Snapshots from a Serial Killer: Rodney Alcala

A Lifetime of Horror and Heartbreak
According to investigators, Rodney Alcala, a photographer with a genius IQ, may be the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history. The 66-year-old was recently sentenced to death after being found guilty of killing a 12-year-old girl and four women in the 1970s. Some investigators fear the number of victims could be as high as 30 to 50. Detectives are now trying to identify women and girls who appear in more than 100 photos found in Alcala's storage unit.
 
In 1968, Tali became Alcala's first known victim at age 8. "I was abducted, hit over the head with a pipe, sexually abused, strangled and left for dead," she recounts. "Alcala stopped me and asked me if I wanted a ride to school. He said to me, ‘Oh, I know your parents.' I went, ‘OK,' and I got in the car. My only saving grace was there was an innocent bystander who saw where he took me and called the police. That's why I'm alive today."
 
Bruce's 18-year-old sister, Jill, died at the hands of the serial killer. He remembers the fateful day when he learned of his sibling's death. "It was a Friday night. I walked in the front door, and there was inconsolable crying," he says. "My mother told me my sister was dead."
 
Robert's 12-year-old sister, Robin, was kidnapped, raped and murdered by Alcala. "Robin went to the beach with her friends. Rodney James Alcala somehow got my sister into his car and abducted her, and took her up into the mountains, and savagely beat her, strangled her, raped her and killed her," he recalls. [AD]
 
"Until 2005, I would not have known the name Rodney Alcala. I got a postcard in the mail from the Los Angeles Police Department, and when I called the LAPD, they told me, ‘We believe we have identified your sister's killer via DNA," Bruce remembers. "Tears just came down the cheek."
 
Robert expresses frustration with a justice system that allowed his sister's killer to slip through the cracks. "Rodney James Alcala was convicted three times of killing my little sister, Robin. The first two trials, we lost on appeal," he says. "I will always be linked with a serial killer. I cry almost daily over it. I miss Robin."
Dr. Phil offers his condolences and sympathy to Tali, Robert and Bruce, who join him onstage. "I'm so outraged by this whole thing and how it's unfolded," he says. He addresses Tali. "He's had two death sentences and now three. Every time this comes back up, you're pulled right back into that moment, right?"
 
"I've had to go to court three times. The laws have to change," she says. "Victims have no rights. The criminals have lots of rights."
 
"Fortunately, you don't remember a lot about what happened in that room, because you think you were hit in the head brutally in the very beginning," Dr. Phil says.
 
"I was," she answers. "I'm here now to speak for others who can't speak."
 
"He apologized to you in court. What was your reaction to that?" Dr. Phil inquires.[AD]
 
"Honestly, I didn't hear him," Tali replies. "It was despicable. What was he sorry for? Getting caught?"
 
Dr. Phil turns to Robert. "He was out on bail when he attacked your sister, correct?" he asks.
 
"That's a fact," he replies.
 
Dr. Phil establishes a timeline of Alcala's mayhem: He attacked Tali in 1968. For three years, he was on the lam. Then, when authorities apprehended him, he spent 17 months in prison out of a 34-month sentence.

"I am so angry at our system, not only what Tali had to go through, to know the violence that he did on her. That he even had a chance to get out of jail is appalling to me," Robert seethes.

 

"This just seems like such a failure of the system. That's what has me so outraged about this," Dr. Phil commiserates. "This has changed your life."

 

"Completely," Robert says. "What's really appalling now is that after going through the third trial, and then seeing the news, and then you hear about the Chelsea King case, our laws have not changed."

 

Dr. Phil praises Tali for growing into such a courageous woman, in spite of the brutal attack on her life. "I think to be as functional as you are is a miracle, but this has changed you, true?" he asks.

 

"Most definitely," she replies. "I have a droopy eye. My sentences, I say a lot of things backwards." [AD]

 

Dr. Phil turns to Bruce. "How do you feel about this?" he asks.

 

"He did time, but he got no rehabilitation," Bruce replies. "So he went back to the streets as sick, or sicker, then he was when he entered the system."

 

"What's the impact on you and your family?"

 

"Obviously, we're devastated," Bruce responds. "Jill was missed forever and still is. She's loved, and we've found peace, on some level. His death is not going to bring her back. In the end, to me the greatest opportunity that lies before us is if he chooses to work with authorities and give up the dead."