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'Dating Game' serial killer accused of 2 NYC deaths

Michael Goulding / AP, file

Rodney Alcala, now 68, has been behind bars since his 1979 arrest in a California killing. He appeared on a 1978 episode of "The Dating Game," the innuendo-filled matchmaking show that was a hit in its era.

NEW YORK - A man already convicted and on California's death row for the decades-old murders of four women and a 12-year-old girl now faces charges in the slayings of two Manhattan women in the 1970s.

Rodney Alcala was scheduled for arraignment Thursday for the deaths of Trans World Airlines flight attendant Cornelia Crilley and aspiring researcher Ellen Hover, both 23.

It was unclear who would represent Alcala or even whether he would have a lawyer. A former photographer with an IQ said to top 160, Alcala represented himself at his California trial that ended with his convictions in 2010 for the five murders. He is appealing.


Decades of suspicion, an indictment last year and 18 months of legal maneuvering over extraditing him culminated Wednesday with his arrival in New York City on a U.S. Marshals Service plane. He was placed in police custody.

'One brick at a time'
Alcala was indicted only recently, after the Manhattan district attorney's cold-case unit re-examined the cases, looked at evidence that emerged during the California trial and conducted new interviews with more than 100 witnesses.

California authorities had said they were exploring whether Alcala could be tied to cases in New York and other states, and they had released more than 100 photos, found in his storage locker, of young women and girls.

California authorities say that they have had hundreds of tips to the photos released in the Rodney Alcala case. Msnbc's Alex Witt reports.

"These cases were built one brick at a time, as each new lead brought us closer to where we are today," District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said when Alcala was indicted, adding that he hoped the indictment "brings a small measure of peace to the families and friends who have spent decades searching for answers, and justice."

Crilley was found, strangled with a stocking, in her Manhattan apartment in 1971. Hover was living in Manhattan when she vanished in 1977. Her remains were found the next year in the woods on a suburban estate.

Hover had a degree in biology and was seeking a job as a researcher, a private investigator for her family said at the time. A talented pianist, Hover was "enamored of the counterculture of the 1960s," cousin Sheila Weller wrote in a 2010 Marie Claire magazine piece about Hover's death. Weller has said she's gratified by his indictment in her cousin's death; she declined Wednesday to elaborate.

Hover's father, comedy writer Herman Hover, had been an owner of the one-time Hollywood hotspot Ciro's.

Her disappearance and Crilley's death made headlines and spurred extensive searches. TWA offered a $5,000 reward for information about Crilley's killing. Hover's relatives papered walls and kiosks with posters.

Lunch date
A note in Hover's calendar for the day she vanished showed she planned to have lunch with a photographer she had recently met, according to the family's private detective and news reports at the time. Her lunch date's name, authorities later said, was an alias that Alcala used.

Alcala had been eyed in Crilley's death for at least several years. New York Police Department detectives investigating her killing went to California in 2003 with a warrant to interview Alcala and get a dental impression from him.

A forensic dentist later found that a bite mark on Crilley's body was consistent with Alcala's impression, a law enforcement official has said. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Alcala, now 68, has been behind bars since his 1979 arrest in one of the California killings. Before that arrest, he also served a prison sentence on convictions of furnishing marijuana to a minor and kidnapping and trying to kill an 8-year-old girl.

California detectives investigating the Rodney Alcala murders are receiving tips from the public after releasing a series of photographs apparently taken by Alcala in the 1970s. Msnbc's Lynn Berry talks with investigative reporter Michelle Sigona.

He also had attended college and worked briefly as a typist at The Los Angeles Times, according to a 1979 story in the newspaper.

And he had made his way onto a 1978 episode of "The Dating Game," the innuendo-filled matchmaking show that was a hit in its era.

Introduced as a photographer with a yen for motorcycling and skydiving, the long-haired, leisure-suited Alcala won the contest. But the woman who chose him over two other contestants ultimately didn't go on a date with him, according to news reports.

His conviction last year came after a series of trials, overturned convictions and strange courtroom moments. Acting as his own lawyer, Alcala offered a rambling defense that included questioning the mother of one of his victims, showing a clip of his appearance on "The Dating Game" and playing Arlo Guthrie's 1967 song "Alice's Restaurant."

Alcala fought his extradition to New York, saying he needed to stay in California to attend court hearings and do other preparatory work on his appeal. The California Supreme Court rejected his argument last month.

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