Alcala Plays 18-Minute Guthrie Classic in Murder Defense

One victim's relative says he'll never listen to "Alice's Restaurant" again

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Rodney Alcala has been here before. But this court appearance might have been the strangest.

    A jury Tursday recommended a death sentence for the man convicted of raping and  murdering a 12-year-old Huntington Beach girl and four L.A.County women in the  1970s.

    As part of his closing argument, Alcala played part of Arlo Guthrie's classic "Alice's Restaurant." The song's central character in the ays he wants to "kill, kill, kill."

    Guthrie's 18-minute musical monologue tells about being arrested for littering, being called up to fight in the Vietnam War and the character trying  to get out of service by telling a military psychiatrist: "Shrink, I want to kill.  I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna,  I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat  dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, kill, kill, kill."

    It was unclear what point Alcala was trying to get across by playing the  song. The glib, one-time "Dating Game" contestant served as his own attorney.

    The OC Register's Frank Mickadeit summed it up:

    On one level, playing a bite of Guthrie's classic seemed an apt way to end Alcala's participation in the trial. Is there a better metaphor for Alcala's entire disjointed defense than "Alice's Restaurant," which at its full 18 minutes, 34 seconds, is longer than "Stairway to Heaven" and "American Pie" combined?

    What made this move distinct from the rest of his defense, however, was just how shockingly disrespectful it was to the families of the victims in the gallery, and to the jurors. "Insulting," one juror told me shortly after he and the other 11 became the third jury to sentence Alcala to death.


    Robert Samsoe, brother of a victim, stalked out of court as Alcala played the song.

    "I wanted to wring his neck," Samsoe said later. "If I had to listen  to any more I was going to go nuts."

    He said "Alice's Restaurant" is his father-in-law's favorite song and  he didn't want it ruined for him.

    "Now we'll never be able to listen to it again," he said.

    A hearing in the penalty phase is scheduled for Wednesday. The judge is expected to set a sentencing date.

    The jury, which had the option of recommending life in prison without  the possibility of parole, deliberated in Santa Ana for about an hour Tuesday  before concluding that the 66-year-old Alcala deserves the death penalty. The same jury on Feb. 25 convicted Alcala for the slaying of 12-year-old  Robin Samsoe, who was abducted while riding her bike to a ballet class on  June 20, 1979. He had been convicted and sentenced to death twice before for  Samsoe's murder, but both convictions were overturned on appeal.

    Last month, Alcala was also found guilty -- for the first time -- of  killing Jill Barcomb, an 18-year-old runaway slain in the Hollywood Hills on  Nov. 10, 1977; Georgia Wixted, a 27-year-old registered nurse killed on Dec.  16, 1978; Charlotte Lamb, 32, slain on June 24, 1978; and Jill Parenteau, 21,  killed June 14, 1979.