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Originally published Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 4:15 PM

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Doctor: Convicted killer may not remember attacks

A man convicted of killing four Southern California women and a 12-year-old girl in the late 1970s may not remember the violent attacks because of psychotic episodes, a psychiatrist testified Thursday.

The Associated Press

SANTA ANA, Calif. —

A man convicted of killing four Southern California women and a 12-year-old girl in the late 1970s may not remember the violent attacks because of psychotic episodes, a psychiatrist testified Thursday.

Defense psychiatrist Richard Rappaport said Rodney James Alcala, 66, has a borderline personality disorder that is very difficult, if not impossible, to treat and supported Alcala's contention that he does not remember the killings of the four women.

Alcala, who is representing himself, was convicted last month of five counts of first-degree murder in Orange County Superior Court.

The jury is now hearing evidence to decide whether to recommend a sentence of life in prison or death.

Alcala has been convicted and sentenced to death twice in the June 20, 1979 slaying of 12-year-old Robin Samsoe, who was abducted while riding a friend's bike to ballet class in Huntington Beach in Orange County. Both convictions were overturned on appeal.

He was recharged in that case, and prosecutors added the 1970s serial slayings of four Los Angeles County women after investigators discovered DNA and other forensic evidence linking him to those crimes.

He was tried this year for the first time in the four adult cases, which had gone unsolved for decades.

Rappaport told the jury Thursday that Alcala had a borderline personality disorder that may have occasionally been jolted into psychotic episodes by stress, which could explain any memory lapses. After the episode, a person with that condition would be so distressed that they would block the memories as a coping mechanism.

On cross-examination, however, prosecutor Matt Murphy pointed out that two court-appointed mental health experts disagreed with Rappaport's diagnosis, and instead diagnosed Alcala as a sadistic narcissist with an anti-social personality.

Murphy said during the first phase of the trial that Alcala was a predatory monster who hunted young women in Southern California and tortured, raped and murdered them because he enjoyed it.

Alcala also read into the record testimony from his 1986 trial, when his mother said she loved him, and from five Department of Corrections Officers who said he had been a model inmate during his years on death row.

Closing arguments in the penalty phase are set for Tuesday.

(This version corrects that Rappaport is psychiatrist for defense.)

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