Rodney Alcala, also known as the Dating Game Killer, was abandoned at a very young age, something that played a part in the disorder that caused him to become a killer. Understanding Alcala and his motivations is an important way for mental health workers to help others in his situation.
The primary factor in Alcala’s mental disorder, which was diagnosed as Antisocial Personality Disorder, was when his father left him and his family. When this happens at a young age, a child may feel like he is unlovable and that there is something wrong with him. These feelings of being unwanted and unloved gave Alcala incredible guilt and led to his later killings. This is because abandoned children have trouble forming relationships throughout their life and have a hard time trusting others.
The very essence of antisocial personality disorder drives the cycle of feeling unwanted and unloved. Because Alcala’s disorder led him to disregard the feelings of others and to violate their rights. Due to this, Alcala was discharged from the military, making him feel more guilt and feeding the idea that no one wanted him.
At the age of 25, Alcala raped and tried to murder an 8-year old girl in his apartment. The girl was able to escape. A short time later, he changed his name and moved. His lack of remorse for his attack on the little girl is a classic symptom of antisocial personality disorder.
While working at a camp in New York, Alcala took up photography, something that would later play a big role in his crimes. Alcala felt that he could hide behind his lens and taking photos helped him make a connection to other people. However, it also led to an obsession with his subjects and turned into a way to collect mementos of his murders.
Alcala, who was living under the alias John Berger, later killed a young white woman and was sentenced to jail time for the rape of his previous victim, the 8-year old girl. A staff psychiatrist reported that Alcala had improved while in prison, and he was released and later hired as a photographer.
A driving force behind Alcala’s crimes was his need to feel the power and control, likely stemming from the lack of both that he felt when his father left him and he was discharged from the military. Unlike most serial killers, Alcala did not have a specific type of victim. He killed young women, little girls and young boys. His main criteria for selecting a victim was whether or not he could control that person.
Because a person with antisocial personality disorder thrives off their lies and deceptions, it makes sense that Alcala applied to be a contestant on “The Dating Game,” which led to his nickname later. By going on national television and appearing to be a man simply looking for love, Alcala could trick people into looking past the symptoms of his disorder and lure them in.
However, Alcala was rejected by his partner on the show, something that led him back to his feelings of abandonment, making him angry and unhappy. This led to a further breakdown of his trust in other people and increased his lack of remorse for his crimes.
Alcala was later convicted of killing 8 people and his mental condition was scrutinized as being the cause of his need to kill. His need to have some power drove him to select helpless victims that he sexually violated before killing them. Someone with antisocial personality disorder should always have proper treatment and not everyone with the illness is a killer.