My dream date was a monster
Serial killer went looking for love on a game show
TV Dating Game contestant Cheryl Bradshaw could barely contain her excitement when the screen rolled back to reveal her ‘‘ dream date’’— fashion photographer Rodney Alcala.
She smiled as tall, tanned and handsome Alcala clasped her hand. Bradshaw was looking for love and hoped the popular US blind dating game would lead her to happiness.
But backstage, when the cameras stopped rolling, Bradshaw began feeling ‘‘ uneasy’’ as smooth-talking Alcala promised her a date she would never forget.
‘‘ I started to feel ill. He was acting really creepy,’’ said Bradshaw. ‘‘ I turned down his offer. I didn’t want to see him again.’’
It was a life-saving decision. For ‘‘ bachelor number one’’ Alcala was a serial killer— a sadistic psychopath who had murdered four women in California, including a girl, 12.
And, after his appearance on the ABC TV show in September 1978, his death tally grew . . . with police believing Bradshaw’s rejection drove a new hunger to kill.
This week, Alcala was back on prime-time telly. But this time he was wearing an orange jumpsuit, shackled by his wrists and ankles. His hair unkempt and the hard lines of life on death row etched on his face. After spending decades behind bars, the man dubbed the ‘‘ dating game killer’’ has been charged with the slayings of two Manhattan beauties in the 1970s.
‘‘ After more than three decades, the defendant will finally face the justice system in New York for the murder of two victims,’’ said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
Alcala is accused of cutting short the lives of 23-year-olds Cornelia Crilley and Ellen Hover— the god-daughter of Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. He will argue that he is not guilty when he stands trial in October. ‘‘ My office’s Forensic Sciences/cold Case Unit was created because all crime victims and their families deserve closure, no matter how long ago the crime occurred,’’ Mr Vance said.
A TWA flight attendant, Crilley was raped inside her Upper East Side apartment in 1971. She was strangled with her own pantyhose.
Crilley had just moved into that apartment within a day of her death. It is believed Crilley met Alcala on the street as she was lugging boxes upstairs, sources said.
When Hover vanished on July 15, 1977, she had an appointment with photographer ‘‘ John Berger’’, according to her personal calendar. Prosecutors said that Alcala used the alias ‘‘ John Berger’’.
Hover’s remains were found a year later at the vast Rockefeller estate near North Tarrytown, where Alcala was known to take women for photos, sources said. The once dashing ladies man and UCLA fine-arts grad was a film student of Roman Polanski and used his charm in the 1970s to entrap and murder.
Alcala, 66, has twice stood trial in Orange County for the murder of 12-year-old ballet student Robin Samsoe, of Huntington Beach.
He was twice convicted of slaying the girl, who disappeared on her way to ballet class while riding a yellow Schwinn bicycle.
With a near-genius IQ of 135, Alcala wrote a 1994 book, You, The Jury, which claims his innocence. He also killed four young Los Angeles-area women in the 1970s.
The bodies of Georgia Wixted, Jill Parenteau, Charlotte Lamb and Jill Barcomb were found in carefully arranged poses; at one murder scene, a lamp shade had been removed, improving brightness.
LAPD homicide police said that Alcala took their photos ‘‘ to defile the victims as best he can, in death’’.
Convicted serial killer Rodney James Alcala is escorted into the courtroom (top), relatives of the victims (above), and a young Alcala on the DatingGameTV show in 1978