By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
Even as his employer, the Times, covered the sensational Hillside Strangler case, Alcala came under suspicion by the Hillside Strangler Task Force, who were questioning known sex offenders as possible suspects. According to Shepard, Alcala was followed by police and interviewed at his mother’s home on March 22, 1978. He was ruled out as the Strangler but went to jail for a very short stint because the cops found marijuana in his possession.
Soon after his release from jail, on June 24, 1978, the nude body of Santa Monica legal secretary Lamb was discovered in El Segundo. Her body was posed, with her arms arranged behind her back. Investigators say the Lamb murder tripped up Alcala, who had begun taking trophies from his victims—mostly earrings, evidence that plays a key role in the current murder trial. Says retired Huntington Beach detective Mack, “I believe all the jewelry had significant meaning to him as a remembrance of a particular attack.”
Incredibly, this registered sex offender, fresh out of jail in the summer of 1978, just weeks after Lamb’s killing, was a contestant on The Dating Game. Female contestant Cheryl Bradshaw picked Alcala as her “date” after host Jim Lange described Bachelor No. 1 as a “successful photographer.”
The exchanges between Bradshaw and Alcala can be clearly heard on old footage of the game show, with Bradshaw asking Alcala to give his best impression of a dirty old man. Then she asks, “I am serving you for dinner. What would you be like?”
Alcala answers, “I am called the Banana, and I look pretty good.” She asks him to be more descriptive, and he responds, “Peel me.”
Alcala’s alleged reign of terror might have been halted in early 1979 when a 15-year-old hitchhiker called police from a motel in Riverside County to report she had just escaped from a kidnapper and rapist. Although Riverside police quickly charged Alcala with kidnapping and rape, a judge set his bail at just $10,000—which his mother paid.
While free, police say, Alcala five months later killed 21-year-old computer-program keypunch operator Parenteau in her Burbank apartment. The killer cut himself climbing through her window, and police now say Alcala’s rare blood type has been matched to that blood.
Six days after Parenteau’s slaying, Samsoe disappeared, a child-snatching that sent fear rippling through scores of safe, quiet Southern California communities. Samsoe’s friend Bridget told police the two swimsuit-clad girls had been approached that day in Huntington Beach by a photographer who asked if he could take their pictures. The man was scared off by a suspicious adult neighbor, but shortly after that, Bridget lent her friend her yellow bicycle so Samsoe could make it to ballet class. She was never seen again.
Detectives circulated a sketch of the photographer to the media, and a parole officer recognized his parolee, Alcala. Twelve days after she vanished, on July 2, 1979, Samsoe’s skeletal remains, ravaged by animals, were found by rangers for the U.S. Forestry Service. Alcala was arrested on July 24 at his mother’s house in Monterey Park.
As his alibi, he claimed that at the time of the girl’s disappearance, he had been at Knott’s Berry Farm applying for a job as a photographer for a disco contest.
But his story fell apart. Cops had already found, in a search of Alcala’s house, a receipt for a locker in Seattle. Quickly traveling there, police found photos in which Alcala appeared to have been stalking young girls and snapping photos of them. Also found was a picture of Lorraine Werts, a girl who posed for him in the Huntington Beach neighborhood where Samsoe and Bridget were approached. Police also found gold ball earrings allegedly worn by Samsoe, as well as tiny rose earrings much later verified through DNA as belonging to victim Lamb.
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“There are lessons in this case that a lot of people forget,” Senior Deputy DA Murphy said, shortly before this, Alcala’s third murder trial, got under way. “How naive people were about these sexual predators. Notice how many serial killers we had in the ’70s or ’80s? We don’t have that many active today. Do you know why we don’t have them now? Because of the Three Strikes law. They are going down on their first time. . . . They aren’t given chance after chance after chance.”
Barcomb’s brother Bruce remembers the day in 2005 when he learned the semen of his sister’s murderer was matched to a man named Rodney Alcala. “I got the call as my birthday present,” he says darkly. “I was living in Costa Mesa as a senior financial analyst for a mortgage company. I got a post card in the mail from the Los Angeles Police Department asking me to call. [They] didn’t say what for.”
When Barcomb reached Detective Cliff Shepard, the veteran homicide cop told him, “We believe we found your sister’s killer.” Barcomb was so shocked, after more than 30 years, that he simply cried.