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People Magazine Investigates: Surviving a Serial Killer Premieres on ID, May 6, 2024

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Surviving the Dating Game Killer Explores Rodney Alcala’s Evil Deeds

People Magazine Investigates: Surviving a Serial Killer is a new true crime series that focuses on survivors of serial killer attacks. The season premiere, titled Surviving the Dating Game Killer, airing on Sunday May 6 on ID, tells the harrowing story of two women, Morgan Rowan and Tali Shapiro, who miraculously survived encounters with the notorious serial killer Rodney Alcala, also known as the “Dating Game Killer.” Alcala, a charming and intelligent predator, appeared on the popular game show The Dating Game during his murder spree, earning him his infamous nickname.

The Terrifying Encounters of Morgan Rowan and Tali Shapiro

In 1965, Rodney Alcala attacked 16-year-old Morgan Rowan, and three years later, he brutally raped and nearly killed 8-year-old Tali Shapiro. Rowan, lured to Alcala’s house by the promise of a party, was beaten, raped, and left for dead. She survived thanks to a friend who broke into the house and helped her escape. Weeks later, Shapiro, on her way to school, was lured into Alcala’s car and taken to his apartment, where she was raped and beaten with a steel bar. She was discovered alive by police, but Alcala fled the scene.

The impact of these attacks on Rowan and Shapiro’s lives cannot be overstated. Rowan, now 72, recounts feeling guilty for not immediately reporting Alcala’s assault to the police. She spent decades searching for another survivor of Alcala’s evil, and that survivor turned out to be Shapiro. Shapiro, now 64, lived for years without knowing the full extent of her attack, as she had no memory of it. Despite their traumatic experiences, these two courageous women have formed a deep bond, supporting each other and refusing to be defined by their trauma.

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The Twisted Life and Crimes of Rodney Alcala

Rodney Alcala, born Rodrigo Jacques Alcala Buquor, had a tumultuous childhood. Born in San Antonio, Texas, his father abandoned the family when they moved to Mexico, leaving his mother to raise him and his sisters. At 11, they relocated to suburban Los Angeles. Alcala joined the army at 17 but was discharged after suffering a nervous breakdown and being diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. He then attended UCLA School of Fine Arts and later New York University, studying film under Roman Polanski.

Alcala’s true nature began to emerge in 1968 when he attacked Tali Shapiro. He evaded arrest and fled to the East Coast, enrolling in NYU film school under the alias “John Berger.” During the summer, he worked at a girls’ summer camp in New Hampshire, where he was recognized from an FBI wanted poster by two campers in 1971. He was arrested and extradited to Los Angeles, but Tali’s family had moved to Mexico, refusing to allow her to testify. Alcala pleaded guilty to child molestation and was sentenced to one year to life, only to be paroled after 34 months.

Alcala’s criminal behavior continued, and he was in and out of prison for various offenses, including providing marijuana to a minor. In 1977, despite his criminal record, he was hired as a typesetter by the Los Angeles Times. During this period, he also posed as a professional photographer, luring unsuspecting victims with the promise of modeling opportunities. He compiled a collection of over 1,000 photographs of women, teenage girls, and boys, many in sexually explicit poses.

Alcala’s murder spree began in 1977, and he is believed to have killed dozens of people, with authorities estimating the number could be as high as 130. His known victims include Robin Samsoe, Jill Barcomb, Georgia Wixted, Charlotte Lamb, and Jill Parenteau. Alcala’s modus operandi included strangling his victims until they lost consciousness, then waiting for them to revive, repeating this process several times before delivering the final kill. He often posed his victims’ bodies in grotesque positions and took photographs.

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A Long Road to Justice

Alcala was arrested in July 1979 and charged with the murder of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe. He was convicted and sentenced to death twice, but both convictions were overturned on appeal. In 2010, Alcala stood trial for the third time, representing himself. He was found guilty of Samsoe’s murder and four additional murders: those of Jill Barcomb, Georgia Wixted, Charlotte Lamb, and Jill Parenteau. Alcala was sentenced to death for the third time.

In addition to his California crimes, Alcala was linked to murders in New York and Wyoming. In 2011, he was extradited to New York and charged with the murders of Cornelia Crilley and Ellen Jane Hover, to which he pleaded guilty in 2012. In 2016, he was charged with the murder of Christine Ruth Thornton in Wyoming, but prosecutors opted not to extradite him due to his failing health.

Rodney Alcala, the “Dating Game Killer,” died in prison of natural causes in 2021 at the age of 77.

The season premiere of People Magazine Investigates: Surviving a Serial Killer shines a light on the strength and resilience of survivors Morgan Rowan and Tali Shapiro. It also provides a chilling insight into the mind of a serial killer, showcasing Alcala’s charm and intelligence as tools for luring victims. This powerful episode is just the beginning of a six-part series that promises to bring to light more harrowing tales of survival and the pursuit of justice.

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People Magazine Investigates: Surviving a Serial Killer Premieres Sunday May 5, 2024 at 9.00pm on ID.


Hey there! I'm Riley, the US TV Previews editor at memorabletv.com. I may have failed as a musician, but my love for Jeopardy knows no bounds. And let me tell you, The Wire is hands down the greatest TV show ever made. I've been writing about the entertainment biz since (mumble mumble). Stay tuned for all the latest TV news and previews!

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