Prosecutor: Accused serial killer stalked Calif. women like prey, took earrings as trophies

By Gillian Flaccus, AP
Monday, February 22, 2010

Prosecutor: Man stalked, killed 5 Calif. victims

SANTA ANA, Calif. — A man accused of five serial slayings in the late 1970s says prosecutors lumped the murders of four adult women with the case of a 12-year-old girl to inflame the jury.

Rodney James Alcala, 66, has pleaded not guilty to five counts of first-degree murder in the killings, which happened between 1977 and 1979. The case is likely to go to the jury on Tuesday and Alcala could face the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors said Monday that Alcala stalked women like prey, kept binoculars in his car and took earrings as trophies from some of his victims after they died.

“You’re talking about a guy who is hunting through Southern California looking for people to kill because he enjoys it,” Orange County prosecutor Matt Murphy said.

In closing arguments Monday, Alcala said it would have been impossible for him to have abducted 12-year-old Robin Samsoe in the 6½-minute window necessary because his car was parked blocks away. He also pointed out lapses in witnesses’ recollections of that day.

Prosecutors were asking jurors to use “magic thinking” to get around inconsistencies in the case, Alcala said.

Orange County prosecutors relied on witnesses who saw Alcala taking pictures of Samsoe and her friend on the beach minutes before she disappeared.

Alcala pointed out 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. And two other witnesses disagreed dramatically on the clothing he was wearing, he said, while an initial police bulletin said the suspect in the Samsoe case was balding.

“It would be pretty hard to imagine that I could be that particular person,” he said, noting that 30 years later he still has a full head of long, curly hair. “People’s recollection isn’t necessarily true.”

Samsoe’s mother testified that a pair of gold ball earrings found in a jewelry pouch in Alcala’s storage locker belonged to her daughter.

Alcala, however, claims the earrings were his and that a video clip from his 1978 appearance on “The Dating Game” shows him wearing the studs nearly a year before Samsoe died.

Murphy told jurors 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 took earrings from at least two of the women as trophies.

Murphy said the jewelry is important because another earring found in the pouch carried the DNA of victim Charlotte Lamb of Santa Monica — and investigators found Alcala’s DNA in Lamb’s body.

That makes Lamb a “silent witness” linking Alcala to Samsoe, Murphy said.

“All these years, Charlotte Lamb was there. Charlotte Lamb is telling you all (that) what Rodney Alcala does is he murders women and steals their earrings. Listen to her,” he said.

Alcala has been sentenced to death twice before in Samsoe’s murder, but both convictions were overturned.

He was charged in the deaths of the four adult women more than two decades after Samsoe’s death, when investigators reviewing the case found that DNA and other forensic evidence linked him to those murders.

Murphy said investigators discovered Alcala’s DNA in the bodies of victims Georgia Wixted, 27, of Malibu; Lamb, 32; and Jill Barcomb, 18, who had just moved to Los Angeles from Oneida, N.Y.

“Modern science caught up to Rodney Alcala,” Murphy said. “He left a genetic fingerprint that means, beyond any doubt, he absolutely did it.”

Prosecutors said Monday the body of the fourth victim, Jill Parenteau, yielded no DNA but her nude body was posed in a similar fashion as another of the dead women and Alcala was at the same bar as Parenteau the night she was murdered.

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