Cold Cases Investigated and Solved by DA’s Forensic Sciences/Cold Case Unit and the NYPD
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the guilty plea of RODNEY ALCALA, a/k/a JOHN BERGER, 69, for the 1971 murder of Cornelia Crilley and the 1977 murder of Ellen Hover. The defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of Intentional Murder. ALCALA is expected to be sentenced on January 7, 2013.
“Rodney Alcala’s victims were never forgotten,” said District Attorney Vance. “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. But, after more than 30 years, this defendant has admitted that he murdered these two innocent women. Thanks to the diligence and perseverance of my Office’s Forensic Sciences/Cold Case Unit and the NYPD, Ms. Crilley and Ms. Hover’s families have finally seen justice served. I hope today’s guilty plea provides some measure of closure for the victims’ families and loved ones.”
According to his guilty plea, documents filed in court, and statements made on the record in court, Rodney Alcala raped and strangled Ms. Crilley, a 23-year-old TWA flight attendant, inside her Upper East Side apartment in 1971. He also murdered Ms. Hover, who was also 23 and living in Manhattan, in 1977. Her body was found in Westchester County.
Decades after these crimes occurred, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Forensic Sciences/Cold Case Unit re-examined the evidence and worked with the NYPD to interview more than 100 witnesses here and across the country. The cases were presented to the Grand Jury, which indicted ALCALA on January 26, 2011. Following the indictment, the District Attorney’s Office worked with the state of California, where ALCALA had been incarcerated, to bring the defendant to New York to face charges for the murders of Ms. Crilley and Ms. Hover under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers. ALCALA was transported to New York on June 21, 2012, by United States Marshals and turned over to the custody of the New York City Police Department. The defendant was then arraigned in New York State Supreme Court.
District Attorney Vance created the Forensic Science/Cold Case Unit in 2010, which is in the process of reviewing more than 3,000 unsolved homicides dating back to the 1970s. These reviews include time-tested investigative practices, witness interviews, and advanced forensic testing. In late 2010, the Unit began an exhaustive re-examination of the homicides of Ms. Crilley and Ms. Hover, including a full re-investigation of evidence. New evidence gave prosecutors sufficient cause to seek an indictment.
Several of these cold cases have resulted in convictions over the past few months. In October, Lerio Guerrero was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the rape and burglary of a 28-year-old woman on the Lower East Side in 1998. In July, Steven Carter was sentenced to 25-years-to-life in prison for the rape and murder of Antoinette Bennett in 1986. Bennett’s body was found by park workers in a playground area in St. Nicholas Park.
Assistant District Attorneys Melissa Mourges, Chief of the Forensic Science/Cold Case Unit, Martha Bashford, Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit, and Alex Spiro handled the prosecution of this case.
District Attorney Vance thanked the New York City Police Department, particularly the detectives in the Cold Case Squad, including Detectives Wendell Stradford, Robert Dewhurst, and (ret.) Stefano Braccini. District Attorney Vance also thanked Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore for her office’s work in this investigation.
District Attorney Vance also thanked the United States Marshals Service for their assistance in transporting the defendant.
RODNEY ALCALA, D.O.B 8/23/43
Convicted (charges reflect laws that were in place at time of crimes):
• Intentional Murder, a class A felony, 2 counts