DA's Cold Case Unit Secures Murder Charges More than Thirty Years Later

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the indictment of RODNEY ALCALA, 67, a/k/a JOHN BERGER, on Murder charges in the deaths of Cornelia Crilley and Ellen Hover. Decades after these crimes occurred, the Manhattan District Attorney's Cold Case Unit presented these cases to the Grand Jury, which indicted ALCALA on murder charges for both Ms. Crilley and Ms. Hover.

"Cold cases are not forgotten cases -- our prosecutors, investigators, and partners in the NYPD do not give up," said District Attorney Vance. "These cases were built one brick at a time, as each new lead brought us closer to where we are today. Last year, this Office's Cold Case Unit began an exhaustive re-examination of these two homicides, including a full re-investigation of evidence, and new interviews with more than 100 witnesses. This re-focus on these cases, combined with information made available during the defendant's trial in California, finally gave prosecutors the evidence needed to secure today's indictment. It is my hope that this indictment brings a small measure of peace to the families and friends who have spent decades searching for answers, and justice."

ALCALA is currently incarcerated in California, after being convicted of five murders in that state. The District Attorney's Office has begun the process of bringing the defendant to New York to face these murder charges, under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers. Ms. Crilley, a 23-year-old TWA flight attendant, was found raped and strangled inside her Upper East Side apartment in June of 1971. Ms. Hover, who was also 23 and living in Manhattan, was found murdered in Westchester County in 1977.

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said: "I want to commend District Attorney Vance and his team, and our cold case detectives who demonstrated the kind of tenacity, imagination and resolve that solves murders even after four decades. The NYPD has been investigating this case since 1971, and followed leads across the United States to build the case against Alcala. As we often do in cold cases, our detectives made connections between Alcala and his victims piece by piece, year after year, including last April's public release toward that end of 226 images of women photographed by Alcala."

Last year District Attorney Vance created the Forensic Science/Cold Case Unit to spearhead the Office's groundbreaking DNA work. Led by experts in the forensic science field, Assistant District Attorneys Martha Bashford and Melissa Mourges, the unit is also undertaking a review of more than 3,000 unsolved homicides dating back to the 1970s, including the cases of Ms. Crilley and Ms. Hover. These reviews include time-tested investigative practices, witness interviews and advanced forensic testing.

District Attorney Vance thanked Assistant District Attorneys Martha Bashford and Melissa Mourges, co-Chiefs of the Forensic Science/Cold Case Unit, and ADA Alex Spiro, who are prosecuting this case, as well as the many current and former ADAs who worked on this case.

District Attorney Vance also thanked the New York City Police Department, particularly the detectives in the Cold Case Squad, including Detectives Wendell Stradford, Robert Dewhurst, and (ret.) Stefano Braccini. District Attorney Vance also thanked Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore for her office's work in this investigation.

Defendant Information:


Charges (charges reflect laws that were in place at time of crimes):

Intentional Murder, a class A felony
Felony Murder, a class A felony
Murder in the Second Degree, class A felony

A class A felony is punishable by 25 years to life in prison.