"48 Hours Mystery:" Rodney Alcala's Killing Game
Bridget Wilvurt was Robin's best friend.
"We just lived to have fun," Wilvurt tells Harold Dow. "Everybody could be complaining about being bored, and me and Robin would find ourselves doing cartwheels and back walkovers."
The other love of Robin's life was her mom, Maryanne.
"She was probably the most loving child a mother could have. Everything she did, she did to please me," she says. "I loved her warmth."
And Robin was the little sister her older brothers, Robert and Tim, doted on.
"She loved ballet, she loved dancing, she loved gymnastics," says Robert.
"She was the glue to the family," says Tim.
"She was my best friend," adds Robert.
On June 20, 1979, Robin was going to start her first day of work answering phones at the ballet studio in exchange for lessons. But first, she planned to play for a few hours with Bridget.
"She arrived at my house at about, gosh, I want to say 11. How much fun can we have during that time?" she says. "Then, I had a great idea. Let's go down to the beach and have a cartwheel competition."
Shortly before 3 p.m., the girls left Bridget's apartment and headed across the Pacific Coast Highway to the beach.
"I could definitely see a gentleman with dark hair," Bridget tells Harold Dow. "He honed in on us, like a shark in the water, honing in on a seal.
"He goes, 'Can I take your girls' pictures? I'm, you know, in a photography class, or for a photo contest.' And Robin goes, 'Sure!'
"And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, pops up Jackie Young, my neighbor. She goes, 'Bridget, is everything OK? Are you girls alright?' And man, he took that camera, turned his head down, and you could almost see, like, smoke comin' off his dress shoes. He just - he was gone."
Shaken, Robin and Bridget turned to go back home.
"Robin had thrown her beach towel and everything into her bag," Bridget continues. "And she's like, 'Well, I'm gonna get going.' And I go, 'Well, take my bike. Take my bike. It's right downstairs. Take my bike and don't stop.'"
That was the last time anyone saw Robin. When her ballet teacher called to say she hadn't made it to class, her family immediately called 911.
"She was supposed to be home - 4:30, 5:00 from her lesson. We spent the next - I did anyway - hours and hours ridin' up and down the path," Tim says of his search for his sister on his bicycle.
The hours turned into days and Robin's mother feared the worst.
"It was probably the most horrifying time of all, you know. Not knowing," says Maryanne.
Police continually questioned the one person they thought might know where
Robin could've gone: her best friend, Bridget.
"And I said, I go, 'It was the man, that man that took our picture,'" she says. "I really was the only person that could tell you the exact color of his eyes, the height of his cheekbones, the color of his skin, just every detail."
On July 2, 1979, 12 days after Robin last said goodbye to her friend and rode off on her bike, detectives showed up at Maryanne's door and delivered the news no one wanted to hear-Robin's body had been found.
"I said, 'Let's go see her'," Maryanne recalls. "He said, 'We can't do that.' I said, 'That's my baby, Of course I can see her. Why not?' He said, 'Because it took us three days to identify her.' I said, 'What's wrong with you people? How many little girls with long blond hair disappear that it took you three days?' He shook his shoulders and the tears were coming down his face, too. He says, 'There was no hair,'" Maryanne tells Dow.
A fire crew conducting routine fire prevention maintenance had found Robin Samsoe's remains in a remote location more than 40 miles from where she was last seen. Orange County D.A. Matt Murphy has visited the site many times.
"Robin had been up here for 12 days before her body was found," Murphy tells Harold Dow. "And there were 12 days for the animals to scavenge Robin's remains, and also for the decomposition to take place. By the time the fire crew actually found her body, she was just bones."
The pressure was on to find the killer. Bridget's description resulted in a composite sketch, which was released to the media all over Southern California.
Murphy says, "His parole officer saw that and called the detectives and said, 'Look, there's a guy that used to be on my case load - you really need to take a look at him. His name is Rodney Alcala.'"
It had been nearly 11 years since Alcala had left 8-year-old Tali Shapiro for dead, and almost gotten away with it. But Alcala was easy to find this time. He lived with his parents in Monterey Park, a stone's throw from the mountains where Robin's remains were located.
Beth Kelleher was Alcala's girlfriend at the time.
"Rodney Alcala is an intelligent - well-mannered, pleasant, fun, outgoing, great individual," she tells Dow.
When asked if she was in love with Alcala, Kelleher replies, "Yes."
Beth was 22 when she met Alcala in the spring of 1979. They shared a common interest in photography.
When Dow asked what she thought about his photography Beth replies, "I saw a lot of pictures of girls."
"Young girls?" Dow asks.
"Ah, young girls, I'd say probably from 12, 13 to probably about 30s," she replies.
Before meeting Beth, Rodney Alcala charmed other women. He was Bachelor No. 1 in a September 1978 episode of "The Dating Game."
"That's a perfect example of the charm of Rodney Alcala," Matt Murphy notes. "When you watch it, he was charming, he was funny - he joked. And he actually got picked."
So when news spread of Robin's June 20, 1979, disappearance and then murder, Beth had no reason to suspect her boyfriend. They had just spent a weekend together in Northern California.
Hear more from Beth Kelleher
"There was no difference in personality, no difference in the things we did, the things we talked about," she recalls.
But Beth couldn't account for his whereabouts on June 20.
"As they really focused on Mr. Alcala, they learned that he had no alibi. That nobody could account for his whereabouts at that time," Murphy tells Dow.
And investigators soon learned that Alcala had added to his record.
"Rodney Alcala was on bail for a kidnapping/rape out of Riverside that had just been committed, you know, within a couple of months of the murder of Robin Samsoe," Murphy says. "The more they learned about Rodney Alcala, the more perfectly Rodney Alcala fit into the profile, essentially, of the person that they were looking for."
Rodney Alcala was arrested on July 24, 1979, for the kidnap and murder of Robin Samsoe. But the struggle to prove it had only just begun.
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