The "Dating Game Killer" killed at least four before his appearance — and would kill again soon after.
For most people, September 13, 1978 was an ordinary Wednesday. But for Cheryl Bradshaw, the bachelorette on the TV matchmaking show The Dating Game, that day was momentous. From a lineup of “eligible bachelors,” she chose handsome bachelor number one, Rodney Alcala:
But at that very moment, he was keeping a deadly secret: he was an unrepentant serial killer.
Bradshaw, if not for a healthy jolt of women’s intuition, would almost certainly be remembered today as one of Alcala’s victims. Instead, after the show ended, she conversed with Alcala backstage. He offered her a date she’d never forget, but Bradshaw got the feeling that her handsome potential suitor was a little off.
“I started to feel ill,” Bradshaw told the Sydney Telegraph in 2012. “He was acting really creepy. I turned down his offer. I didn’t want to see him again.”
Another one of the episode’s bachelors, actor Jed Mills, recalled to LA Weekly that “Rodney was kind of quiet. I remember him because I told my brother about this one guy who was kind of good-looking but kind of creepy. He was always looking down and not making eye contact.”
Had the popular dating show performed background checks on their bachelors, they would have discovered that this “kind of good-looking but kind of creepy” guy had already spent three years in prison for raping and beating an eight-year-old girl (he’d done the same to a 13-year-old too), which landed him on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List.
But sometimes a background check can’t even uncover the whole story. In Rodney Alcala’s case, the whole story consisted of at least four prior murders that he hadn’t been definitively linked to yet.
As you can probably imagine, Cheryl Bradshaw’s rejection likely only fueled Alcala’s fire. In total, before and after his television appearance, the sadistic “Dating Game Killer” claimed that he killed between 50 and 100 people.