Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsTrials

Rodney James Alcala gets the death penalty

'He's a monster,' one juror said of the man who killed a 12-year-old girl and four women.

March 10, 2010|By Paloma Esquivel

It took an Orange County jury about one hour Tuesday to vote for the death penalty for convicted serial killer Rodney James Alcala.

The photographer and onetime "Dating Game" contestant was convicted last month of murdering four Los Angeles County women and a 12-year-old girl from Huntington Beach in the late 1970s.

"He's a monster. He's not a human being," said a juror who identified himself only by his first name, Vic.

Just hours before they rendered their verdict, Alcala asked jurors to spare him, 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 voting for the death penalty, "you become a wannabe killer in waiting," Alcala told the seven men and five women who made up the jury 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 throughout the Santa Ana courtroom, Robert Samsoe, brother of murder victim Robin Samsoe, stood up and walked out.

The song was shocking, juror Gregory Lacey said after the verdict was read.

"If I hadn't been a juror I would have liked to have gotten up myself," he said.

After the clerk read the jury's decision, Samsoe, who had returned to the courtroom, shouted "Yes!" and members of the audience applauded. Alcala had no visible reaction.

It was the third time Alcala, 66, has been convicted of Samsoe's murder. The 12-year-old was last seen alive riding her bike to ballet class in June 1979. Alcala had been condemned to death for both previous convictions, but they were overturned. He has been in custody since his 1979 arrest.

Before the third trial began in January, Alcala 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.

Alcala argued that 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.

Jurors said they used a white board to outline reasons for and against the death penalty and found that the reasons for death overwhelmed those against. They said they also considered "how much misery" a prolonged appeals process would bring to the victims' families, Lacey said. Ultimately, the jurors decided "the justice system would take care of itself," he said.

In his closing arguments Tuesday, Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Matt Murphy called Alcala "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.

The jury foreman, who gave only his first name, Jeff, said the trial would have a lasting effect on his life.

"I don't think any of us will ever forget this," he said.

Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno told jurors the trial could leave lasting scars and said the court offered services to help. One juror, a woman who was noticeably moved several times during testimony, said she'd had to choke back tears many times. Others said they'd thought about their own children.

The passage of time kept some victims' loved ones from attending the trial -- many have died, others live far away. For those who were present Tuesday, the verdict provided a measure of relief.

Tali Shapiro, who was 8 when she was raped and nearly beaten to death in 1968 by Alcala, sat with Samsoe's family. Marianne Connelly, Robin Samsoe's mother, who was asked by her sons to stay away from most of the trial because of the graphic depictions of the murders, arrived at the courtroom after the verdict was read. She cried as she hugged prosecutors and family.

Anne Michelena, sister of Wixted, a nurse who was found raped and strangled in her Malibu apartment, said the verdict helped close a long period of uncertainty about whether her sister's killer would ever be found.

"I waited 32 years for this," she said. "I can't say it feels good. But I do feel a little sense of justice."

paloma.esquivel

@latimes.com

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|