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"Dating Game" killer sentenced for 1970s murders

Convicted California serial killer Rodney Alcala is pictured in Manhattan Supreme Court in New York, January 7, 2013. REUTERS/David Handschu
Convicted California serial killer Rodney Alcala is pictured in Manhattan Supreme Court in New York, January 7, 2013. REUTERS/David Handschu

By Peter Rudegeair

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Convicted California serial killer Rodney Alcala, a contestant on "The Dating Game" television show more than 30 years ago, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison on Monday for murdering two New York women in the 1970s.

Alcala, 69, already on death row in California for killing four women and a 12-year-old girl in that state, was extradited to New York in June to face charges in the slayings of flight attendant Cornelia Crilley, 23, and Ellen Hover, 23, the daughter of a nightclub owner.

Known as "The Dating Game" killer because of his appearance on the show, Alcala pleaded guilty to two counts of intentional murder on December 14.

Judge Bonnie Wittner choked back tears as she sentenced Alcala to a concurrent 25 years to life in prison and described his crimes as "an inexplicably brutal, horrible act" and the most gruesome case she had dealt with in her three decades on the bench.

Authorities will transport Alcala back to death row in California, but should his murder convictions there be overturned on appeal, he would be returned to New York to serve out his sentence, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance told reporters on Monday.

The cold case unit of the Manhattan district attorney's office brought charges against Alcala last year after conducting more than 100 new interviews with witnesses.

"Rodney Alcala is the face of evil. He has been responsible for so much death, so much loss and unbearable pain," Assistant District Attorney Alex Spiro told the court.

Alcala appeared in court wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and grey hair that extended down past his shoulders. He declined to address the court.

A professional photographer, Alcala lured his victims by offering to take their pictures, according to authorities.

Crilley was found strangled in her Manhattan apartment in 1971. Hover's body was found in Westchester County, north of New York City in 1977.

Dozens of members of the victims' families packed Wittner's courtroom in Manhattan, many wearing stickers portraying black-and-white images of Crilley and Hover.

"You broke my parents' heart. They never really recovered," Crilley's sister Katie Stigell told the court. "It saddens me to think that that pretty smile of hers, you were the last one to see it."

Hover's death caused her estranged brother to become addicted to drugs and commit suicide and caused her mother to drink alcohol excessively to the point of developing dementia which slowly killed her, Hover's sisters Charlotte Rosenberg and Victoria L. Rudolph said in a statement that Spiro read at the sentencing.

(Additional reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Paul Thomasch, Steve Orlofsky and Andrew Hay)

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