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Rodney James ALCALA





Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 5 - 100 +
Date of murders: 1977 - 1979
Date of arrest: July 27, 1979
Date of birth: August 23, 1943
Victims profile: Robin Samsoe, 12 /Jill Barcomb, 18 / Georgia Wixted, 27 / Charlotte Lamb, 32 / Jill Parenteau, 21
Method of murder: Beating / Strangulation
Location: California, USA
Status: Sentenced to death March 30, 2010

photo gallery



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 murders committed between 1977 and 1979, and is thought to be responsible for others.

He is sometimes labeled the "Dating Game Killer" due to his 1978 appearance on the American television show The Dating Game in the very midst of his murder spree.

Alcala is also notable for exceptional demonstrations of cruelty: Prosecutors say he "toyed" with his victims, strangling them until they lost consciousness, then waiting until they revived, sometimes repeating this process several times before finally killing them.

Investigators have found a collection of hundreds of photos of women and teenaged boys photographed by Alcala, and speculate that he could be responsible for many more murders in California. He is also a suspect in at least two unsolved murders in New York. Authorities have compared him to Ted Bundy, and fear that, as evidence continues to mount, he may prove to be one of the most prolific serial killers in American history.

Early life

Alcala was born Rodrigo Jacques Alcala-Buquor in San Antonio, Texas to Raoul 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. In 1964, after what was described as a "nervous breakdown", he was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder by a military psychiatrist and discharged on medical grounds.


Alcala, who claims to have a "genius-level" IQ, graduated from the UCLA School of Fine Arts after his medical discharge from the Army, and later attended New York University using the alias "John Berger", where he studied film under Roman Polanski.

Early criminal history

Alcala committed his first known crime in 1968: A motorist in Los Angeles witnessed him luring an eight-year-old girl named Tali Shapiro into his Hollywood apartment and called police. The girl was found in the apartment raped and beaten with a steel bar, but Alcala escaped. He fled to the east coast and enrolled in the NYU film school using the name "John Berger." During the summer months he also obtained a counseling job at a New Hampshire arts camp for children, using a slightly different alias, "John Burger."

In 1971, after two campers noticed Alcala's FBI wanted poster at the post office and notified camp directors, he was arrested and extradited back to California. By then, however, Tali Shapiro's parents had relocated her family to Mexico, and refused to allow her to testify at Alcala's trial. Unable to convict him of rape and attempted murder without their primary witness, prosecutors were forced to permit Alcala to plead guilty to a lesser charge.

He was paroled after 34 months, in 1974, under the "indeterminate sentencing" program popular at the time, which allowed parole boards to release offenders as soon as they demonstrated evidence of "rehabilitation."

Less than two months later, Alcala was arrested for violating parole and providing marijuana to a 13-year old girl who claimed she had been kidnapped. Once again, he was paroled after serving two years of an "indeterminate sentence."

In 1977, despite his criminal record and official registration as a sex offender, he was hired as a typesetter by the Los Angeles Times in the midst of their coverage of the Hillside Strangler murders.

During this period Alcala also convinced dozens of young women that he was a professional fashion photographer, and photographed them for his "portfolio." Most of those photos remain unidentified, and police fear that some of the women may be additional victims (see below).

Samsoe murder and trials

Robin Samsoe, a 12-year-old girl from Huntington Beach, California disappeared 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 Angeles. Police subsequently found her earrings in a Seattle locker rented by Alcala.

In 1980 Alcala was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for Samsoe's murder, but his conviction was overturned by the California Supreme Court because the Orange County Superior Court trial judge had allowed the jury to hear about the Tali Shapiro case, and Alcala's other rape and kidnapping convictions.

In 1986 he was convicted for a second time and again sentenced to death, but a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel overthrew his conviction once again, in part because a witness was not allowed to support Alcala's contention that the park ranger who found Samsoe's body had been "hypnotized by police investigators."

Third (joined) trial

While preparing their third prosecution in 2003, Orange County investigators learned that Alcala's DNA, sampled under a new state law (over his objections), matched semen left at the rape-murder scenes of two women in Los Angeles. Another pair of earrings found in Alcala's storage locker matched the DNA of one of the two victims.

Additional evidence, including another cold case DNA match in 2004, led to Alcala's indictment for the murders of four additional women: Jill Barcomb, 18, killed in 1977 and originally thought to have been a victim of the Hillside Strangler; Georgia Wixted, 27, bludgeoned in her Malibu apartment in 1977; Charlotte Lamb, 31, raped and strangled in El Segundo in 1978; and Jill Parenteau, 21, killed in her Burbank apartment in 1979.

In 2003, prosecutors entered a motion to join the Samsoe charges with those of the four newly-discovered victims. Alcala contested the motion. In 2006, the California Supreme Court ruled in the prosecution's favor, and in 2009 Alcala stood trial once again. At the third trial Alcala, acting as his own attorney, told jurors, often in a rambling monotone, that he was at Knott's Berry Farm when Samsoe was kidnapped. (He offered no defense of any kind in the other four cases.)

As part of his closing argument, he played the portion of Arlo Guthrie's song "Alice's Restaurant" in which the protagonist tells a psychiatrist he wants to "kill." He was convicted on all five counts. A surprise witness during the penalty phase of the trial was Tali Shapiro, Alcala's first known victim. In March 2010, Alcala was sentenced to death for a third time.

Dating Game appearance

In 1978, Alcala — who had by then already killed at least two women — was accepted as a contestant on The Dating Game, despite being a convicted rapist and registered sex offender. Host Jim Lange introduced him as "...a successful photographer who got his start when his father found him in the darkroom at the age of 13, fully developed. Between takes you might find him skydiving or motorcycling." He won a date with "bachelorette" Cheryl Bradshaw, who subsequently refused to go out with him, according to published reports, because she found him "creepy." Jed Mills, an actor who sat next to Alcala onstage as "Bachelor #2", later described him as a "very strange guy" with "bizarre opinions." (The third contestant, Armand Chiami, has not publicly commented.)

Criminal profiler Pat Brown, noting that Alcala killed Robin Samsoe and at least two other women after his Dating Game appearance, speculated that Bradshaw's 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. [Serial killers] don't understand the rejection. They think that something is wrong with that girl: 'She played me. She played hard to get.'"

Current status

Alcala has been incarcerated since his 1979 arrest for Samsoe's murder. While in prison he has written You, the Jury, a 1994 book in which he asserts his innocence in the Samsoe case and points to a different suspect. He has also 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 against Alcala, who is the main suspect in the case of Ciro's Nightclub heiress Ellen Jane Hover, murdered in 1977 while Alcala was working in New York as a security guard. He is also suspected in the murder of TWA flight attendant Cornelia "Michael" Crilley, which occurred in 1971 while Alcala was enrolled at NYU.

Alcala continues to maintain his innocence, and currently remains on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

Unidentified photographs

In April 2010, the Huntington Beach Police Department made public 120 of Alcala's photographs in an effort to identify some of the women and determine if any could be additional victims. Anyone willing to provide information about any of the photos was asked to call Det. Patrick Ellis at (714) 536-5971.

In the first few weeks, approximately 20 women had come forward to identify themselves.


Rodney Alcala (legal name)
Rod Alcala
John Berger
John Burger


year of event

Event, victim name
indicates date of crime

Offense; offender status



US Army    


Graduated from UCLA    


Tali Shapiro, age 8 Rape, Battery; Pleaded guilty to assault, 1971/California  




Enrolled at NYU Film School New York, NY John Berger


Camp Counselor New Hampshire John Burger


Cornelia Crilley, age 23 Murder; Suspected/New York  


FBI Ten Most Wanted List    


Incarcerated (Tali Shapiro conviction) California  


"Julie J.", age 13 Parole Violation, providing marijuana to minor; Convicted, 1974/California  


Ted Bundy Colorado/Florida/Idaho/
Oregon/Utah, etc.
for time-line comparison


Incarcerated ("Julie J." conviction) California  


Son of Sam aka David Berkowitz New York City for time-line comparison


Ellen Hover Murder; Suspected/New York John Berger


Worked as Los Angeles Times typesetter California  


Hillside Strangler California for time-line comparison


Jill Barcomb, age 18 Murder; Convicted, 2009/California  


Questioned by FBI regarding Hover California Rodney Alcala, John Berger


Georgia Wixted, age 27 Murder; Convicted, 2009/California  


interviewed as part of Hillside Strangler investigation California  


Incarcerated (Possession-drugs) California  


Contestant, The Dating Game California  


Charlotte Lamb, age 32 Murder; Convicted, 2009/California  


Jill Parenteau, age 21 Murder; Convicted, 2009/California  


Robin Samsoe age 12 Murder; Convicted, 1980, 1986, 2009/California  


Arrested on suspicion of Samsoe murder California  


Conviction #1, sentenced to death for Samsoe murder California  


Conviction #1 overturned by California Supreme Court California  


Conviction #2, sentenced to death for Samsoe murder California  


You, the Jury "True crime" book, asserting his innocence  


Conviction #2 overturned by 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals California  


DNA collected, 4 additional murders discovered California  


Motion to join Samsoe case with 4 others proposed; contested by Alcala California  


Case join granted by California Supreme Court California  


Conviction #3, sentenced to death for murders of Samsoe, Parenteau, Lamb, Wixted, and Barcomb California  

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 crimes.

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 -

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 more victims.

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 Los Angeles.

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 camera.

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 victims.

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 1979.

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 Tuesday.

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 their agony.

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 defense.

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 possession.

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, curly hair.

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 Oneida, N.Y.

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. girl.

By Larry Welborn - The Orange County Register

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 cases.

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 evidence.

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 decades ago.

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 Alcala case.

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 courtrooms.

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 verdicts.

"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.

Accused 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 strangled.

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 Dec. 16.

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 motion.

California man accused in serial killings

September 20, 2005

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, prosecutors said.

“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. 6.

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.

Although the 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 1970s.

By Claire Luna and Seema Mehta - Los Angeles Times

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."

The 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.

The new 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.

The nude 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 photographer.

"Mr. Alcala left a trail of evil in multiple states and multiple counties," said Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley.

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 killings.

"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, Rackauckas said.

Lawyers for Alcala said they would try to have the Orange County case tried separately from the others.

"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.

At the 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 children.

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.

In the 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 execution.

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 disappeared.

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 closure."

"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 ago.

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 ago.

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 testing.

"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 radio.

"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 jury.

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 1970s.

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 Estate.

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 ultimately found.

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.

By 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 County killings.

"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 been strangled.







(Super. Ct. No. C42861)


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.


Rodney 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 crimes. 

Returned 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) (790(b)),[1] 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.[2]  (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 saw.

                        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. 758-760.)

                        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 seize[3]—a 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.[4]  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 information:

                        In July 1977, the body of Jill Barcomb was found on a remote dirt road, essentially nude.[5]  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 matched. 

                        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.[6]  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 occasion. 

                        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 790(b)

                        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 standard.

                        Alcala argues that a review of an order consolidating charges or denying severance[7] 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.’  [Citation.]”  (Ibid.)

                        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.[8]  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 pleadings. 

                        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.

1.  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 request.

                        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 954.1. 

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 contends.

                        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[9] (“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,[10] 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;[11] 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, subdivision (b).

                        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 crimes,[12] 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.[13]  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 murders. 

                        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;[14] 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 cases

                        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 phase,[15] 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,[16] 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. 


Alcala’s 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. 


[1]                             All further statutory references are to the Penal Code unless otherwise stated.

[2]                           Several 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.

                                Alcala was also identified by Richard Sillett, a survey-party chief for the Huntington Beach recreational area.  He remembered Alcala because he was carrying a 35 millimeter camera with a telephoto lens, an item of particular interest to Sillett.

[3]                              When the police returned to the Monterey Park home the next day, the receipt was nowhere to be found.  Alcala’s sister spoke with Alcala on the phone immediately after his arrest, went to the home and got the receipt, giving it to his mother.  The receipt could not be found thereafter.  (Alcala II, supra, 4 Cal.4th at p. 761, fn. 7.)

[4]                              Although he did not testify in the guilt phase of the second trial, Alcala testified as to this alibi in the penalty phase.  (Alcala II, supra, 4 Cal.4th at p. 766.)  He also admitted molesting a child in 1972—and serving time in prison for it—and assaulting Tali S., one of three child molestation victims the prosecution presented in the penalty phase to prove he committed other, uncharged crimes.  He likewise admitted possessing child pornography, which resulted in his spending more time in custody, having violated his parole.  He also admitted he raped and beat another 15-year-old girl, Monique H.  Nonetheless, he appealed to the jury to send him to prison for life, arguing that he was “absolutely harmless” away from children.  (Id., at pp. 766-767.)

[5]                              The only clothing on the body was a sweater and top which were pulled up around the shoulders.  The body itself was entirely exposed. 

[6]                              The Burbank Police Department investigator who arrived on the scene described Parenteau’s apartment as very neat and clean, sparsely furnished but having her bicycle directly inside the front door, which was “unusual” because everything else was so neatly closed away.  The perpetrator had entered the apartment by removing glass louvers in a side window and then slicing through the screen.

[7]                              Some decisions concerning the charging site of the crime are deemed that of jurisdiction, which is a question of fact and for which the prosecution has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence.  “On review, a trial court’s determination of territorial jurisdiction will be upheld as long as there is ‘some evidence’ to support its holding.  [Citations.]”  (People v. Gutierrez (2002) 28 Cal.4th 1083, 1117.)  However, the order of a court either consolidating or severing counts within a pleading are held to be procedural in nature, not jurisdictional.  (See In re Pearson (1947) 30 Cal.2d 871, 874.)

[8]                              Section 954 provides, in pertinent part, that an “accusatory pleading may charge two or more different offenses connected together in their commission, . . . and if two or more accusatory pleadings are filed in such cases in the same court, the court may order them to be consolidated[]. . . .  provided, that the court in which a case is triable, in the interests of justice and for good cause shown, may in its discretion order that the different offenses or counts set forth in the accusatory pleading be tried separately or divided into two or more groups and each of said groups tried separately. . . .”

[9]                              Evidence Code section 1108, subdivision (a) provides that “evidence of the defendant’s commission of another sexual offense or offenses is not made inadmissible by [Evidence Code s]ection 1101, if the evidence is not inadmissible pursuant to Section 352” and the defendant is presently “accused of a sexual offense.”

[10]                             As an example, see People v. Carpenter (1999) 21 Cal.4th 1016, at pages 1038-1039 (Carpenter III), in which a serial killer argued in his third capital appeal that he was denied procedural and constitutional rights because all murder charges throughout the state were not joined in a single trial.  Instead, he faced prosecutions in two separate counties for multiple murders occurring in each, which inevitably led to duplication of testimony.  (Id., at p. 1039.)  He contended he had been denied due process by the successive prosecutions.  (Ibid.)  This argument was rejected, as the court noted Carpenter had originally complained in his second capital appeal that severance of two murder charges in Santa Cruz County should have been granted.  The Supreme Court had rejected that argument.  (See People v. Carpenter (1997) 15 Cal.4th 312, 361-362 [Carpenter II].)

[11]                             Alcala characterizes a case of intent as one in which the defendant concedes he committed the criminal act but disputes he had the requisite mental state for the offense.  (See People v. Ewoldt, supra, 7 Cal.4th at p. 394, fn. 2.)

[12]                             The record reflects DNA evidence is present in three of the Los Angeles cases, but not all four.  The Parenteau murder had serologicial evidence connecting Alcala to the crime, but not DNA evidence.

[13]                             This evidence contradicted his mother’s testimony that the gold ball earring was hers—not either Robin Samsoe’s or her mother’s—and that she had modified it with her own nail clippers.  Alcala’s mother brought this up in the first trial, thus contradicting Robin’s mother’s earlier testimony that the earring was one Robin often borrowed from her, and the prosecution’s expert who opined the Samsoe nail clippers were consistent with the striations on the earring.

[14]                             “Most of the exceptions specified in [Evidence Code section] 1101(b)—‘motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake or accident’—can be lumped together in three categories:  intent, common design or plan, and identity.”  (1 Witkin, Cal. Evidence, supra, § 87, pp. 426-427.)

[15]                             At the previous penalty phase, Alcala testified that, as long as he was imprisoned away from children, he was “absolutely harmless.”  (See fn. 4, ante.)  Evidence of multiple brutal murders of adult women would inevitably be used to refute such a statement, and would thus become relevant in the penalty phase.

[16]                             Joinder of multiple cases which are arguably weak in an effort to overcome the evidentiary difficulties in one of the case has always been discouraged.  (See generally Williams v. Superior Court, supra, 36 Cal.3d at 452-454; see also People v. Smallwood (1986) 42 Cal.3d 415,427-433.)