Orange County jury orders death for Alcala for third time [updated]
An Orange County jury needed just a few hours Tuesday to hand down the death penalty for Rodney James Alcala, convicted Feb. 25 of murdering four Los Angeles County women and a 12-year-old girl from Huntington Beach in the late 1970s.
It was the third time Alcala, 66, has been convicted for the murder of Robin Samsoe, 12, last seen alive 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 Tuesday, Alcala -- a onetime photographer and “Dating Game” contestant who acted as his own attorney in this trial -- asked jurors to spare him 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.
By assigning the death penalty, “you become a wannabe killer in waiting,” Alcala told jurors before playing a portion of “Alice’s Restaurant,” a rambling 18-minute Vietnam War protest song by folk singer Arlo Guthrie. In the section played, a man being drafted for war tells a military psychiatrist:
“Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth...I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL.”
As the word reverberated through the Santa Ana courtroom, Robert Samsoe, Robin’s brother, stood up and walked out.
Alcala remained seated while speaking to the jury during his closing. He wore the same tan sports coat he’s worn since the trial started two months ago.
He told jurors the death penalty would lead to appeals that could last another 15 or 20 years with a high probability the conviction would be reversed. A sentence of life in prison without parole “would end this matter now,” he said.
“This is probably the most important decision you will ever make,” Alcala told the jury, made up of five women and seven men. “Choose wisely.”
Earlier in the day, Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Matt Murphy told jurors Alcala is “an evil monster” who knows how to follow the rules when he wants to and who raped and tortured his victims because he enjoyed it.
Alcala, Murphy said, is an intelligent man who grew up in a middle-class home, had a mother who loved him and had every opportunity in the world.
The prosecutor walked jurors through the defendant’s crimes, including two previous convictions for raping and beating two girls. Both victims testified during the sentencing phase.
Monique H., who was 15 when Alcala picked her up and took her to a mountainous area near Banning, told the jury last week that Alcala asked her to pose for pictures, then knocked her unconscious. He beat, raped and sodomized her, she said.
What she described is “a vignette of everything he did to the ones that did not survive,” Murphy said. “You speak for the conscience of this community. Hold Rodney Alcala responsible for what he did.”
-- Paloma Esquivel in Orange County
[Updated 5:27 p.m.: For the record: An earlier version of this post said Alcala was convicted last week. He was convicted Feb. 25.]
For a timeline of the Alcala case see: Long road to justice in case of serial killer Alcala