Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Rodney Alcala: Extreme Serial Killer

Robin Samsoe

On June 20, 1979, Robin Samsoe, a 12-year-old Huntington Beach girl, was on her way to ballet class. She was late, so she'd borrowed her best friend's yellow Schwinn bicycle. She and the bicycle disappeared that day. Her decomposing body was later found in the foothills of the Sierra Madres.

Robin Samsoe
Robin Samsoe

Earilier, neighbor Jackye Young had chased a strange man away from Robin Samsoe and her friend, Bridget Wilvert, when they were playing along Huntington Beach's low cliffs. According to Young, the man was trying to get little girls in swimsuits to let him photograph them. Young and Wilvert would later provide police with information that helped them produce a sketch that a parole officer would recognize as Rodney Alcala.

Toni Esparza, 15, and Joanne Murchland, 14, would later testify that, on June 19 at the same beach, a man fitting Alcala's description had offered them marijuana and begged to take their photos for a bikini contest. Several other witnesses, including Lorraine Werts and Patty Elmendorf said that Alcala had accosted them on June 20. Esparza and Murchland came forward when they saw Alcala on the news; Werts was contacted after police found a photo of Werts in Alcala's Seattle storage locker.

Dana Crappa, then working as a ranger in the Los Angeles National Forest, has testified that she saw a man trying to lead a girl down to a stream the same day that Robin Samsoe disappeared. She says he was driving a Datsun F10, which was the make and model that Alcala owned in 1979.

Twelve days after Samsoe's disappearance, William Poepke, another U.S. Parks ranger, found Robin Samsoe's decomposing remains. He initially assumed they were deer bones, and tossed one to Crappa.

Robin's left foot and portions of her hands were missing, and her skull had been separated from her neck. A kitchen knife and one of her shoes was nearby. The decomposition meant that investigators were unable to determine whether she'd been raped.

On July 24, 1979, police arrested Alcala at his mother's Monterey Park . They soon charged him with the murder of Robin Samsoe.

The story was far from over.

 

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