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Life sentence follows guilty pleas in two cold case NYC murders

NEW YORK – A 25-years-to-life in prison sentence was given to a man who admitted the 1971 murder of Cornelia Crilley and the 1977 murder of Ellen Hover. Rodney Alcala, a/k/a John Berger, 69, pleaded guilty to two counts of Intentional Murder on December 14, 2012.

“Today, Rodney Alcala was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the murders of two women who didn’t live past the age of 23,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.,. “Alcala himself is 69 – this sentence ensures that he will serve the remainder of his life in prison. 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. I hope it also brings them peace of mind to know that their loved ones’ killer has finally been held accountable and brought to justice. Cold cases are not forgotten cases, and you do not get away with murder.”

As admitted in his guilty plea, ALCALA raped and strangled Ms. Crilley, a 23-year-old TWA flight attendant, inside her Upper East Side apartment in 1971. Six years later, he murdered Ms. Hover, who was also 23 and living in Manhattan, in July 1977. Her body was found in eleven months later in Westchester County.

Decades after these crimes occurred, District Attorney Vance’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 under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers. The defendant was transported to New York on June 21, 2012, by United States Marshals Service. He was then arraigned in New York State Supreme Court.

In 2010, District Attorney Vance created the Forensic Sciences/Cold Case Unit, 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.