‘Dating Game Killer’ dies of natural causes on death row

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Rodney James Alcala

FILE – This Jan. 11, 2010 file photo shows, Rodney Alcala, a former death row inmate who was twice convicted of the 1979 killing of a 12-year-old Huntington Beach girl, sitting in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, Calif. Alcala, a prolific serial torture-slayer dubbed “The Dating Game Killer” has died while awaiting execution in California. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

(CBS) – Serial killer Rodney Alcala died of natural causes Saturday while awaiting execution, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced. He was 77.

Alcala was nicknamed the “Dating Game Killer” because of his appearance on the show in 1978. He was chosen to be a contestant despite having already served two prison sentences — one for assaulting 8-year-old Tali Shapiro in 1968 and the other for assaulting a 13-year-old girl in 1974 — and being a registered sex offender. He was introduced on the program as a “photographer” and managed to win. 

Alcala was originally sentenced to death in 1980 for the 1979 murder of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe. That conviction was overturned in 1984, and Alcala was granted a new trial. He was convicted and sentenced to death again in 1986. That conviction was again overturned in 2003 and Alcala was granted yet another trial.

Alcala in 2010 was again convicted and sentenced to death for the kidnapping and murder of Samsoe, along with the murders of four other women. The additional murder charges were brought about after DNA evidence connected Alcala to the victims. Alcala received an additional 25 years to life in prison in 2013 after pleading guilty to two more murders in New York.

Authorities say Alcala may have been responsible for as many as 130 murders, according to The Associated Press. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom in 2019 signed an executive order halting all executions in the state.

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