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Death Row Inmate Gets 25 Years To Life In Pair Of Cold Murder Cases

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Death row inmate Rodney Alcala of California was sentenced to 25 years to life behind bars in State Supreme Court on Monday, for the murder of two Manhattan women in the 1970s. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.

Vicious, sadistic, and heartless -- that is how Manhattan prosecutors described Rodney Alcala, a 69-year-old convicted serial killer who was sentenced Monday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan for killing two additional victims, Ellen Hover and Cornelia Crilley.

"Cornelia was beautiful, she was only 23 years old. She was full of life. She was full of hope," said a cousin of Crilley at the Monday sentencing.

Prosecutors say in 1971, Crilley, who was a flight attendant, was beaten, raped and murdered inside her apartment on the upper east side.

Then in 1977, Hover, who was also 23 years old, was killed. Her body was found in a wooded area in Westchester County.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced last month that Alcala had pleaded guilty to the two murders, bringing the cases to a long-awaited but dreadful close.

"You cannot get away with murder. The victims' families and the relatives of the victims need to know that law enforcement will never forget," said Vance.

The cases were so emotionally taxing that the judge actually broke down in tears while sentencing the serial killer.

Judge Bonnie Wittner said she had never seen anything like this case before and hopes to never see one like it again. She then gave Alcala two sentences of 25 years to life, to be served concurrently.

"It was overwhelming and it meant a lot to me. I was actually so very surprised. I've never even on television seen a judge cry," said Katie Stigell, Crilley's sister.

Alcala is already on death row in California for the murder and rape of five women and children. He was a photographer who also went by the name "John Berger" who even was a winning contestant on the TV show "The Dating Game."

He has been imprisoned since 1979.

"I hope that this case brings hope to the other families of cold cases," said Anita Sobel Feinberg, a friend of Hover.

Vance said his cold case unit is working with the New York City Police Department to review more than 3,000 other homicides dating back to the 1970s.

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