Convicted serial killer Rodney Alcala charged with murder in Wyoming cold case

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Rodney Alcala is seen in an undated file photo.
Rodney Alcala is seen in an undated file photo.

CASPER, Wyo. (KABC) -- Imprisoned serial killer Rodney Alcala has been charged with murder in connection to the 1977 killing of a 28-year-old woman whose remains were found in rural Wyoming.

Alcala, now 73, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Christine Ruth Thornton, of San Antonio, Texas.

Wyoming law enforcement officials believe Alcala murdered Thornton then disposed of her body in a remote area of Granger, a small rural community in Sweetwater County.

Her remains were found later by a local rancher but were not immediately identified. Years later as the investigation continued, tissue samples from the remains were sent for inclusion in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS).

Concurrently, Thornton's family was searching for her and came across a photo of Thornton that once belonged to Alcala. The photo was part of a collection of pictures that were publicly released by police during a previous investigation.

Investigators were able to identify Thornton based on that photo, which appears to show her near the same area where her remains were later found.

Also, Thornton's siblings submitted their DNA samples for inclusion in NamUS. In July 2015, Sweetwater County detectives were contacted by NamUS and alerted to the possible identification of Thornton, using the previous tissue sample and DNA from her siblings.

Alcala is imprisoned in California's Corcoran State Prison and is sentenced to death.

He has been connected to six murders in two states, though authorities estimate he may have killed up to 130 people across the country

Alcala is known as the "Dating Game Killer" because of his 1978 appearance on the TV show.