NEW YORK (CBS) They may as well have been hurling pebbles at a brick wall. Despite the futility of hoping for empathy from the man who brutally murdered their loved ones, the friends and relatives of Rodney Alcala's victims delivered their impact statements at the convicted serial killer's sentencing Tuesday morning in Orange County Superior Court.
If he was moved, Alcala never betrayed it. Instead he sat stoically for more than an hour, clasping his hands and casting his eyes down as each person took the lectern to address him, expressing their loss, their grief, and their anger. Alcala never flinched, regardless of what was being said: "You're a monster;" "Worse than a rabid pitbull;" "Burn in hell."
In the statements, there was even forgiveness. Victim Jill Barcomb's brother Bruce said he felt no animosity toward Alcala. But he did ask the man who left his sister curled up in a bloodied ball along Franklin Canyon to give up his "futile Perry Mason-filled fantasy" and to take responsibility for his crimes and to work with authorities to identify other victims. Anne Michelena, sister of Georgia Wixted, who was found raped and killed in her Malibu apartment, asked, "Who would do that to her?" She read a letter from their mother, who had suffered mental illness because of her daughter's murder. Robert Samsoe, the brother of 12-year-old victim Robin Samsoe read a letter from Charlotte Lamb's sister, who couldn't be present, and expressed only the longing of her beloved "Shug." Dedee Parenteau, the sister of Jill Parenteau asked how Alcala would feel if his sister were killed the way her sister was killed, and said she still hates hazy June days, like the one when she got the news of her sister's death.
Alcala was convicted earlier this month for the murders of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe, 21-year-old Jill Parenteau, 18-year-old Jill Barcomb, 27-year-old Georgia Wixted, and 32-year-old Charlotte Lamb. The killings occurred between Nov. 1977 and June 1979. The jury recommended the death penalty.
Alcala did seem to straighten himself a bit, perhaps bracing himself as his nemesis for the last three decades and three trials, Robin Samsoe's mother Maryanne Connelly, delivered a tear-filled address. Bolstered by her attorney Gloria Allred, Connelly said she was giving her hatred up to God, because she didn't want to let her daughter's killer have any more control of her. But she did say she wished she could live to see Alcala put to death, and she wished she could administer the lethal injection herself.
Extra seats were brought in to accommodate the record turnout for the sentencing Tuesday. Every seat was taken - by members of the jury who convicted Alcala in his third trial, by victims' family and friends, and by members of law enforcement communities from both Los Angeles and Orange County, including Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackaukus, and his Los Angeles counterpart Steve Cooley, whose cooperation made it possible for the five cases to be joined and prosecuted in Orange County. Rodney Alcala's family were not present, but his former girlfriend Beth Kelleher, who testified as a witness for the defense, sat in the back row with her son. Kelleher dated Alcala for several months before his arrest in July, 1979.
The man everyone had come to see stared straight ahead. With his fate all but sealed, only one man commanded his rapt attention: Judge Francisco Briseno had the authority to repeal the jury's sentencing recommendation for the death penalty and impose instead life without possibility of parole. Perhaps the man who took his innocent victims' lives mercilessly still held out hope for clemency. Briseno read a carefully worded checklist of the evidence in the case. The words torture and rape echoed over and over as he cited the special circumstances of each of the four Los Angeles murders, as well as the kidnapping of Samsoe, before concluding that the only punishment that met the crimes committed was death, and signed the order in open court.
Alcala blinked rapidly as the judge described the "defendant's abnormal interest in young girls" as depicted in his photos and seemed to bristle as the judge, who treated the defendant with extreme deference throughout the trial, assessed the Samsoe case - Alcala's raison d'etre.
The veteran judge concluded that: Alcala's testimony had not been credible; that his alibi of being at a job interview at Knott's Berry Farm at the time of Robin Samsoe's disappearance on June 20, 1979 was "not true and not supported" by witness testimony; that his consciousness of guilt was evident in his admitted evasiveness to Huntington Beach Police, in his attempts to hide the property receipt to the Seattle storage locker - which proved to be the jackpot for investigators - in his sudden move to Seattle, and in the replacement of carpeting in his car immediately after a composite of Alcala was released to the media after the Samsoe disappearance. Judge Briseno also dismissed the conclusions of Alcala's paid expert psychiatrist as to the defendant's psychotic/borderline personality at the time of the Los Angeles murders as supported only by the defendant's own statements.
"I have determined there is an absence of doubt," Briseno concluded, and that "the weight of mitigating factors is meager" as he upheld the jury's recommendation for the death penalty.
Briseno, who never uttered an opinion as to the merits of either side of the case throughout the trial, said he would break his silence to address the families of the victims. "We'd like to think we avoid the impact of evil in our lives," said the former Marine who was in Vietnam during Alcala's first known attack on 8-year-old Tali Shapiro. Citing one of the more bizarre moments from the trial, the judge said Alcala had played his "national anthem" during his closing arguments when the chorus "I wanna kill, I wanna kill" from Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant had shocked and offended jurors and family members.
When someone's cell phone went off in open court, another song became the anthem. The ringer was set to an old Oingo Boingo song. "It's a dead man's party, who could ask for more?" the chorus went. As Rodney Alcala was shackled and led from the defense table one last time, the family and friends who'd carried heavy hearts for 30 years burst into applause. At least for today, they couldn't ask for more.
48 HOURS | MYSTERY producer Gayane Keshishyan has followed the Rodney Alcala case for several years and covered the latest trial. The complete coverage will be featured in an upcoming episode of 48 HOURS | MYSTERY.