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“I had a gut feeling there were more out there,” said Huntington Beach police Detective Patrick Ellis, who said he played only a small role in the initial investigation but was part of the decision to make the photos public.The pictures, Ellis added, came with an unspoken message: “Here it is, and here we are.” HOW SHE WAS DISCOVERED One of those photos was of a pretty 20-something woman, wearing a yellow top and flip-flops and looking to be about six months pregnant, sitting atop a Kawasaki 500 motorcycle.In all, about 200 Alcala photos were released to the public by Huntington Beach police in 2010, after Alcala was sentenced to death for five sexual assault slayings committed in the 1970s.Detectives said Tuesday that they released the photos for that exact purpose – to be seen by people who might be connected to other possible victims.When investigators in Wyoming saw the picture, they didn’t recognize the woman but they did notice the background looked like Wyoming.They eventually linked that background to a spot near where a woman’s body had been unearthed decades earlier about 6 miles north of I-80, according to the warrant.Picture now identified as Christine Ruth Thornton, released by the Huntington Beach Police Department after it was found among a series of photographs in the possession of serial killer Rodney Alcala It was one of the photographs of women found with the personal belongings of death row inmate Rodney Alcala, 73, that helped link him to the 1977 killing of Christine Ruth Thornton, sheriff’s officials and prosecutors in Sweetwater County, Wyoming said Tuesday.

“There are thousands out there that are unidentified,” he said.“This wouldn’t be solved if he didn’t have a hunch,” Handy said of Ellis.“This is a case of a detective who was super passionate.” ALCALA REACTION The new murder charge against Alcala might not change his status.That conviction was overturned in 1986 on grounds that the jury had been improperly informed of previous sex crimes committed by Alcala.That year he was retried and again convicted in Orange County, but that conviction also was overturned, this time because a witness wasn’t allowed to substantiate Alcala’s contention that a park ranger who found Samsoe’s body had been hypnotized by investigators.

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