In courtroom packed with the victims' relatives and friends -- many with eyes swollen from crying -- a New York judge broke down in tears Monday as she sentenced the already-imprisoned "Dating Game Killer" to 25 years to life for the murders of two 23-year-old women in the 1970s.
Rodney Alcala -- already on death row in California after being convicted of strangling four women and a 12-year-old-girl there -- now faces two new 25-to-life sentences for the grisly murders of the New York women. The California murders took place between November 1977 and June 1979, and crime scenes dotted a wide swath of suburban Los Angeles, from Burbank to El Segundo.
"This kind of case, I have never experienced, and I hope to never again," Judge Bonnie Wittner said between bouts of tears in Manhattan Criminal Court Monday.
Alcala, 69, pleaded guilty last December to the murder of Cornelia Crilley, who was killed in New York in June 1971, and the murder of Ellen Hover, whose body was found in Westchester County in 1977.
Crilley's younger sister, Katie Stigell, spoke on behalf of the family in the courtroom Monday, and remembered her sister as a beautiful girl with a wonderful personality who "loved roses, daisies, and most of all, laughing."
"She had her father's blue eyes and sense of humor," an emotional Stigell said.
"To think that smile of hers, that you were the last to see it," Stigell said directly to Alcala, who was present in court for the sentencing Monday.
"It's not about you today, it's about her," Stigell added.
Dozens of Crilley's family members packed the courthouse wearing stickers printed with the young girl's face on it and a message that read, "Cornelia always in our hearts."
Crilley, a 23-year-old TWA flight attendant, was found raped and strangled inside her Upper East Side apartment in June 1971, the Manhattan district attorney's office said in a news release at the time of the indictment in January 2011.
Hover, also 23 and living in Manhattan, was found dead in Westchester County in 1977, the 2011 news release said.
Hover's sister, Charlotte Rosenberg, described her beloved big sister as someone who "chose to see the good in everyone she met because she had such a huge and open heart," in a victim impact statement read in court by an assistant district attorney. Rosenberg and her sister, Victoria Rudolph, chose not to attend the sentencing, but said they were grateful to submit an impact statement on behalf of their family.
"She was a talented painter and pianist and dreamed of going to medical school," Rosenberg wrote about her sister. Rosenberg wanted to make the distinction that her sister was not an heiress, as some news accounts at the time had indicated, but that her father planted the story to ensure that local and national papers continued to cover Hover's disappearance until she could be found.
"She was an amazing big sister...so dedicated to the entire family," Rosenberg wrote.
"It is my hope that the swift conclusion of these cases brings closure to the Crilley and Hover families, who have spent decades awaiting justice and now have been spared the pain of trial," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said at a news conference following the sentencing Monday.
Relatives and friends of Hover and Crilley thanked the prosecutor's cold case unit for its efforts in bringing an end to their suffering.
Assistant District Attorney Alex Spiro methodically read Alcala's "chronology of carnage" to a hushed courtroom.
In 1978, Alcala was a winning bachelor on the television show "The Dating Game." At the time, he had been convicted in the 1968 rape of an 8-year-old girl and served a 34-month sentence, authorities said.
A year before his appearance on the game show, Alcala raped, sodomized and killed 18-year-old Jill Barcomb and 27-year-old nurse Georgia Wixted in California, prosecutors said.
During his appearance on "The Dating Game," Alcala was introduced as a "successful photographer" who might also be found skydiving or motorcycling.