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Survivors testify to murderer Alcala's effect on their lives

Penalty phase of the trial of Rodney James Alcala, found guilty of killing an Orange County girl and four women, gets underway.

March 03, 2010|By Paloma Esquivel

Tali S. came to court Tuesday in a simple black dress, a thin red belt around her waist. It's been 42 years since she was attacked, but she still remembers the man who picked her up when she was 8 years old.

She had told him she wasn't supposed to talk to strangers. He'd said he knew her family. He asked her to get in his car, took her to his home and said he wanted to show her a photo.

She doesn't remember the attack. But she spoke firmly as she recounted the ways it changed her life.

Rodney James Alcala, 66, who was convicted in 1972 of kidnapping, raping and beating Tali S. nearly to death, sat a few feet away.

Alcala was found guilty last week in Orange County Superior Court of five counts of murder. Each carries a special circumstance charge that makes him eligible for the death penalty. The trial is now in the penalty phase.

Years before he was accused of killing a girl and four women, a police officer found Tali S. in Alcala's home after she was abducted. She was unconscious and lying in a pool of blood. Alcala slipped out the back and fled to the East Coast. In 1972, he was convicted of the attack and given an indeterminate sentence. He was paroled two years later.

In 1979, he was arrested for raping and beating Monique H., then 15. She also testified Tuesday, as did siblings of murder victims Jill Barcomb, Georgia Wixted, Charlotte Lamb, Jill Parenteau and Robin Samsoe.

During her testimony, Tali S. recounted the fear she felt after getting into Alcala's car.

"I remember wanting to jump out of the car but . . . I respected my elders, so I stayed," she said.

On cross-examination, Alcala, who is acting as his own attorney, apologized.

"I sincerely regret" what happened, he said. "I apologize for my despicable behavior."

She did not respond.

Monique H. spoke in an almost inaudible voice as she recounted being picked up by Alcala in 1979. He took her to a mountainous area near Banning, asked her to pose for pictures, then knocked her unconscious. He beat, raped and sodomized her, she told the jury. When she came to, he was lying on the floor. She thought if she was kind to him, he might let her go.

He agreed to drive her back. When he stopped at a restaurant, she escaped.

On cross-examination, Alcala asked if she remembered that he apologized in the car after the attack. She repeatedly said his apology was meaningless.

"Just testify that I apologized to you," Alcala said.

paloma.esquivel@latimes.com

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