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Serial killer indicted in two 1970s slayings

The killings made headlines, spurred extensive investigations and frustrated authorities for decades: A flight attendant found raped and strangled with a pair of stockings in her Manhattan apartment in 1971. A Hollywood nightspot owner's daughter whose remains were found in the woods in 1978 after she disappeared in Manhattan the year before.

Long after the slayings were relegated to cold-case files, a convicted California serial killer who had long been suspected has been indicted in the New York cases, prosecutors said Thursday.

Though he remains on California's death row for now, Rodney Alcala is expected to be brought to New York to face murder charges in the deaths of Cornelia Crilley and Ellen Hover. Alcala, 67, was convicted last year of strangling four women and a 12-year-old girl in California in the 1970s, in killings prosecutors said were laced with torture.

A cold-case unit established last year in the Manhattan district attorney's office was able to build on the California case and other evidence collected over the years to obtain an indictment, officials said.

"Cold cases are never, ever forgotten cases," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said at a news conference. "We do not ever give up."

After the verdict against Alcala last year, authorities released more than 100 photos of young women and girls found in the amateur photographer's storage locker, and prosecutors said authorities were exploring the possibility of tying Alcala to cases in other states including New York.

He had been suspected in Hover's death since at least 1979, according to newspaper reports at the time; California prosecutors even sought unsuccessfully to mention her killing in the first of Alcala's several trials in the 12-year-old's death, in 1980.

In 2003, police detectives investigating the Crilley slaying went to California with a warrant to interview Alcala and get a dental impression from him.

The New York Police Department's cold-case squad also discovered while investigating the Crilley slaying that Alcala had used an alias, John Berger, while living in New York, and that name was also in the Hover case file, said Paul Browne, the NYPD's chief spokesman. A private detective working for Hover's family said at the time of her disappearance that she had a lunch date with a photographer with a similar name.

Alcala initially denied he ever visited New York, but after police showed him the warrant, he said, "What took you so long?" Browne said.

Alcala had been convicted and sentenced to death twice before in the California girl's 1979 murder, but the verdicts had been overturned on appeal. Drawing on DNA samples and other evidence, prosecutors refiled charges in her death and added the four other murder charges in 2006.

His trial was both gruesome and bizarre. Prosecutors portrayed him as a killer with a penchant for torturing his victims, raping one with a claw-toothed hammer and posing several victims nude in sexual positions after their deaths.

Alcala, acting as his own attorney, offered a rambling defense that included questioning the mother of one of his victims, playing Arlo Guthrie's 1967 song "Alice's Restaurant" and showing a TV clip of himself on a 1978 episode of "The Dating Game."

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