From game-show winner to serial killer: The true story behind Stan's 'Dating Death'.

Dating Death on Stan tells a true crime story that's stranger than fiction: a serial killer caught after appearing on a TV show.

The three-episode docuseries covers the life and crimes of Rodney Alcala, a decades-spanning predator who appeared on game show The Dating Game in the midst of a murder spree in the 1970s.

Alcala was convicted of the murders of six women and a 12-year-old girl, however the Associated Press reported that his victims could number upwards of 130 people, with the actual number unlikely ever to be known. 

The true story behind Dating Death on Stan.

Rodney's life of crime began in 1968 in Los Angeles when he stopped a young girl, Tali Shapiro, as she walked to school. According to California court records, he offered her a ride and then took the child to his apartment. 

“I told him I didn’t talk to strangers,” Tali reflected about the encounter 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.”

Luckily, someone spotted Alcala taking the 8-year-old, called 911, and police busted into his apartment to rescue the girl. Alcala escaped and fled to New York where he began working at a kids' summer camp.

He returned to California in 1972 and by 1974, he was convicted of child molestation. He served two prison sentences – one for assaulting Tali in 1968 and another for assaulting a 13-year-old girl in 1974.

It was after these sentences – and when he had already been a registered sex offender – that Rodney was cast on TV show The Dating Game in 1978. 


First introduced as “Bachelor No. 1", he was sold as a successful photographer who enjoyed skydiving and riding motorcycles in his spare time.

On the show, Alcala made some rather sinister remarks in hindsight. 

When bachelorette Cheryl Bradshaw asked him what his favourite time of day was, Alcala chose the night “because that’s the only time there is… Nighttime is when it gets really good.”

She then asked: “I am serving you for dinner. What are you called and what do you look like?” To this, he replied, “I’m called the banana and I look really good... Peel me."

Despite these creepy comments, he was the contestant's winner. However, she didn't actually end up going on a date with him, which was the aim of the game.

After meeting backstage, Cheryl said “I started to feel ill. He was acting really creepy,” she said. “I turned down his offer. I didn’t want to see him again.”

The murders continued.

In 1979, Alcala abducted a 12-year-old girl, Robin Samsoe, at Huntington Beach while she was riding a bike to a ballet lesson. Her remains were later found scattered across a remote ravine in Los Angeles. 

Police were at a loose end as far as her murderer's identity, until one of the detectives at the station happened to put on a repeat of Alcala's episode of The Dating Game, and noted he looked similar to a sketch drawn by a friend of Samsoe's.

The friend was shown the episode and confirmed Alcala’s identity.

“I had to go back up to the police station – I think it was shortly after that sketch got faxed out – and they put me in a room, and they had a big TV… and they started The Dating Game,” Samsoe’s friend Bridget told 20/20.


“And right when I saw the three contestants, I said ‘That’s him! That is him. No question. That is the man.' And when I heard his voice, without a shadow of a doubt, that is him.”

Alcala was arrested and taken into custody in 1979.

He was convicted and sentenced to death for the killing in 1980 – but the California Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 1986.

Justice at last.

While preparing for another trial in 2003, investigators used new technology to link Alcala’s DNA to the unsolved deaths of even more women, and in 2010, an Orange County jury convicted Alcala of five counts of first-degree murder. Their names were Robin Samsoe, Jill Barcomb, Georgia Wixted, Charlotte Lamb and Jill Parenteau. 

He was sentenced to 25 years to life in 2012 after being indicted for the murders of two more women – Cornelia Crilley in 1971 and Ellen Jane Hover in 1977. Four years later, Wyoming prosecutors charged Alcala with the murder of Christine Ruth Thornton, who disappeared in 1978.

While waiting on California’s death row, Alcala died in July 2021. He died of natural causes, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“He’s where he needs to be,” investigator Jeff Sheaman told The New York Times

“I’m sure that’s in hell.”

Feature image: Stan.

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