SANTA ANA, Calif. — A man accused of five serial slayings in the late 1970s stalked women like prey, kept binoculars in his car and took earrings as trophies from some of his victims after they died, a prosecutor said Monday.
"You're talking about a guy who is hunting through Southern California looking for people to kill because he enjoys it," Orange County prosecutor Matt Murphy said about Rodney James Alcala during closing arguments at his trial.
"I don't think in your lifetime you will ever see cases with more brutality, and there is ample evidence that all of these women put up some resistance and they were punished for it."
Alcala, 66, has pleaded not guilty to five counts of first-degree murder in the killings of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe and four Los Angeles County women between 1977 and 1979. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Murphy told jurors two of the four adult victims were posed nude and possibly photographed after their deaths; one was raped with a claw hammer; and all of them were repeatedly strangled and resuscitated during their deaths to prolong their agony. Prosecutors also alleged Alcala took earrings from at least two of the women as trophies.
Alcala has been sentenced to death twice before in Samsoe's murder, but both convictions were overturned.
He has never been tried in the deaths of the four adult women and was only charged in those cases more than two decades after Samsoe's death, when investigators reviewing the case said they found that DNA and other forensic evidence linked him to those murders.
Murphy said investigators discovered Alcala's DNA in the bodies of victims Georgia Wixted, 27, of Malibu; Charlotte Lamb, 32, of Santa Monica; and Jill Barcomb, 18, who had just moved to Los Angeles from Oneida, N.Y.
"Modern science caught up to Rodney Alcala," Murphy said. "He left a genetic fingerprint that means, beyond any doubt, he absolutely did it."
Prosecutors said Monday the body of the fourth victim, Jill Parenteau, yielded no DNA. But they said her nude body was posed in a similar fashion as one of the other dead women and Alcala was at the same bar as Parenteau the night she was murdered.
Samsoe's case has been more challenging for prosecutors because it is based mostly on circumstantial evidence.
She disappeared June 20, 1979, while riding a friend's bike to ballet class in Huntington Beach in Orange County.
Her body was found 12 days later in Angeles National Forest, where it had been mutilated by wild animals. No one witnessed Samsoe being abducted, and no forensic evidence was recovered from her body.
Prosecutors have relied on witnesses who saw Alcala taking pictures of Samsoe and her friend on the beach minutes before she disappeared. Her mother has also testified that a pair of gold ball earrings found in Alcala's possession belonged to her daughter.
In his closing argument Monday, Alcala accused prosecutors of lumping the four Los Angeles women in with Samsoe to inflame the jury, and said prosecutors were asking jurors to use "magic thinking" to get around inconsistencies in her case.
He said it would be impossible for him to abduct Samsoe in the 6 1/2-minute window necessary because his car was parked blocks away, and pointed out lapses in witnesses' recollections of that day.
Alcala note that one witness who saw him on the beach said he was dark-skinned and 175 pounds when Alcala is light-skinned and weighs 150 pounds. And two other witnesses disagreed dramatically on the clothing he was wearing, he said, while an initial police bulletin said the suspect in the Samsoe case was balding.
"It would be pretty hard to imagine that I could be that particular person," Alcala said, noting that 30 years later he still has a full head of long, curly hair.
Alcala and Murphy both discussed at length the gold ball earrings that were found in a jewelry pouch in Alcala's storage locker in Seattle, where he was arrested a month after Samsoe's murder.
Murphy said the jewelry is important because another earring found in the same pouch carried the DNA of victim Charlotte Lamb of Santa Monica – and investigators found Alcala's DNA in Lamb's body.
That makes Lamb a "silent witness" linking Alcala to Samsoe, Murphy said.
"The law allows you to consider Charlotte Lamb and Robin Samsoe together, and they have been together," he said. "All these years, Charlotte Lamb was there. Charlotte Lamb is telling you all (that) what Rodney Alcala does is he murders women and steals their earrings. Listen to her."
Alcala, however, claims the earrings were his and that a video clip from his 1978 appearance on "The Dating Game" shows him wearing the studs nearly a year before Samsoe died.
Samsoe's older brother, Robert, said the trial has been hard for the family to bear. Robert Samsoe said he and his sister were very close and he was the first to realize she was late coming home the day she was kidnapped.
"Most people only have to bury someone once," he said. "This is our fourth time."