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Alcala met Thornton in San Antonio around August 1977 and then allegedly dumped her body on a ranch in Granger, Wyoming. “All of this was before the 1978 appearance on ,” Sweetwater County and Prosecuting Attorney Danny Erramouspe tells PEOPLE.“I think the last thing he would have guessed is that somewhere up in Wyoming a case like this would be solved.” A rancher found Thornton’s body in a field in 1982, but her identity remained a mystery for more than three decades.By the next morning, they declared it a kidnapping.” About 12 days later, her decomposed remains had been found, scavenged by animals.
Alcala, a former photographer and typesetter for the , was previously convicted of the strangulation murder of a 12-year-old ballet student in Huntington Beach, California, as well as four Los Angeles-area women.She was finally identified in 2014 after DNA linked her to her sister. Thornton’s sisters had provided their DNA to the CODIS system and they were able to get an identification because her sisters never gave up looking for her,” says Erramouspe.“If it wasn’t for Christine’s family continuing to look for her … ” Erramouspe says Thornton’s family recognized a photo of her at six-months pregnant sitting on top of a Kawasaki motorcycle wearing a yellow top: Thornton’s photo was one of hundreds released by the Huntington Beach Police Department in 2010 after Alcala was sentenced to death.His legal cases continue as authorities are actively investigating his connection to unsolved murders. The show speaks to several people involved in the case, many of whom rarely give interviews.Decades after Alcala’s horrific crimes, the victims’ families are still grappling with the pain that he inflicted.