Rodney Alcala told a Manhattan judge that he wanted to plead guilty to two murder counts so he could get back to California and pursue an appeal of his death case. He had complained in letters to the judge that his jailers in New York wouldn't give him access to a laptop computer and legal records.
Alcala wants the materials "to do the work I need to do on my death penalty case," he said before withdrawing a not guilty plea entered earlier this year.
The 69-year-old Alcala — a former photographer and one-time dating-show contestant who's been behind bars since 1979 — appeared in court with his hands shackled and his gray hair in a ponytail.
With the plea, Alcala will receive an automatic term of 25 years to life for his crimes in New York, to be served concurrently with his other convictions.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who had his cold-case unit reopen the New York investigation two years ago, said the plea finally brings justice to victims of killings from another different era.
"Rodney Alcala's victims were never forgotten," Vance said in a statement. "Tragically, neither of them lived past the age of 23. Two families were robbed of daughters who never had a chance to have families of their own, grow old, and see the city change and become safer."
Alcala has spent the last 33 years 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 SouthernCalifornia in the 1970s. He represented himself, 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."
While pursuing an appeal in California, Alcala was indicted last year in the killings of Cornelia Crilley and Ellen Hover in New York, partly on evidence that emerged during his California trial, prosecutors said.
Crilley was found strangled with a stocking in her Manhattan apartment in 1971. Hover, a comedy writer and former Hollywood nightclub owner's daughter who had a degree in biology and was seeking a job as a researcher, was living in Manhattan when she vanished in 1977. Her remains were found the next year in the woods on a suburban estate.
Alcala had been eyed in Hover's death for decades and in Crilley's killing for at least several years.
According to court papers, a detective went to talk to Alcala again in 2005. On learning that the investigator was from New York, Alcala asked, "What took you so long?"