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How Did Tali Shapiro Survive ‘Dating Game’ Serial Killer Rodney Alcala?

In 1978, Texas serial killer Rodney Alcala appeared as contestant on "The Dating Game" amid a years-long killing spree.

By Dorian Geiger
Killer Motive: What Drives People To Kill?

In the 1960s and 1970s, serial killer Rodney Alcala terrorized unsuspecting women and young girls across the United States.

He targeted victims — which also included young girls — by disguising himself as a photographer and convincing them into participating in a photoshoot.

RELATED: Who Is Serial Killer Rodney Alcala And How Did He Win 'The Dating Game' On ABC?

Investigators believe Alcala may have strangled and killed around 100 women. He particularly gained notoriety for his 1978 appearance on the TV game show, "The Dating Game," where he won a date with that episode's bachelorette, who reportedly decided not to go out with him. 

His first known victim was 8-year-old Tali Shapiro. This is how she survived.

Who is Rodney Alcala?

Rodney Alcala was a Texas-born arts student and serial killer who was convicted of murdering five women and one girl in the 1970s.

Alcala, who presented himself as a professional photographer in order to lure unsuspecting women into his orbit, later fatally strangled his victims and often staged their bodies in morbid poses, which he sometimes photographed, People reported. His exact kill count is unknown.

Mark of a Killer: Did Rodney Alcala Also Kill Several Women in New York City? (Season 1, Episode 5)

“Hell, there might be a ton of other victims out there,” Jeff Sheaman, an investigator from the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office in Wyoming, told The New York Times in 2021. "I have no idea.”

Alcala would feign being asleep during police interviews while running his index finger over photographs of his alleged victims, in an attempt to fluster detectives, investigators said.

“When I interviewed him back in 2016, he was the most cold person," Sheaman said. "Everything about that guy just gives me the creeps.”

Notably, Alcala was dubbed “The Dating Game Killer” after he appeared on the kitschy television game show in 1978 amid his murder spree.

Alcala was introduced on the gameshow as a motorcycle-riding “successful photographer,” and a skydiver. He wore a brown bell-bottom suit and butterfly collar shirt. Alcala ultimately bested other male contestants to be chosen as Bachelor Number One by bachelorette Cheryl Bradshaw as her “dream date.” His winning answer involved “bananas.”

Rodney Alcala G

In 1980, Alcala was convicted in the murder of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe, whom he abducted while she was riding her bicycle to a ballet class. Samsoe’s remains were later located in the Sierra Madre foothills. 

His conviction was twice overturned on technicalities, per The Los Angeles Times. He was sentenced to death for the child’s killing in 2010, as well as for the killings of Georgia Wixted, Jill Parenteau, Charlotte Lamb, and Jim Barcomb in the 1970s.

At trial, Alcala had attempted to claim he had no memories of the killings he committed. In 2010, a psychologist who testified on behalf of the defense, told the court that Alcala suffered from borderline personality disorder.

In 2012, while on death row, Alcala pleaded guilty to the sexual assault and killing of flight attendant Cornelia Crilley and nightclub heiress Ellen Hover. Hover’s body was recovered from the Rockefeller Estate in Westchester County, New York. Alcala was charged again in 2016 with the murder of 28-year-old Texas woman Christine Ruth Thorton, whose body was found at a Wyoming ranch. 

According to the first season of Oxygen’s “Mark of a Killer,” Alcala's chameleon-like ability and lack of empathy allowed him to prey undetected on his victims. Alcala drew comparisons to Ted Bundy due to his “lady killer” reputation spurred on by his “Dating Game” cameo. 

Who is Tali Shapiro?

Tali Shapiro was an 8-year-old California second-grader who Alcala abducted in September of 1968 while she walked to her school along Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles. 

“I told him I didn’t talk to strangers,” Shapiro told “20/20” in an episode that aired in 2021. “That is when he told me he knew my parents. I really didn’t want to get into the car but I was raised to respect my elders. I didn’t know to fear people.”

Shapiro survived the incident and currently lives in Palm Springs, California. 

What did Rodney Alcala do to Tali Shapiro?

Alcala severely beat, molested and raped Shapiro, according to authorities.

Alcala was nearly arrested after a witness who saw Shapiro get in Alcala’s car tailed the pair to the predator’s nearby home, where he contacted the authorities. Shapiro was rescued after law enforcement raided Alcala’s apartment, where they found the badly beaten 8-year-old lying on the emerging serial killer’s floor. Alcala, however, narrowly escaped out the back door.

The horrific event, which marked the beginning of Alcala’s crime spree that would span a decade, unfolded years before Alcala appeared on “The Dating Game.” 

Rodney Alcala

Where is Rodney Alcala now? 

In July 2021, Alcala died of natural causes at a hospital in Kings County, California. He was 77.

“The planet is a better place without him, that’s for sure,” Shapiro, then 61, told The New York Times following Alcala’s death.

She described his death as karmic. 

“I know it’s awful what happened to me, but I’ve never identified with it. I’ve moved on with my life, so this doesn’t really affect me. It’s a long time coming, but he’s got his karma.”

Officials also expressed relief after news of Alcala’s death broke.

“He’s where he needs to be, and I’m sure that’s in hell,” Sheaman added. 

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