MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — Choking back tears, a judge sentenced serial killer and onetime "Dating Game" contestant Rodney Alcala to life in prison for the murder of two New York women in the 1970s — on top of the death sentence he already faces in California.
A sobbing Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Bonnie Wittner said Alcala's case was unlike anything she had ever worked on.
"This kind of case is something I've never experienced and I hope never to again," she said during Monday's sentencing, "I hope the family finds some peace."
Alcala, 69, who was already on death row in California for murdering four women and a 12-year-old girl, pleaded guilty in December to killing Cornelia Crilley, a 23-year-old TWA stewardess from the Upper East Side; and Ellen Hover, 23, of Manhattan.
He was brought to New York in June, two years after officials reopened investigations into the cold cases.
The renewed investigation was sparked by the discovery of hundreds of sexually explicit photos of women and teenage boys taken by Alcala, and many of them were released to the public in hopes of finding new leads. Homicide investigators have speculated that Alcala could have murdered as many as 50 women.
Alcala admitted he raped and strangled Crilley, a 23-year-old TWA stewardess, in her apartment on the Upper East Side, and also killed Hover, prosecutors said.
"You broke my parents' heart and they never really recovered," Crilley's sister, Kaitie Stigell, told a stone-faced Alcala in court on Monday.
"It saddens me that that that pretty smile of hers, you were the last to see it, because she would have smiled on you when she opened that door."
She desribed her sister as a "very pretty" young woman who "loved to have a good time," and loved her job because of the new people she would meet and the abundance of travel.
Ellen Hover's two sisters, Victoria Rudolph and Charlotte Rosenberg, did not attend the sentencing for fear it would "potentially sensationalize" their sister's brutal murder.
"Ellen was a sweet, kind, generous, compassionate, loving and beautiful young woman," they wrote in a statement read at the sentencing.
"She chose to see the good in everyone she met because she had such a huge and open heart."
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance praised his office's Forensic Sciences/Cold Cases Unit, along with NYPD detectives who pieced together a timeline of Alcala's time in New York City during the 1970s.
“Alcala himself is 69 – this sentence ensures that he will serve the remainder of his life in prison," Vance said before an audience of reporters and the victims' families.
"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 have now been spared the pain of a trial."
"Cold cases are not forgotten cases, and you do not get away with murder,” he added.
At the sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Alex Spiro read in gruesome detail the accounts of Alcala's various rapes and murders, calling it a "chronology of carnage." Vance himself said that Alcala is being investigated by district attorneys and prosecutors around the country in a number of unsolved cases.
Alcala will now return to California to await execution on California's death row.