NEW YORK (AP) — A California serial killer who left a trail of brutalized women's bodies in his wake was sentenced Monday in New York to an additional 25 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to murdering two young women here in the 1970s.
Rodney Alcala said last month he wanted to plead guilty to the two New York murder counts so he could get back to California, where he was sentenced to death for convictions on five other killings, to pursue an appeal there. He had complained that his jailers in New York wouldn't give him access to a laptop computer and legal records.
Family and friends of Cornelia Crilley and Ellen Hover filled the courtroom in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, having waited decades since the losses of their loved ones for this day.
Crilley, 23, was found strangled with a stocking in her Manhattan apartment in 1971. Hover, also 23, was living in Manhattan when she vanished in 1977. Her remains were found the next year in the woods on a suburban estate.
The emotions in the courtroom were running high, and not even the judge was immune.
"This kind of case is something I've never experienced — hope to never again," Judge Bonnie Whittner said, choking back tears as she sentenced Alcala. When she finished pronouncing the sentence, she put her head in her hand.
Alcala was indicted in 2011 in the killings of Crilley and Hover in New York, partly on evidence that emerged during a California murder trial.
In a victim-impact statement, Crilley's sister talked about how much she was missed. Kaitie Stigell thanked police and prosecutors for treating Crilley like she mattered, because "she matters to us and she always will."
She described her sister as a lovely person with a great smile.
"I want you to know you broke my parents' heart," she told the defendant.
Stigell was asked later about the judge's emotional reaction. "It was overwhelming and it meant a lot to me," she said. "It's just a testament of how everybody involved in this has been so good."
A prosecutor read a statement from Hover's sisters in which they wrote about her estranged brother's drug abuse and suicide, and their mother's struggles with alcohol and dementia.
"Her senseless murder irreparably damaged our family," Charlotte Rosenberg and Victoria Rudolph wrote.
Alcala has spent the last three decades tangling with California authorities in a series of trials and overturned convictions. He eventually was found guilty in 2010 of killing four women and a 12-year-old girl in Southern California in the 1970s.
He represented himself at trial, offering a defense that involved showing a clip of his 1978 appearance on "The Dating Game" and playing Arlo Guthrie's classic 1967 song "Alice's Restaurant."
Alcala had been eyed in Hover's death for decades and in Crilley's killing for at least several years. A detective went to talk to Alcala again in 2005. According to court papers, on learning that the investigator was from New York, Alcala asked, "What took you so long?"
Associated Press Writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.