Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Rodney Alcala: Extreme Serial Killer

"Tali s."

James Alcala was born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1943. By the time he was 12, he and his mother and sisters were living in suburban Los Angeles. His father had run off.

Alcala joined the Army when he was 17 and served as an Army clerk, but he only lasted a few years. In 1964 he had a nervous breakdown. A military psychiatrist described him as an anti-social personality. Discharged, he returned to Los Angeles and enrolled at UCLA, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1968.

That same year he abducted, raped and nearly killed an eight-year-old girl.

"Tali S.", as the press would know her, was on her way to school in Hollywood when a passerby saw Rodney Alcala lure her into his car on Sunset Boulevard. The witness followed Alcala and the girl to his De Longpre Avenue apartment and called the police. By the time officers arrived on the scene, Alcala had bashed the girl's skull with a metal pipe and raped her. When they knocked, he stalled and snuck out the back, leaving the child near dead, surrounded by photography equipment.

Los Angeles Police Detective Steve Hodel investigated. He says professors at UCLA told him they must have the wrong guy. They just couldn't imagine that the well-spoken, sophisticated art student could have committed such a crime.

Alcala fled Los Angeles to New York to evade arrest.


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