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Home >Unexplained : The Boston Strangler - Albert DeSalvo

 

Unexplained : The Boston Strangler - Albert DeSalvo


Source : http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/notorious/boston/index_1.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Strangler


Boston Strangler


Between June 14, 1962 and January 4, 1964, thirteen single women in the Boston area were victims of either a single serial killer or possibly several killers. At least eleven of these murders were popularly known as the victims of the Boston Strangler. While the police did not see all of these murders as the work of a single individual, the public did. All of these women were murdered in their apartments, had been sexually molested, and were strangled with articles of clothing. With no signs of forced entry, the women apparently knew their assailant(s) or, at least, voluntarily let him (them) in their homes. These were respectable women who for the most part led quiet, modest lives.

Even though nobody has ever officially been on trial as the Boston Strangler, the public believed that Albert DeSalvo, who confessed in detail to each of the eleven "official" Strangler murders, as well as two others, was the murderer. However, at the time that DeSalvo confessed, most people who knew him personally did not believe him capable of the vicious crimes and today there is a persuasive case to be made that DeSalvo wasn't the killer after all.

Between June 14, 1962 and January 4, 1964, 13 single women (between the ages of 19 and 85) were murdered in the Boston area. Most had been sexually assaulted in their apartments and were murdered in the manner indicated above. Without any sign of forced entry into their dwellings, the women were assumed to have either known their assailant or have voluntarily allowed him into their homes, believing him to be an apartment maintenanceman, deliveryman, or some other service person. Despite enormous media publicity that would presumably have discouraged women from admitting strangers into their homes after the first few murders, the attacks continued. The killings panicked and frightened many Boston-area young women, causing some to leave the area. Many residents purchased tear gas and new locks and deadbolts for home doors.

The murders occurred in several cities, making overall jurisdiction over the crimes unclear. Massachusetts Attorney General Edward W. Brooke helped to coordinate the various police forces. He controversially permitted psychometrist Peter Hurkos to use his alleged extrasensory perception to analyze the cases, which Hurkos claimed a single person was responsible for. He provided a "minutely detailed description of the wrong man", causing the press to ridicule Brooke. While the police were not convinced that all of these murders were the work of a single individual, much of the public believed so; the connection between a majority of the victims and hospitals was widely discussed.

Victims

First Stage (1962)

* Anna E. Slesers, 55, sexually molested with unknown object and strangled with the cord on her bathrobe; found on June 14, 1962 in the third-floor apartment at 77 Gainsborough St., Back Bay (source: Boston Globe Archives)
* Mary Mullen, 85, died from a heart attack but in the confession was said to have collapsed as the strangler grabbed her; found on June 28, 1962
* Nina Nichols, 68, sexually molested and strangled with her nylon stockings; found on June 30, 1962
* Helen Blake, 65, sexually molested and strangled with her nylon stockings; found on June 30, 1962 in her apartment at 73 Newshall Street, Lynn, Mass.
* Ida Irga, 75, sexually molested and strangled; found on August 21, 1962 at 7 Grove Street in Boston
* Jane Sullivan, 67, sexually assaulted and strangled with her nylon stockings; found on August 30, 1962 at 435 Columbia Road, Dorchester

Second Stage (1962-1964)

* Sophie Clark, 20, sexually assaulted and strangled with her nylon stockings; found on December 5, 1962, Boston Back Bay
* Patricia Bissette, 23, sexually assaulted and strangled with her nylon stockings; found on December 31, 1962, Boston Back Bay
* Mary Brown, 69, stabbed, strangled and beaten, found on March 9, 1963 in Lawrence, Mass.
* Beverly Samans, 23, stabbed to death on May 8, 1963 at 4 University Road in Cambridge, Mass.
* Evelyn Corbin, 58, sexually assaulted and strangled with her nylon stockings; found on September 6, 1963 in Salem, Mass.
* Joann Graff, 23, sexually assaulted and strangled on November 23, 1963 in Lawrence, Mass.
* Mary Sullivan, 19, sexually assaulted and strangled with dark stockings; found on January 4, 1964



Events

Between June 14, 1962 and January 4, 1964, 13 single women (between the ages of 19 and 85) were murdered in the Boston area. Most were sexually assaulted and strangled in their apartments. Without any sign of forced entry into their dwellings, the women were assumed to have either known their assailant or have voluntarily allowed them into their homes, believing them to be an apartment maintenanceman, deliveryman, or some other serviceman. Despite enormous media publicity that would presumably have discouraged women from admitting strangers into their homes after the first few murders, the attacks continued. The killings panicked and frightened many Boston-area young females, causing some to leave the area. Many residents purchased tear gas and new locks and deadbolts for home doors.

The murders occurred in several cities, making overall jurisdiction over the crimes unclear. Massachusetts Attorney General Edward W. Brooke helped to coordinate the various police forces. He controversially permitted psychometrist Peter Hurkos to use his alleged extrasensory perception to analyze the cases, which Hurkos claimed a single person was responsible for. He provided a "minutely detailed description of the wrong person", causing the press to ridicule Brooke. While the police were not convinced that all of these murders were the work of a single individual, much of the public believed so; the connection between a majority of the victims and hospitals was widely discussed.

Confession

Gainsborough Street, site of the first murder attributed to the Boston strangler.

On October 27, 1964, a stranger entered a young woman's home posing as a detective. He tied his victim to her bed, proceeded to sexually assault her, and suddenly left, saying "I'm sorry" as he went. The woman's description led police to identify the assailant as Albert DeSalvo and when his photo was published, many women identified him as the man who had assaulted them. Earlier on October 27, DeSalvo had posed as a motorist with car trouble and attempted to enter a home in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. The homeowner, future Brockton police chief Richard Sproles, became suspicious and eventually fired a shotgun at DeSalvo.

DeSalvo was not initially suspected of being involved with the stranglings. It was only after he was charged with rape that he gave a detailed confession of his activities as the Boston Strangler. He initially confessed to a fellow inmate, George Nassar. Nassar reported the confession to his attorney, F. Lee Bailey, who also took on DeSalvo's case. The police were impressed at the accuracy of DeSalvo's descriptions of the crime scenes. Though there were some inconsistencies, DeSalvo was able to cite details which had not been made public. However, there was no physical evidence to substantiate his confession. As such, he stood trial for earlier, unrelated crimes of robbery and sexual offenses in which he was known as The Green Man and The Measuring Man respectively. Bailey brought up the confession to the stranglings as part of his client's history at the trial in order to assist in gaining a 'not guilty by reason of insanity' verdict to the sexual offenses but it was ruled as inadmissible by the judge.

DeSalvo was sentenced to life in prison in 1967. In February of that year, he escaped with two fellow inmates from Bridgewater State Hospital, triggering a full scale manhunt. A note was found on his bunk addressed to the superintendent. In it DeSalvo stated that he had escaped to focus attention on the conditions in the hospital and his own situation. The next day he gave himself up. Following the escape he was transferred to the maximum security Walpole State Prison where, six years later, he was found stabbed to death in the infirmary. His killer or killers were never identified.

Doubts

Doubts remain as to whether DeSalvo was indeed the Boston Strangler. At the time he confessed, people who knew him personally did not believe him capable of the vicious crimes. It was also noted that the women killed by "The Strangler" came from different age and ethnic groups, and that there were different modi operandi.

DeSalvo's attorney Bailey believed that his client was the killer, describing the case in Defense Never Rests (1995). Susan Kelly, author of the 1996 book The Boston Stranglers, accessed the files of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts "Strangler Bureau". She argues that the stranglings were the work of several killers rather than a single individual. Another author, former FBI profiler Robert Ressler, said that "You're putting together so many different patterns [regarding the Boston Strangler murders] that it's inconceivable behaviorally that all these could fit one individual."

In 2000, Elaine Sharp, took up the cause of the DeSalvo family and that of the family of Mary Sullivan. Sullivan was publicized as being the final victim in 1964, although other stranglings occurred after that date. A former print journalist, Sharp assisted the families in their media campaign to clear DeSalvo's name, to assist in organizing and arranging the exhumations of Mary Sullivan and Albert H. DeSalvo, in filing various lawsuits in attempts to obtain information and trace evidence (e.g. DNA) from the government and to work with various producers to create documentaries to explain the facts to the public. Sharp pointed out various inconsistencies between DeSalvo's confessions and the crime scene information (which she obtained). For example, she observed that, contrary to DeSalvo's confession to Sullivan's murder, there was no semen in her vagina and that she was not strangled manually, but by ligature. Forensic pathologist Michael Baden observed that DeSalvo also got the time of death wrong a common inconsistency with several of the murders pointed out by Susan Kelly. She continues to work on the case for the DeSalvo family.

In the case of Mary Sullivan, murdered January 4, 1964 at age 19, DNA other forensic evidence were used by Casey Sherman to try to track down her presumed real killer. Sherman wrote about this in his book A Rose for Mary (2003), stated that DeSalvo was not responsible for her death. For example, DeSalvo confessed to sexually penetrating Sullivan, yet the forensic investigation revealed no evidence of sexual activity.





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