Over the weekend I watched the documentary, “48 Hours Mystery:” Rodney Alcala’s Killing Game — A Serial Killer’s 40-Year Odyssey of Rape, Murder and Eluding Justice,
. I found it fascinating and valuable. Once again however, it was a major media story on a psychopath that didn’t use the word psychopath. Why is that? The media just refuses to educate the public about psychopaths. Perhaps if some of his victims (at least the older ones) knew of psychopathy as something they were likely to encounter in their lives they could have protected themselves.
Near the end there was a segment on his defending himself against the death penalty that highlights bizarre psychopathic thinking. He even played part of the song Alice’s Restaurant. This is a guess, but he seems to have followed a line of reasoning like this: “Hmmm, they’ve found me guilty of murder and killing people. So, they think killing is a bad thing. Yet, giving me the death penalty would make them killers. Let me point that out to them. Yeah, and I recall that in the song Alice’s Restaurant, there’s a part where the song’s character is pretending to be a psycho killer, acting out his thoughts. That’ll jog the jury emotionally since it’s such a bad thing.“ (For those who don’t know the song, Alice’s Restaurant was written as an anti-Vietnam War song with the character going through ways of getting out of serving after being drafted.)
Alcala came across as a Martian trying to understand and communicate with human beings. I’m not at all sure that I understand his motivation here, I’m just making an attempt. This aspect of coming across as aliens trying to understand humans, is worth paying attention to. I’ve found it often in groups of sociopaths, the group dynamic and cross-reinforcing may lead the group to express very odd thoughts and thinking patterns, betraying its sociopathy.
Perhaps the biggest tragedy in the Alcala story is that he could have been stopped after the first discovered murder. It was very apparent that he was a psychopath. He should have been evaluated, found to be a psychopath and institutionalized for the rest of his life. There are quite a few cases like this, Michael Swango and Charlie Brandt (he was covered by another 48 Hours documentary:
), to name two obvious psychopaths. Though my idea of obvious psychopaths and the idea of others seems to be different — but now we have brain scans. There is no excuse for letting predatory psychopaths prey on the rest of us. Criminal psychopaths need to be handled foremost by the mental health system, not the judicial system. There are totally different evidentiary rules and reasoning for involuntary commitments as opposed to those used in legal proceedings that can and should be applied in cases such as this.
Finally, I must point out that the vast majority of sociopaths/psychopaths are not criminal or even violent. Murderers are murderously angry. This documentary gave us no idea of anything that might have pushed Alcala in that direction. For example, as I recall, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer were both unattached as infants, resulting in unresolved infantile rage with an adult’s capabilities and a psychopath’s skills (discussed further in
More photos of Rodney Alcala and his Dating Game tape are in my earlier post,