Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killer Rodney Alcala Pleads Guilty to Hover, Crilley Murders

Rodney Alcala, in court 2010

Rodney Alcala, in court 2010

Convicted serial killer Rodney Alcala, 69, has pleaded guilty in a New York City courtroom to two 1971 murders committed in that city. Alcala, who is representing himself legally these days, is currently on death row in California for four murders, and is preparing to appeal his third death sentence. He was extradited to New York to face charges in the murders of TWA flight attendant Cornelia Crilley and Manhattan socialite Ellen Jane Hover, both 23, and has been complaining that his jailers have denied him access to the laptop and legal records he needs to prepare for his death-sentence appeal. Alcala stated that he requires this access, “to do the work I need to do on my death penalty case,” and then, in an effort to be returned to California more quickly, withdrew the not guilty plea that he had entered earlier this year.

Crilley was found raped and strangled with her own pantyhose on June 12, 1971, in her East 83rd Street apartment. Police initially suspected her Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney boyfriend Leon Borstein. Alcala took the opportunity to leave town and took a job under the alias John Berger at a drama camp near New Hampshire’s Lake Sunapee. Alcala was ultimately identified, but only in connection with a rape in California, where he was convicted and sentenced to 34 months.

Ellen Hover was last seen in her apartment on Third Avenue at 44th Street on July 15, 1977. Her datebook showed that she had an appointment with a John Berger that day. Her body was eventually foundĀ on the Rockefeller estate, near her family’s summer home in North Tarrytown, N.Y. The family’s private detective started investigating the mysterious John Berger, but by then Alcala was back in Los Angeles working as a typesetter for the Los Angeles Times. The next year he would go on to appear on TV’s The Dating Game as Bachelor Number 1, and win, though the bachelorette found him too “creepy” in person to ever go on a date.

Information released in Alcala’s trial for the murders of Jill Barcomb, Robin Samsoe, Georgia Wixted and Charlotte Lamb reportedly helped investigators in New York to pinpoint Alcala as a suspect in the Hover and Crilley murders. When a New York detective went to talk to Alcala in his California prison cell in 2005, Alcala reportedly said, “What took you so long?”

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