NEW YORK — More than 30 years after their deaths, the man accused of strangling two young women who were making their way in 1970s Manhattan walked slowly into a courtroom Thursday to answer the charges.

His hands and feet shackled and his gray hair in a ponytail, a bespectacled and bemused-looking Rodney Alcala – former photographer, one-time dating-show contestant and convicted California serial killer – said only "not guilty" in a steady voice.

After suspicion swirled around him for years, Alcala was indicted only last year in the killings of Cornelia Crilley and Ellen Hover. While fighting a death sentence in California, he's now being held in New York as prosecutors here pursue a cold case they reopened in the last two years.

The Legal Aid Society, which represented Alcala at Thursday's brief arraignment, declined to discuss the case afterward. He's due back in court Oct. 30.

With an IQ said to top 160, Alcala has spent the last 33 years tangling with California authorities in a series of trials and overturned convictions. He eventually was found guilty in 2010 of killing four women and a 12-year-old girl in Southern California in the 1970s. He represented himself, offering a defense that involved showing a clip of his 1978 appearance on "The Dating Game" and playing Arlo Guthrie's classic 1967 song "Alice's Restaurant."

While pursuing an appeal in California, Alcala was indicted last year in New York, partly on evidence that emerged during his California trial, prosecutors said. He was brought to New York on Wednesday on a U.S. Marshals Service plane after unsuccessfully fighting his extradition to New York.

"After more than three decades, the defendant will finally face the justice system in New York for the murder of two victims," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement Thursday. "Today's arraignment brings us a step closer to obtaining justice for Ms. Crilley and Ms. Hover."

Crilley was found strangled with a stocking in her Manhattan apartment in 1971. Hover, a comedy writer and former Hollywood nightclub owner's daughter who had a degree in biology and was seeking a job as a researcher, was living in Manhattan when she vanished in 1977. Her remains were found the next year in the woods on a suburban estate. Both women were 23.

Alcala had been eyed in Hover's death for decades and in Crilley's killing for at least several years. Detectives talked to him as far back as 1977, according to a document prosecutors filed Thursday; details on the conversations weren't released.

New York Police Department detectives investigating Crilley's 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 to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

A detective went to talk to Alcala again in 2005. On learning that the investigator was from New York, Alcala asked, "What took you so long?" according to the prosecutors' filing.

The Manhattan DA's cold-case unit also conducted new interviews with more than 100 witnesses.

Alcala 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.

After his 2010 conviction, California authorities released more than 100 photos, found in his storage locker, of young women and girls. They said they were exploring whether Alcala could be tied to cases in New York and other states.

The public defender's office in Marin County, Calif., which represented Alcala in his extradition fight, contacted New York's Legal Aid Society on his behalf, the society said. He is being represented by Legal Aid veterans Thomas Klein and Beth Unger.

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PHOTOS: SERIAL KILLERS
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  • Jeffrey Dahmer

    Notorious cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer sits with his defense team during his 1991 trial. Dahmer went on a killing spree in the 1980s during which he murdered 17 men and boys. He often had sex with the corpses before dismembering them and, in some cases, ate pieces of human flesh. After his conviction, Dahmer was killed by a fellow inmate in prison.

  • John Wayne Gacy

    John Wayne Gacy was arrested in 1978 after murdering 33 men and boys. He was known as the "Killer Clown" for his work as a children's entertainer. When Gacy became the suspect in a young man's disappearance, he invited police to his home for coffee. Cops noticed a smell that could emanate from a decaying body. They returned with a search warrant and found 29 victims stuffed into crawlspaces.

  • David Berkowitz

    David Berkowitz, the "Son of Sam" killer, terrorized New York with six murders and several other shootings that ended with his 1977. When police arrested him, Berkowitz, a mailman, said his neighbor's dog commanded him to strike. He's in Sing Sing prison In New York serving life, though he's eligible for parole.

  • Angelo Buono

    Angelo Buono, a 47 year old auto upholsterer, sits in a Los Angeles courtroom Monday March 2, 1982 as he listens to opening arguments in the so called "Hillside Stranglings" case in which Buono is accused of killing 10 women and girls in the Los Angeles area between 1977 and 1978.

  • Ted Bundy

    Ted Bundy at one time in the 1970s had a bright future in the Washington State Republican Party, but instead became one of the most famous serial killers and necrophiliacs. He often deceived his victims, all women, into thinking that he was injured and in need of help before attacking them. In 1976 he was arrested for an attempted kidnapping, but while acting as his own lawyer, he escaped. He migrated to Tallahassee where he killed two women in a Florida State University sorority house. He was convicted of those murders and while on death row in 1989 he confessed to 50 other murders. <em><strong>Correction</strong>: A previous version of this slide misstated the location of the Florida State murders as Pensacola, Fla.</em>

  • Aileen Wuornos

    Aileen Wuornos admitted to killing six men while she worked as a prostitute in Florida in 1989 and 1990. She initially claimed that she acted in self defense against johns who raped her or tried to rape her. But later she admitted that she robbed and killed in cold blood and would do it again if she were free. She was executed in 2002.

  • Anthony Sowell

    Anthony Sowell was convicted and sentenced to death in 2011 for killing 11 women and keeping their remains in his Cleveland home.

  • Richard Ramirez

    In this file photo taken Oct. 24, 1985, "Night Stalker" Richard Ramirez displays a pentagram symbol on his hand inside a Los Angeles courtroom. The California Supreme Court Monday< Aug. 7, 2006, upheld the convictions and death sentence for serial killer Richard Ramirez, the so-called "Night Stalker" whose killing spree terrorized the Los Angeles area in the mid 1980s. Ramirez, now 46, was sentenced to death in 1989 for 13 Los Angeles-area murders committed in 1984 and 1985. Satanic symbols were left at some murder scenes and some victims were forced to "swear to Satan" by the killer, who broke into homes through unlocked windows and doors. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)

  • Andrew Cunanan

    Andrew Cunanan is seen in this 1997 mugshot from the FBI. Cunanan murdered five men from Minneapolis to Miami, including fashion designer Gianni Versace. As investigators closed in on him, Cunanan committed suicide in 1997.

  • Ed Gein

    Edward Gein, 51, of Plainfield, Wisc. enters Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane Nov. 23,1957, in Milwaukee. Gein admitted to slaying two women and dismembering their bodies as well as robbing graves. Gein flayed the bodies and used human skin and other body parts to decorate furniture and clothing in his decrepit farmhouse. His twisted tale was the inspiration for murders in movies like Buffalo Bill from "The Silence of the Lambs."

  • Gary Ridgway

    Gary Ridgeway slew 48 women in the Seattle area from 1982 to 1998. He was known as the Green River Killer, because his first five victims were found near the waterway. The case was one of the longest unsolved murder mysteries in the country, not to mention one of the bloodiest. Ridgeway pleaded guilty in 2003 and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

  • Albert Fish

    Albert Fish was a child rapist and cannibal who confessed to torturing hundreds of children, beginning in 1880 in New York. He was convicted in and sentenced to death in 1935 for the murder of a single girl however -- Grace Budd, the 10-year-old daughter of Fish's employee. During the trial, Fish said he heard voices in his head that told him to attack children.

  • Coral Eugene Watts

    Early on his life, Coral Eugene Watts was identified by psychiatrists as a dangerous and violent individual. He lived up to those warnings as the so-called Sunday Morning Slasher and confessed to killing 80 women in Michigan, Texas and Canada in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He strangled, drowned, stabbed and beat his victims. He died in 2007 in prison from prostate cancer while serving a life sentence for two of the Michigan murders.

  • Richard Angelo

    Richard Angelo, a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in New York, killed 25 patients in a bungled plan to turn himself into a hero. Angelo injected patients with a cocktail of dangerous drugs with the plan of restoring them to life and burnishing his reputation as a life-saving medical professional. Only 12 patients survived the "Angel of Death."

  • Joseph Naso

    This is an undated booking photo released by the Washoe County Sheriff's office showing Joseph Naso. Authorities in California and Nevada plan to release more information about Naso, the 77-year-old man accused in four homicides spanning two decades. Naso, of Reno, Nev., was booked late Monday, April 11, 2011, on suspicion of the killings in 1977, 1978, 1993 and 1994.