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Prosecutors said that Alcala "toyed" with his victims, strangling them until they lost consciousness, then waiting until they revived, sometimes repeating this process several times before finally killing them.
Alcala compiled a collection of more than 1,000 photographs of women and teenage boys, many in sexually explicit poses.
Alcala's attorneys contested it; as one of them explained, "If you're a juror and you hear one murder case, you may be able to have reasonable doubt.
In 1954 his mother moved Alcala and his siblings (two sisters and a brother) to suburban Los Angeles when he was about 11 years old. To evade the resulting arrest warrant, Alcala left the state and enrolled in the NYU film school, using the name "John Berger".
In 1971, he obtained a counseling job at a New Hampshire arts camp for children using a slightly different alias, "John Burger".
During his incarceration between the second and third trials, Alcala wrote and self-published a book, You, the Jury, in which he claimed innocence in the Samsoe case and suggested a different suspect.
He also filed two lawsuits against the California penal system, for a slip-and-fall incident and for refusing to provide him a low-fat diet.