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BPD in the News - The Case of Rodney Alcala

By March 14, 2010

Many of you have been following the penalty phase of the trial of convicted California serial killer Rodney Alcala. This week the Associated Press reported that a psychiatrist testifying in the case, Dr. Richard Rappaport, told jurors that he believes Alcala has borderline personality disorder (BPD).

While I don't know enough about Alcala to comment on his case, I can say that it is quite rare for individuals with BPD to engage in the kinds of premeditated acts that Alcala has been accused of. In fact, this kind of violence is more often associated with two of the other Cluster B personality disorders: narcissistic and antisocial personality disorder. BPD does increase risk of violent behavior, but violent acts in people with BPD tend to be impulsive, not planned.

Why is a potential diagnosis of BPD being brought up at this phase of the trial? Currently, jurors are considering whether Rodney Alcala should get the death penalty for his crimes. If the defense (led by Alcala himself) can show that there were mitigating factors in the crimes, he may instead be sentenced to life in prison.

March 15, 2010 at 4:29 pm
(1) Randi Kreger says:

Well, THAT makes absolutely no sense. When I googled his name, an attorney said that BPD explained his “psychotic episodes” that may block his memory. I don’t think that “dissociation,” BPD DSM-lV-TR trait 9, applies to the blocking out of several murders!”

In addition, another website said that “Alcala entered the Army in 1961, and was discharged in 1964 after a military psychiatrist diagnosed him as an ‘anti-social personality, chronic, severe,’ according to a 1979 story in The Register.

I agree: if this is a PD, this is another cluster B disorder (antisocial) not BPD. I guess even with so much more info out BPD then ever before, it’s still very misunderstood.

Randi Kreger
Author, “The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder: New Tips and Tools to Stop Walking on Eggshells”
(Available at http://www.BPDCentral.com)

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