Though we’re used to seeing creeps on dating shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, they’re usually not criminals. But Rodney Alcala, the so-called “Dating Game Killer” was already a murderer at the time of his TV appearance. Now he’s back on TV, of sorts, thanks to two TV specials about his grisly crimes.
Alcala was cast Bachelor No. 1 on a 1978 episode of the ABC game show, introduced as a “successful photographer.” He ended up winning a date with that episode’s bachelorette, Cheryl Bradshaw, but she refused to go out with him afterward. "I started to feel ill,” she told The Sunday Telegraph in 2012. “He was acting really creepy. I turned down his offer. I didn’t want to see him again.”
What The Dating Game producers overlooked, however, was that Alcala had allegedly raped and beaten an 8-year-old girl a decade prior. (Prosecutors couldn’t convict him of rape and attempted murder without her testimony, however, and Alcala pled guilty to a lesser charge.) And what the producers couldn’t have known is is that he had murdered two women when he competed for Bradshaw’s attention, if not more.
Alcala was eventually sent to prison for a total of seven murders between 1971 and 1979, including the killing of a 12-year-old girl named Robin Samsoe. As authorities sort out the extent of his killing spree, though, some estimates say he took the lives of as many as 130 people. Just last year, Alcala was charged with the cold case murder of Christine Ruth Thornton.
Alcala’s story is the subject of two TV programs this year — an episode of Reelz’s Murder Made Me Famous and the Investigation Discovery TV movie Dating Game Killer. As eerie as those reenactments are, however, nothing compares to Alcala’s actual Dating Game appearance.