NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Some four decades after the murders of two beautiful young Manhattan women, their families finally saw justice in a Manhattan courtroom.
As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported, the case of the so-called “Dating Game Killer” remains so heartbreaking that even the judge was in tears.
The sentencing hearing was so emotional that even Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Bonnie Wittner sobbed. She was barely able to speak as she pronounced the sentence for Alcala in the long-unsolved murders in the 1970s, WCBS 880′s Irene Cornell reported.
Wittner said that in her 30 years’ experience, she has never dealt with a case as horrific as this, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.
“This is the kind of case I’ve never experienced and hope to never again. I hope the families find some peace and solace in what is the most brutal, horrible case I’ve experienced in 30 years on the bench,” Wittner said through her tears.
“It was overwhelming and it meant a lot to me,” said Katie Stigel, the sister of one of the victims. “I’d never even on television seen a judge cry.”
Alcala said last month he wanted to plead guilty to two murder counts so he could get back to California and pursue an appeal of his death case.
Alcala was indicted in January 2011 for the 1971 strangling of Cornelia Crilley, a Trans World Airlines flight attendant, and the death in 1977 of Ellen Hover, the daughter of comedy writer Herman Hover — a former Hollywood nightclub owner. Both were 23 at the time.
Crilley was found raped and strangled with a pair of stockings in her Manhattan apartment. Hover’s remains were found in the woods on a suburban estate in 1978, a year after she disappeared.
The courtroom was packed with family members of both women.
Crilley’s sister spoke at Alcala’s sentencing on Monday, saying that she wanted to make sure her sister was not remembered as just a name on a piece of paper.
“It is my hope that the swift conclusion of these cases brings closure to the Crilley and Hover families, who have spent decades awaiting justice and have now been spared the pain of a trial. I hope it also brings them peace of mind to know that their loved ones’ killer has finally been held accountable and brought to justice,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement. “Cold cases are not forgotten cases, and you do not get away with murder.”
“I wish she were here to see all these people who worked so hard to bring this case to closure,” said Anita Sobel-Feinberg, Hover’s college roommate.
But the horrifying cases here in New York are not the half of it. Alcala has already been convicted of killing five others in California.
Alcala’s blood-stained trail began in the late 1960s in Hollywood, when he kidnapped and nearly killed Tali Shapiro, 8. Alcala, an amateur photographer, was already being investigated for that and other brutally violent crimes when he appeared as a contestant on “The Dating Game” on Sept. 13, 1978.
“Bachelor number one is a successful photographer who got his start when his father found him in the darkroom at the age of 13, fully developed,” host Jim Lange said in introducing Alcala. “Between takes, you might find him skydiving or motorcycling.”
“Bachelor number one, I am serving you for dinner,” contestant Cheryl Bradshaw asked Alcala.
“I’m called the Banana, and I look really good,” Alcala replied.
“Can you be a little more descriptive?” Bradshaw said.
“Peel me,” Alcala said.
Alcala ended up being Bradshaw’s pick among the three eligible bachelors. But Bradshaw later backed out of the date, calling Alcala too creepy.
Early this century, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office began a cold case investigation, and along with the NYPD, zeroed in on Alcala.
“Their loved ones killer has finally, finally been held accountable and been brought to justice,” said Manhattan District Atty. Cyrus Vance.
Alcala was originally arrested in 1979 and was convicted twice in one of the California killings. He had both verdicts overturned before he was found guilty in 2010 of strangling four women and a 12-year-old girl in California in the 1970s.
Following the verdict, authorities released over 100 photos of young women and girls found in Alcala’s storage locker to determine whether he was involved in cases in New York and other states.
Alcala will now be sent back to California, where he is already on Death Row for his other murders.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)