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Serial killer Rodney Alcala investigated in 3 more slayings

December 14, 2012 |  3:47 pm

Convicted serial killer Rodney Alcala in court in 2010.With "Dating Game" serial killer Rodney Alcala pleading guilty to two slayings in New York, the investigation into his possible ties to other victims now moves to Seattle and San Francisco.

Investigators in Marin County believe Alcala was responsible for the 1977 murder of Pamela Jean Lambson, 19, who vanished after supposedly meeting a photographer at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Franscisco. She was eventually found dead on a Marin County hiking trail in a way consistent with other Alcala victims.

In Seattle, authorities last year began investigating Alcala's possible connection to the slayings of Antionette "Tony" Witaker, 13, in July 1977 and Joyce Gaunt, 17, in February 1978. Det. Mark Jamieson of the Seattle Police Department in 2010 told The Times that officials don't have any definitive evidence linking Alcala to the homicides but are exploring whether there might be a connection.

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In 1979 Alcala rented a storage locker in the Seattle area, which was found to contain items related to his victims, including Robin Samsoe and  Charlotte Lamb, a Santa Monica legal secretary who was strangled in the laundry room of an El Segundo apartment complex. Gaunt's body was found in a park in south Seattle in February 1978. Witaker's body was found in the northeast part of the city.

On Friday, Alcala pleaded guilty in the killings of two women in New York in the 1970s.

"Rodney Alcala’s victims were never forgotten,” New York County Dist. Atty. Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said. “Tragically, neither of them lived past the age of 23. Two families were robbed of daughters who never had a chance to have families of their own, grow old, and see the city change and become safer.

"But, after more than 30 years, this defendant has admitted that he murdered these two innocent women," Vance said. "I hope today’s guilty plea provides some measure of closure for the victims’ families and loved ones.”

Alcala, 69, admitted to the 1971 slaying of Cornelia Crilley and the 1977 slaying of Ellen Hover, two of a series of killings that investigators suspect he committed as he traveled the country working in the photography business.

Alcala raped and strangled Crilley, a 23-year-old TWA flight attendant, at her Upper East Side apartment in 1971. Six years later, he killed  Hover, also 23 and living in Manhattan. Her body was found in Westchester County, not far from her family's estate. 

Alcala, a self-styled playboy who once appeared on "The Dating Game," spent much of the 1970s eluding police by changing identities and locales. He has been behind bars since 1979, when he was arrested in the slaying of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe of Huntington Beach.

Twice he was sent to death row for the girl's slaying, but both convictions were overturned on appeal. In February 2010, he was again convicted in Samsoe's slaying and those of four women in Los Angeles County. He is now awaiting execution.

The extent of Alcala's crimes were revealed as a task force formed by the Los Angeles Police Department and other agencies that was examining cold cases tied him to slayings across Southern California. New York police had long considered Alcala a suspect in the slayings of Crilley and Hover and had taken impressions of his teeth in 2003. Alcala had lived in New York periodically between 1968 and 1977. 

During that period, Crilley was found raped and strangled with her nylon stockings at her Manhattan apartment. Around that time, Alcala was working at a summer camp for girls in New Hampshire, authorities said.

Hover went missing in July 1977 and her body was discovered the next year. Before she disappeared, she had written the name "John Berger" in a planner, a name police believe Alcala used as an alias while in New York.

The Southern California killings began just a few months later.


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Photo: Convicted serial killer Rodney Alcala in court in 2010. Credit: Sam Gangwer / Associated Press