SANTA ANA, Calif. — A jury convicted an amateur photographer Thursday of murdering a 12-year-old girl and four women in the late 1970s, setting the stage for a possible death penalty in a legal saga that has dragged on 30 years.
Jurors took less than two days to reach guilty verdicts against Rodney Alcala after six weeks of testimony. The penalty phase of the case begins Tuesday.
The 66-year-old Alcala, who acted as his own lawyer, stood motionless and showed little emotion as the verdict was read.
Outside court, the family of the slain 12-year-old Robin Samsoe tearfully embraced as they prepared for another lengthy appeals process. Alcala had previously been sentenced to death twice for killing the Orange County girl, but both convictions were overturned.
"We've had hope and a glimmer of hope before," said Tim Samsoe, the victim's brother. "We're not over."
He called his sister a hero, noting that her death led authorities to apprehend Alcala and eventually link him to previous crimes.
"She should be everyone's hero," Tim Samsoe said. "She took a monster off the street."
Prosecutors added the murders of four women in 2006 after investigators discovered DNA and other forensic evidence linking him to those cases.
The jury heard testimony that 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 victims as trophies and carried one 18-year-old to a remote canyon road where he raped and sodomized her before bashing her head with a rock.
At trial, Orange County prosecutor Matt Murphy told jurors DNA found in the bodies of three of the women proved Alcala had committed those murders. Witnesses said Alcala and the fourth woman were seen in the same club on the night she was killed.
The Samsoe case, which was first tried in 1980, presented more of a challenge for prosecutors because it was built largely on circumstantial evidence.
Murphy said he does not expect this third conviction to be overturned.
"This one is as clean as we can possibly make it for an appeal," he said. "We've got a good jury and we feel very satisfied with the progress of the case so far."
The young girl's body was found in Angeles National Forest 12 days after she disappeared.
No one saw the blond-haired girl being abducted on June 20, 1979, as she rode her friend's bike to ballet class. In addition, investigators were unable to recover forensic evidence because of the condition of her remains.
Robert Samsoe, another of her siblings, called his mother on his phone after the verdict and later told reporters how her death affected him.
"I would probably have had a childhood," he said. "When this happened, our lives got turned upside down. It separates a family. There's more to it than just Robin."
The current trial focused almost entirely on evidence in the Samsoe case, with Alcala choosing not to testify about the murders of the four adult women when he took the stand in his own defense.
Prosecutors relied on witnesses who testified about seeing a curly haired photographer taking pictures of Samsoe, her friend and other teenagers on the beach minutes before Samsoe disappeared. Photos of one of the girls were later found in Alcala's possession.
Also key to the trial was a pair of gold ball earrings that Samsoe's mother said belonged to her daughter.
The earrings were found in a jewelry pouch in a storage locker that Alcala had rented in Seattle, where he was arrested a month after her murder.
Investigators found other earrings in the same pouch, including a small rose-shaped stud that contained a trace of DNA from another of Alcala's alleged victims, Charlotte Lamb.
Alcala maintained, however, that the gold ball earrings were his and introduced as evidence a video of himself as the winning contestant on a 1978 episode of "The Dating Game." He told jurors the seconds-long, grainy clip from the video showed him wearing the gold earrings a year before Samsoe was killed.
In his closing argument, Alcala accused prosecutors of lumping the four Los Angeles women in with Samsoe to inflame the jury. He also pointed out inconsistencies in the case and lapses in witnesses' recollections of that day.
Alcala noted 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.
Two other witnesses disagreed on the clothing he was wearing. An initial police bulletin said the suspect in the Samsoe case was balding, but Alcala pointed out he has as full head of long, curly hair.
The other women murdered were Georgia Wixted, 27, of Malibu; Charlotte Lamb, 32, of Santa Monica; Jill Parenteau, 21, of Burbank; and Jill Barcomb, 18, who had just moved to Los Angeles from Oneida, N.Y.