His twisted saga has taken him from a stint on a dating show to California's death row, where he has spent the last two years as a serial killer convicted of murdering five women and girls more than 30 years ago.
Now, Rodney Alcala is poised to face another chapter in law enforcement's long campaign to hold him responsible for a bicoastal string of killings. After decades of suspicion, an indictment last year and 18 months of legal maneuvering over extraditing him, he was brought to New York City on Wednesday to face charges of killing two women here in the 1970s.
Flown in on a U.S. Marshals Service plane, Alcala was being held in police custody overnight for an arraignment today in the Manhattan cases: a flight attendant's strangling in 1971 and the death of a former Hollywood nightclub owner's daughter whose body was found in 1978 after she disappeared the year before.
A former photographer with an IQ said to top 160, Alcala represented himself at a bizarre 2010 California trial that ended with his convictions in the strangulations of four women and a 12-year-old girl in the 1970s. He had previously been convicted but gotten the verdicts overturned -- twice -- in the girl's killing.
Sentenced to death, he is appealing.
Alcala, 68, had long been suspected in at least one of the Manhattan cases. But he was indicted only last year, after the Manhattan district attorney's cold-case unit re-examined the cases, looked at evidence that emerged during the California trial and conducted new interviews with more than 100 witnesses.
"These cases were built one brick at a time, as each new lead brought us closer to where we are today," District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said when Alcala was indicted, adding that he hoped the indictment "brings a small measure of peace to the families and friends who have spent decades searching for answers, and justice."
One of the women, Cornelia Crilley, 23, a flight attendant for Trans World Airlines, was found, strangled with a stocking, in her Manhattan apartment in 1971.
The other woman, Ellen Hover, also 23, was living in Manhattan when she vanished in 1977. Her remains were found the next year in the woods on a suburban estate.
Hover had a degree in biology and was seeking a job as a researcher, a private investigator for her family said at the time. A talented pianist, Hover was "enamored of the counterculture of the 1960s," cousin Sheila Weller wrote in a 2010 Marie Claire magazine piece about Hover's death. Weller has said she's gratified by his indictment in her cousin's death; Wednesday, she declined to elaborate.