postponed until Oct. 6.
After uncovering the new cases through DNA and blood evidence,
detectives said they were trying to connect Alcala with other
unsolved missing-person and murder cases, including two killings in
New York state.
"He belongs right up there" in a
list of serial killers, said Los Angeles Police Det. Cliff Shepard,
who is in the department's cold-case unit. "Him being behind bars
since 1979 probably saved a lot of lives."
killings occurred in an era when Southern California was being
terrorized by serial killers such as the Hillside Strangler and the
Freeway Killer. At the time, police suspected that at least one of
the women now linked to Alcala was a victim in the string of deaths
attributed to the Hillside Strangler.
charges against Alcala involve four slayings from 1977 to 1979.
Authorities said the victims died under similar circumstances.
The body of Jill Barcomb, 18, was found in the
Hollywood Hills on Nov. 10, 1977, three weeks after she moved to
California from Oneida, N.Y. She was sexually assaulted, bludgeoned
and strangled with a pair of blue pants. Coroner's officials found
three bite marks on her right breast.
body of Centinela Hospital nurse Georgia Wixted, 27, was found Dec.
16, 1977, in her Malibu apartment. Wixted had been beaten, sexually
assaulted and strangled. A hammer was found next to her body.
Legal secretary Charlotte Lamb, 32, of Santa Monica was found June
24, 1978, in the laundry room of an El Segundo apartment complex.
She had been sexually assaulted and strangled with a shoelace.
On June 13, 1979 — a week before Robin Samsoe was abducted and
killed — Jill Parenteau was found sexually assaulted and strangled
in her Burbank apartment, pillows propping up her nude body. Law
enforcement sources said Alcala allegedly met the 21-year-old
keypunch operator at a restaurant.
Police in New
York suspect Alcala killed at least two women there, one of them
Ellen Hover, 24, in 1977. She was last seen in her New York
apartment July 15, and her body was found 11 months later in a
shallow grave on the Rockefeller estate, about 100 feet from where
another woman told police she had posed for Alcala, an amateur
"Mr. Alcala left a trail of evil in
multiple states and multiple counties," said Los Angeles Dist. Atty.
Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony
Rackauckas said Alcala's arrest in Robin Samsoe's death was "the
only reason he stopped killing."
Alcala refused a jailhouse interview and his
attorney declined to discuss the new charges.
Authorities said Alcala met the women in discos
and other public places, flirted with them and then followed them
home when they spurned his advances.
"The reality is he was running around Southern
California in the '70s looking for prey," said Los Angeles County
Sheriff's Capt. Ray Peavy, head of the homicide bureau. "He looked
for innocent victims who couldn't put up much of a fight and caught
them when they were home in bed and pretty much defenseless."
The Los Angeles County cases had stalled for decades until they were
cracked with the help of a statewide DNA database. In each of the
slayings, the killer left semen or other biological material on the
objects he used to strangle his victims.
After a recent state law required Alcala to
provide a DNA sample to be used in crime-solving efforts, the state
Department of Justice connected him a year ago to the unsolved
"The DNA hits were like turning a light on in a
room," Peavy said. "Suddenly an unsolvable case is now solved."
Sheriff's Det. Cheryl Comstock has been
investigating the cases since the DNA links were found, Peavy said.
She interviewed Alcala in prison several times and was able to
confirm that he was not behind bars at the time of the killings.
Wixted's sister and brother-in-law, Anne and Al
Michelena of Irvine, said Alcala's coming arraignment was a relief.
"I just regret that most of my family didn't live long enough to
hear the news," particularly their mother, said Anne Michelena, 50,
an elementary school teacher.
"For the past 25 years, I've been constantly
looking over my shoulder, not knowing what I was looking for or who
I was looking for. It got to the point where I thought I would never
know," she added, but "I never stopped wondering."
She said the charges, coming after more than 25 years, should give
hope to families in similar situations.
Her husband, who retired in August after 25 years
of investigating killings and supervising the Los Angeles Police
Department's robbery/homicide unit, had regularly checked the case's
status with the Sheriff's Department.
He never knew Wixted — he met his future wife
shortly after her sister's death. But seeing how the killing
affected his wife, he said, shaped his interactions with victims he
met through work.
Prosecutors hope to try all five cases, including
the retrial in the Robin Samsoe killing, together in Orange County.
Consolidating the cases will allow the counties to pool resources
and shorten the survivors' already lengthy wait for justice,
Lawyers for Alcala said they
would try to have the Orange County case tried separately from the
"That way, the jury can see that case in
isolation and weigh it in isolation, without any information that
would bias their view," said attorney George Peters outside court.
While Peters declined to discuss the new charges, he said his client
has repeatedly insisted he did not kill the girl.
Robin, an aspiring gymnast, vanished June 20, 1979, as she bicycled
to a dance lesson. Her body was found July 2 in the Angeles National
Forest, in the foothills near Sierra Madre. Her body had decomposed
to the point that police could not determine how she was killed or
whether she had been sexually assaulted.
time, Alcala was an amateur photographer who had recently been a
typist at the Los Angeles Times. A UCLA graduate, he had also worked
for a time at a camp in New Hampshire, teaching filmmaking to
In 1979, while on parole for raping and
beating an 8-year-old girl, Alcala appeared on "The Dating Game"
television show. "It's pretty chilling to watch the banter between
him and these contestants," Peavy said. "This is a serial killer,
and here's a woman flirting with him."
At the time
of Robin's death, he was awaiting trial on charges of raping and
beating a 15-year-old girl in 1978.
At the first
trial, a forestry worker testified to seeing a curly-haired man with
a blond girl on a hiking trail the day Robin was abducted, near
where the body was later found. Jurors deliberated only a few hours
before convicting Alcala on June 20, 1980. He was sentenced to die
in the gas chamber.
Alcala won his first new trial
in August 1984 after the state Supreme Court said evidence about his
other crimes had been improperly allowed.
second trial, the forestry worker testified that she had suffered
amnesia and no longer remembered the man or the girl. Still, Alcala
was again convicted, and sent to San Quentin State Prison to await
But in April 2001, the conviction was
again overturned on grounds that Alcala's lawyers should have been
allowed to introduce a psychologist's testimony casting doubt on the
amnesia claim. Also, Alcala's attorney was faulted for not calling a
witness to support his alibi that he was interviewing for a job
photographing a disco contest at Knott's Berry Farm when Robin
Robin's mother, Marianne Connelly,
said during a press conference Monday that she now recognized that
if Alcala had been executed soon after his first death sentence, the
other victims' families might never have known who killed them.
She said the new charges might allow the families to "get some
"I'm saying that strictly to be noble,
I'm sure," she said. "I just wish he was gone."<
Former death-row inmate indicted
Rodney Alcala, facing a possible death penalty for the 1979 slaying
of a 12-year-old Huntington Beach girl, has been indicted for
killing four women in Los Angeles County more than a quarter century
By Larry Welborn - The Orange County Register
Monday, September 19, 2005
SANTA ANA – Rodney James Alcala, a former death row inmate who was
twice convicted of killing a 12-year-old Huntington Beach girl in
1979, has been indicted by the Orange County Grand Jury for the sex-slayings
of four Los Angeles County women more than a quarter of a century
Alcala, who is being held without bail, was
indicted in Orange County Superior Court today. He is due back in
court Oct. 6 to enter a plea.
He is also being investigated for some unsolved
murders of women in New York in 1977.
Alcala, 62, has been in custody since July 1979
when he was arrested for the abduction and murder of Robin Samsoe, a
Huntington Beach ballet student, who disappeared from her
neighborhood on June 20, 1979.
Her decomposing remains were discovered 12 days
later in the San Gabriel Mountains.
Twice, Alcala was tried and convicted of the
first-degree murder of Samsoe. Twice, he was sentenced death. And
twice his convictions were reversed on appeal.
He is back in Orange County Jail now helping his
court-appointed attorney George Peters prepare for a third trial in
the Samsoe case.
But this time, he could be tried on five murder
charges instead of one, if an Orange County Superior Court judge
merges the grand jury indictment case with the Samsoe case.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas
said the four Los Angeles cases are connected to Alcala through DNA
"That's what these cases are about," Rackauckas
said. "I think that the ability of law enforcement to analyze DNA is
the greatest break through in law enforcement since the two-way
"We knew Alcala was a vicious, merciless killer,"
Rackauckas added, "But we didn't realize that he was a serial killer
to this extent."
The grand jury returned the four-count indictment
on Sept. 9, charging Alcala with the strangulation or beating deaths
of four women between Nov. 10, 1977 and June 14, 1979.
The indictment, returned after the grand jury
heard from 17 witnesses, also alleges that he committed several
special circumstances which could lead to a death sentence,
including multiple murder, murder by torture, murder during a
robbery, and murder during a rape.
The four Los Angeles County slayings are:
-- Nov. 10, 1977: Jill Barcomb, 18, of Oneida,
NY, had been in Southern California for about three weeks when her
body was found on a dirt path on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles.
She was in a knee-to-chest position and naked from the waist down.
She had been strangled with a pair of blue slacks and beaten. There
were signs of sexual assault. She also had three bite marks on her
right breast, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.
-- Dec. 16, 1977: Georgia Wixted, 27, was found
in her Malibu home, naked, battered and sexually assaulted. A hammer
was found next to here body. Wixted was a nurse at Centinela
Hospital, was born in New York. Two types of blood were found in her
apartment. Alcala was linked to her murder in 2003 when his DNA
popped up when authorities tested a sample found at the scene.
-- June 24, 1978: Charlotte Lamb, 32, of Santa
Monica, was found naked and dead in the laundry room of a large
apartment complex in El Segundo, according to the LA County
coroner's office. Lamb, a legal secretary, had been sexually
assaulted and strangled with a shoelace. The apartment manager found
her body, but residents said they had never seen her before,
according to published reports.
-- June 14, 1979: Jill Parenteau, a 21-year-old
computer program keypunch operator, was killed after an intruder
broke into her Burbank apartment by jimmying window louvers. Her
nude body was found on the floor propped up by pillows.
Peters said he has been advised by Orange County
prosecutors about the indictment, but he said he has not received
any information about the four cases.
"I can't comment until I see what evidence the
government has collected," Peters said Thursday. "I can say that Mr.
Alcala insists on his innocence in the Robin Samsoe case.
Orange County prosecutors have jurisdiction to
prosecute murders that happened elsewhere because state law allows
for death penalty cases involving multiple murders to be
consolidated in one county, said Los Angeles County Deputy District
Attorney Gina T. Satriano, who helped present evidence to the grand
Satriano said Thursday she could not comment on
the indictments until today. Orange County Deputy District Attorneys
Matt Murphy, the trial prosecutor, and Susan Schroeder, the office's
spokesperson, also declined to comment.
Alcala was previously charged with two of the Los
Angeles County killings. The other two cases are new.
However, charges against him in Los Angeles
County in the Parenteau murder were dismissed in 1981 after an
informant's evidence became questionable.
He still faces the murder charge in Los Angeles
County in the Wixted case. He was charged with her murder in 2003
after his DNA allegedly matched a sample discovered at the crime
scene in Malibu in 1977. DNA testing was not available in the late
Former Orange County Deputy District Attorney
Richard Farnell, who won a death sentence against Alcala in 1981,
said that he attempted to introduce evidence about the 1977 slaying
in New York of Ellen Hover, 24, during the death penalty phase of
Alcala's case here.
Hover, 24, disappeared from her New York
apartment on July 15, 1977, and her body was discovered 11 months
later in a shallow grave in a rugged section of the Rockefeller
Alcala was interviewed about the slaying in 1977
after he moved back to Los Angeles and admitted seeing the woman the
day she disappeared, but denied knowing what happened to her.
Another woman told authorities that she posed for Alcala's camera on
the Rockefeller estate within a 100 feet of where Hover's body was
But the trial judge in Orange County judge
disallowed evidence about the Hover killing in the penalty phase of
Alcala's trial. He ultimately received the death sentence but it was
reversed by an appellate court.
4 deaths added to case against Alcala
Prosecutors pile on charges from L.A. County for retrial of suspect
in 1979 kidnap-killing of Huntington child.
LARRY WELBORN - The Orange County Register
Thursday, September 1, 2005
SANTA ANA – Prosecutors will seek an indictment in Orange County
charging Rodney James Alcala with the slayings of four Los Angeles
County women more than a quarter of a century ago.
Alcala, who is awaiting a retrial in the 1979
slaying of a Huntington Beach girl, previously was charged with two
of the Los Angeles County killings. The charges in one case were
dropped in 1981 after an informant's evidence became questionable.
Two of the cases are new.
Alcala, 62, has been in custody since July 1979,
when he was arrested in the kidnapping of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe,
whose skeletal remains were found in the Sierra Madre foothills.
He was twice convicted of the Huntington Beach
girl's death, and twice his convictions were reversed on appeal. His
third trial is scheduled for next month in Orange County.
An indictment could allow prosecutors to
consolidate all five cases and try him in Orange County but would
delay the Samsoe retrial.
His attorney, George Peters, said Wednesday that
prosecutors sent him a letter stating that they would present
evidence to the Orange County grand jury about the slayings of women
in Los Angeles County from November 1977 to June 1979.
The letter is on Orange County District
Attorney's Office stationery but signed by Gina Satriano, a deputy
district attorney in Los Angeles County, Peters said. Satriano and
Orange County Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy, who is
prosecuting the Samsoe case, declined to comment.
Peters said he couldn't comment further because
he has not been provided with any evidence about the Los Angeles
"I can say that Mr. Alcala insists on his
innocence in the Robin Samsoe case and has said so publicly many
times," he said.
The Aug. 24 letter says the four slayings took
place Nov. 10, 1977; Dec. 16, 1977; June 24, 1978; and June 14,
1979. The last one was a week before Samsoe disappeared.
In 2003, Los Angeles County prosecutors charged
Alcala with the rape and bludgeoning of Georgia Wixted, 28, of
Malibu on Dec. 16, 1977, after detectives matched his DNA to samples
taken at the crime scene. The charges are pending.
Los Angeles authorities filed and then dropped
murder charges against Alcala in the June 1979 slaying of Jill M.
Parenteau, 21. Burbank detectives said at the time that Parenteau, a
computer programmer, was killed after an intruder broke into her
apartment by jimmying window louvers. Blood matching Alcala's type
was found at the crime scene, detectives said.
Alcala has never been charged with the killing
that took place June 24, 1978.
Los Angeles County coroner's office records show
that the nude body of Charlotte Lamb, 32, was found in the laundry
room of a large apartment house in El Segundo on that date. She had
IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF
FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT
RODNEY JAMES ALCALA, Petitioner
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF ORANGE COUNTY,
PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, Real Party In Interest
(Super. Ct. No. C42861)
O P I N I O N
Original proceedings; petition for a writ of
prohibition/mandate to challenge an order of the Superior Court
of Orange County, Briseno, Judge. Petition granted in part and
denied in part.
Richard Schwartzberg and George Peters, for
Petitioner and Defendant.
No appearance for Respondent.
Tony Rackaukas, Orange County District
Attorney, and Brian N. Gurwitz, Deputy District Attorney, for
Real Party in Interest.
James Alcala petitions us for an alternative writ of prohibition
or mandate to prevent his single trial on multiple charges of
murder which occurred in both Los Angeles County and Orange
County. Originally, Alcala faced the single prosecution for the
kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe that occurred
in Orange County in 1979. He was convicted, and the death
penalty was imposed. That judgment was reversed in People v.
Alcala (1984) 36 Cal.3d 604, 621 (Alcala I), which
established a new standard for admitting evidence of other
to Orange County for retrial, Alcala was again convicted and the
death penalty re-imposed, which was affirmed on appeal. (See
People v. Alcala (1992) 4 Cal.4th 742, 755 (Alcala
II).) This judgment was reversed by an order of a federal
district court, which reversal was upheld by the Ninth Circuit
Court of Appeals in Alcala v. Woodford (9th Cir. 2003)
334 F.3d 862 (Alcala III) due to ineffective assistance
of counsel. (Id. at pp. 865-866.) Again, Alcala
returned to Orange County for retrial on the charges of
kidnapping and murdering Robin Samsoe in 1979.
In the interim, the California
Legislature passed Penal Code section 790, subdivision (b)
which provides that if “a defendant is charged with a special
circumstance [murder charge], the jurisdiction for any charged
murder, and for any crimes properly joinable with that murder,
shall be in any county that has jurisdiction . . . for one or
more of the murders charged in a single complaint or indictment
as long as the charged murders are ‘connected together in their
commission,’ as that phrase is used in Section 954, and subject
to a hearing in the jurisdiction where the prosecution is
attempting to consolidate the charged murders. . . .”
With this statute in mind, the
prosecution presented evidence to a grand jury which indicted
Alcala for the separate murders of four young women in
Los Angeles County in 1977, 1978, and 1979. The prosecution
then brought the motion to consolidate the indictment with the
case charging Alcala with the kidnapping and murder of Robin
under the authority of 790(b).
In addition to the legislative creation
of 790(b), the 20-year period between the crimes and the latest
trial also saw the passage of Proposition 115. That initiative
included a provision, now found in section 954.1 (954.1), that
“cases in which two or more different offenses of the same class
of crimes . . . have been charged together in the same
accusatory pleading, or where two or more accusatory pleadings
charging offenses of the same class of crimes . . . have been
consolidated, evidence concerning one offense or offenses need
not be admissible as to the other offense or offenses before the
jointly charged offenses may be tried together . . . .”
After briefing and argument from both
parties, the court granted the motion to consolidate and refused
any severance. Alcala petitions us to bar the lower court from
proceeding on the consolidated case and to sever the Los Angeles
murder counts from the Robin Samsoe charges. We grant his
petition in part and deny it in part.
Robin Samsoe Case
The facts proving the Robin Samsoe case
are taken from those laid out in Alcala II. On June 20,
1979, 12-year-old Robin Samsoe spent the afternoon with her
girlfriend, Bridget Wilvert, along the cliffs overlooking the
beach in Huntington Beach. A man approached them asking to take
their pictures for what he represented to be a school contest.
The girls posed for him until Jackelyn Young, Wilvert’s
neighbor, noticed the man’s suspicious attention on the young
girls and interrupted them. The man hurriedly picked up his
equipment and left. The man was identified as Alcala.
(Alcala II, supra, 4 Cal.4th at pp. 755-757.)
A few minutes later, Samsoe and Wilvert
returned to Wilvert’s home where Samsoe borrowed Wilvert’s bike
to ride to her beloved ballet class. She was never seen again.
(Alcala II, supra, 4 Cal.4th at 755-756.)
Dana Crappa was a seasonal worker for
the United States Forestry Service stationed at Chantry Flats,
an area near Sierra Madre. Later on the same day Samsoe
disappeared, Crappa was driving in the remote region of those
hills and came across a Datsun F10 parked on a turnout. There
was a dark-haired man pushing or “forcefully steering” (Alcala
II, supra, 4 Cal.4th at p. 758) a blond-haired young
lady towards a dry stream bed. Crappa did nothing about the
sighting even though she thought it strange. The next day, she
was again returning to her barracks and had the occasion to pass
the same area. The same car was parked nearby the original
site, and this time the man was leaning against a nearby rock.
He appeared to have dirt or stains all down the front of him.
She felt there was something wrong with this scenario, but again
told no one and did nothing about it. (Id. at pp.
758-759.) Crappa tentatively identified Alcala as the man she
Five days after the original sighting,
Crappa again returned to the site, this time to satisfy her
curiosity about the scene. She discovered a mutilated body of a
young girl whose head had been partially severed from the body
and whose hands and feet had been severed. Surprisingly, she
did not report this finding nor did she reveal it to anyone,
feeling guilt over not having reported what she had seen five
days earlier. It wasn’t until July 2, 1979, that a colleague of
Crappa’s discovered some bones in the area and reported it to
the authorities. By this time, however, wild animals had so
disrupted the decomposed remains that it could not be determined
what had caused the death or whether the person had been
sexually assaulted. At this time, the skull was completely
separated from the spine, and the front teeth were smashed in.
A “Kane Kut” kitchen knife was found near the main portion of
the remains; and less than a mile away, Samsoe’s beach towel was
discovered with blood on it of a type consistent with that drawn
from the bone marrow of the remains. Her personalized tennis
shoe was found, too, but that was the sole piece of clothing
retrieved. (Alcala II, supra, 4 Cal.4th at pp.
In the interim, Wilvert assisted a
police composite artist in drawing up a sketch of the man who
took the girls’ pictures. That composite sketch was distributed
by the media on or about June 22. Alcala’s parole officer saw
the sketch and felt it was a match to Alcala, particularly in
light of Alcala’s aberrant sexual interest in young girls and
his familiarity with the area in which the remains were found,
which were matters known to the parole officer. (Alcala
II, supra, 4 Cal.4th at p. 756.)
A search warrant was served on the home
Alcala shared with his mother in Monterey Park. The police
impounded a Datsun F10 parked at the home which was registered
to Alcala, inside of which the officers found camera equipment
and a briefcase containing a set of keys. Inside the home, they
seized sets of Kane Kut kitchen knives and noticed—but failed to
receipt for a storage locker in Seattle, Washington. (Alcala
II, supra, 4 Cal.4th at pp. 756-761.)
The storage locker was then searched
pursuant to a warrant and the authorities made several
interesting discoveries: (1) The keys from Alcala’s briefcase
opened both of the two locks put on the locker; (2) in
one of the boxes of photographs inside the locker, they found
slides taken of Lorraine Werts at the beach on the same day
Robin had disappeared; (3) several items of jewelry were found,
including a pair of gold ball earrings often worn by Samsoe and
which Samsoe’s mother identified as her own, based on a
modification she had made by using her nail clippers to alter
the surface; and (4) the striations found on those earrings were
consistent with marks made by those nail clippers in a test. (Alcala
II, supra, 4 Cal.4th at p. 761.)
Alcala’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Kelleher,
testified that she saw Alcala on June 22, at which time he was
sporting his usual long, curly hair. The next day, however, the
composite sketch was exhibited throughout the area. On June 23,
Alcala “straightened” his hair using a chemical solution and
then cut his hair short on June 26. On July 8, he informed
Kelleher that he was going to move from southern California to
Texas to start a photography business. However, he actually
went to Seattle—not Texas—on July 11. It was at this time he
obtained the storage locker. He returned to Monterey Park,
informing Kelleher that he planned to leave for Texas
permanently on July 24. On the other hand, he told another
friend, Leslie Schneider, that he was leaving for Chicago. (Alcala
II, supra, 4 Cal.4th at 760.)
Alcala relied on an alibi defense,
although not testifying himself.
He called various witnesses who testified he applied for a
photographer’s position at Knott’s Berry Farm on June 20. He
also had a defense witness testify that the striations on the
gold earrings were consistent with having been made with nail
clippers provided by Alcala’s mother. He also had a
different friend testify that she saw him wear gold ball
earrings, although another friend contradicted this assertion.
Finally, a jail inmate, who developed an acquaintanceship with
Alcala while he awaited his first trial, testified that Alcala
told him that Samsoe had screamed, scratched and yelled during
the ordeal. Alcala then reputedly described Samsoe’s body in
very salacious terms. (Alcala II, supra, 4
Cal.4th at pp. 761-763.)
The Four Los Angeles Murders
Evidence concerning the four murders
from Los Angeles County was presented to an Orange County grand
jury which issued an indictment based on the following
In July 1977, the body of Jill Barcomb
was found on a remote dirt road, essentially nude.
She had been badly beaten about the head and face with a
“substantial” size rock lying nearby. A pointed side of it was
covered with blood. Her upper face had been crushed, and her
front teeth had been fractured. She had a bloodied bite mark
on the nipple of her right breast. She also had serious anal
injuries with conspicuous bleeding from the anus. Finally, she
had been strangled in three different ways: with a buckled
belt, with knee-high hose and with one of the legs to the pants
she had previously been wearing.
Barcomb was a “tiny” woman, no more than
five feet tall and weighing about 95 pounds. Swabs were taken
from her genital region and preserved. Subsequently, the
development of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) typing technique led
to a comparison being made between the DNA in the sperm found in
the swabs and that of Alcala. They “matched,” with a random
match occurring only once in 100 billion.
In December 1977, Georgia Wixted was a
young single woman, living alone and working as a nurse. The
last anyone saw of her was in the early morning hours when she
gave her girlfriend, Barbara Gale, a ride home. Gale expected
to see Wixted the next day at work. When she failed to appear,
the police went to her Malibu apartment and found her lying dead
on the floor of her bedroom. She had nylon hose wrapped around
her neck several times and so tightly knotted that a furrow was
carved into the cartilage of her neck. She died of
strangulation and massive head injuries: Her skull had been
bashed with a hammer lying nearby. Her face had also been hit,
and her genitals were mutilated, possibly with the handle of the
same hammer. Her purse’s contents were strewn around the
bathroom and there was evidence of forced entry: scuff marks
along one window and a box placed beneath it to assist entry.
The cabinet drawers throughout the place were open and their
contents in disarray.
Anal swabs were taken from the victim,
and a palm print was lifted from the bed’s brass railing. DNA
analysis of the swabs’ fluids matched that of Alcala, with a
random match occurring only once in a trillion. The palm print
was later compared with that of Alcala, and that likewise
In June of 1978, a young woman,
Charlotte Lamb, was found brutally murdered in a laundry room of
an apartment complex. She was nude, and had been strangled with
a long shoelace from a sandal she had been wearing. Her head
and face had been badly beaten with a heavy piece of wood lying
nearby. The shoelace was used as a garrote, so forcefully
tightened that the cartilage around her voicebox and thyroid was
fractured. Her right breast was scraped and there were
lacerations over her eye and to all of her genital area. She
had pierced ears but was not found wearing any earrings. Swabs
were taken from her vaginal area, which were later compared to
the DNA sample provided by Alcala. The DNA found in the semen
fluid on the swabs matched that of Alcala with a random match
occurring once in 403 trillion persons.
In June 1979, a few days before Samsoe
disappeared, Jill Parenteau left work early to attend a baseball
game. She failed to appear for work the next day. The police
went to her apartment, discovering evidence of a forced entry
and her body on the floor of her bedroom.
She was nude, and had been beaten severely about the face and
head. She had deep wounds to her vaginal and rectal areas, and
fingernail scratches on her breast. She had been strangled so
brutally that there was a massive hemorrhage throughout the area
of the thyroid, voicebox and epiglottis.
Swabs were taken of her genitals and her
mouth. Only the oral swab revealed any seminal fluid and the
only testing done on it was to define the serological
characteristics of the contributor. However, it revealed that
Alcala could not be excluded as having left the fluid, and the
combination of serological factors was so rare that it would
only be present in 3.5 percent of the population.
Parenteau’s girlfriend, Katharine
Bryant, testified that she recognized Alcala. Bryant and
Parenteau had gone “clubbing” one evening and had encountered
him at a club less than a month before the murder. They had
seen him and socialized with him at the club on more than one
One last test was done on the other
pieces of jewelry found in the cloth bag in Alcala’s storage
locker in Seattle. One earring—not related to the gold ball
earrings recognized by Samsoe’s mother—was in the shape of a
rose and designed to be worn with pierced ears. DNA testing was
done on it, revealing that fluids from Lamb were still present
on the pierced earring although it had been taken from her ear
more than twenty years before.
Consolidation of Murder Charges Under
The consolidation of the Robin Samsoe
charges with the murders of Barcomb, Wixted, Lamb and Parenteau
was based on the authority of 790(b), according to the trial
court’s statement at the time of the order. Alcala contends the
trial court erred in its conclusion and its rationale;
the Orange County District Attorney responds the trial court
properly ordered the joinder and did so employing the proper
Alcala argues that a review of an order
consolidating charges or denying severance
is governed by the abuse of discretion standard. (Cf. People
v. Valdez (2004) 32 Cal.4th 73, 119-120 [burden on defendant
to show clear prejudice from joint trial on review of denial of
severance]; see also People v. Ochoa (1998) 19 Cal.4th
353, 408 [granting of consolidation or denial of severance
reviewed for abuse of discretion].) An abuse of discretion is
that which “fall[s] ‘outside the bounds of reason.’
Under 790(b), all California
murders—committed in any county—may be tried within a single
county in which one of the murders occurred, providing
there is a special circumstance allegation that multiple murders
were committed pursuant to section 190.2, subdivision (a)(3),
and that all the murders are “connected together in their
commission” as that is defined under section 954.
That phrase is not limited to a single course of criminal
conduct or the achievement of a single criminal objective. (4
Witkin & Epstein, Cal. Criminal Law (3d ed. 2000) Pretrial
Proceedings § 208, pp. 412-413.) Rather, it is a broad concept
encompassing all offenses having “‘a common element of
substantial importance in their commission, for the joinder
prevents repetition of evidence and saves time and expense to
the state as well as to the defendant.’ [Citations.]” (Ibid.)
Alcala disagrees, contending case law
such as Alcala I and Williams v. Superior Court
(1984) 36 Cal.3d 441 essentially eliminated such an expanded
definition of connection by crafting a distinctly new basis for
severance: mandatory cross-admissibility. Recent authority
indicates otherwise: In People v. Mendoza (2000) 24
Cal.4th 130, at page 160, the court held that “[o]ffenses
‘committed at different times and places against different
victims are nevertheless “connected together in their
commission” when they are, as here, linked by a “‘common element
of substantial importance.’” [Citations.]” Such common
elements can be proximity of time or place or even the common
intent with which the same general type of offense is
committed. In Mendoza, the court noted the common
“‘element of an intent to feloniously obtain property runs like
a single thread through the various offenses. . . .’” (Ibid.;
see also People v. Meneley (1972) 29 Cal.App.3d 41, 51
[two crimes share common element when both involved young women,
walking alone, who were assaulted and abducted].)
Likewise here. The common element of an
intent to brutally kill young females ties all the crimes
together. This common element provides a reasonable and
rational basis for the court to apply 954.1 and consolidate the
Alcala concedes section 954
authorizes the prosecution to charge all the homicides—all
offenses of the same class of crimes—in one proceeding in Orange
County. However, he contends federal due process bars
such an action and mandates a severance of the Los Angeles
murders. He invokes both a four-part test for discretionary
abuse (see People v. Bradford (1997) 15 Cal.4th 1229,
1315) and the mandatory cross-admissibility concepts
which preceded the passage of Proposition 115, positing he is
entitled to all due process considerations in effect at the time
of the commission of the offenses.
Ex Post Facto Concerns
Our first step in resolution of this
complicated matter is to determine whether 790(b) and 954.1 may
be applied, as the passage of those statutes postdated the
commission of all of these offenses. Although not originally
addressed by the parties, the issue was briefed upon our
As declared in Tapia v. Superior
Court (1991) 53 Cal.3d 282, certain provisions of
Proposition 115 can be applied to defendants whose criminal
charges occurred prior to its effective date, but other parts
could not, due to the ex post facto guarantee. Employing its
method of determining first the application of the “presumption
of prospectivity” and then examining the definition of
retrospective effect, Tapia divided the different aspects
of Proposition 115 into four groups: “(A) provisions which
change[d] the legal consequences of criminal behavior to the
detriment of defendants; (B) provisions which address[ed] the
conduct of trials; (C) provisions which clearly benefit[ted]
defendants; and (D) a single provision which codifie[d] existing
law.” (Id. at p. 297.) Those parts of the initiative
that changed the legal consequences of criminal behavior could
not be applied to offenses committed before its effective date.
(Ibid.) The aspects that fell under the three other
groups, however, could be applied to cases in which the
crimes were committed before the date of its passage. Because
954.1 addressed “the conduct of trials[,]” it could be
applied to offenses committed before the law’s effective date.
(Id., at pp. 299-300.)
As 790(b) likewise addresses only “the
conduct of trials,” it may also be applied even though the
offense may have occurred prior to its passage. Statutes of
this sort do not implicate “the definition of, punishment for,
or defenses to crimes[,]” thus eliminating any possible ex post
facto concern. (1 Witkin & Epstein, Cal. Criminal Law (3d ed.
2000) Introduction to Crimes §§ 12, p. 28.) Nonetheless,
as Tapia argued—as does Alcala—such laws may appear to have a
“retrospective” effect, necessitating a review for a potential
ex post facto violation. (Tapia v. Superior Court, supra,
53 Cal.3d at 299-300.)
Thus, we must examine the second prong
of the Tapia test as it applies to Alcala because these
statutes, by permitting the consolidation of charges and
eliminating the mandatory cross-admissibility of evidence, may
arguably result in an “‘alter[ation of] the legal rules
of evidence, and [thereby] receive less, or different,
testimony, than the law required at the time of the commission
of the offence, in order to convict the offender.’” (Carmell
v. Texas (2000) 529 U.S. 513, 522 [quoting Calder v. Bull
(1798) 3 U.S. 386, 390], italics removed.)
There is no dispute that 954.1 lacks any
explicit provision for retroactivity. Because of this silence,
the presumption of prospectivity applies. We note that the
California Supreme Court in some recent cases has exercised
extreme caution, approaching this issue in dicta by applying the
law as it existed at the time of the trial. In each
instance, however, the consolidation, severance or
cross-admissibility motion was resolved in the trial court
before passage of Proposition 115. For this reason, the
provisions of 954.1 could not be applied on appellate review.
(See e.g., People v. Gutierrez, supra, 28 Cal.4th at
1120, fn. 5; People v. Catlin (2001) 26 Cal.4th 81, 111,
fn. 3; People v. Cunningham (2001) 25 Cal.4th 926, 984,
fn.7; People v. Bradford, supra, 15 Cal.4th at 1314, fn.
13.) That situation is not present here: Both 790(b) and 954.1
became effective before Alcala III was issued and thus
were discussed in the trial court below.
The Tapia approach has been
applied consistently with other, similar provisions. For
instance, in juvenile delinquency proceedings, changes in the
laws concerning the type and timing of charging documents were
applied, notwithstanding that the crimes were committed before
the particular law’s passage. “‘Even though applied to the
prosecution of a crime committed before the law’s effective
date, a law addressing the conduct of trials still
addresses conduct in the future. . . . Such a statute “‘is not
made retroactive merely because it draws upon facts existing
prior to its enactment . . . . [Instead, t]he effect of such
statutes is actually prospective in nature since they relate to
the procedure to be followed in the future.’”
[Citations.]’” (John L. v. Superior Court (2004) 33
Cal.4th 158, 169-171, original italics.)
Both 790(b) and 954.1 address the
conduct of trials. (See Tapia v. Superior Court, supra,
53 Cal.3d at p. 299.) Laws that change the rules of evidentiary
admission or competence–as distinct from the quantum of
evidence to convict—do not violate the ex post facto guarantee.
(See Carmell v. Texas, supra, 529 U.S. at pp. 542-547.)
It is only when a law changes the “quantum of evidence required
to convict an offender” (id. at 532-533) that the
evidentiary modification triggers constitutional concern.
For example, in Carmell, the
defendant engaged in a four-year pattern of molesting his
teenaged stepdaughter. Before he was charged with the criminal
offenses, the law was amended that had formerly required a
victim to report a sexual offense within six months of its
occurrence or the state had to provide corroboration of the
incident. (Id. at pp. 516-518.) Carmell was tried and
convicted of certain charges solely on his stepdaughter’s
testimony. The law’s revision was deemed a violation of ex post
facto protection because the evidentiary change affected the
“minimum quantum of evidence necessary to sustain a
conviction.” (Id. at pp. 517-518.) Carmell
explained that the “issue of the admissibility of evidence is
simply different from the question whether the properly admitted
evidence is sufficient to convict the defendant. Evidence
admissibility rules do not go to the general issue of guilt, nor
to whether a conviction, as a matter of law, may be sustained. .
. . Sufficiency of the evidence rules (by definition) do just
that—they inform us whether the evidence introduced is
sufficient to convict as a matter of law (which is not to say
the jury must convict, but only that, as a matter of law,
the case may be submitted to the jury and the jury may
convict).” (Id. at pp. 546-547.)
Examining the situation before us,
790(b) and 954.1 on their face address only the manner in which
a trial is conducted. Indirectly, it affects some general
evidentiary matters, but it does not establish or change
the minimum quantum of evidence to convict. Thus, they do not
trigger any ex post facto concern. The trial court, therefore,
had the statutory authority to consolidate the offenses under
section 790(b), irrespective of the evidentiary provisions of
2. Effect of Cross-Admissibility Changes
Although the trial court correctly
consolidated the pleadings, we must continue to inquire whether
severance was mandated by due process concerns. Alcala
argues that, at the time these offenses were committed, due
process mandated severance if the defendant showed he would be
prejudiced by the joint trial. (Walker v. Superior Court
(1974) 37 Cal.App.3d 938, 940-942.) Such a showing was met when
none of the evidence of one charge could be relevant or
admissible in the other and evidence of a prior
conviction—potentially prejudicial information—was required as
proof of one of those charges. (Id. at pp. 941-942 & fn.
1.) In other words, unless the evidence of one charge was
cross-admissible in separate trials for all other charges,
Alcala argues that a trial court in 1979 would have had to sever
each and every crime. Thus, he argues he is entitled to a
severance now: His due process rights cannot be negatively
modified simply because he has not been brought to trial in the
last 20 years.
Initially, we note that we have already
established that changes in the laws concerning the conduct of
trials do not trigger ex post facto concerns.
Nonetheless, we review Alcala’s particularized arguments to see
if the application of 954.1 to his situation prejudiced his
right to a fair trial.
In Aydelott v. Superior Court
(1970) 7 Cal.App.3d 718, two counts of contributing to the
delinquency of a minor and two counts of lewd acts on those
minors could not constitutionally be paired with a count of
illegally prescribing a narcotic to another person because the
potential prejudice was shown adequately to mandate
severance of the narcotic count. (Id. at pp. 722-724.)
Although the counts of contributing to delinquency were merely
misdemeanors, they were properly charged with the serious counts
of lewd acts on minors because “common elements of substantial
importance underlying [all four counts] were the alleged
circumstances that petitioner’s home was used by him to commit
[all four] crimes . . . and, as to each count, a male juvenile
was the victim.” (Id. at p. 722.) However, “no common
element, characteristic, or attribute connects [the
prescription] count . . . with any of the other counts.” (Id.
at p. 724.) Thus, the court did not abuse its discretion in
ordering the joint trial on the four counts, but abuse was
shown in its denial of severance of the prescription count. (Ibid.)
In another case, however, no prejudice
was shown by the joinder of one robbery when its supporting
evidence “was much stronger than that supporting the other”
count of robbery, even though the defendant feared “a ‘spilling
over’ from the former” would prejudice him. (People v.
Fulton (1980) 109 Cal.App.3d 777, 782.) The court noted
that evidence of the perpetrator’s identity shown by the one
would logically and permissibly be used to prove the same
person’s guilt on the other. (Ibid.) Such was deemed
appropriate because the two offenses shared certain
characteristics: The first incident involved a daytime robbery
of a couple in an apartment. It was committed by two armed men,
one of whom was identified as Fulton. The second incident
involved a daytime residential robbery of a man and his
children’s babysitter in the man’s residence. It was likewise
committed by two armed males. Those circumstances—and those
circumstances alone—were held sufficient to dispel any claim of
prejudice by their joint trial, irrespective of decided
dissimilarities between the two incidents. (Ibid.)
Alcala argues that we should review the
trial court’s ruling, but apply the law on the subject as it was
at the time of the offenses. He refers us to Williams v.
Superior Court (1984) 36 Cal.3d 441 at page 452 (citing
Coleman v. Superior Court (1981) 116 Cal.App.3d 129,
137-140). However, we observe that this was not the test
for prejudice employed in 1979 when the crimes were committed.
The test in effect during 1977-1979 to
test potential prejudice of joined offenses was that
enunciated in People v. Matson (1974) 13 Cal.3d 35 at
pages 39-41. In Matson, it was held that if the grounds
for joinder were met—such as the charges were shown to share a
common element of substantial importance—severance was
permitted if prejudice from a denial of that
severance was clearly shown. Matson noted that “‘where
the consolidation meets the test of joinder,’ . . . ‘the
difficulty of showing prejudice from denial of severance is
so great that the courts almost invariably reject the claim
of abuse of discretion.’ [Citations.]” (Id. at p. 39,
italics added.) Matson alleged that the prosecution had paired
a rape charge with a burglary charge, which had as its sole
dispute the defendant’s intent at the moment of entry. In
contrast, there was no conflict as to the evidence proving the
intent necessary for the rape charge; Matson merely argued he
was not the perpetrator. Thus, a rape count with weak evidence
of identification was paired with a burglary count where
identity was undeniable but the evidentiary sufficiency to prove
intent was in dispute. (Ibid.)
The court accepted that “doubts over the
rapist’s identity may have been dispelled by evidence that
defendant used the same modus operandi in the burglary, just as
doubts over defendant’s intent in entering . . . [the victim’s]
apartment may have been dispelled by evidence that he raped [the
other victim].” (People v. Matson, supra, 13 Cal.3d at
p. 40.) Nonetheless, the evidence of each was properly admitted
in a joint trial because all the evidence was admissible under
Evidence Code section 1101, subdivision (b): Evidence of “other
crimes” would have been admissible to prove identity and intent
anyway. (Ibid.) The court noted that in both the rape
and burglary counts, women were accosted while loading or
unloading their cars near their apartments. (Id. at p.
39.) One woman was raped but the other was not. Nonetheless,
those facts alone were sufficient for the court to find a common
modus operandi, making each crime’s facts admissible under
Evidence Code section 1101, subdivision (b), in the trial of the
other. (Id. at pp. 40-41.)
Finally, the Matson court noted
that cross-admissibility was merely one way of testing
for prejudice. The trial court could have still denied
severance without any analysis of cross-admissibility because
“the judge’s discretion in refusing severance is broader than
his discretion in admitting evidence of uncharged offenses.
‘The requirements of similarity that apply to the admission of
evidence of uncharged offenses [citation] are not
applicable when all offenses are charged.’ [Citation.]
In both cases the probative value of considering one alleged
offense in light of another must be weighed against the
prejudicial effect, but additional factors favor joinder. . .
.” (Id. at p. 41, original italics.)
Thus, we must reject Alcala’s argument
that the law at the time of the commission of the crimes must
control the present case’s admission of evidence and
consolidation of offenses. Not only is the present law the
appropriate one for issues concerning how trials are conducted,
but it is not less advantageous to his position than the state
of the law in 1979. We continue to review the trial court’s
ruling, however, to determine if due process requires severance
of any of the counts.
In this case, all five victims were
young, White, thin, single females who were brutally murdered,
with two of the victims—Parenteau and Robin Samsoe—having met
their deaths within a week of each other. All of them had
evidence of extreme neck ligature: Robin Samsoe had her
head partially severed, as seen by Crappa a few days after the
murder while Wixted’s neck cartilage was actually “furrowed” by
garroting and Lamb’s neck cartilage had been fractured with a
garrote. Both Robin Samsoe and Barcomb had their teeth smashed
in while the other three women suffered severe facial injuries
due to blunt force trauma. In the Parenteau case, her jewelry
box had been opened by the culprit and rifled. In the Lamb
case, an earring had been removed from the victim—and later
found in Alcala’s souvenir pouch—just as an earring had
allegedly been removed from Robin Samsoe and kept as a memento
in Alcala’s pouch alongside Lamb’s earring.
Alcala says one cannot group murders of
sexually-assaulted women with a murder of a 12-year-old girl.
Moreover, he contends, Samsoe’s body was so disturbed and
decomposed that her cause of death could not be determined, thus
eliminating any inference that she had died of blunt force
trauma or strangulation or suffered any sexual assault. As the
other four women had been violently sexually abused, and
there was no evidence of sexual assault in Samsoe’s case, this
dissimilarity alone should bar the admission of the evidence
proving the four Los Angeles cases in the Robin Samsoe trial, he
A single dissimilarity should not
be the sine qua non of exclusion under Evidence Code section
1101, subdivision (b) or severance under 954. (See People v.
Thornton (1974) 11 Cal.3d 738, 758 [“Probative value is not
significantly diminished by the presence of certain marks of
dissimilarity . . . .”].) We note that a single dissimilarity
between offenses has been specifically rejected as the test for
admission of evidence under Evidence Code section 1108
(“1108”). (See People v. Isom (2006) 145 Cal.App.4th
1371, 1381-1383.) However, that holding rested on the distinct
differences between an analysis under 1108 and the comparison
required for admission pursuant to Evidence Code section 1101,
subdivision (b), which, Alcala argues, is controlling here. (Id.
at pp. 1382-1383.) We do not suggest the legal issue in Isom
is analogous to that here; we merely note that the trial
court’s factual finding was upheld that a “sexually mature”
15-year-old was not dissimilar to the other victims in
the case, who were 12 and 10.
Alcala presses forward, arguing that no
judicial efficiency is accomplished by joining these unrelated
crimes, necessitating long drives for prosecution witnesses and
the general inconvenience to defense witnesses. But witnesses
are not the only ones for whom the laws of joinder and
consolidation benefit: As Matson noted, the defendant
is benefited by a single prompt trial of all issues. And as
the legislative history of section 790(b) notes, the trials of
notorious serial killers “are usually circumstantial in nature
and evidence from one prosecution is invariably admitted in the
guilt or penalty phase of the other prosecution,
resulting in a never ending series of appearances by citizens
unfortunate enough to be witnesses.” (Sen. Com. on Public
Safety, Analysis of Sen. Bill No. 469, (1997-1998 Reg. Sess.),
as amended May 5, 1997, p. 2; italics added.) Thus, it is
advantageous for both the witnesses and the
defendant to have a single trial in which all the different
murders are proved in one proceeding,
because the evidence of one case will inevitably be admitted in
the penalty phase of the others.
Under Bradford, Mendoza, Gutierrez,
Catlin, and Cunningham, the factors to be considered
in a review of a consolidation are: “(1) [T]he
cross-admissibility of the evidence in separate trials; (2)
whether some of the charges are likely to unusually inflame the
jury against the defendant; (3) whether a weak case has been
joined with a strong case or another weak case so that the total
evidence may alter the outcome of some or all of the charges;
and (4) whether one of the charges is a capital offense, or the
joinder of the charges converts the matter into a capital
case.” (People v. Mendoza, supra, 24 Cal.4th at p.
161.) On review, we must limit our examination to the evidence
available to the trial court at the time of the severance
motion, bearing in mind that Alcala bore the burden of proving
“‘“a clear showing of prejudice.”’” (People v. Ochoa, supra,
19 Cal.4th at p. 409; see also Frank v. Superior Court
(1989) 48 Cal.3d 632, 636.)
Full cross-admissibility is not the sine
qua non of joinder, just as a single point of dissimilarity
should not mandate severance per se. However, if the
evidence of one case is admissible in another case, any
potential for prejudice is dispelled. (See People v.
Mendoza, supra, 24 Cal.4th at p. 161.) For this reason, the
parties are most divergent in their positions on this point.
Alcala argues that under People v. Balcom (1994) 7
Cal.4th 414 and People v. Ewoldt (1994) 7 Cal.4th 380,
evidence from none of the Los Angeles cases could be used in any
way in the Robin Samsoe murder case. He argues that as to the
Robin Samsoe case, intent is not and cannot be the issue;
only the identity of the perpetrator is relevant. Thus, he
concludes, the degree of similarity between the Samsoe case and
any of the Los Angeles cases must be of the very highest before
admission is warranted under Evidence Code section 1101,
Alcala emphasizes that all of the Los
Angeles cases dealt with brutal sex crimes perpetrated on adult
women in which they were tortured through sexual abuse. Nothing
of that nature was present in the Samsoe case, he argues, which
dealt with the kidnapping and “simple” murder of a little girl.
This clear deviation from the other cases mandates severance, he
argues. He also notes that the four Los Angeles cases are very
strong cases in which DNA evidence links him inextricably to the
and there is nothing that links him to the Samsoe case but the
very weak circumstance that eyewitnesses tentatively identified
him walking and talking with her earlier in the afternoon of her
disappearance. Finally, he crowns his position with the point
that he faces the special circumstance allegation of multiple
murders by the consolidation of all the charges.
Alcala overlooks the impact of 790(b),
and consequently, the murders need only be “connected together
in their commission,” as that is used in section 954. Moreover,
the burden is on the party seeking severance “‘“‘to clearly
establish that there is a substantial danger of prejudice
requiring that the charges be separately tried.’”’” (People
v. Gutierrez, supra, 28 Cal.4th at p. 1120.) We review the
evidence, comparing and contrasting the details, with great
care, as severance must be ordered “if the joinder of the . . .
charges ‘“actually resulted in ‘gross unfairness’ amounting to a
denial of due process.”’ [Citations.]” (People v. Valdez
(2004) 32 Cal.4th 73, 120.)
Under section 954, the offenses need
only share some “element of substantial importance” to be
connected in their commission. (People v. Valdez, supra,
32 Cal.4th at p. 119.) That element was met when Alcala kept a
“trophy bag” of jewelry items taken from his victims: Earrings
from Robin Samsoe were found in the same bag as an earring from
Lamb, thus connoting both were his “victims[;]” and Parenteau’s
jewelry box had been rifled. The importance of that connection
was heightened by an entry in a book written by Alcala while
imprisoned, expressing his ownership of all the jewelry items
found in the pouch.
It also highlights how the facts of the Lamb case would
inevitably become relevant in the Samsoe trial: To contradict
Alcala’s denial that he possessed the “souvenirs” from the
crimes and had a habit of keeping such souvenirs from sadistic
Irrespective of its status as a common
element of substantial importance, the earring held other
evidentiary potential. As already noted, cross-admissibility
tests emerge from the authority in Evidence Code section 1101,
subdivision (b), to admit or exclude evidence of other uncharged
crimes in a trial for a charged crime. Both Ewoldt and
Balcom discuss the highly sensitive nature of such
evidence (People v. Ewoldt, supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 404;
People v. Balcom, supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 422),
particularly when it need only be proved by a preponderance of
the evidence before the trier of fact can use it for one of the
enumerated purposes. (See Carpenter II, supra, 15
Cal.4th at p. 382.)
Before the facts relevant to one charge
can be considered in relation to the proof of another charge,
those facts must be shown to be “relevant to prove some fact
(such as motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan,
knowledge, identity, absence of mistake or accident, . . .)
other than his or her disposition to commit such an act.” (Evid.
Code, § 1101, subd. (b).) The District Attorney asserts that
the evidence of the Los Angeles crimes is relevant to prove
motive or common plan. Alcala responds that those factors are
not pertinent in the Samsoe case as he does not contest that the
crime occurred or that the perpetrator did so with the specific
intent required for the special circumstances as alleged. He
only contests the identity of the perpetrator. If evidence of
another crime is used to prove his identity, that evidence must
show the other incident to be almost identical with the charged
offense, reflecting a signature method of the perpetrator, or
both incidents must carry such unique characteristics as to be a
form of identification. (See Ewoldt, supra, 7 Cal.4th at
402-405.) Alcala contends none of the Los Angeles cases are
even similar to the Robin Samsoe case, much less identical, and
that their dissimilarities are numerous.
Dissimilarity is not necessarily the
issue; it is the marks of similarity that are most relevant. We
do not “look for characteristics not  shared by a
particular offense and thereby disqualify that offense from
consideration . . . .” (People v. Kraft (2000) 23
Cal.4th 978, 1061 [pinpoint instructions demanding similarity
and no dissimilarity for offenses to be of the same modus
operandi properly rejected].) It is a mark of commonality that
we note in our “task of determining the degree of
distinctiveness and the number of such circumstances necessary
to establish defendant’s identity as the perpetrator . . . .” (Id.
at p. 1062.)
More importantly, identicality is not
required to prove motive, as motive is more akin to intent than
it is to identity. (See 1 Witkin, Cal. Evidence (4th ed. 2000)
Circumstantial Evidence, § 87, pp. 426-427;
cf. People v. Ewoldt, supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 402 [least
degree of similarity required for admission to prove intent].)
Although the identity of Robin Samsoe’s murderer is the ultimate
issue at the trial for that offense, it is not the sole one.
Clearly, the prosecution intends to prove the perpetrator’s
identity circumstantially, a method that is no less valuable and
potentially as strong as proof via direct evidence. (See
People v. Mendoza, supra, 24 Cal.4th at p. 162.) And
another crime that indicates a defendant’s motive, consistent
with the alleged motive in the charged crime, can be admitted to
clarify that point, irrespective of defendant’s primary
dispute with the prosecution’s case. (See e.g., People v.
Butler (2005) 127 Cal.App.4th 49, 59-61 [evidence of fight
at party in which defendant was chased by group including later
victim relevant to prove defendant’s motive in an otherwise
unprovoked attack on victim two weeks later]; see also People
v. Gallego (1990) 52 Cal.3d 115, 171 [although crimes
insufficiently similar to admit to prove identity, properly
admitted to establish intent].) At the least, the Lamb murder
clarifies Alcala’s motive for changing his testimony: He
testified and wrote a book espousing his personal
ownership of all the jewelry found in the pouch to refute the
prosecution’s evidence that the gold ball earring belonged to
Samsoe and her mother. Due to the newly developed connection of
the rose earring to Lamb, he will be forced to deny his
prior testimony and statements. Motive for changed testimony
also permits evidence of other crimes to prove the point. (See
e.g., People v. Hawkins (1995) 10 Cal.4th 920, 950-952
[evidence that Hawkins stabbed his brother relevant to explain
brother’s changed testimony, by supporting brother’s expressed
fear of Hawkins and that such fear was warranted].)
Certain similarities between at least
three of the five cases are sufficient to prove motive. In the
Parenteau, Lamb and Samsoe cases, all the victims were young,
trim, White females. Moreover, Parenteau was a cyclist and
Samsoe was a ballet dancer, both very lean and athletic. All
three victims were taken away or isolated from all other
persons, and all were brutalized. Although the actual cause of
death was indiscernible in the Samsoe case, all three victims
had received severe blunt force trauma injuries to the face and
head; Samsoe’s severed head showed that her teeth had been
bashed. In Lamb’s case, an earring had been removed from the
victim; in Parenteau’s case, her jewelry case had been
ransacked, whereas Robin Samsoe had her earring stolen from her
earlobe. Earrings from Lamb and Samsoe were found together in
Alcala’s possession in a locker that he had attempted to hide
from the authorities. The Parenteau and Samsoe murders occurred
within a week of each other, and all three occurred in adjacent
counties. All the victims received severely brutal
injuries to the neck and throat, with Samsoe’s neck having
been partially severed and Lamb’s throat cartilage having been
fractured. Finally, both Parenteau and Samsoe, while in the
company of girlfriends, had met and socialized with Alcala prior
to their respective deaths.
Alcala characterizes the circumstantial
evidence connecting him to the Samsoe case as “weak,” in
contrast with the allegedly “strong” identification evidence in
three of the Los Angeles cases: DNA evidence connected him to
the Lamb, Wixted and Barcomb crimes. However, even DNA evidence
can be less than convincing in all cases. (See Lee and Tirnady,
Blood Evidence: How DNA is Revolutionizing the Way We Solve
Crimes (2003), pp. 1-338 [even though DNA evidence was
overwhelming, O.J Simpson was acquitted after lawyers cast doubt
on the investigation and scientists].) Indeed, DNA evidence is
circumstantial evidence, albeit highly convincing in most
In contrast to the forensic evidence
linking him to the Los Angeles cases, the prosecution case
included Alcala’s highly convincing confession to a fellow jail
inmate. Alcala reputedly told him that Samsoe had fought,
screamed and yelled to get away from him, and that he had
committed the Samsoe crimes. Such self-incriminatory
revelations can go far in establishing the identity of the
perpetrator. (See e.g., People v. Musselwhite (1998) 17
Cal.4th 1216, 1245 [confession to murder equally powerful as
eyewitness identification by assault victim].)
Even if we were to assume that
all five cases are not cross-admissible (see e.g.,
People v. Ochoa (2001) 26 Cal.4th 398, 424) in the guilt
the trial court’s order as to the Parenteau and Lamb cases
must be affirmed because the remaining three factors listed
in Mendoza clearly support the joint trial: Those two
Los Angeles cases are no more inflammatory or inherently
prejudicial than the highly publicized kidnapping and brutal
murder of a preteen girl whose remains were so destroyed that
the specifics of her death were indiscernible. Finally, Alcala
argues the evidence of the Robin Samsoe case is weak, but that
characterization is highly debatable. He contends it is weak
because his conviction has been reversed twice for two different
errors, errors which would not have compelled reversal unless
the prosecution’s case was so weak that conviction would not
have been obtained but for those errors.
Notwithstanding Alcala’s lament, the
prosecution’s case in the Samsoe murder appears to be growing in
strength and persuasiveness. With the newly revealed evidence
corroborating that the gold ball earring was Robin
Samsoe’s, and, inferably, that Alcala kept it as a souvenir
along with Lamb’s earring, the case cannot be honestly
characterized as a weak one. The multiple witnesses who
identified him as the man with Samsoe and Wilvert earlier in the
day, Crappa’s tentative identification of him as the man pushing
Samsoe into the wilderness, Alcala’s taking and keeping her
earring, and his confession to a fellow inmate, combine
to make a seemingly strong case. (See e.g., People v. Carter
(2005) 36 Cal.4th 1114, 1155 [marks of similarity were that
all three separate victims were strangled and items belonging to
them later found in defendant’s possession].)
Finally, the joinder of the Parenteau
and Lamb cases with that of Samsoe does not change a non-capital
case into one with a capital penalty: Alcala already faces the
death penalty irrespective of the joinder of any of the Los
Angeles crimes. (Cf. Williams v. Superior Court, supra,
36 Cal.3d at p. 454 [“it is the joinder itself which
gives rise to the special circumstances allegation of multiple
murder . . . .”].) Those two additional murders merely trigger
application of another special circumstance, not the
death penalty itself which has always been present due to the
nature of the Robin Samsoe crime.
In summation, Alcala argues that a fair
trial is absolutely impossible if he is forced to face the
“glass mountain” of evidence that all five murder cases would
build. That point is hard to deny. The Barcomb and Wixted
crimes do not share all the marks of similarity as do the
Parenteau, Lamb and Samsoe murders; and they possess the DNA
evidence Alcala argues is unfairly insurmountable. We accord
weight to the argument that, instead of reviewing the facts of
each murder carefully and individually, the trial court
treated the issue as one of severing all four Los Angeles
cases from the Samsoe murder, or severing none of them. Based
on the plethora of case authority advancing a thorough and
sensitive review of each case individually, we have followed
that form. The record clearly supports the trial court’s
decision as to the Parenteau and Lamb cases. We find that it
fails to do the same regarding the charges involving Wixted and
Barcomb. In light of the monumental task Alcala would face in
refuting all the evidence in the Wixted and Barcomb cases which
bear far less similarity with the Samsoe facts and which might
combine in a fashion potentially unfair,
we hold the trial court erred in properly exercising its
discretion when it failed to individualize its analysis as to
each of those two murders.
petition is denied as it regards the consolidated pleadings of
the Samsoe, Parenteau and Lamb cases. It is granted as it
relates to the Wixted and Barcomb counts. The superior court is
ordered to sever those latter two cases from the consolidated
cases charging the murders and accompanying charges involving
Samsoe, Parenteau and Lamb. The order to show cause, having
served its purpose, is discharged.
other young girls at the beach were approached by Alcala
for pictures, either on that day or the next. In each
case, someone was able to identify Alcala as the man
taking photographs of young girls in bikinis. One young
lady, Lorraine Werts, in company with her girlfriend,
Patty Elmendorf, was on a beach adjacent to that
occupied by Samsoe and Wilvert on the same day Robin
disappeared. Alcala took several pictures of her in her
bikini, and those pictures were found in Alcala’s
storage locker in Seattle.