This Serial Killer Acted as his Own Attorney and Questioned Himself for 5 hours, Changing his Voice.

Have you ever heard someone who killed hundreds of women get a chance to act as his attorney for his trial? Yes, In 2010, in Santa Ana, California, Rodney Alcala, a notorious serial killer who disguised himself as a photographer, decided to act as his attorney.

He interrogated himself on the witness stand for 5 hours, addressing himself as ‘Mr. Alcala,” and ask questions in a deep voice, then answer them in a normal voice. However, after the trial, the jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death. Even though he gets what he deserves in the end, his Life story is even more disturbing.

2010 Trial for the Killing of Five Women

In 2010, Rodney Alcala faced trial for the brutal murders of five women. In a surprising move, he chose to represent himself. The courtroom witnessed a bizarre spectacle as Alcala addressed himself as “Mr. Alcala,” switching voices while questioning and answering his own inquiries. This surreal trail lasted for roughly five hours. 

Despite his unconventional defense, the jury found him guilty on all counts, resulting in a death sentence.  This marked a pivotal moment in securing justice for the victims, as DNA evidence and investigative efforts definitively connected Alcala to the crimes.  

Alcala’s defense centered on memory loss due to a personality disorder, but the prosecution countered this claim, portraying him as a calculating predator. The 2010 trial also brought renewed focus to Alcala’s disturbing collection of photographs believed to be of his victims.

Rodney Alcala in 2010, as the penalty phase of the ‘People vs. Alcala’ trial begins at a Santa Ana, Calif., courtroom. image from People

Can a Serial Killer Defend Himself in Court?

Yes, in the United States, everyone has the right to represent themselves in court. This is known as “pro se” representation. The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees this right. While it is rare and generally not recommended, defendants like Rodney Alcala can choose to act as their own attorney.

Rodney Alcala – The Dating Game Killer

Rodney Alcala was known as the “Dating Game Killer” because he appeared on the TV show “The Dating Game” in 1978. Born in 1943 in Texas,  Alcala was a smart and charming man. He reportedly had a difficult childhood, with some accounts suggesting his father abandoned the family. He had an IQ of 130 and studied at UCLA and NYU. Despite his intelligence and charisma, he became one of the most notorious serial killers in history.

The Dating Game
The Dating Game

Rodney Alcala’s early life remains shrouded in mystery. Born in 1943 in Texas, Alcala had a charismatic personality, even gaining entry to New York University’s film school. This facade, however, concealed a dark reality. 

Crimes of a Charismatic Killer

Alcala’s criminal activity began in the late 1960s, marked by a sexual assault conviction and a disturbing attack on an 8-year-old girl. Yet, he continued to prey on victims, luring them with his charm before subjecting them to horrific torture and murder. The full extent of his crimes may never be known, with estimates suggesting over 130 possible victims. At the same time, his appearance on “The Dating Game” in 1978 adds a layer of disturbing normalcy to his monstrous actions.

Alcala’s method of luring his victims was cunning. He posed as a professional photographer, offering to take their pictures. This ruse allowed him to get close to his victims, whom he would then assault and murder. His known victims include young women and girls, and he often posed their bodies in grotesque ways. While he was convicted of killing five women, it is believed that he may have killed dozens, if not hundreds, more.

Credit @ The New York Times

Why Did Alcala Become a Serial Killer?

Despite his high IQ, Rodney Alcala became a serial killer, possibly influenced by a troubled relationship with his father. Also, he shows early warning signs. At 17, he was convicted of assault, and the military discharged him due to personality issues. These events suggest a troubling pattern of behavior that emerged early in his life. 

Additionally, he was later diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, which can manifest as a lack of empathy and disregard for rules.  This mental health condition, coupled with his history of violence, may have contributed to his escalation into serial murder.

Other Crimes of Alcala

Rodney Alcala was a prolific serial killer. He has been conclusively linked to eight murders across California, New York, and Wyoming. But authorities believe the actual number could be much higher, possibly even 130. In addition to murdering his victims, Alcala also sexually assaulted them. Disturbingly, he collected over 1,000 photographs of women, teenage girls, and even boys. Many of these photos were sexually suggestive, and some are believed to be of his victims.

Here’s a breakdown of his confirmed murders:

  • California (1977-1979): Five women were murdered during this period.
  • New York (1970s): He pleaded guilty to murdering two women in the 1970s.
  • Wyoming (1977): Alcala was indicted for the murder of a woman, but the charges were dropped due to a technicality.

Investigators believe the photos Alcala collected may hold the key to identifying more victims. In 2010, some of these photos were made public in hopes that someone would recognize the women and girls.

However, his conviction was overturned twice due to procedural errors. Advances in DNA technology eventually led to his conviction in 2010, bringing some closure to the families of his victims.

On July 24, 2021, he died at the age of 78, the same day he was first captured in 1979. 

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