The Ones That Got Away: Tali Shapiro Rescued from Rodney Alcala

Content warning: This article describes real-life accounts of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse.

In 1969, Tali Shapiro got into the car with a man who would eventually become known as The Dating Game Killer, Rodney Alcala. A convicted serial killer and sex offender, Alcala earned his nickname after appearing on the ‘70s TV game show, The Dating Game. The full story about Alcala’s appearance on the show is recounted in a 2021 ABC News article, “A close call: How serial killer Rodney Alcala appeared on ‘The Dating Game’ and won. On The Dating Game, a bachelorette asked three bachelors, who were hidden from view, questions and picked one for a date at the end of the show.  As the story goes, the contestant, Cheryl Bradshaw, chose Alcala. However, she refused to go on the date after meeting him in person. She thought he was creepy.  

Alcala preyed on young women and girls in southern California and New York. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to death for five murders committed between 1977 and 1979. Alcala pled guilty to two other murders committed in New York in 1971 and 1977 and received an additional 25-year-to-life sentence. Alcala died of natural causes on July 24, 2021. Like many serial killers, the exact number of victims who died at his hands is unknown.

Tali Shapiro is believed to be Alcala’s first victim. Tali was eight years old on September 25, 1969. As she walked to school on Sunset Boulevard, a stranger pulled up beside her and asked her if she needed a ride. She told him she didn’t talk to strangers. He claimed to know her parents. A 2021 People article, “Woman Survived Attack by ‘Dating Game Killer’ at Age 8,” quotes Tali saying, “[…] I really didn’t want to get into the car but I was raised to respect my elders. I didn’t know to fear people.”

A picture of Sunset Boulevard
“Sunset Boulevard – California” by Dougtone is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The stranger was Rodney Alcala, a 25-year-old student at UCLA.  A 2010 LA Weekly article, “Woman Who Survived Attack by Convicted Serial Killer Rodney Alcala Four* Decades Ago Testifies in Orange County Courtroom,” reported that Tali testified that Alcala told her that he had a beautiful picture to show her after she got in his car. “I remember being shown a picture, and that was the last thing I remember,” she said.

Luckily for Tali, an observant passerby saw her get into Alcala’s car and decided to call the police. Not only that, the Good Samaritan decided to follow Alcala’s car. Alcala drove Tali to his apartment. Meanwhile, retired LAPD officer Chris Camacho responded to the call made by the unidentified Good Samaritan. A report of suspicious activity of a man picking up a little girl on Sunset Boulevard. 

Police arrived at Alcala’s apartment. Camacho testified at Alcala’s 2010 trial that Alcala didn’t answer the door right away. He threatened to kick the door in and Alcala opened up a side window and said that he was taking a shower. Camacho kicked the door in. What Camacho saw on that September day in 1969 would haunt him for a long time. In 2010, he said “I served in Vietnam, and those memories and this will stay with me forever,” he said.

Camacho found Tali near death. She was on the floor with a metal bar against her throat. Alcala managed to escape through the back door.

In a 2010 ABC News article, “Victim speaks out at Alcala sentencing,” Tali was described as lying in a pool of blood. Prosecutor Gina Satriano provided a vivid description of Tali’s appearance in Alcala’s apartment. Satriano said that Tali was “unconscious, naked with her legs spread apart, a bar across her neck.”

Guillermo Diaz as Rodney Alcala in The Dating Game Killer (2017).
Guillermo Diaz as Rodney Alcala in The Dating Game Killer (2017).

Tali described her injuries to the jurors. She said that she had “over 27 stitches in the back of [her] head. He hit [her] right over the head in the back of the head.” Tali’s injuries kept her out of school for months.

A 2021 article on The Cinemaholic, “Tali Shapiro Now: Where is Dating Game Killer’s Survivor Today? Update,” reports that police found Tali in the kitchen. She started gagging, and they knew that she was still alive. They rushed to try to save her. 

Tali slipped into a coma for 32 days and spend months recovering in the hospital. When she was released, her parents decided to move to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Tali and her family lived there for many years. 

Alcala was identified, charged, and arrested for the r*pe and attempted murder of Tali Shapiro. Alcala was able to plead guilty to a lesser charge of child molestation since Tali’s parents didn’t allow her to testify at his trial. 

Tali did agree to testify in 2010 during Alcala’s trial for the murder of five women.  As Tali concluded her testimony, Alcala surprised Tali, and probably everyone else in the courtroom. He apologized. Many sources quote Alcala, who represented himself, as saying, “I sincerely regret and apologize for my despicable actions that day.”

“He’s never apologized before, and for him to even bother, I mean, that made me sick to my stomach,” Shapiro said. She said that she’s been unable to trust people ever since.

In 2021, The Cinemaholic reported that Tali was 60 years old. She’d grown up to have a family of her own. She moved back to California at some point during her adult life and worked in the food and beverage industry. Tali also worked as a personal professional in Palm Springs. The article goes on to say that, while Tali was content with Alcala’s death sentence, she was angry that he was able to charm so many women. She thought that she should have been his first and only victim.

Rodney Alcala appeared on The Dating Game in September of 1978 while he was in the midst of his killing spree. Not only did the contestant, Cheryl Bradshaw, think he was creepy but so did the show’s executive producer, Mike Metzger, who said that “he had a mystique about him that I found uncomfortable.” Fellow bachelor Jed Mills, who sat next to Alcala during the episode, described him as “creepy.” Before the show, as the two sat in the green room, Mills said Alcala told him, “I always get my girl.”

ABC News reported hundreds of photographs of women, girls, and boys were found in a storage locker belonging to Alcala in Seattle. Some of the photos were nudes and some were of “compromising positions.” Many of the people in the photos are unidentified. If it wasn’t for an observant bystander, Tali Shapiro could have been one of those casualties. 


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  1. I was ‘one that got away’, I was 12 when I encountered him and through a string of good luck I& protection- I was not harmed. I emailed one of the detectives to give them information and share the timeline, I never received a call back. I’m now in my 50s

  2. Has anything been done about re-investigating the photos found amongst Rodney’s things when Tali was rescued?? This article states that Tali was “likely his first victim” but clearly it’s likely she wasn’t if he already had a massive collection of photos of other children. There could be other survivors out there that just never reported, or other families of victims that are still missing.

    This could be a good opportunity.

    • Hi Stew,

      The pictures that were appropriate to share online have been uploaded by the police for public viewing. The hope being that some people in the photos can be recognised by family, friends etc.

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Written by MD Bastek

Just a person who loves horror and writes about unusual things

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