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Episode 45

Can I Take Your Picture? Part 3

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Over 20 killers have used the ruse of photography to entrap their victims. This week we continue our look into some of those killers. The first is our continued deep dive into The Dating Game Killer Rodney Alcala. The second is serial killer Maury Travis. 

Rodney Alcala:
Rodney Alcala is best known as The Dating Game Killer. He was active from 1968 to 1979.  We know he has victims in New York, California, Texas and Washington. But he traveled during his active time--internationally and domestically-so he could have victims around the world. 

We discussed Rodney Alcala's previous crimes in part one and two of "Can I Take Your Picture? Serial Killers with Cameras." Today's episode focused on three of his other murders.   

The first is 23-year-old flight attendant Cornelia Michel Crilley. At some point in June of 1971, Alcala encountered Cornelia. She was found strangled and assaulted in her Manhattan apartment with bite marks on her breasts. For over 30 years, law enforcement did not know who killed Cornelia. Until a fingerprint matched to Rodney Alcala. Then the detectives acquired a dental impression which also contained DNA. When both samples came back, they knew Rodney Alcala had killed Cornelia Crilley. 
 

The second was 23-year-old heiress Ellen Hover. Her calendar had an appointment with John Berger on July 15, 1977. An alias that we know was used by Rodney Alcala.  

Ellen disappeared after that day. Law enforcement found no trace of Berger or Ellen. Eleven months after Ellen disappeared, her skeletal remains were discovered spread throughout the brush of the Rockefeller Estate in New York. 

Her death remained a mystery for over thirty years. When NYPD matched Alcala's DNA to Crilley's case, they also got a match to Ellen's case. The Hover family find knew who was responsible for killing Ellen. 

With DNA evidence in both crimes, New York decided to prosecute Rodney Alcala for the murders of Cornelia Crilley and Ellen Hover. In December of 2012, Alcala pleaded guilty to both. He was sentenced to an additional 25 years on top of his California sentence. Alcala returned the California prison system after his plea, which is where he remains today.

The third case is that of Christine Thornton. In 1977, Christine left San Antonio, Texas with her boyfriend. She was six months pregnant at the time. She told her family she was moving to Montana. But they never heard from her again.

Christine and her boyfriend had a fight and broke up. Some time after the fight she encountered Rodney Alcala-most likely during his cross country trip allowed by his parole officer. On April 6, 1982, remains were discovered by a rancher in Sweetwater County, Wyoming. But the remains weren't identified until after Christine's family recognized her in the above photo from Alcala's collection.

In 2013, Christine's sister Kathy saw her photo. She phoned police and gave her DNA. Kathy and another sister's DNA matched to the unidentified remains in Wyoming. 

Rodney Alcala has been charged with Christine's murder. But, according to reports, he is too weak to travel for court proceedings. 

Alcala's Court Timeline:

1980-Rodney Alcala is convicted of the murder of Robin Samsoe. He was sentenced to death. He appealed the conviction. The appeal was granted.

1986-Rodney Alcala was tried again for the murder of Robin Samsoe. This time he offered an alibi of being at Knott's Berry Farm during the time Robin was abducted. But the jury again found him guilty. Again he was sentenced to death. And again he appealed and was granted a new trial.

2003-Prosecutors in Los Angeles linked him to four other victims:
-18-year-old Jill Barcomb in 1977.
-27-year-old Georgia Wixted also in 1977.
-31-year-old Charlotte Lamb in 1978.
-21-year-old Jill Parenteau in 1979.

2010-Rodney Alcala went to trial again. This time he was charged with the murders of Jill Barcomb, Georgia Wixted, Charlotte Lamb and Jill Parenteau along with the murder of Robin Samsoe. A jury again convicted him. Alcala was sentenced to death for the third time.

2012-Alcala pleaded guilty to the murders of Cornelia Crilley and Ellen Hover in New York City. 

Maury Travis:
In the spring and summer of 2001, bodies began to be discovered in the Saint Louis area. On April 1, the body of 34-year-old Alysa Greenwade was recovered in the Washington Park area. Alysa was a sex worker who had been living with a friend before she was murdered. 

Then six weeks later on May 15th, the body of 36-year-old Teresa Wilson was discovered in West Alton. Like Greenwade, she had been strangled. Less than two weeks after Wilson's remains were recovered, the body of 46-year-old Betty James was located in Saint Louis.

A month after James' remains were discovered, a forth body was recovered just feet from Teresa Wilson's remains. These remains belonged to 36-year-old Verona Thompson.

At this point Saint Louis developed a task force believing they had a serial killer. But two more victims would be discovered before they would catch the killer. On August 25th, the body of 50-year-old Yvonne Crues was discovered in East Saint Louis. Then on October 8th, the remains of 33-year-old Brenda Beasley were also discovered in East Saint Louis. But unlike the earlier victims, the killer left DNA behind. 

In May 2002 Bill Smith, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, wrote an article to shine light on the unsolved murders. He concentrated his article on Teresa Wilson-the second victim. This is when Maury Travis revealed himself.

He sent the above letter to Smith along with a map. Police were able to discover Travis' identity based on his map and the internet service he used to make it. But when police arrived at his home, they uncovered haunting evidence.

Travis had turned his basement into a sort of dungeon. He had a video tape marked "Wedding Day." The tape began with an actual wedding, but then home videos of Travis's rapes and kills followed. He would often get high with his victim, psychologically torture them. Once that torture was over, he would then rape them, shock them with a taser and strangle them-all on video.

Travis claimed he had 17 victims. Police were able to firmly identify 11 and recover four bodies they believe were killed by Travis. But those four identities are unknown. 

ASSIGNMENT:
We are continuing to look for additional information on Rodney Alcala.  We want your help in identifying the photos from his collection below. Please share. If you have any information, contact us.   

We are also looking for possible identities to Maury Travis' unknown victims. 

CODE OF CONDUCT: 

1. Do not name names publicly. Send everything to the police or to this page and we will forward to the police. 
2. Do not post side by side photos. 
3. Do not contact any family members. 
4. Do not doxx each other and be civil. We all want to the same thing. 

As tips come in, Jensen and Holes will work to verify them. If they look good, we will publish them here to try and get us closer to their names.

Unidentified Photos for This Week's Episode:

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