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Wyoming charge against ‘Dating Game Killer’ dismissed

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Rodney Alcala

Serial murder suspect Rodney Alcala listens to Orange County deputy district attorney, Matt Murphy’s final arguments during closing arguments in Santa Ana, California in February 2010. Prosecutors in Wyoming charged him with the 1977 killing of a woman near Granger. But he died before being prosecuted for that crime.

GREEN RIVER — A first-degree murder charge filed against Rodney Alcala, a man known as the Dating Game Killer, will be dropped in Sweetwater County following his death.

Alcala, 77, died July 24 while awaiting execution in California, according to a press release from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He died of natural causes.

“We did not extradite him due to prison officials stating that he was not ambulatory,” Sweetwater County Attorney Dan Erramouspe wrote in an email to the Star. “I kept the charges filed nonetheless. Now that he has passed, I will be dismissing.”

In 2016, charges were brought against him relating to the 1977 death of 28-year-old Christine Thornton, a woman from San Antonio, Texas. Thornton’s remains were discovered by a rancher northeast of Granger in 1982 and the death was ruled a homicide by investigators despite evidence and the remains deteriorating in the five years between her murder and discovery. Thornton’s remains were identified in 2015 after Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office Detective Jeff Sheaman sent a sample to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

Photographs taken by Alcala were released by the Huntington Beach Police Department in California following his 2010 murder convictions in an effort to identify Alcala’s other victims. A relative of Thornton’s identified her in one of the photos and DNA samples from her siblings collected in 2013 matched the sample from the sheriff’s office.

Detectives reviewing the photo identified it as a place close to where Thornton’s remains were discovered and discovered other evidence linking Alcala to Thornton’s disappearance and murder.

“The fact that this case will not be proven in court does nothing to dissuade me from knowing that Alcala murdered Ms. Thornton,” Erramouspe said in the press release following the decision not to extradite Alcala.

Alcala is believed to be involved in up to 130 murders across the country. Alcala was sentenced to death in Orange County in 2010 after being convicted of five counts of first-degree murder in deaths that had originally taken place between 1977 and 1979.

This would not be the first time Alcala was sentenced to death in California. He was sentenced to death in 1980 for the 1979 kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe, but the judgement was revised by the California Supreme Court in 1984 and a new trial was granted. He was again convicted of Samsoe’s murder in 1986 and sentenced to death, but a federal appeals court overturned the sentence in 2003 and he was given a new trial.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, DNA evidence linked Alcala to other murder cases and he was indicted in the murders of four other women.

Alcala was named the Dating Game Killer following his appearance on the television game show, where he was identified as a successful photographer. He won the game show, but the woman who selected Alcala ultimately decided against going through with the date.

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