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LOS ANGELES — It’s been a half-century since serial killer Rodney Alcala left a trail of bodies across Southern California. But a shocking new claim could show the monster's bloody rampage began earlier than previously believed.
Three death penalty trials determined Alcala's violent crime spree began in 1968 when he nearly murdered 8-year-old Tali Shapiro. But a previously unknown victim has come forward with a story of rape, torture, and a brush with death at the hands of the man known as "The Dating Game Killer."
Alcala died last week in prison at age 77.
“There is no doubt that she is telling the truth, she has accurately described things from that time that only someone who was there would know,” said retired LAPD Detective Steve Hodel of the newly discovered victim who contacted him through his blog seven months ago. Hodel was one of the original investigators on Shapiro's case.
Steve Hodel Steve Hodel
The newly revealed victim, Morgan Rowan, was 16 and living in Hollywood in 1968 when she claims to have had her frightening encounter with Alcala. She recalled spending her nights on the Sunset Strip partying at teenager dance clubs, one of which was haunted by a dark-haired, handsome man who, in his mid-20s, seemed too old for the crowd.
Morgan Rowan dances in a teen Sunset Strip nightclub during the late 1960s Morgan Rowan
"Rod," as Alcala called himself, was tall with thick dark hair and a bright white smile. One of Rowan’s friends had a crush on him, and Rowan thought he was handsome, too.
In 1968, Rowan and her friends encountered Alcala on the Sunset Strip and, after a night of dancing, got into his car believing they were going to an IHOP restaurant. Instead, Alcala drove to his apartment a few blocks away, where he said he was having a party.
Other people were at the house, and the music blared, Rowan recalled. Her friends became distracted, and Alcala dragged Rowan into his bedroom and barred the door. He then beat and raped her, she told the Washington Examiner.
Rodney Alcala FBI Most Wanted Steve Hodel
“I knew I was going to die," she said. "He tied my hands and put a belt in my mouth and punched me in the stomach until I vomited blood, and it was filling my lungs. I was drowning, and his rage was so apparent I knew he would kill me.
“I fought with every ounce of energy I had until he started to strangle me, and then I just felt myself drifting. There were no last-minute thoughts, but I do think I prayed for it to end at some point. It's very vivid to me,” she said.
When Rowan’s friends looked for her, they found the barred door. Desperate to save their friend, they broke into the room through a window. Rowan was moments from death, she said.
“Rod stood there naked from the waist down with my blood all over his shirt and spit out, ‘Take her.’ Just like he owned me,” Rowan said.
Alcala fled, and Rowan was pulled from the apartment by her friends. Not knowing where Alcala had gone, the three friends crouched in an alley behind a dumpster as Rowan threw up blood. As they hid, Alcala drove down the alley, looking for them, Rowan recalled.
Rowan went home with one of her friends to clean up and call the police, hoping to spare her parents of worry. It was a time when rape victims often bore shame — and even blame.
“A uniformed officer stood over me and said, ‘Boy, that’s going to be a shiner in the morning. What do you expect with your miniskirts and go-go boots? You went to this guy’s house and into his room. I’m not seeing where this guy goes to jail for rape,’” Rowan recalled.
The officer didn’t ask for Alcala’s name.
Rowan recalled wearing a scarf to hide neck bruises and explaining the black eye and split lip as the result of a car crash. She never talked about what really happened in the terrifying lair of a future serial killer.
Then one day, Rowan saw Alcala on the news and had a panic attack so severe she had to go to the hospital. She learned about the attack on Tali Shapiro and saw a photo of the crime scene. She saw the metal bar Shapiro was beaten with — the same bar used to trap her inside Alcala's room.
Rowan said she felt horror and guilt she didn’t do more to stop Alcala. Rowan tracked down Shapiro and wrote a lengthy letter, apologizing for not doing more.
Rodney Alcala California Dept. of Corrections
Shapiro responded there was nothing to forgive – Alcala bears responsibility. The two women are now friends.
The two women belong to a very exclusive club: survivors of an attack by Alcala.
“I’m sure there are other survivors of Alcala besides Morgan and Tali, but they definitely are in the minority,” Hodel said.
Alcala never helped detectives and took to his grave any knowledge he had of at least 100 killings he is suspected of committing.
Shapiro does not remember her attack and has chosen to see herself as a survivor and not a victim. Rowan is now learning to do the same.
“It took years to finally say I won't let this evil control me anymore,” Rowan said. “I'm much, much better now.”
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Original Author: Tori Richards