HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Police have been overwhelmed since they released more than 100 photos found in a convicted serial killer's storage locker, more than 30-year-old pictures of unidentified girls and women in bell bottoms, bikinis and Farrah Fawcett hair.
They look like long-lost sisters, mothers and daughters to bereaved callers across the country and from as far away as Denmark. Police have gotten more than 400 phone calls in a little more than a week.
The photos had been in the possession of Rodney Alcala, who has been in custody since 1979 and was recently convicted of murdering four young women and a 12-year-old girl. On March 9, jurors recommended the death penalty.
Prosecutors say Alcala used his camera to lure his victims, and he was seen taking pictures of the girl before she disappeared. They fear some of the unidentified people in the photos released last week may have fallen victim to Alcala as well.
"The first thing is, 'Oh, my God, I hope these girls are okay,' and the next thing is, 'I wonder if any of them are victims.' Everyone has that question," prosecutor Matt Murphy said. "I can't imagine for a million years that we've got him for the only murders he's done."
Nine women have been identified through the photos so far, and all of them are alive. Huntington Beach police Capt. Chuck Thomas said one of them told authorities that Alcala molested her, but Thomas added that the statute of limitations in that case has expired.
The photos, available on the Orange County District Attorney's Web site, are just a fraction of the more than 1,000 images investigators found in Alcala's storage locker when he was arrested for the 1979 murder of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe in Huntington Beach. They were not released earlier because of fear they may unduly influence a jury and jeopardize the trial.
They show leggy teenagers in bikinis and short-shorts on Southern California's sun-splashed beaches; young women in flowery blouses and hippie necklaces listening to music and smoking languidly; and girls wearing heavy makeup, apparently posing nude.
Detectives have withheld about 900 pictures because they are too sexually explicit, while others have been cropped for release, Thomas said.