Murderpedia

 

 

Juan Ignacio Blanco  

 

  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

 

 
   

Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.

   

 

 

Albert Henry DeSALVO

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


A.K.A.: "The Boston Strangler"
 
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 0 - 13
Date of murders: June 1962 - January 1964
Date of arrest: November 1964
Date of birth: September 3, 1931
Victims profile: Anna Slesers, 55 / Mary Mullen, 85 / Nina Nichols, 68 / Helen Blake, 65 / Ida Irga, 75 / Jane Sullivan, 67 / Sophie Clark, 20 / Patricia Bissette, 23 / Mary Brown, 69 / Beverly Samans, 23 / Evelyn Corbin, 58 / Joann Graff, 23 / Mary Sullivan, 19
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Status: Never convicted of murder. Sentenced to life in prison on January 9, 1967. Killed in prison by another inmate on November 25, 1973
 
 
 
 
 

photo galleries

 
desalvo 1 desalvo 2
 
victims
 
 
 
 
 
 

Federal Bureau of Investigation

 

Albert DeSalvo, self-admitted serial killer also known as The Boston Strangler, was the subject of an FBI unlawful flight to avoid confinement investigation when he escaped from a Massachusetts state mental hospital on February 24, 1967. DeSalvo was being held at the hospital pending appeal of a life sentence for numerous rapes. Local authorities apprehended DeSalvo in Lynn, Massachusetts, the following day.

 
 

Albert DeSalvo a.k.a. The Boston Strangler

 
 
 
 
 
 

The Boston Strangler

BBC Crime Case Closed

The Boston Strangler was America's first "serial killer" of the modern era.

Of course, there had been serial killers before Jack The Ripper in the East End of London in the late 1880s, and Peter Kurten, the Vampire of Dusseldorf, in the 1920s.

But by the 1960s, mass market television, radio and newspapers had appeared on the scene and they seized on the Boston Strangler phenomenon and unwittingly created widespread panic...

Between June 1962 and January 1964, 13 women in the Boston area were strangled. The police did not believe they were the work of one individual, but the public were convinced by the media that they were all victims of a murderer they dubbed, "the Boston Strangler".

What was so terrifying to the residents of Boston was that the Strangler's victims were not prostitutes or vagrants, but respectable, middle aged or elderly women who were attacked in their own homes.

The first victim

On the evening of June 14th 1962, Anna Slesers, a 55-year-old Latvian-born seamstress, had just finished dinner. She decided to have a quick bath before her son Juris arrived to pick her up for a Latvian memorial service which was being held in her church.

As the trickle of running water merged with the music of the opera Tristan und Isolde coming from her gramophone, there was a knock at the door.

It was the Boston Strangler.

When her son arrived about an hour later, he could not get an answer. And knowing that she was inside, he forced the door open and found her lying dead in the bathroom with the cord from her bathrobe tied around her neck.

Legacy of doubt

The Boston Strangler case continues to fascinate Americans almost 40 years after his reign of terror began. In December 2001, new DNA tests cast doubt on whether Albert DeSalvo, the man who confessed to the murders, was the real killer after all.

In fact, DeSalvo was never actually convicted of the murders. He was officially committed to a psychiatric hospital for a series of rapes known as 'The Green Man' offences, but Boston police have always considered him to be The Strangler.

However, James Starrs, Professor of Forensic Evidence at George Washington University, states that DNA evidence found on the body of the last victim, 19-year-old Mary Sullivan (pictured below centre), did not match DeSalvo's, who was murdered in his jail cell in 1973. In addition, Mary Sullivan's nephew Casey Sherman has spent the last 12 years trying to prove that DeSalvo did not kill his aunt. Mr Sherman, who is a TV producer, told BBC Crime: "He was convicted solely on the basis of a confession, which was riddled with inaccuracies."

Mr Sherman went on to say that many people, including lawyers, police officers and journalists, used the Boston Strangler as a "golden goose" to boost their careers. But he said he believed the case against DeSalvo was fundamentally flawed.

He also believes that DeSalvo, who was already facing many years in jail for the Green Man offences, made up his confession in the hope that it would lead to a lucrative book and film deal which would take care of his wife and two children.

DeSalvo silenced

He told BBC Crime: "I'm convinced DeSalvo was stabbed to death because he was going to tell the real story. He had told his psychiatrist he was fed up with the charade of being the Boston Strangler and was going to tell the truth."

To this day, DeSalvo's killer has never been caught.

Mr Sherman also claims that DeSalvo's murder in Walpole State Penitentiary was a "contract killing" ordered by someone who wanted to shut DeSalvo up. "His killer had to go through six checkpoints, stab him 28 times and then go back through those six checkpoints covered in blood. Prison officers must have colluded in the attack," he said.

In 1995, Sherman tried to "reach out" to the DeSalvo family, who had their own doubts about Albert being the killer, in an effort to prove once and for all that he was innocent. The debate about the Boston Strangler continues and Mary Sullivan's body was eventually exhumed in 2000; with DeSalvo's corpse being dug up a year later.

DNA tests

Thomas Reilly, the Massachusetts Attorney General, re-opened the DeSalvo case in 2000, in an effort to use modern DNA technology to confirm whether or not he was the real Boston Strangler. But despite this seemingly positive move, Mr Sherman claims the case was only reopened as a "public relations exercise" and he accused the Attorney General's office of being obstructive.

However, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's office, Ann Donlan, refutes this accusation: "We have tried to carry out DNA tests, but the testing is at a stage where we need the co-operation of the DeSalvo family."

She denied that relations had broken down with both the Sullivan and DeSalvo families, but admitted that: "We've met numerous times, but they have chosen not to provide us with a sample and we can't progress it further." She made further comments that Prof Starrs' tests were "interesting, but irrelevant" and said that the only tests which were of use to law enforcement were those carried out by law enforcement.

Confessing

To the hard-pressed Strangler Bureau, Albert DeSalvo must have seemed like manna from heaven when he dropped into their laps in March 1965. He had already been arrested and charged in November 1964 with a series of rapes in Connecticut known as the Green Man offences because the attacker wore green overalls. But he was not considered a suspect by the Strangler Bureau until five months later when he confessed to F Lee Bailey, his lawyer.

Albert certainly fits the profile of a serial killer. As one of six children in his family, he grew up with a warped view of both sex and violence, mainly as a result of his alcoholic father, Frank, who beat both his children and his wife. At the age of seven, Albert saw his father knock his mother's teeth out and break her fingers; snapping each one in turn. His father later sold him and two of his sisters as slaves to a farmer who paid $9 for them all.

As soon as he possibly could young Albert joined the Army and, after a spell in Germany, he ended up at Fort Dix in New Jersey. But in 1956 he was given an honourable discharge, a year after an allegation was made against DeSalvo by a nine-year-old girl.

The family moved to Boston and tried to start over.

But it didn't take long for DeSalvo to get in trouble again, as he was arrested numerous times for breaking and entering and, in 1961, he was jailed for 18 months for what became known as the Measuring Man offences.

The Measuring Man offences were very odd crimes that involved DeSalvo knocking on the door of an apartment and, if a young woman answered, he would convince her that he was scouting for a modelling agency. Once he'd persuaded his victim to let him in, DeSalvo would simply take their measurements. When he was released from prison in April 1962, he returned to his German wife, Irmgard. But that was just the beginning...

A city in fear

By the end of June 1962, four women had fallen victim to The Strangler.

He initially chose old or middle aged women: Helen E Blake, Ida Irga and Mrs J Delaney are all pictured on the right. But in December of the same year, the killer turned his attention to younger women; killing two girls in their 20s.

"I would go home and watch what I had done on TV. Then I would cry like a baby," DeSalvo said during his confession.

A massive manhunt began and the women of Boston were gripped by an unspeakable fear. There was never any forced entry and detectives struggled to understand how the killer managed to talk his way into his victims' apartments. In a vain attempt to end the murders, the police put out warnings to women living alone, but the killings still continued...

Four more victims were claimed in 1963 and, four days into 1964, the youngest victim, 19-year-old Mary Sullivan was killed. The full details of the crime scene were deemed too sick and unspeakable to be printed in most of Boston's newspapers. Mary had been strangled with a stocking and two pink silk scarves and a cheery Happy New Year card had been placed by her feet.

Mary was to be the last victim of the Strangler and 11 months later DeSalvo was arrested.

Despite all this, Casey Sherman remains convinced that DeSalvo was not the Boston Strangler. He says his investigations have led him to a possible suspect, a man who was the police's prime candidate in 1964, prior to DeSalvo's arrest, who is now living in northern New England. Sherman wants the Attorney General's office to authorise DNA testing of the man to compare him with samples found at the scene of his aunt's murder.

Forty years later, it seems the search for the Boston Strangler goes on.

The victims:

  • 14 Jun 1962: Anna Slesers, 55

  • 28 Jun 1962: Mary Mullen, 85

  • 30 Jun 1962: Nina Nichols, 68

  • 30 Jun 1962: Helen Blake, 65

  • 21 Aug 1962: Ida Irga, 75

  • 30 Aug 1962: Jane Sullivan, 67

  • 5 Dec 1962: Sophie Clark, 20

  • 31 Dec 1962: Patricia Bissette, 23

  • 9 Mar 1963: Mary Brown, 69

  • 6 May 1963: Beverly Samans, 23

  • 8 Sep 1963: Evelyn Corbin, 58

  • 23 Nov 1963: Joann Graff, 23

  • 4 Jan 1964: Mary Sullivan, 19

This profile of the Boston Strangler was written by BBC News Online's Chris Summers.

BBC.co.uk

 
 

Albert Henry DeSalvo (November 3, 1931 - November 25, 1973) was a serial killer active in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, in the early 1960s. Dubbed the Boston Strangler, DeSalvo confessed to the murders of thirteen women in the Boston area.

The Albert DeSalvo Controversy

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.

This story presents both sides of the argument and lets you make the decision for yourself. It is not an easy decision to make as many psychiatrists, lawyers, criminologists, authors and friends of Albert DeSalvo have discovered.

Of the eleven official Boston strangling victims, six were between the ages of 55 and 75. Two possible additional victims were 85 and 69 years of age. The remaining five victims were considerably younger, ranging in age from 19 to 23.

Not that 55 years of age is really old. Not these days and not really in 1962. And certainly not for Anna E. Slesers, a petite divorcee who looked years younger than her age. More than a decade earlier, she had fled Latvia with her son and daughter and settled in her small apartment in a quiet old-fashioned neighborhood in the Back Bay area.

77 Gainsborough Street is one of many brick town houses that had been subdivided into small apartments to meet the needs of people with limited incomes, both students and retired people. Anna Slesers, a seamstress making $60 a week, lived on the third floor.

On the evening of June 14, 1962, she had finished dinner and just had enough time to take a quick bath before her son, Juris, was to pick her up for the Latvian memorial services that were being held in her church that night. In her robe, she went into the bathroom and turned on the water, listening to the inspiring strains of the opera Tristan und Isolde .

Just before seven o'clock, Juris knocked at his mother's door. No answer and the door was locked. He was annoyed. He hadn't wanted to take his mother to the services in the first place. Juris pounded on the door and then he began to get worried. Was she sick, perhaps lying helpless on the floor inside? Maybe even worse, she had sounded so depressed on the phone when he spoke to her the night before. He threw his weight against the door twice and it flew open.

His worst fears were confirmed when he saw her lying in the bathroom with the cord from her robe around her neck. He telephoned the police and his sister in Maryland to tell her about the tragic "suicide." Gerold Frank in The Boston Strangler describes how Homicide Detectives James Mellon and John Driscoll found her:

Mellon was always to remember his first sight of Anna Slesers' body, its sheer, startling nudity, and the shockingly exposed position in which it had been left. She lay outstretched, a fragile-appearing woman with brown bobbed hair and thin mouth, lying on her back on a gray runner. She wore a blue taffeta housecoat with a red lining, but it had been spread completely apart in front, so that from shoulders down she was nude. She lay grotesquely, her head a few feet from the open bathroom door, her left leg stretched straight toward him, the other flung wide, almost at right angles, and bent at the knee so that she was grossly exposed. The blue cloth cord of her housecoat had been knotted tightly about her neck, its ends turned up so that it might have been a bow, tied little-girl fashion under her chin.

The apartment was made to look as though it had been ransacked. Anna's purse was lying open with its contents partially strewn on the floor. A wastebasket in the kitchen had been rummaged through with some of the trash on the floor around it. Drawers had been left open in the bedroom dresser, their contents moved about. A case of color slides had been carefully placed, not dropped, on the bedroom floor. The record player was on, but the amplifier had been turned off. But despite this attempt to make the scene look like a robbery, a gold watch and other pieces of jewelry were left untouched.

Anna had been strangled with the cord of her robe which had been tied around her neck tightly into a bow. Her vagina showed evidence of sexual assault with some unknown object.

A detailed investigation into her life revealed a woman completely involved in her church, her children, her work and her love of classical music. She kept to herself and had very few friends. There were no men in her life aside from her son.

Police assumed that the crime had started out as a burglary. When the burglar saw the woman in her robe he was overcome by an uncontrollable urge to molest her, killing her afterwards to avoid being recognized.

Older Female Victims of Albert DeSalvo

A couple of weeks later on June 30, sixty-eight-year-old Nina Nichols was murdered in her apartment at 1940 Commonwealth Avenue in the Brighton area of Boston . The apartment looked like it had been burglarized: every drawer had been pulled open, possessions lay scattered around wildly on the floor as though a tornado had ripped through it. But, oddly enough, one open drawer revealed a set of sterling silver that had been untouched, as were the few dollars in her purse, her expensive camera and the watch on her wrist. The killer had gone through her address book and her mail for some unknown reason. Later it was determined that nothing had been taken. The chaos of disorder, the ransacking was for nothing.

She was found with her legs spread, her housecoat and slip pulled up to her waist. Tied tightly around her neck were two of her own nylon stockings with the ends tied ludicrously in a bow. She too had been sexually assaulted. Blood had been found in the vagina. The time of death was estimated to be around 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

The retired physiotherapist led a very quiet and modest life. She had been widowed for two decades and had no male friends except for her brother-in-law.

That very same day, some fifteen miles north of Boston in the suburb of Lynn, Helen Blake met a similar death sometime between 8 and 10 A.M. The sixty-five-year-old divorcee had been strangled with one of her nylons. Her brassiere had been looped around her neck over the stockings and tied in a bow. Both her vagina and anus had been lacerated, but there was no trace of spermatozoa. She was found lying face down nude on her bed with her legs spread apart.

Her apartment had also been thoroughly ransacked. It appeared as though the two diamond rings that Helen wore had been pulled from her fingers and taken. The killer had tried unsuccessfully to open a metal strongbox and a footlocker.

Police Commissioner Edmund McNamara was very alarmed. A warning went out to women in the Boston area to lock all of their doors and be wary of strangers. He cancelled all police vacations and transferred all detectives to work for Homicide. A thorough investigation began of all known sex offenders and violent former mental patients. They were looking for a madman, one that probably attacked older women because of some hatred of his mother. A former FBI man, McNamara called on the Bureau to hold a seminar on sex crimes for his fifty best detectives.

On August 19, seventy-five-year-old Ida Irga, a very shy and retiring widow fell victim to the Strangler. She was found two days later in her apartment at 7 Grove Avenue in the Boston 's West End . As in the other deaths, there was no sign of forced entry. Whoever killed her, she had probably let in voluntarily.

Police Sergeant James McDonald described how he found her: "Upon entering the apartment the officers observed the body of Ida Irga lying on her back on the living room floor wearing a light brown nightdress which was torn, completely exposing her body. There was a white pillowcase knotted tightly around her neck. Her legs were spread approximately four to five feet from heel to heel and her feet were propped up on individual chairs and a standard bed pillow, less the cover, was placed under her buttocks." It was an alarming parody of an obstetrical position, which faced the front door of the apartment and was the first thing anyone saw when coming through the entrance. Most of these details were withheld from the press.

She had died from manual strangulation. Dried blood covered her head, mouth and ears. She, too, had been sexually tampered with although no spermatozoa were present.

Within twenty-four hours of Ida Irga's murder, a sixty-seven-year-old nurse named Jane Sullivan was killed in her apartment at 435 Columbia Road in Dorchester , across town from where Ida lived. She had been dead for some ten days before she was found.

Police found her on her knees in her bathtub with her feet up over the back of the tub and head underneath the faucet. She, too, had been strangled by her own nylons, probably in the kitchen, bedroom or hall where blood was found on the floors. She may have been sexually assaulted, but the corpse was so badly decomposed that it could not be determined. However, there were bloodstains on the handle of a broom. There was no sign of forcible entry, nor was the apartment ransacked, even though Jane's purse was found open.

Panic gripped all of Boston.

A Young Victim of Albert DeSalvo

Boston got a 3-month breather, which gave the police a chance to check out absolutely everyone they wanted to check out. Nothing much came of this flurry of diligent activity except a long list of people who probably were not the Strangler.

Vacation ended December 5, 1962, when Sophie Clark, a popular and attractive twenty-one-year-old African-American student at the Carnegie Institute of Medical Technology was found by her two roommates. The apartment Sophie shared was at 315 Huntington Avenue in the Back Bay area, a couple of blocks away from Anna Slesers' apartment.

Sophie lay nude with her legs spread wide apart in the living room strangled by three of her own nylon stockings which had been knotted and tied very tightly around her neck. Her half-slip had also been tied around her neck. There was evidence of sexual assault and semen was found on the rug near her body.

There was no sign of forcible entry, but Sophie was very security conscious and had insisted on having a second lock on the apartment door. She was so cautious that she even questioned friends that came to the door before she let them in, yet her killer had somehow convinced her to let him in. Sophie had struggled with her murderer. The killer had rummaged through the drawers in the apartment and had examined her collection of classical records.

Sophie had been writing a letter to her boyfriend when she was interrupted, probably by the Strangler. She did not date anyone in the Boston area and was very reserved with the opposite sex.

There were some differences now that had not surfaced in the earlier Strangler murders. Sophie was black and she was young and she did not live alone. Also, for the first time, there was evidence of semen at the scene of the crime.

When police questioned the neighbors, Mrs. Marcella Lulka who lived in the same building mentioned that around 2:20 that afternoon a man had knocked on her door and said that the super had sent him to see her about painting her apartment. He then told her that he'd have to fix her bathroom ceiling and complimented her on her figure. "Have you ever thought of modeling?" he asked her.

She put her finger to her lips and the man became angry. His character seemed to change completely.

"My husband is sleeping in the next room," she told him. He then said he had the wrong apartment and left hurriedly. She described him as between 25 and 30 years old, of average height and with honey-colored hair, wearing a dark jacket and dark green trousers.

Was this the Strangler? Very likely, since the building superintendent had not dispatched any one to check on his tenants. Also, 2:30 in the afternoon was approximately the time that Sophie Clark had been murdered.

More Victims of Albert DeSalvo

Three weeks later twenty-three-year-old Patricia Bissette, a secretary for a Boston engineering firm, was discovered on Monday, December 31, 1962, when her boss became worried about her. He went to her apartment that morning to pick her up for work, but she had not answered the door. When she never arrived at work, he went back to her apartment building at 515 Park Drive in the Back Bay area in which Anna Slesers and Sophie Clark had lived. Her apartment was locked, so her boss, with the help of the custodian, climbed through a window into the apartment.

They found her in face up in bed with the covers drawn up to her chin, looking like she was taking a nap. Underneath the covers, she lie there with several stockings knotted and interwoven with a blouse tied tightly around her neck. There was evidence of recent sexual intercourse and she was in an early stage of pregnancy. There had been some damage to her rectum.

The killer had searched her apartment.

Things were quiet for a couple of months. The police took the opportunity to backtrack and look for any clue that would link these people together. Any person that they may have all known or met; any place they may have all visited or shopped. Creeps, nuts and perverts were checked again, but with no significant results.

In early March of 1963, twenty-five miles north of Boston in Lawrence, sixty-eight-year-old Mary Brown was found beaten to death in her apartment. She had also been strangled and raped.

The murder scene moved back to Boston two months later. On Wednesday, May 8, 1963, Beverly Samans, a pretty twenty-three-year-old graduate student missed choir practice at the Second Unitarian Church in Back Bay . Her friend went to her apartment and opened it with the key she had given to him.

The moment he opened the door, she lay directly in front of him on a sofa bed, her legs spread apart. Her hands had been tied behind her with one of her scarves. A nylon stocking and two handkerchiefs tied together were tied and knotted around her neck. Over her mouth a cloth had been placed. Under it, a second cloth had been stuffed into her mouth.

While it appeared that Beverly had been strangled, she had, in fact, been killed by the four stab wounds to her throat. She had sustained twenty-two stab wounds in all -- eighteen of which were in a bull's eye design on her left breast. The ligature around her neck was "decorative" and not tied tightly enough to strangle her. The bloody knife was found in her kitchen sink. She had not been raped by man or object, nor was there any spermatozoa present in her body. It was estimated that she had been dead approximately 48-72 hours and had probably been killed between late Sunday evening or Monday morning.

She was studying to be an opera singer and had planned to try out for the Met in New York that year. Police speculated that because of her singing she had developed very strong throat muscles that may have made strangulation more difficult and resulted in her stabbing.

Albert DeSalvo and The Psychic

The police were getting desperate. Someone had put them in touch with an ad copywriter named Paul Gordon who supposedly had special ESP qualities, who claimed that he knew who the Strangler was and what he looked like. The police were more than normally receptive to this untraditional approach. Paul began his description of the man who killed Anna Slesers:

I picture him as fairly tall, bony hands, pale white skin, red, bony knuckles, his eyes hollow-set. I was particularly struck by his eyes. His hair disturbed me a little because he has a habit of pushing back a little curl of hair that falls on his forehead. He's got a tooth missing in the upper right front of his mouth. He's in a hospitalor some kind of home. He's not confined, I know that, because I see him walking across a wide expanse of lawn. He can walk about, and he does a lot of sitting on a bench on the grounds.

He has many problems. He used to beat up his mother cruelly -she was an idiotic, domineering woman-and his two sisters live unhappy lives. The family comes from Maine or Vermont . He's terribly lonely - when he's in the city. I see him sleeping in cellars, but he likes to wander about the street watching women, wanting to get as close as possible to them. You see, the poor fellow is in a continual search for his mother, but he can't find her because she's dead.

One of the detectives brought out a number of photos of men who had been caught mugging or breaking and entering into buildings in the Back Bay area. Gordon identified one of them, an Arnold Wallace, as the Strangler, who matched the description that Gordon had given earlier.

Wallace was a 26-year-old mental patient at Boston State Hospital who had "ground privileges". A few days earlier he had wandered away and was sleeping in the basement of apartment houses. He was violent and had beaten his mother on occasion.

Then Gordon switched to the murder of Sophie Clark, correctly describing her apartment in minute detail as though he had been there. The killer, Gordon said, was a large, husky black man who Sophie knew. The detectives were flabbergasted by the detail in which he described the apartment. Not only that, Lewis Barnett, who fit Gordon's description, was a suspect in Sophie's murder. He had dated her once and it was possible that she would have let him in her apartment.

Gordon said that the Strangler would identify himself soon and confess. "And when this fellow confesses, it's going to be like a big carpet rolled out in front of you and all the answers will be so simple you'll kick yourself for months at a time that you couldn't see it."

When the police went to check on Arnold Wallace they found out that he had escaped the hospital five or six times, which happened to coincide with the strangling deaths. Gordon also went to the hospital so that he could see Arnold Wallace in the flesh. "He's the man," Gordon told them positively.

The police decided to look into Gordon's activities before they went any further with Arnold Wallace. Gordon had been to the hospital before he had talked to the police, so he could have seen Arnold on the grounds. Maybe the whole thing was a hoax. Maybe Gordon was the Strangler.

Arnold, whose IQ was between 60-70, was given a lie detector test. His low intelligence and his inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality made communication difficult. The test was inconclusive. He was taken back to the hospital, while police tried to check out all of the circumstantial evidence.

The Killings Continue

There was another quiet period during the summer of 1963. June, July and August passed without another strangling. Then on September 8, 1963, in Salem , Evelyn Corbin, a pretty fifty-eight-year-old divorcee, who passed herself off as more than a decade younger, was found murdered.

She had been strangled with two of her nylon stockings. She lay across the bed face up and nude. Her underpants had been stuffed into her mouth as a gag. Around the bed were lipstick-marked tissues that had traces of semen as well. Spermatozoa were found in her mouth, but not in her vagina.

Her locked apartment had been searched, but apparently nothing was stolen. A tray of jewelry had been put on the floor and her purse had been emptied onto the sofa. One strange clue could not be explained. Outside her window on the fire escape was a fresh doughnut, which was not deposited or thrown there by anyone in the building.

On November 25, the Boston area was still grieving for the loss of their beloved President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated three days earlier. While most American stayed numbly glued to their television sets, Joann Graff was raped and murdered in her ransacked Lawrence apartment.

The very conservative and religious twenty-three-year-old industrial designer had died shortly before the President. Two nylon stockings had been tied in an elaborate bow around her neck. There were teeth marks on her breast. The outside of her vagina was bloody and lacerated.

At 3:25 P.M., the student that lived above her heard footsteps in the hall. His wife had been concerned that someone had been sneaking around in the hallways, so he went to the door and listened. When he heard a knock on the door of the apartment opposite his, the student opened his door to find a man of about twenty-seven with pomaded hair, dressed in dark green slacks and a dark shirt and jacket.

"Does Joan Graff live here?" he asked, mispronouncing Joann's name.

The student told him that Joann lived on the floor below the apartment at which he was knocking. Moments later, he heard the door open and shut on the floor beneath him and assumed that Joann had let the man in her apartment. Ten minutes later, a friend telephoned Joann, but there was no answer.

The morning before Joann's death, in the apartment down the hall from Joann's, a woman heard someone outside her door. Then she saw a piece of paper being slipped under her door. She watched, mesmerized, as it was being moved from side to side soundlessly. Then, suddenly, the paper vanished and she heard footsteps.

A little over a month later on January 4, 1964, two young women came home after work to their apartment at 44A Charles Street . They were stunned to find their new roommate, nineteen-year-old Mary Sullivan, murdered in the most grotesque and shocking fashion.

Like the other victims, she had been strangled: first with a dark stocking; over the stocking a pink silk scarf tied with a huge bow under her chin; and over that, another pink and white flowered scarf. A bright "Happy New Year's" card had been placed against her feet.

It got worse: she was in a sitting position on the bed, with her back against the headboard. Thick liquid that looked like semen was dripping from her mouth onto her exposed breasts. A broomstick handle had been rammed three and a half inches into her vagina.

Strangler Bureau

Enough was enough. Certainly people faulted the police for many things, but the reality was that serial killers are very difficult to find, especially smart ones that don't leave clues. In spite of the panic that women experienced all over Boston and its suburbs, the fact was that women were continuing to let the killer(s) into their apartments. The police could only guess whether these women admitted him to their homes because they knew him or because he was able to trick them into letting a stranger inside.

A couple of weeks after the murder of Mary Sullivan, Massachusetts Attorney General Edward Brooke took over. On January 17, 1964, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in the state made the case his own, showing the city that it was his top-most priority.

Brooke was no ordinary law enforcement type nor was he an ordinary politician. He was a very handsome, intelligent and polished professional. He was also the only African-American attorney general in the country. Even more remarkable was the fact that he was a Republican in a solidly Democratic state.

There were some real political risks to doing this, particularly if the Strangler were never captured, but Brooke's plan made a great deal of practical sense.

He meant no disrespect for the Boston police, but this was an unusual case that spanned five police jurisdictions. The group Brooke was putting together would coordinate the activities of the various police departments. There would be permanent staff assigned to the Strangler that would not be pulled off to work on other crimes. There would be no withholding of information between the area's police departments because of petty jealousies or feuds.

Furthermore, Brooke's task force would mollify the newspapers. Two women reporters, Jean Cole and Loretta McLaughlin, for the Record-American had made a crusade out of exposing the Boston Police Department's mistakes, charging them with extreme inefficiency.

To head up this task force formally called the Special Division of Crime Research and Detection, he selected a close friend, the Assistant Attorney General John S. Bottomly.

Bottomly was a controversial choice because of his lack of experience in criminal law. However, as Bottomly's supporters pointed out, he was exceptionally honest and bubbled over with enthusiasm. It was a "nontraditional case" and Bottomly was a man of nontraditional methods.

Not every one shared the enthusiasm about Bottomly's qualifications. Edmund McNamara, the Boston Police Commissioner reportedly said, "Holy Jesus, what a nutcake." Novelist George V. Higgins, who worked for Associated Press at that time, said that he "never heard a reference to Bottomly without the word asshole attached as either a suffix or a prefix. I started to think maybe it was part of the guy's name."

Bottomly's top team consisted of Boston Police Department's Detective Phillip DiNatale and Special Officer James Mellon; Metropolitan Police Office Stephen Delaney; and State Police Detective Lieutenant Andrew Tuney. Dr. Donald Kenefick headed up a medical-psychiatric advisory committee with several well known experts in forensic medicine.

Two months later, Governor Peabody offered a $10,000 reward to any person furnishing information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who had committed the murders of the eleven "official" victims of the Strangler.

The Strangler Bureau, as the task force became known, had several major pieces of business before it could hit the ground running. It had to collect, organize and assimilate over thirty-seven thousand pages of material from the various police departments that had been involved in the case.

For the medical committee, they had the task of developing the profile of the kind of person who would commit the murders. The forensic medical experts saw important differences between the murders of the older women and the younger women. For that reason, they thought it was unlikely that one person was responsible for all of the killings. In other words, there were copycats.

What kind of person would be capable of such murders? Dr. Kenefick reported what his team believed the police should be looking for:

He was at least 30 years old, a probably a good deal older. He is neat, orderly, and punctual. He either works with his hands, or has a hobby involving handiwork. He most probably is single, separated or divorced. He would not impress the average observer as crazy He has no close friends of either sex."

At Bottomly's suggestion, Brooke finally consented to a risky move: the involvement of Peter Hurkos, the well-known Dutch psychic. Two private groups paid for Hurkos' services and expenses. He was a difficult person to work with and ultimately got into difficulty for allegedly impersonating an FBI agent.

Hurkos did identify a suspect -- one who the Strangler Bureau had investigated. The suspect was a shoe salesman with a history of mental illness. However, there was no evidence whatsoever to link the shoe salesman with the murders. Eventually, the man committed himself to an institution.

The Strangler Bureau's credibility suffered on account of Hurkos.

Measuring Man

A couple of years before the strangling murders began, a series of strange sex offenses began in the Cambridge area. A man in his late twenties would knock at the door of an apartment and if a young woman answered, he would introduce himself: "My name is Johnson and I work for a modeling agency. Your name was given to us by someone who thought you would make a good model." He would hasten to assure her that the modeling would not be in the nude or anything like that, just evening gowns and swimsuits. The pay was $40 an hour. He had been sent to get her measurements and other information if she was interested. Apparently a number of women were interested and flattered and allowed him to take out his tape measure and measure them.

He seemed like a nice enough person with a charming, boyish smile. When he was finished, he told them that Mrs. Lewis from the agency would be contacting them if the measurements were suitable. Of course, there was never any call from Mrs. Lewis because neither she nor the modeling agency existed. Eventually, some of the women contacted the police.

On March 17, 1961, Cambridge police caught a man trying to break into a house. Not only did he confess to breaking and entering, but he confessed to being the " Measuring Man. "

His name was Albert DeSalvo, a 29-year-old man with numerous arrests for breaking into apartments and stealing whatever money he found. He lived in Malden with his German wife and two small children. He worked during the day as a press operator in a rubber factory.

When asked why he perpetrated this pathetic charade, he responded: "I'm not good-looking, I'm not educated, but I was able to put something over on high-class people. They were all college kids and I never had anything in my life and I outsmarted them."

The judge, ultimately sympathetic to DeSalvo's role as a bread-earner, reduced the sentence he received to 18 months. With good behavior, DeSalvo was released in April of 1962, 2 months before the first victim of the Strangler, Anna Slesers, was found. Albert DeSalvo was born in Chelsea , Massachusetts , on September 3, 1931. His parents, Frank and Charlotte had five other children. His father was a violently abusive man who regularly beat his wife and children. As a boy, he was delinquent, arrested more than once on assault and battery charges. Throughout his adolescence, he went through periods of very good behavior and then lapses into petty criminality.

His mother Charlotte remarried and did her best to keep her son out of trouble. Their relationship, aside from the disappointments she suffered when he got into trouble, was a reasonably good one.

He was in the Army from 1948 through 1956 and was stationed for awhile in Germany . There he met his wife, Irmgard Beck, an attractive woman from a respectable family. At one time, he was promoted to Specialist E-5, but later was demoted to private for failing to obey an order. He received an honorable discharge.

In 1955, he was arrested for fondling a young girl, but the charge was dropped. That year, his first child was born. Judy had a physical handicap in the form of congenital pelvic disease. This problem had a large impact on DeSalvo's homelife.

His wife was terrified that she would have another child with a physical handicap and did everything she could do to avoid sex. DeSalvo on the other hand had an abnormally voracious sexual appetite, requiring sex many times a day.

Between 1956 and 1960, he had several arrests for breaking and entering. Each time, he received a suspended sentence. In 1960, his son Michael was born without any physical handicaps.

In spite of his brushes with the law, Albert seemed to stay employed. After he worked as a press operator at American Biltrite Rubber, he worked in a shipyard and subsequently as a construction maintenance worker. Most people who knew Albert DeSalvo liked him. His boss characterized him as a good, decent, family man and a good worker. He was a very devoted family man and treated his wife with love and tenderness.

Aside from being a thief, he had another serious character weakness: he was a confirmed braggart. He always had to top the other guy, no matter what the situation was. Police Commissioner Edmund McNamara summarized the problem: "DeSalvo's a blowhard."

Green Man

Early in November of 1964, almost three years after he had been released from jail, DeSalvo was arrested again. This time the charges were more serious than breaking and entering and measuring prospective models.

On October 27, a newly married woman lay in bed dozing just after her husband left for work. Suddenly, there was a man in her room who put a knife to her throat. "Not a sound or I'll kill you," he told her.

He stuffed her underwear in her mouth and tied her in a spread eagle position to the bedposts with her clothes. He kissed her and fondled her, and then he asked her how to get out of the apartment. "You be quiet for ten minutes." Finally he apologized and fled.

She got a very good look at his face. The police sketch reminded the detectives of the Measuring Man.

They brought DeSalvo to the station where she was able to observe him through a one-way mirror. There was no doubt about it. He was the man. DeSalvo was released on bail. Routinely, his photo went over the police teletype network and soon calls came in from Connecticut where they were seeking a sexual assailant they called the Green Man, because he wore green work pants.

Police arrested him at home and arranged for the victims to identify him. He was mortified that his wife would see him in handcuffs. His wife was not surprised. Albert was obsessed with sex. No one woman would ever be enough for him. In fact, the Green Man had assaulted four women in one day in different towns in Connecticut . His wife told him to be completely truthful and not to hold anything back.

He admitted to breaking into four hundred apartments and a couple of rapes. He had assaulted some 300 women in a four-state area. Given DeSalvo's tendency to aggrandize, it was difficult to tell if the number was really that high. Many of the instances had gone unreported and in those that were, the women were reticent to describe what all he did to them.

"If you knew the whole story you wouldn't believe it," he told one of the cops. "It'll all come out. You'll find out."

DeSalvo was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for observation. While the police did not believe that DeSalvo could be the Strangler, they wanted the psychiatrist there to examine him.

Shortly after DeSalvo arrived at Bridgewater , a dangerous man named George Nassar also became an inmate. He had been charged with a vicious execution-style murder of a gas station attendant. Nassar was no ordinary thug. His IQ approached genius level and his ability to manipulate people was highly developed. While in prison for an earlier murder, he had been studying Russian and other subjects. He was put in the same ward with DeSalvo and became his confidant.

Albert DeSalvo Confesses

In early March of 1965, DeSalvo's wife Irmgard got a call at her sister's house in Denver from a man named F. Lee Bailey, who said he was Albert's attorney. He told her to assume a different name, leave the area with her children and go into hiding at once to avoid the deluge of publicity that was going to descend upon her if she didn't do what he said. "Something big is going to blow up about Albert it will be on the front pages of every newspaper in 24 hours. I'm flying out to see you tomorrow so I can help you myself."

The next day she was told that Albert had confessed to being the Strangler. She hung up on the man in disbelief. She couldn't understand why he would confess to such a lie. There was no way that she could believe that he was capable of such brutality. It had to be another of Albert's attempts to make himself seem important. Some newspaper must be offering him money. That had to be the reason.

What had brought all of this about? Well, Albert was starting to think about money: money specifically to support his family while he was in jail. He had a pretty good idea that with the charges against him that he could end up spending the rest of his life in jail. Somehow he had to take care of Irmgard and his two children. The idea of selling a story and collecting reward money began to take shape in his mind.

Some months earlier before Albert was sent to Bridgewater , his lawyer Jon Asgiersson went to see Albert who asked him, "What would you do if someone gave you the biggest story of the century?"

"Do you mean the Boston Strangler?"

Albert said yes.

"Are you mixed up in all of them, Albert? Did you do some of them?"

"All of them," Albert admitted. He thought the story might bring some money for his family.

Asgiersson wasn't quite sure what to do with this information and seriously considered the possibility that Albert was insane. He began a quiet inquiry.

Meantime, Albert went to Bridgewater and struck up his friendship with George Nassar. Regardless of whose idea it was, the two discussed the reward money for information leading to the conviction of the Strangler. Nassar and DeSalvo mistakenly assumed that $10,000 would be paid for each victim of the Strangler or a total of $110,000 for the eleven official victims. If Nassar turned him in and DeSalvo confessed, they could work out a deal to split the money.

DeSalvo, who expected to spend the rest of his life in an institution, did not intend to get himself executed. But then, no one had been executed in the state for seventeen years.

There was a good chance that he could convince the shrinks that he was insane and could spend the rest of his life in a mental hospital instead of a prison. Not too bad, considering the alternatives, especially when he didn't have to worry about money for his family..

F. Lee Bailey, who had already distinguished himself in the Dr. Sam Sheppard case, was George Nassar's lawyer. Bailey heard about DeSalvo from Nassar and went to visit Albert with a Dictaphone on March 6. Not only did Albert confess to the murders of the eleven "official" victims, but he admitted to killing two other women, Mary Brown in Lawrence and another elderly woman who died of a heart attack before he could strangle her.

Bailey Believes

F. Lee Bailey in The Defense Never Rests says he felt very comfortable being around DeSalvo:

That was one of the pieces that fell into place in the puzzle of the Boston Strangler. It helped explain why he had been able to evade detection despite more than two and a half years of investigation. DeSalvo was Dr. Jekyll; the police had been looking for Mr. Hyde.

One of the things that struck me about DeSalvo at our first meeting was his courteous, even gentle manner. I stared at him, seriously considering the possibility that he might be the Strangler, and I felt something that verged on awe. As for DeSalvo, his gaze dropped from time to time in what appeared to be embarrassment.

...DeSalvo was thirty-three at the time, about five-nine with broad shoulders and an extremely muscular build. His brown hair was combed back in an exaggerated pompadour. His nose was very large, and his easy smile was emphasized by even white teeth.

When Bailey questioned him on what DeSalvo wanted of him, DeSalvo was quite forthright: "I know I'm going to have to spend the rest of my life locked up somewhere. I just hope it's a hospital, and not a hole like this [ Bridgewater ]. But if I could tell my story to somebody who could write it, maybe I could make some money for my family."

Bailey thought that there must be someway to allow him to confess without setting him up for execution. But foremost in Bailey's mind was determining if DeSalvo was really guilty without putting his client in jeopardy. Bailey called Lieutenant Donovan and suggested that he might have a suspect for him, but first he wanted Donovan to provide him with some questions to ask the suspect that would help determine if he was for real.

Armed with his Dictaphone, Bailey went to visit DeSalvo a second time on March 6, 1965. Albert mentioned that Detective DiNatale from the Attorney General's Strangler Bureau had taken a sudden interest in him and had come to take his palm print the day before. Bailey had to work fast if he was going to be able to protect his client.

Bailey says of that interview: "...I became certain that the man sitting in that dimly lit room with me was the Boston Strangler...Anyone experienced in interrogation learns to recognize the difference between a man speaking from life and a man telling a story that he either has made up or has gotten from another person. DeSalvo gave me every indication that he was speaking from life. He wasn't trying to recall words; he was recalling scenes he had actually experienced. He could bring back the most inconsequential details...the color of a rug, the content of a photograph, the condition of a piece of furniture...Then, as if he were watching a videotape replay, he would describe what had happened, usually as unemotionally as if he were describing a trip to the supermarket."

DeSalvo described his attack on seventy-five year-old Ida Irga in August of 1962:

I said I wanted to do some work in the apartment and she didn't trust me because of the things that were going on and she had a suspicion of letting, allowing anybody into the apartment without knowing definitely who they were. And I talked to her very briefly and told her not to worry, I'd just as soon come back tomorrow rather than in other words, if you don't trust me, I'll come back tomorrow, then. And I started to walk downstairs and she said, 'Well, come on in.' and we went into the bedroom where I was supposed to look at a leak there at the window and when she turned, and I put my arms around her back...

[Bailey asks him where the bedroom was relative to the front door and how he got to the bedroom]

I think it went through a...a parlor as you walked in, and a dining room and a bedroom. Oh, before the bedroom was a kitchen, and the bedroom was way back. The bed was white. It wasn't made, either...She was in the midst, probably, of making the bed up. And there was an old dresser there and I opened the drawers up and there was nothing in them, nothing at all. They were empty. And, uh, when I did get her by the neck and strangler her

[Bailey asks if he grabbed her from behind]

Yes. Manually. I noted blood coming out of her ear very dark...the right ear. I remember that, and then I think there was the dining room set in there, a very dark one, and there was brown chairs around it, and I recall putting her legs up on her two chairs in a wide position one leg in each chair ...

Bailey asked him why he would choose such an old woman to attack.

DeSalvo told him that "attractiveness had nothing to do with it." She was a woman. That was enough.

DeSalvo then described the attack on Sophie Clark, the twenty-two-year-old student who was killed in December of 1962:

She was wearing a very light, flimsy housecoat, and she was very tall, well built, about 36-22-37. Very beautiful...

[Her apartment]...had a yellowish door, a faded yellow door...And she didn't want to let me in, period. Because her roommates weren't in there at the time...and I told her I would set her up in modeling and photography work, and I would give her anywhere from twenty dollars to thirty-five dollars an hour for this type of modeling.

...there was a place where there would be ...what do you call a flat bed, where you put a - something over it, but you take it off, you can use it to sit on, like a couch? It had fancy little pillows on it, colorful ones, purple ones. It looked like a purple or black cover.

The Police Believe

There were so many details that he remembered that could be checked with the police. Bailey called Lieutenant Donovan and his colleague Lieutenant Sherry to his office and they listened to the Dictaphone, which Bailey played at different speeds to disguise Albert's voice.

The detectives listened very closely when DeSalvo described the attack on Sophie Clark:

First DeSalvo said that when he attempted intercourse with Sophie he discovered she was menstruating. He described the napkin he removed from between her legs, and the chair he had thrown it behind. Second, he said that as he was going through Sophie's bureau looking for a stocking to knot about her neck, he knocked a pack of cigarettes to the floor. He named the brand and described the place on the floor where he left them. At this, Sherry grabbed the briefcase and pulled out a photo showing a bureau and a pack of cigarettes just as Albert had described them. On the back of the photo there was an inscription "Homicide Clark, Sophie December 5, 1962. ( The Defense Never Rests )

Commissioner McNamara and Dr. Ames Robey, the psychiatrist at Bridgewater , were called into the consultation. After talking with DeSalvo, Bailey got him to agree to cooperate with the police and take a lie detector test. They really couldn't go too far without getting John Bottomly, the head of Edward Brooke's Strangler Bureau, involved.

Subsequently, there was a lot of unpleasant legal wrangling while Bailey tried to protect his client from execution and Attorney General Brooke wanted to keep control of the investigation. The stakes were now higher in so much that Brooke was going to run for senator with the incumbent retiring. Resolution of the Strangler case would be a nice boost to his campaign.

The issue of intensive questioning of DeSalvo on all of the murders and checking out every detail of his confession was critical. Finally, on September 29, 1965, the interrogation was completed. More than fifty hours of tapes and 2,000 pages of transcription resulted. While each detail of the confession was checked out, Bottomly, Brooke and Bailey tried to work out the rules for whatever would happen next.

The original doubts about whether DeSalvo really was the Strangler were quickly dissipating:

Details piled upon details as DeSalvo recalled the career of the Strangler, murder by murder. He knew there was a notebook under the bed of victim number eight, Beverly Samans; he knew that Christmas bells were attached to Patricia Bissette's door. He drew accurate floor plans of the victims' apartments. He said he'd taken a raincoat from Anna Slesers's apartment to wear over his T-shirt because he had taken off his bloodstained shirt and jacket. Detectives found that Mrs. Slesers had bought two identical coats and had given one to a relative. They showed the duplicate to DeSalvo, along with fourteen other raincoats tailored in different styles. DeSalvo picked the right one.

He described an abortive attack on a Danish girl in her Boston apartment. He had talked his way into the place, and had his arm around her neck when he suddenly looked in a large wall mirror. Seeing himself about to kill, he was horrified. He relaxed the pressure and started crying. He was sorry, he said, he begged her not to call the police. If his mother found out, [he lied] she could cut off his allowance, and he wouldn't be able to finish college. The young woman never reported the incident. With nothing to go on other than DeSalvo's memory, DiNatale found her. Not surprisingly, she remembered the incident vividly.

Eventually, the Strangler Bureau came to the same conclusion that F. Lee Bailey had Albert DeSalvo was the Boston Strangler. Now, there was a much larger issue to contend with: how to justly serve the rights of the confessed Strangler and the demands of the people for justice.

Doubts - The Evidence

Nobody that knew DeSalvo believed that he was the Strangler: his wife and family, his former employers, his lawyer, an eminent prison psychiatrist, and even the police who had become very familiar with Albert with his frequent arrests for breaking and entering. Everyone who knew him thought of him as a very gentle, decent family man, who just happened to be an incorrigible small-time thief.

Susan Kelly in The Boston Stranglers: The Public Conviction of Albert DeSalvo and the True Story of Eleven Shocking Murders makes a persuasive argument for DeSalvo being innocent of the strangling murders.

She cites a number of reasons why she and others still believed that DeSalvo was innocent. One of the strongest of these reasons is that there was "not one shred of physical evidence that connected him to any of the murders. Nor could any eyewitness place him at or even near any of the crime scenes. Albert had a relatively memorable face, particularly because of his prominent, beak-like nose.

The Strangler (or Stranglers, since some experts believe that it had to be at least two different murderers and possibly more) was seen by a number of eyewitnesses.

One was Kenneth Rowe, the engineering student who lived on the floor above Joann Graff's apartment. He spoke to the stranger who was looking for her apartment just before she was killed. When Rowe was shown a photo of Albert DeSalvo, he did not recognize him as the man looking for Joann.

Jules Vens who ran Martin's Tavern right near Joann Graff's apartment in Lawrence, did not identify DeSalvo as the man who, dressed identically to the man Rowe had seen, had come into the tavern nervous and agitated as though someone were following him.

Eileen O'Neil could not identify DeSalvo as the man whom she saw in Mary Sullivan's bathroom window around the time of her death.

Plus, Kelly points out, "three fresh Salem cigarette butts were found in an ashtray near Mary Sullivan's bed. Neither Mary nor her roommates smoked this brand. A Salem cigarette butt was found floating in the toilet of Apartment 4 - C at 315 Huntington Avenue in Boston the day Sophie Clark died there...Albert DeSalvo did not smoke."

Doubts - The Witnesses

Even more remarkable were the reactions that two very important eyewitnesses had to seeing Albert and his killer friend George Nassar. Marcella Lulka, who lived in the same apartment building as Sophie Clark, had an encounter with a man called "Mr. Thompson" who said he had come to paint her apartment. This man was about 5 feet nine with pale honey-colored hair combed straight back over an oval face. She said he could have been a light-skinned black or a white man. She estimated his age as around 25 years old. She got rid of him by telling him that her husband was asleep inside her apartment. This encounter was just before Sophie Clark was murdered.

"Mrs. Lulka later sketched for police a portrait of "Thompson." It shows a delicately featured young man with a long, narrow face, a very thin nose, a point chin, and large, almond-shaped eyes. It looks nothing like Albert DeSalvo." (Kelly).

When Albert began confessing to the stranglings, Bottomly rounded up Mrs. Lulka and Gertrude Gruen so that they could secretly view Albert in prison. Gertrude Gruen was considered at that time the only woman who survived an encounter with the Strangler. She had given her attacker a good fight and he fled.

Both women thought that they were coming to view one man - Albert DeSalvo. Neither realized that they would see another man also - George Nassar. The women posed as visitors in the prison's visiting room. Nassar was the first one to enter the room to meet with the prison social worker. Gerold Frank describes this unexpected reaction:

[George Nassar]..darted a sharp glance at her [Gruen], and then a second. She thought, There's something upsetting, something frighteningly familiar about that man. Could he know her?

At that moment, DeSalvo entered and took his place across the table from Dr. Allen. Miss Gruen looked at him. No, he was not the man who talked with her, attempted to strangle her, the man with whom she fought, the man who fled when her screams brought workers on the roof peering into her windows.

But the man now talking to the social worker, the man who had turned his dark eyes on her so sharply -

Moments later, in Dr. Robey's office, surrounded by police, she said agitatedly, "I don't know what to say...I'm so upset." She appeared on the verge of a breakdown...Finally she was able to talk.

It was not Albert DeSalvo, she said. When she had been shown his photographs a week earlier, she'd thought she saw certain similarities. "Now, I know he is not the man," she said. But the first man who entered - George Nassar - I realize how shocked I was when I saw him. To see this man, his eyes, his hair, his hands, the whole expression of him..." He looked like the man who attacked her, walked, carried himself like him, his posture..."My deep feelings are that he had very great similarities to the man who was in my apartment."

But - she was not sure. She wept with frustration. She wanted so badly to identify this man.

And Marcella Lulka, who had also been brought to identify DeSalvo?

She had not been sure when shown his photographs a few days before. Now, she said, seeing him in person, she must definitely eliminate him. But the prisoner who preceded him - Nassar -when she saw him enter, her heart jumped. In every way but one -his eyes, his walk, his furrowed face, his dark, speculative gaze -he was her mysterious caller of that dreadful afternoon. Only his hair was different. "Mr. Thompson" had honey-colored hair, as she had told detectives. This man's hair was black. Might it not have been dyed the day she saw him..."

The motive for DeSalvo confessing to the crimes remains the same whether he actually committed them or not. He believed that he would be spending the rest of his life in jail for the Green Man attacks and wanted to use the confession to raise money to support his wife and children. Plus, to a braggart like DeSalvo, being the notorious Boston Strangler would make him world famous. Dr. Robey testified that "Albert so badly wanted to be the Strangler."

Doubts - The Confession

One of the key issues that Kelly addresses - with mixed success - is the accuracy of the voluminous confession and its myriad of details, some of which were correct and some of which were not. How did Albert DeSalvo, a man of average or less than average intelligence convincingly absorb so many, many details about the victims and their apartments if he was not the Strangler?

Kelly points out that Albert had an exceptional memory. Dr. Robey testified that he had "absolute, complete, one hundred per percent total photographic recall." One of his lawyers. Jon Asgeirsson noted that "Albert had a phenomenal memory. Another of his lawyers, Tom Troy agreed, "It was remarkable."

Robey cites an example of how he tested Albert's ability to make instantaneous mental carbon copies of people, places, things: "We had a staff meeting [at Bridgewater ] with about eight people. Albert walked in and walked out. The next day we had him brought back in. Everyone had on different clothes, was sitting in different positions. I said, "Albert, you remember coming in yesterday? Describe it."

Albert did, perfectly (Kelly)

She also cites a number of sources of information available to Albert to learn what he did about the crimes:

1.       The newspaper accounts were extraordinarily detailed. The Record American printed up a chart, along with the victims' photos, called "The Facts: On Reporters' Strangle Worksheet." This chart was a summary of all the important details of each crime, what victims were wearing, their hobbies, affiliations, etc. Kelly says, "That DeSalvo had memorized this chart is apparent because in his confession to John Bottomly, he regurgitated not only the correct data on it but the few pieces of misinformation it contained as well.

2.       Leaks by law enforcement agencies, particularly the Strangler Bureau, which was criticized for being lax with its accumulated material, and the Suffolk County Medical Examiner, who allegedly held a number of unauthorized press conferences in which he freely distributed information about the victim autopsies.

3.       Albert's own research as a burglar put him in many of the apartment buildings in which women were murdered. He knew the layouts of the apartments and, according to Kelly, had visited each apartment after the murder.

4.       Information deliberately and inadvertently fed to him by people anxious to wrap up the investigation, such as John Bottomly, who, according to Kelly, "did knowingly and quite intentionally provide Albert with information about the murders -while he was taking the latter's confession to them...which explains why the only version of it [the confession] ever made public was abbreviated and heavily doctored. The full version virtually exonerates DeSalvo."

5.       Possible information provided by another suspect who could have coached DeSalvo on the details. Police speculated that George Nassar could have been one such source of information.

Finally, experts never saw the stranglings as the work of one individual. The modi operandi were not identical and the victims as a group were quite dissimilar. Kelly summarizes some of the more obvious differences:

No similarity whatsoever exists between the relatively delicate killing of Patricia Bissette, whose murderer tucked her into bed, and the ghastly homicidal violation inflicted on Mary Sullivan, whose killer's intent was not just to degrade his victim by shoving a broom handle into her vagina but to taunt the discoverer of her corpse by placing a greeting card against her foot. Beverly Samans was stabbed but not sexually assaulted; Joann Graff was raped vaginally and strangled. Evelyn Corbin had performed -probably under duress - oral sex on her killer. Jane Sullivan was dumped facedown to rot in a bathtub. Ida Irga was left in the living room with her legs spread out and propped up on a chair.

Serial killers tend to select and stick with a particular kind of victim. For example, Jack the Ripper picked prostitutes; Ted Bundy picked pretty, longhaired young girls; Jeff Dahmer young boys, etc. The strangling victims represent a wide disparity in age and attractiveness and race which flies in the face of serial killer profiling expertise. A very likely explanation is that some of the crimes were committed by one individual, especially the murders of Ida Irga, Jane Sullivan and Helen Blake.

And what about Mary Mullen, the elderly woman who died of a heart attack? Kelly says that this may be the only killing of which DeSalvo is guilty. He probably burglarized her apartment and she died of fright. Did the same Albert DeSalvo who carried his unintended victim over to her couch and fled without stealing anything savage the bodies of Ida Irga and Jane Sullivan?

The Mary Brown affair raised some interesting questions. She had been raped, strangled and beaten to death in Lawrence in early March of 1963. Albert's confession to this crime was very sketchy and many of the details were incorrect. Perhaps, Albert had been told about this crime from the Bridgewater inmate who was really responsible. Kelly says Mary Brown lived on the same street as the man that George Nassar shot to death in 1948.

The Jury Speaks

Once the Commonwealth was satisfied that DeSalvo was the Strangler, very sticky legal issues had to be resolved before any trial could be held. Basically, DeSalvo's confession was inadmissible as evidence.

Bailey put it this way to Brooke and Bottomly: "When I met Albert, there were enough indictments pending against him to pretty much ensure that he'd never be walking the streets again. Now, I've helped him disclose that he's committed multiple murder, it's a certainty he'll never be released. Show me some way to avoid the risk of execution - I'll run the risk of conviction, but not execution and you can have anything you want. I know damn well that neither of you really wants to see him killed. Tell me, is that asking too much?"

Brooke didn't think Bailey was asking for too much, but he wanted to think about it some more. At this point he was a solid candidate for the Senate and they agreed that it would be a mistake to have the DeSalvo trial in the midst of the campaign. At least Bailey could get a ruling on whether DeSalvo was mentally competent to stand trial. And despite the objections of Dr. Robey, DeSalvo was found competent to stand trial.

Finally on January 10, 1967, Albert DeSalvo was tried on the Green Man charges. Bailey explained that "the basic strategy by which I hoped to convince a jury to find Albert not guilty by reason of insanity was simple: I would attempt to use the thirteen murders he had committed as the Boston Strangler to show the extent of his insanity. To do this, I would try to get both his confession and its corroboration by police into evidenceCertainly the problem was unusual: I wanted the right to defend a man for robbery and assault by proving that he had committed thirteen murders."

Donald L. Conn led the prosecution team, F. Lee Bailey the defense in Judge Cornelius Moynihan's court. Conn called four Green Man victims with very similar stories. DeSalvo would either jimmy the door or con his way in to the apartment verbally. He would tie the woman, strip her and fondle her breasts, demand fellatio or cunnilingus, but stopped short of rape. He used a knife or toy gun to ensure cooperation. After he was done, he took money and jewelry from the victims. Bailey did not cross-examine the witnesses because he felt he had nothing to gain by doing so.

Bailey said in his opening statement that he had no doubts that DeSalvo committed the crimes as charged and the only "issue was whether the Commonwealth could prove that he was not insane at the time." Bailey brought forth his expert witnesses to testify to Albert's paranoid schizophrenia. They said that while Albert knew what he was doing was wrong, "his Green Man crimes were the result of an irresistible impulse."

Conn pointed out that the non-sexual aspects of the crimes jimmying the locks, lying to gain entrance and the theft of valuables were not a result of irresistible impulse. The psychiatrist agreed that only the sexual assaults were.

The jury thought about it for four hours, found DeSalvo guilty on all counts and sentenced him to life in prison. The psychiatric help he wanted was denied.

Bailey was very angry: "My goal was to see the Strangler wind up in a hospital, where doctors could try to find out what made him kill. Society is deprived of a study that might help deter other mass killers who lived among us, waiting for the trigger to go off inside them."

Aftermath of the Albert DeSalvo Murders

Albert DeSalvo was serving out his life sentence at Walpole State Prison, now called MCI-Cedar Junction, when he was stabbed to death in the infirmary in November of 1973. The night before he was murdered, he telephoned Dr. Ames Robey and asked him to meet with him urgently. DeSalvo was very frightened. Robey promised to meet with him the next morning, but Albert was murdered that night.

Albert had asked one other person to meet with him and Robey a reporter. Robey explained," He was going to tell us who the Boston Strangler really was, and what the whole thing was about. He had asked to be placed in the infirmary under special lockup about a week before. Something was going on within the prison, and I think he felt he had to talk quickly. There were people in the prison, including guards, that were not happy with himSomebody had to leave an awful lot of doors open, which meant, because there were several guards one would have to go by, there had to be a fair number of people paid or asked to turn their backs or something. But somebody put a knife into Albert DeSalvo's heart sometime between evening check and the morning."

Officials believed that Albert's death was related to his involvement in a prison drug operation. 3 men were tried, but twice the trials ended in hung juries.

Albert wrote this poem a few years before his death:

Here is the story of the Strangler, yet untold,
The man who claims he murdered thirteen women,
young and old.
The elusive Strangler, there he goes,
Where his wanderlust sends him, no one knows
He struck within the light of day,
Leaving not one clue astray.
Young and old, their lips are sealed,
Their secret of death never revealed.
Even though he is sick in mind,
He's much too clever for the police to find.
To reveal his secret will bring him fame,
But burden his family with unwanted shame.
Today he sits in a prison cell,
Deep inside only a secret he can tell.
People everywhere are still in doubt,
Is the Strangler in prison or roaming about?

Albert DeSalvo Case Under Review

Although Albert De Salvo was never charged with the strangulation murders of 11 women due to a lack of evidence, many thought that he was the Boston Strangler, especially after he confessed. Two people very close to the case believe he didn't do it. One is Albert's brother Richard DeSalvo; the other is Casey Sherman, the nephew of the strangler's last known victim, Mary Sullivan. Both men and their families are convinced that Albert DeSalvo did not kill Mary Sullivan. If they are correct, their findings may not only overturn the prosecution's case against DeSalvo but will almost certainly cast doubt on the entire Boston Strangler case, in which 11 Boston-area women were sexually assaulted and murdered between 1962 and 1964.

Ironically, it was DeSalvo's own taped confession that convinced the families he was not the killer. "Police say he had to be the killer because he knew things that only the killer would know, but when we listened to the confession tape, it's completely wrong. He confessed to events that simply never happened." said Casey Sherman. Mary Sullivan, who was killed in 1964 at age 19, was Casey's mother's sister.

Albert DeSalvo, a blue-collar worker with a wife and children, confessed to all of the Boston Strangler murders, as well as two others. But, there was never any physical evidence connecting him to the crime scenes. He did not match witness descriptions of possible suspects. His name was not on a list of more than 300 suspects compiled by case investigators and he was never tried in any of the killings. DeSalvo was sent to prison for life for another string of rapes and sexual assaults and was stabbed to death in the maximum-security state prison at Walpole in 1973 - but not before he recanted his confession. At the time of his death, he was in fear of his life and had been housed in the prison infirmary to provide him additional protection.

In October 2000, the two families united to have Sullivan's remains exhumed for DNA testing, a technology that was not available nearly 37 years ago. They hope the results, expected in early 2001, will put further pressure on prosecutors to release to them old evidence they hope will clear DeSalvo. Sherman and his family also believe that his aunt's killer is still at large. For the DeSalvo's, the primary motivation is to clear their family name. Richard DeSalvo said that members of his own family have been constantly berated and assaulted because of the Boston Strangler case and that it has led to rifts in the family.

All 11 women believed to be the Strangler victims were strangled with articles of their own clothing, and one was also stabbed repeatedly. The prosecution has always argued that Albert De Salvo possessed information that only the killer would know. Sherman countered by suggesting that DeSalvo could have gotten details about Sullivan's slaying from the newspapers.

This view is supported by Susan Kelly in her 1995 book {Boston Stranglers: The Wrongful Conviction of Albert De Salvo and the True Story of Eleven Shocking Murders} -- but she goes further suggesting that DeSalvo could have learnt the details from the "real" killer in prison. In his confession, DeSalvo said he strangled Mary Sullivan with his hands. In reality, she was strangled with her own clothing. DeSalvo also claimed to have raped her when evidence has proven that she was sexually assaulted with a broomstick. A forensic scientist who took part in an autopsy arranged by the families said experts were unable to find the effects of a blow DeSalvo claimed to have inflicted on Sullivan. Also, the families said DeSalvo claimed to have left a knife and a sweater at the murder scene but neither was found.

Tests are also being conducted on 68 samples of hair, semen and tissue taken from Sullivan's exhumed body. Richard DeSalvo said his brother's body would also be exhumed if it would help their case. Sherman said a prime suspect in his aunt's death is a former boyfriend of one of her roommates as there was no evidence of forced entry into her apartment.

Richard De Salvo believes his brother confessed to the Boston Strangler killings because he knew he was going to prison for life for other crimes and wanted to cash in on book and movie deals and use the proceeds to take care of his family. According to the families, DeSalvo's lawyer, F. Lee Bailey, convinced him that if he confessed, he would go to a mental institution rather than prison.

Even though Bailey still claims that Albert DeSalvo is the Boston Strangler, he supports the families' campaign to have DNA tests carried out, as he believes that the results will prove that DeSalvo did it.

The state attorney general's office is currently "reviewing" the Sullivan slaying but has continually denied the families access to evidence because they consider the case is still unsolved. In October 2000, a judge ordered the two sides to try to work out a compromise but the Boston authorities have been less than cooperative. Jerry Leone, chief of the Massachusetts attorney general's criminal bureau, said that if evidence does point to someone other than DeSalvo as Sullivan's killer, it doesn't necessarily cast doubt on all the other Boston Strangler murders and doesn't mean the other cases will be reinvestigated. "We are looking into the Sullivan case because it's the only case that has any evidence that can be used in a viable prosecution right now," Leone said. On the other hand, Richard DeSalvo believes that if it is proven his brother didn't kill Mary Sullivan, it raises a serious question about who really killed the others.

In recent months, Attorney General Thomas Reilly has made it very clear that he will not allow the release of any evidence causing the families to reactivate their lawsuit against the state of Massachusetts .

On February 23, 2001, Judge William G. Young reinstated the lawsuit, which calls for the release of all evidence pertaining to the original investigation so that the families can pursue their own investigation. The state has since sought a motion of dismissal.

After a private investigation conducted by Casey Sherman, both families are even more convinced that DeSalvo was coerced into confessing in the belief that he would receive favorable attention if he did. To support their case the families have offered the results of the forensic tests carried out on Mary Sullivan's remains, which have shown no indications of head trauma and damage to the fragile neck bones normally associated with strangulation.

The matter now rests with Judge Young. Should the lawsuit be successful, the authorities will be ordered to hand over to the families, all evidence pertaining to the Boston Strangler investigation for the purposes of private analysis. If the lawsuit fails the family is expected to launch an appeal. More importantly, if the DNA results prove conclusively that DeSalvo was not the killer, the entire case may be reopened and a new hunt instigated for the real Boston Strangler.

On October 20, 2001, Court TV reported that new DNA tests would be performed on evidence taken from the remains of Mary Sullivan, one of 11 victims attributed to the alleged Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo.

Thomas Reilly, the Massachusetts Attorney General, told Court TV that he had ordered the tests to be performed: "The family has raised legitimate questions in terms of the way it was investigated, they've asked us to look into things and we are."

The family of Mary Sullivan has long argued that she wasn't a victim of the Boston Strangler and believes that her real killer is still alive.

This latest development was a direct result of individual investigations that were mounted by relatives of both Sullivan and DeSalvo, which brought additional pressure on authorities to reconsider their findings.

A week later, on Friday October 26, 2001, a report by Associated Press described how Albert DeSalvo's body had been exhumed from a gravesite in Massachusetts and taken to a forensic laboratory in York College Pennsylvania for examination. The following Saturday an autopsy was conducted on the remains in the hope of attempting to prove De Salvo's innocence of the murders and possibly, to identify his killer.

James E. Starrs, a professor of forensic sciences at George Washington University , led the team of scientists who performed the autopsy: Starrs is best known for his identification work on other high-profile cases including the Lizzie Borden hatchet murders, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and the outlaw Jesse James.

He told AP : "The family has been unsatisfied all these many years concerning the death of Albert DeSalvo and failure to find anyone guilty of the death."

On Thursday, December 13, 2001, Court TV reported that DNA evidence taken from Mary Sullivan's remains did not provide a match to Albert DeSalvo. During a news conference, James Starrs told reporters: "We have found evidence and the evidence does not and cannot be associated with Albert DeSalvo."

Starrs made it very clear that the evidence only clears DeSalvo of sexual assault. While he did not give details of the analysis, he told reporters: "If I was a juror, I would acquit him with no questions asked."

Mary Sullivan's nephew, Casey Sherman, who has always doubted that DeSalvo killed his aunt or any of the other victims attributed to him, said he feels vindicated by Starrs' finding: "If he didn't kill Mary Sullivan, yet he confessed to it in glaring detail, he didn't kill any of these women."

Sherman also told reporters that, prior to De Salvo's confession, police had what they considered as "a prime suspect" in Sullivan's murder but dropped the case after DeSalvo confessed. Sherman urged police to "go after the real killer" who, according to him, is still alive and living in New England .

All text that appears in this section was provided by www.crimelibrary.com (the very best source for serial killer information on the internet). Serialkillercalendar.com thanks the crime library for their tireless efforts in recording our dark past commends them on the amazing job they have done thus far).

SerialKillerCalendar.com

 
 

Albert DeSalvo

On October 16, 2000 -- thirty-six years after her death -- the body of the last victim of the Boston Strangler was exhumed to be examined for signs of her killer's real identity. A private autopsy on Mary Sullivan, who was killed in 1964, was conducted following a request by her family and the family of DeSalvo. The two families believe that DeSalvo was not the feared Boston Strangler and that he confessed to being the killer only because he thought his family could make money from book and film deals about the murders.

Arguing that the Boston Strangler case is still an open homicide investigation, the state and Hub police have again refused to share DNA evidence with families of Albert DeSalvo and the alleged killer's last victim. Attorneys rejected a settlement offer in a federal lawsuit filed by the relatives of Mary Sullivan and DeSalvo asking the state to hand over two of six semen samples collected from the Beacon Hill crime scene in 1964. "It's crazy. We should be working in conjunction to find her killer," said Sullivan relative and local TV producer Casey Sherman.

The relatives of Sullivan and DeSalvo believe the confessed killer is not the real Boston Strangler and believe the Boston Police Department wants to avoid the embarassment of having to acknowledge that they have blamed to wrong man for the city's most infamous crime spree. Homicide investigators have refused to share the Strangler evidence citing that it would set a dangerous precedent.

The Boston Strangler Timeline:

Jan. 4, 1964 -- Mary Sullivan, 19, the last of the 11 victims, found murdered in her apartment in the Beacon Hill section of Boston.

1965 -- Albert DeSalvo, a factory worker serving time for armed robbery and sex offenses, confesses to the strangler's 11 murders and two others. He never is charged for them.

1973 -- DeSalvo killed in prison by another inmate.

July 1999 -- Boston police reopen the Strangler case, hoping to use DNA technology to analyze evidence from the crimes.

Sept. 14, 2000 -- The DeSalvo and Sullivan families sue local and state authorities in Massachusetts to force investigators to turn over crime scene evidence they say will prove DeSalvo's innocence.

Oct. 14, 2000 -- Sullivan's remains exhumed for DNA testing.

Oct. 20, 2000 -- Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly says his office will do new DNA tests on evidence from Sullivan's slaying.

Oct. 26, 2001 -- DeSalvo's body exhumed for DNA testing.

Dec. 6, 2001 -- Forensic scientists announce that DNA evidence taken from Sullivan's body does not match DeSalvo's DNA.

UPDATE: December 6, 2001

Nearly four decades after the case file has been closed, new forensic evidence has brought into question the identity of the Boston Strangler and the guilt of Albert Desalvo, the factory worker who confessed to the murders.

The team of forensic scientists who exhumed the body of Strangler victim Mary Sullivan revealed that tests on her clothing and remains found DNA from two individuals other than Sullivan, and neither of them was DeSalvo.

"We have found evidence, and the evidence does not and cannot be associated with Albert DeSalvo," said James Starrs, a professor of forensic science and law at George Washington University. "I, as a juror, would acquit him with no questions asked."

The evidence appears to clear DeSalvo only of sexual assault, but Starrs and other forensic scientists who took part in the investigation said it also raises significant doubt that DeSalvo killed Sullivan.

A statement released by the families' attorneys Daniel and Elaine Whitfield Sharp said the work of Starrs' team proves "beyond reasonable doubt" that DeSalvo didn't kill Sullivan. The DeSalvo and Sullivan families believe DeSalvo may have confessed in hopes of making money from book and movie deals.

"If he didn't kill Mary Sullivan, yet he confessed to it in glaring detail, he didn't kill any of these women," said Casey Sherman, Sullivan's nephew.

Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly, who began reinvestigating Sullivan's murder last year at the request of the DeSalvo and Sullivan families, said in a statement that the new findings don't resolve the question of whether DeSalvo killed Sullivan.

A prosecutor who worked on the original strangler investigation in the 1960s said the new DNA tests do not prove that DeSalvo is innocent of Sullivan's killing or any of the other slayings. "It doesn't prove anything except that they found another person's DNA on a part of Miss Sullivan's body," said Julian Soshnick. "I believe that Albert was the Boston Strangler."

Soshnick, who interviewed DeSalvo twice after he confessed to the killings, said he asked him specifically about the Sullivan case and seven or eight of the other murders. "There were things that only the killer would know that were not known publicly," he said. "We knew a lot more than was made public, and he knew them." Specifically, Soshnick said, DeSalvo described accurate details about what type of ligatures were used and how he tied them around the victims' necks.

 
 

Albert DeSalvo

December 6, 2001

Nearly four decades after the case file has been closed, new forensic evidence has brought into question the real identity of the Boston Strangler and the guilt of Albert DeSalvo, the factory worker who confessed to the murders. The team of forensic scientists who exhumed the body of Strangler victim Mary Sullivan revealed that tests on her clothing and remains found DNA from two individuals other than Sullivan, and neither of them was DeSalvo. "We have found evidence, and the evidence does not and cannot be associated with Albert DeSalvo," said James Starrs, a professor of forensic science and law at George Washington University. "I, as a juror, would acquit him with no questions asked."

 
 

The Boston Strangler

by Rachael Bell


Controversy

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 for the Boston stranglings, most people believe 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 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.

This story presents both sides of the argument and lets you make the decision for yourself. It is not an easy decision to make as many psychiatrists, lawyers, criminologists, authors and friends of Albert DeSalvo have found out.

The Older Ladies

Of the eleven official Boston stranglings, six of the victims were between the ages of 55 and 75. Two possible additional victims were 85 and 69 years of age. The remaining five victims were considerably younger, ranging in age from 19 to 23.

Not that 55 years of age is really old. Not these days and not really in 1962. And certainly not for Anna E. Slesers, a petite divorcee who looked years younger than her age. More than a decade earlier, she had fled Latvia with her son and daughter and settled in her small apartment in a quiet old-fashioned neighborhood in the Back Bay area.

77 Gainsborough Street is one of many brick town houses that had been subdivided into small apartments to meet the needs of people with limited incomes, both students and retired people. Anna Slesers, a seamstress making $60 a week, lived on the third floor.

On the evening of June 14, 1962, she had finished dinner and just had enough time to take a quick bath before her son Juris was to pick her up for the Latvian memorial services that were being held in her church that night. In her robe, she went into the bathroom and turned on the water, listening to the inspiring strains of the opera Tristan und Isolde.

Just before seven o'clock, Juris knocked at his mother's door. No answer and the door was locked. He was annoyed. He hadn't wanted to take his mother to the services in the first place. Juris pounded on the door and -then he began to get worried. Was she sick, perhaps lying helpless on the floor inside? Maybe even worse, she had sounded so depressed on the phone when he spoke to her the night before. He threw his weight against the door twice and it flew open.

His worst fears were confirmed when he saw her lying in the bathroom with the cord from her robe around her neck. He telephoned the police and his sister in Maryland to tell her about the tragic "suicide." Gerold Frank in The Boston Strangler describes how Homicide Detectives James Mellon and John Driscoll found her:

Mellon was always to remember his first sight of Anna Slesers' body, its sheer, startling nudity, and the shockingly exposed position in which it had been left. She lay outstretched, a fragile-appearing woman with brown bobbed hair and thin mouth, lying on her back on a gray runner. She wore a blue taffeta housecoat with a red lining, but it had been spread completely apart in front, so that from shoulders down she was nude. She lay grotesquely, her head a few feet from the open bathroom door, her left leg stretched straight toward him, the other flung wide, almost at right angles, and bent at the knee so that she was grossly exposed. The blue cloth cord of her housecoat had been knotted tightly about her neck, its ends turned up so that it might have been a bow, tied little-girl fashion under her chin.

The apartment was made to look as though it had been ransacked. Anna's purse was lying open with its contents partially strewn on the floor. A wastebasket in the kitchen had been rummaged through with some of the trash on the floor around it. Drawers had been left open in the bedroom dresser, their contents moved about. A case of color slides had been carefully placed - not dropped - on the bedroom floor. The record player was on, but the amplifier had been turned off. But despite this attempt to make the scene look like a robbery, a gold watch and other pieces of jewelry were left untouched.

Anna had been strangled with the cord of her robe which had been tied around her neck tightly into a bow. Her vagina showed evidence of sexual assault with some unknown object.

A detailed investigation into her life revealed a woman completely involved in her church, her children, her work and her love of classical music. She kept to herself and had very few friends. There were no men in her life aside from her son.

Police assumed that the crime had started out as a burglary. When the burglar saw the woman in her robe he was overcome by an uncontrollable urge to molest her, killing her afterwards to avoid being recognized.

A couple of weeks later on June 30, sixty-eight-year-old Nina Nichols was murdered in her apartment at 1940 Commonwealth Avenue in the Brighton area of Boston. The apartment looked like it had been burglarized: every drawer had been pulled open, possessions lay scattered around wildly on the floor as though a tornado had ripped through it. But, oddly enough, one open drawer revealed a set of sterling silver that had been untouched, as were the few dollars in her purse, her expensive camera and the watch on her wrist. The killer had gone through her address book and her mail for some unknown reason. Later it was determined that nothing had been taken. The chaos of disorder, the ransacking was for nothing.

She was found with her legs spread, her housecoat and slip pulled up to her waist. Tied tightly around her neck were two of her own nylon stockings with the ends tied ludicrously in a bow. She too had been sexually assaulted. Blood had been found in the vagina. The time of death was estimated to be around 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

The retired physiotherapist led a very quiet and modest life. She had been widowed for two decades and had no male friends except for her brother-in-law.

That very same day, some fifteen miles north of Boston in the suburb of Lynn, Helen Blake met a similar death sometime between 8 and 10 A.M. The sixty-five-year-old divorcee had been strangled with one of her nylons. Her brassiere had been looped around her neck over the stockings and tied in a bow. Both her vagina and anus had been lacerated, but there was no trace of spermatozoa. She was found lying face down nude on her bed with her legs spread apart.

Her apartment had also been thoroughly ransacked. It appeared as though the two diamond rings that Helen wore had been pulled from her fingers and taken. The killer had tried unsuccessfully to open a metal strongbox and a footlocker.

Police Commissioner Edmund McNamara was very alarmed. A warning went out to women in the Boston area to lock all of their doors and be wary of strangers. He cancelled all police vacations and transferred all detectives to work for Homicide. A thorough investigation began of all known sex

offenders and violent former mental patients. They were looking for a madman, one that probably attacked older women because of some hatred of his mother. A former FBI man, McNamara called on the Bureau to ask them to hold a seminar for his fifty best detectives on sex crimes.

On August 19, seventy-five-year-old Ida Irga, a very shy and retiring widow fell victim to the Strangler. She was found two days later in her apartment at 7 Grove Avenue in the Boston's West End. As in the other deaths, there was no sign of forcedentry. Whoever killed her, she had probably let in voluntarily.

Police Sergeant James McDonald described how he found her: "Upon entering the apartment the officers observed the body of Ida Irga lying on her back on the living room floor wearing a light brown nightdress which was torn, completely exposing her body. There was a white pillowcase knotted tightly around her neck. Her legs were spread approximately four to five feet from heel to heel and her feet were propped up on individual chairs and a standard bed pillow, less the cover, was placed under her buttocks." It was an alarming parody of an obstetrical position, which faced the front door of the apartment and was the first thing anyone saw when coming through the entrance. Most of these details were withheld from the press.

She had died from manual strangulation. Dried blood covered her head, mouth and ears. She, too, had been sexually tampered with although no spermatozoa were present.

Within twenty-four hours of Ida Irga's murder, a sixty-seven-year-old nurse named Jane Sullivan was killed in her apartment at 435 Columbia Road in Dorchester, across town from where Ida lived. She had been dead for some ten days before she was found.

Police found her on her knees in her bathtub with her feet up over the back of the tub and head underneath the faucet. She, too, had been strangled by her own nylons, probably in the kitchen, bedroom or hall where blood was found on the floors. She may have been sexually assaulted, but the corpse was so badly decomposed that it could not be determined. However, there were bloodstains on the handle of a broom. There was no sign of forcible entry, nor was the apartment ransacked, even though Jane's purse was found open.

Panic gripped all of Boston.


The Young Ladies

Boston got a 3-month breather, which gave the police a chance to check out absolutely everyone they wanted to check out. Nothing much came of this flurry of diligent activity except a long list of people who probably were not the Strangler.

Vacation ended December 5, 1962, when Sophie Clark, a popular and attractive twenty-one-year-old African-American student at the Carnegie Institute of Medical Technology was found by her two roommates. The apartment Sophie shared was at 315 Huntington Avenue in the Back Bay area, a couple of blocks away from Anna Slesers' apartment.

Sophie lay nude with her legs spread wide apart in the living room strangled by three of her own nylon stockings which had been knotted and tied very tightly around her neck. Her half-slip had also been tied around her neck. There was evidence of sexual assault and semen was found on the rug near her body.

There was no sign of forcible entry, but Sophie was very security conscious and had insisted on having a second lock on the apartment door.  She was so cautious that she even questioned friends that came to the door before she let them in, yet her killer had somehow convinced her to let him in. Sophie had struggled with her murderer. The killer had rummaged through the drawers in the apartment and had examined her collection of classical records.

Sophie had been writing a letter to her boyfriend when she was interrupted, probably by the Strangler. She did not date anyone in the Boston area and was very reserved with the opposite sex.

There were some differences now that had not surfaced in the earlier Strangler murders. Sophie was black and she was young and she did not live alone. Also, for the first time, there was evidence of semen at the scene of the crime.

When police questioned the neighbors, Mrs. Marcella Lulka who lived in the same building mentioned that around 2:30 that afternoon a man had knocked on her door and said that the super had sent him to see her about painting her apartment. He then told her that he'd have to fix her bathroom ceiling and complimented her on her figure. "Have you ever thought of modeling?" he asked her.

She put her finger to her lips and the man became angry. His character seemed to change completely.

"My husband is sleeping in the next room," she told him. He then said he had the wrong apartment and left hurriedly. She described him as between 25 and 30 years old, of average height and with honey-colored hair, wearing a dark jacket and dark green trousers.

Was this the Strangler? Very likely, since the building superintendent had not dispatched any one to check on his tenants. Also, 2:30 in the afternoon was approximately the time that Sophie Clark had been murdered.

Three weeks later twenty-three-year-old Patricia Bissette, a secretary for a Boston engineering firm, was discovered on Monday, December 31, 1962, when her boss became worried about her. He went to her apartment that morning to pick her up for work, but she had not answered the door. When she never arrived at work, he went back to her apartment building at 515 Park Drive in the Back Bay area in which Anna Slesers and Sophie Clark had lived. Her apartment was locked, so her boss with the help of the custodian climbed through a window into the apartment.

They found her in face up in bed with the covers drawn up to her chin, looking like she was taking a nap. Underneath the covers, she lie there with several stockings knotted and interwoven with a blouse tied tightly around her neck. There was evidence of recent sexual intercourse and she was in an early stage of pregnancy. There had been some damage to her rectum.

The killer had searched her apartment.

Things were quiet for a couple of months. The police took the opportunity to backtrack and look for any clue that would link these people together. Any person that they may have all known or met; any place they may have all visited or shopped. Creeps, nuts and perverts were checked again, but with no significant results.

In early March of 1963, twenty-five miles north of Boston in Lawrence, sixty-eight-year-old Mary Brown was found beaten to death in her apartment. She had also been strangled and raped.

The murder scene moved back to Boston two months later. On Wednesday, May 8, 1963, Beverly Samans, a pretty twenty-three-year-old graduate student missed choir practice at the Second Unitarian Church in Back Bay. Her friend went to her apartment and opened it with the key she had given to him.

The moment he opened the door, she lay directly in front of him on a sofa bed, her legs spread apart. Her hands had been tied behind her with one of her scarves. A nylon stocking and two handkerchiefs tied together were tied and knotted around her neck. Over her mouth a cloth had been placed. Under it, a second cloth had been stuffed into her mouth.

While it appeared that Beverly had been strangled, she had, in fact, been killed by the four stabwounds to her throat. She had sustained twenty-two stab wounds in all -- eighteen of which were in a bull's eye design on her left breast. The ligature around her neck was "decorative" and not tied tightly enough to strangle her. The bloody knife was found in her kitchen sink. She had not been raped by man or object, nor was there any spermatozoa present in her body. It was estimated that she had been dead approximately 48-72 hours and had probably been killed between late Sunday evening or Monday morning.

She was studying to be an opera singer and had planned to try out for the Met in New York that year. Police speculated that because of her singing she had developed very strong throat muscles that may have made strangulation more difficult and resulted in her stabbing.

The police were getting desperate. Someone had put them in touch with an ad copywriter named Paul Gordon who supposedly had special ESP qualities, who claimed that he knew who the Strangler was and what he looked like. The police were more than normally receptive to this untraditional approach. Paul began his description of the man who killed Anna Slesers:

I picture him as fairly tall, bony hands, pale white skin, red, bony knuckles, his eyes hollow-set. I was particularly struck by his eyes. His hair disturbed me a little because he has a habit of pushing back a little curl of hair that falls on his forehead. He's got a tooth missing in the upper right front of his mouth. He's in a hospital...or some kind of home. He's not confined, I know that, because I see him walking across a wide expanse of lawn. He can walk about, and he does a lot of sitting on a bench on the grounds.

He has many problems. He used to beat up his mother cruelly -she was an idiotic, domineering woman-and his two sisters live unhappy lives. The family comes from Maine or Vermont. He's terribly lonely - when he's in the city I see him sleeping in cellars, but he likes to wander about the street watching women, wanting to get as close as possible to them. You see, the poor fellow is in a continual search for his mother, but he can't find her because she's dead.

One of the detectives brought out a number of photos of men who had been caught mugging or breaking and entering into buildings in the Back Bay area. Gordon identified one of them, an Arnold Wallace, as the Strangler, who matched the description that Gordon had given earlier.

Wallace was a 26-year-old mental patient at Boston State Hospital who had "ground privileges". A few days earlier he had wandered away and was sleeping in the basement of apartment houses. He was violent and had beaten his mother on occasion.

Then Gordon switched to the murder of Sophie Clark, correctly describing her apartment in minute detail as though he had been there. The killer, Gordon said, was a large, husky black man who Sophie knew. The detectives were flabbergasted by the detail in which he described the apartment. Not only that, Lewis Barnett, who fit Gordon's description, was a suspect in Sophie's murder. He had dated her once and it was possible that she would have let him in her apartment.

Gordon said that the Strangler would identify himself soon and confess. "And when this fellow confesses, it's going to be like a big carpet rolled out in front of you and all the answers will be so simple you'll kick yourself for months at a time that you couldn't see it."

When the police went to check on Arnold Wallace they found out that he had escaped the hospital five or six times, which happened to coincide with the strangling deaths. Gordon also went to the hospital so that he could see Arnold Wallace in the flesh. "He's the man," Gordon told them positively.

The police decided to look into Gordon's activities before they went any further with Arnold Wallace. Gordon had been to the hospital before he had talked to the police, so he could have seen Arnold on the grounds. Maybe the whole thing was a hoax. Maybe Gordon was the Strangler.

Arnold, whose IQ was between 60-70, was given a lie detector test. His low intelligence and his inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality made communication difficult. The test was inconclusive. He was taken back to the hospital, while police tried to check out all of the circumstantial evidence.

There was another quiet period during the summer of 1963. June, July and August passed without another strangling. Then on September 8, 1963, in Salem, Evelyn Corbin, a pretty fifty-eight-year-old divorcee, who passed herself off as more than a decade younger, was found murdered.

She had been strangled with two of her nylon stockings. She lay across the bed face up and nude. Her underpants had been stuffed into her mouth as a gag. Around the bed were lipstick-marked tissues that had traces of semen as well. Spermatozoa were found in her mouth, but not in her vagina.

Her locked apartment had been searched, but apparently nothing was stolen. A tray of jewelry had been put on the floor and her purse had been emptied onto the sofa. One strange clue could not be explained. Outside her window on the fire escape was a fresh doughnut, which was not deposited or thrown there by anyone in the building.

On November 25, the Boston area was still grieving for the loss of their beloved President John F. Kennedy who had been assassinated three days earlier. While most American stayed numbly glued to their television sets, Joann Graff was raped and murdered in her ransacked Lawrence apartment.

The very conservative and religious twenty-three-year-old industrial designer had died shortly before the President. Two nylon stockings had been tied in an elaborate bow around her neck. There were teeth marks on her breast. The outside of her vagina was bloody and lacerated.

At 3:25 P.M., the student that lived above her heard footsteps in the hall. His wife had been concerned that someone had been sneaking around in the hallways, so he went to the door and listened. When he heard a knock on the door of the apartment opposite his, the student opened his door to find a man of about twenty-seven with pomaded hair, dressed in dark green slacks and a dark shirt and jacket.

"Does Joan Graff live here?" He asked, mispronouncing Joann's name.

The student told him that Joann lived on the floor below the apartment at which he was knocking. Moments later, he heard the door open and shut on the floor beneath him and assumed that Joann had let the man in her apartment. Ten minutes later, a friend telephoned Joann, but there was no answer.

The morning before Joann's death, in the apartment down the hall from Joann's, a woman heard someone outside her door. Then she saw a piece of paper being slipped under her door. She watched, mesmerized, as it was being moved from side to side soundlessly. Then, suddenly, the paper vanished and she heard footsteps.

A little over a month later on January 4, 1964, two young women came home after work to their apartment at 44A Charles Street. They were stunned to find their new roommate, nineteen-year-old Mary Sullivan murdered in the most grotesque and shocking fashion.

Like the other victims, she had been strangled: first with a dark stocking; over the stocking a pink silk scarf tied with a huge bow under her chin; and over that, another pink and white flowered scarf. A bright "Happy New Year's" card had been placed against her feet.

It got worse: she was in a sitting position on the bed, with her back against the headboard. Thick liquid that looked like semen was dripping from her mouth onto her exposed breasts. A broomstick handle had been rammed three and a half inches into her vagina.


Strangler Bureau

Enough was enough. Certainly people faulted the police for many things, but the reality was that serial killers are very difficult to find, especially smart ones that don't leave clues. In spite of the panic that women experienced all over Boston and its suburbs, the fact was that women were continuing to let the killer(s) into their apartments. The police could only guess whether these women admitted him to their homes because they knew him or because he was able to trick them into letting a stranger inside.

A couple of weeks after the murder of Mary Sullivan, Massachusetts Attorney General Edward Brooke took over. On January 17, 1964, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in the state made the case his own, showing the city that it was his top-most priority.

Brooke was no ordinary law enforcement type nor was he an ordinary politician. He was a very handsome, intelligent and polished professional. He was also the only African-American attorney general in the country. Even more remarkable was the fact that he was a Republican in a solidly Democratic state.

There were some real political risks to doing this, particularly if the Strangler were never captured, but Brooke's plan made a great deal of practical sense.

He meant no disrespect for the Boston police, but this was an unusual case that spanned five police jurisdictions. The group Brooke was putting together would coordinate the activities of the various police departments. There would be permanent staff assigned to the Strangler that would not be pulled off to work on other crimes. There would be no withholding of information between the area's police departments because of petty jealousies or feuds.

Furthermore, Brooke's task force would mollify the newspapers. Two women reporters, Jean Cole and Loretta McLaughlin, for the Record-American had made a crusade out of exposing the Boston Police Department's mistakes, charging them with extreme inefficiency.

To head up this task force - formally called the Special Division of Crime Research and Detection, he selected a close friend, the Assistant Attorney General John S. Bottomly.

Bottomly was a controversial choice because of his lack of experience in criminal law. However, as Bottomly's supporters pointed out, he was exceptionally honest and bubbled over with enthusiasm. It was a "nontraditional case" and Bottomly was a man of nontraditional methods.

Not every one shared the enthusiasm about Bottomly's qualifications. Edmund McNamara, the Boston Police Commissioner reportedly said, "Holy Jesus, what a nutcake." Novelist George V. Higgins, who worked for Associated Press at that time, said that he "never heard a reference to Bottomly without the word asshole attached "as either a suffix or a prefix. I started to think maybe it was part of the guy's name."

Bottomly's top team consisted of Boston Police Department's Detective Phillip DiNatale and Special Officer James Mellon; Metropolitan Police Office Stephen Delaney; and State Police Detective Lieutenant Andrew Tuney. Dr. Donald Kenefick headed up a medical-psychiatric advisory committee with several well known experts in forensic medicine.

Two months later, Governor Peabody offered a $10,000 reward to any person furnishing information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who had committed the murders of the eleven "official" victims of the Strangler.

The Strangler Bureau, as the task force became known, had several major pieces of business before it could hit the ground running. It had to collect, organize and assimilate over thirty-seven thousand pages of material from the various police departments that had been involved in the case.

For the medical committee, they had the task of developing the profile of the kind of person who would commit the murders. The forensic medical experts saw important difference between the murders of the older women and the younger women. For that reason, they thought it was unlikely that one person was responsible for all of the killings. In other words, there were copycats.

What kind of person would be capable of such murders? Dr. Kenefick reported what his team believed the police should be looking for:

He was at least 30 years old, a probably a good deal older. He is neat, orderly, and punctual. He either works with his hands, or has a hobby involving handiwork. He most probably is single, separated or divorced. He would not impress the average observer as crazy... He has no close friends of either sex."

At Bottomly's suggestion, Brooke finally consented to a risky move: the involvement of Peter Hurkos, the well-known Dutch psychic. Two private groups paid for Hurkos' services and expenses. He was a difficult person to work with and ultimately got into difficulty for allegedly impersonating an FBI agent.

Hurkos did identify a suspect -- one who the Strangler Bureau had investigated. The suspect was a shoe salesman with a history of mental illness. However, there was no evidence whatsoever to link the shoe salesman with the murders. Eventually, the man committed himself to an institution.

The Strangler Bureau's credibility suffered on account of Hurkos.


Measuring Man

A couple of years before the strangling murders began, a series of strange sex offenses began in the Cambridge area. A man in his late twenties would knock at the door of an apartment and if a young woman answered, he would introduce himself: "My name is Johnson and I work for a modeling agency. Your name was given to us by someone who thought you would make a good model." He would hasten to assure her that the modeling would not be in the nude or anything like that, just evening gowns and swimsuits. The pay was $40 an hour. He had been sent to get her measurements and other information if she was interested. Apparently a number of women were interested and flattered and allowed him to take out his tape measure and measure them.

He seemed like a nice enough person with a charming, boyish smile. When he was finished, he told them that Mrs. Lewis from the agency would be contacting them if the measurements were suitable. Of course, there was never any call from Mrs. Lewis because neither she nor the modeling agency existed. Eventually, some of the women contacted the police.

On March 17, 1961, Cambridge police caught a man trying to break into a house. Not only did he confess to breaking and entering, but he confessed to being the "Measuring Man."

His name was Albert DeSalvo, a 29-year-old man with numerous arrests for breaking into apartments and stealing whatever money he found. He lived in Malden with his German wife and two small children. He worked during the day as a press operator in a rubber factory.

When asked why he perpetrated this pathetic charade, he responded: "I'm not good-looking, I'm not educated, but I was able to put something over on high-class people. They were all college kids and I never had anything in my life and I outsmarted them."

The judge, ultimately sympathetic to DeSalvo's role as a bread-earner, reduced the sentence he received to 18 months. With good behavior, DeSalvo was released in April of 1962, 2 months before the first victim of the Strangler, Anna Slesers, was found.Albert DeSalvo was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on September 3, 1931. His parents, Frank and Charlotte had five other children. His father was a violently abusive man who regularly beat his wife and children. As a boy, he was delinquent, arrested more than once on assault and battery charges. Throughout his adolescence, he went through periods of very good behavior and then lapses into petty criminality.

His mother Charlotte remarried and did her best to keep her son out of trouble. Their relationship, aside from the disappointments she suffered when he got into trouble, was a reasonably good one.

He was in the Army from 1948 through 1956 and was stationed for awhile in Germany. There he met his wife, Irmgard Beck, an attractive woman from a respectable family. At one time, he was promoted to Specialist E-5, but later was demoted to private for failing to obey an order. He received an honorable discharge.

In 1955, he was arrested for fondling a young girl, but the charge was dropped. That year, his first child was born. Judy had a physical handicap in the form of congenital pelvic disease. This problem had a large impact on DeSalvo's homelife.

His wife was terrified that she would have another child with a physical handicap and did everything she could do avoid sex. DeSalvo on the other hand had an abnormally voracious sexual appetite, requiring sex many times a day.

Between 1956 and 1960, he had several arrests for breaking and entering. Each time, he received a suspended sentence. In 1960, his son Michael was born without any physical handicaps.

In spite of his brushes with the law, Albert seemed to stay employed. After he worked as a press operator at American Biltrite Rubber, he worked in a shipyard and subsequently as a construction maintenance worker. Most people who knew Albert DeSalvo liked him. His boss characterized him as a good, decent, family man and a good worker. He was a very devoted family man and treated his wife with love and tenderness.

Aside from being a thief, he had another serious character weakness: he was a confirmed braggart. He always had to top the other guy, no matter what the situation was. Police Commissioner Edmund McNamara summarized the problem: "DeSalvo's a blowhard."


Green Man

Early in November of 1964, almost three years after he had been released from jail, DeSalvo was arrested again. This time the charges were more serious than breaking and entering and measuring prospective models.

On October 27, a newly married woman lay in bed dozing just after her husband left for work. Suddenly, there was a man in her room who put a knife to her throat. "Not a sound or I'll kill you," he told her.

He stuffed her underwear in her mouth and tied her in a spread eagle position to the bedposts with her clothes. He kissed her and fondled her, and then he asked her how to get out of the apartment. "You be quiet for ten minutes." Finally he apologized and fled.

She got a very good look at his face. The police sketch reminded the detectives of the Measuring Man.

They brought DeSalvo to the station where she was able to observe him through a one-way mirror. There was no doubt about it. He was the man. DeSalvo was released on bail. Routinely, his photo went over the police teletype network and soon calls came in from Connecticut where they were seeking a sexual assailant they called the Green Man, because he wore green work pants.

Police arrested him at home and arranged for the victims to identify him. He was mortified that his wife would see him in handcuffs. His wife was not surprised. Albert was obsessed with sex. No one woman would ever be enough for him. In fact, the Green Man had assaulted four women in one day in different towns in Connecticut. His wife told him to be completely truthful and not to hold anything back.

He admitted to breaking into four hundred apartments and a couple of rapes. He had assaulted some 300 women in a four-state area. Given DeSalvo's tendency to aggrandize, it was difficult to tell if the number was really that high. Many of the instances had gone unreported and in those that were, the women were reticent to describe what all he did to them.

"If you knew the whole story you wouldn't believe it," he told one of the cops. "It'll all come out. You'll find out."

DeSalvo was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for observation. While the police did not believe that DeSalvo could be the Strangler, they wanted the psychiatrist there to examine him.

Shortly after DeSalvo arrived at Bridgewater, a dangerous man named George Nassar also became an inmate. He had been charged with a vicious execution-style murder of a gas station attendant. Nassar was no ordinary thug. His IQ approached genius level and his ability to manipulate people was highly developed. While in prison for an earlier murder, he had been studying Russian and other subjects. He was put in the same ward with DeSalvo and became his confidant.

In early March of 1965, DeSalvo's wife Irmgard got a call at her sister's house in Denver from a man named F. Lee Bailey who said he was Albert's attorney. He told her to assume a different name, leave the area with her children and go into hiding at once to avoid the deluge of publicity that was going to descend upon her if she didn't do what he said. "Something big is going to blow up about Albert - it will be on the front pages of every newspaper in 24 hours. I'm flying out to see you tomorrow so I can help you myself."

The next day she was told that Albert had confessed to being the Strangler. She hung up on the man in disbelief. She couldn't understand why he would confess to such a lie. There was no way that she could believe that he was capable of such brutality. It had to be another of Albert's attempts to make himself seem important. Some newspaper must be offering him money. That had to be the reason.

What had brought all of this about? Well, Albert was starting to think about money: money specifically to support his family while he was in jail. He had a pretty good idea that with the charges against him that he could end up spending the rest of his life in jail. Somehow he had to take care of Irmgard and his two children. The idea of selling a story and collecting reward money began to take shape in his mind.

Some months earlier before Albert was sent to Bridgewater, his lawyer Jon Asgiersson went to see Albert who asked him, "What would you do if someone gave you the biggest story of the century?"

"Do you mean the Boston Strangler?"

Albert said yes.

"Are you mixed up in all of them, Albert? Did you do some of them?"

"All of them," Albert admitted. He thought the story might bring some money for his family.

Asgiersson wasn't quite sure what to do with this information and seriously considered the possibility that Albert was insane. He began a quiet inquiry.

Meantime, Albert went to Bridgewater and struck up his friendship with George Nassar. Regardless of whose idea it was, the two discussed the reward money for information leading to the conviction of the Strangler. Nassar and DeSalvo mistakenly assumed that $10,000 would be paid for each victim of the Strangler or a total of $110,000 for the eleven official victims. If Nassar turned him in and DeSalvo confessed, they could work out a deal to split the money.

DeSalvo, who expected to spend the rest of his life in an institution, did not intend to get himself executed. But then, no one had been executed in the state for seventeen years.

There was a good chance that he could convince the shrinks that he was insane and could spend the rest of his life in a mental hospital instead of a prison. Not too bad, considering the alternatives, especially when he didn't have to worry about money for his family..

F. Lee Bailey, who had already distinguished himself in the Dr. Sam Sheppard case, was George Nassar's lawyer. Bailey heard about DeSalvo from Nassar and went to visit Albert with a Dictaphone on March 6. Not only did Albert confess to the murders of the eleven "official" victims, but he admitted to killing two other women, Mary Brown in Lawrence and another elderly woman who died of a heart attack before he could strangle her.


DeSalvo Did It

F. Lee Bailey in The Defense Never Rests says he felt very comfortable being around DeSalvo:

That was one of the pieces that fell into place in the puzzle of the Boston Strangler. It helped explain why he had been able to evade detection despite more than two and a half years of investigation. DeSalvo was Dr. Jekyll; the police had been looking for Mr. Hyde.

One of the things that struck me about DeSalvo at our first meeting was his courteous, even gentle manner. I stared at him, seriously considering the possibility that he might be the Strangler, and I felt something that verged on awe. As for DeSalvo, his gaze dropped from time to time in what appeared to be embarrassment.

...DeSalvo was thirty-three at the time, about five-nine with broad shoulders and an extremely muscular build. His brown hair was combed back in an exaggerated pompadour. His nose was very large, and his easy smile was emphasized by even white teeth.

When Bailey questioned him on what DeSalvo wanted of him, DeSalvo was quite forthright: "I know I'm going to have to spend the rest of my life locked up somewhere. I just hope it's a hospital, and not a hole like this [Bridgewater]. But if I could tell my story to somebody who could write it, maybe I could make some money for my family."

Bailey thought that there must be someway to allow him to confess without setting him up for execution. But foremost in Bailey's mind was determining if DeSalvo was really guilty without putting his client in jeopardy. Bailey called Lieutenant Donovan and suggested that he might have a suspect for him, but first he wanted Donovan to provide him with some questions to ask the suspect that would help determine if he was for real.

Armed with his Dictaphone, Bailey went to visit DeSalvo a second time on March 6, 1965. Albert mentioned that Detective DiNatale from the Attorney General's Strangler Bureau had taken a sudden interest in him and had come to take his palm print the day before. Bailey had to work fast if he was going to be able to protect his client.

Bailey says of that interview: "...I became certain that the man sitting in that dimly lit room with me was the Boston Strangler...Anyone experienced in interrogation learns to recognize the difference between a man speaking from life and a man telling a story that he either has made up or has gotten from another person. DeSalvo gave me every indication that he was speaking from life. He wasn't trying to recall words; he was recalling scenes he had actually experienced. He could bring back the most inconsequential details...the color of a rug, the content of a photograph, the condition of a piece of furniture...Then, as if he were watching a videotape replay, he would describe what had happened, usually as unemotionally as if he were describing a trip to the supermarket."

DeSalvo described his attack on seventy-five year-old Ida Irga in August of 1962:

I said I wanted to do some work in the apartment and she didn't trust me because of the things that were going on and she had a suspicion of letting, allowing anybody into the apartment without knowing definitely who they were. And I talked to her very briefly and told her not to worry, I'd just as soon come back tomorrow rather than - in other words, if you don't trust me, I'll come back tomorrow, then. And I started to walk downstairs and she said, 'Well, come on in.' and we went into the bedroom where I was supposed to look at a leak there at the window and when she turned, and I put my arms around her back...

[Bailey asks him where the bedroom was relative to the front door and how he got to the bedroom]

I think it went through a...a parlor as you walked in, and a dining room and a bedroom. Oh, before the bedroom was a kitchen, and the bedroom was way back. The bed was white. It wasn't made, either...She was in the midst, probably, of making the bed up. And there was an old dresser there and I opened the drawers up and there was nothing in them, nothing at all. They were empty. And, uh, when I did get her by the neck and strangler her...

[Bailey asks if he grabbed her from behind]

Yes. Manually. I noted blood coming out of her ear - very dark...the right ear. I remember that, and then I think there was the dining room set in there, a very dark one, and there was brown chairs around it, and I recall putting her legs up on her two chairs in a wide position - one leg in each chair ...

Bailey asked him why he would choose such an old woman to attack.

DeSalvo told him that "attractiveness had nothing to do with it." She was a woman. That was enough.

DeSalvo then described the attack on Sophie Clark, the twenty-two-year-old student who was killed in December of 1962:

She was wearing a very light, flimsy housecoat, and she was very tall, well built, about 36-22-37. Very beautiful...

[Her apartment]...had a yellowish door, a faded yellow door...And she didn't want to let me in, period. Because her roommates weren't in there at the time...and I told her I would set her up in modeling and photography work, and I would give her anywhere from twenty dollars to thirty-five dollars an hour for this type of modeling.

...there was a place where there would be ...what do you call a flat bed, where you put a - something over it, but you take it off, you can use it to sit on, like a couch? It had fancy little pillows on it, colorful ones, purple ones. It looked like a purple or black cover.

There were so many details that he remembered that could be checked with the police. Bailey called Lieutenant Donovan and his colleague Lieutenant Sherry to his office and they listened to the Dictaphone, which Bailey played at different speeds to disguise Albert's voice.

The detectives listened very closely when DeSalvo described the attack on Sophie Clark:

First DeSalvo said that when he attempted intercourse with Sophie he discovered she was menstruating. He described the napkin he removed from between her legs, and the chair he had thrown it behind. Second, he said that as he was going through Sophie's bureau looking for a stocking to knot about her neck, he knocked a pack of cigarettes to the floor. He named the brand and described the place on the floor where he left them. At this, Sherry grabbed the briefcase and pulled out a photo showing a bureau and a pack of cigarettes just as Albert had described them. On the back of the photo there was an inscription "Homicide - Clark, Sophie -December 5, 1962. (The Defense Never Rests)

Commissioner McNamara and Dr. Ames Robey, the psychiatrist at Bridgewater, were called into the consultation. After talking with DeSalvo, Bailey got him to agree to cooperate with the police and take a lie detector test. They really couldn't go too far without getting John Bottomly, the head of Edward Brooke's Strangler Bureau, involved.

Subsequently, there was a lot of unpleasant legal wrangling while Bailey tried to protect his client from execution and Attorney General Brooke wanted to keep control of the investigation. The stakes were now higher in so much that Brooke was going to run for Senator with the incumbent retiring. Resolution of the Strangler case would be a nice boost to his campaign.

The issue of intensive questioning of DeSalvo on all of the murders and checking out every detail of his confession was critical. Finally, on September 29, 1965, the interrogation was completed. More than fifty hours of tapes and 2,000 pages of transcription resulted. While each detail of the confession was checked out, Bottomly, Brooke and Bailey tried to work out the rules for whatever would happen next.

The original doubts about whether DeSalvo really was the Strangler were quickly dissipating:

Details piled upon details as DeSalvo recalled the career of the Strangler, murder by murder. He knew there was a notebook under the bed of victim number eight, Beverly Samans; he knew that Christmas bells were attached to Patricia Bissette's door. He drew accurate floor plans of the victims' apartments. He said he'd taken a raincoat from Anna Slesers's apartment to wear over his T-shirt because he had taken off his bloodstained shirt and jacket. Detectives found that Mrs. Slesers had bought two identical coats and had given one to a relative. They showed the duplicate to DeSalvo, along with fourteen other raincoats tailored in different styles. DeSalvo picked the right one.

He described an abortive attack on a Danish girl in her Boston apartment. He had talked his way into the place, and had his arm around her neck when he suddenly looked in a large wall mirror. Seeing himself about to kill, he was horrified. He relaxed the pressure and started crying. He was sorry, he said, he begged her not to call the police. If his mother found out, [he lied] she could cut off his allowance, and he wouldn't be able to finish college. The young woman never reported the incident. With nothing to go on other than DeSalvo's memory, DiNatale found her. Not surprisingly, she remembered the incident vividly.

Eventually, the Strangler Bureau came to the same conclusion that F. Lee Bailey had - Albert DeSalvo was the Boston Strangler. Now, there was a much larger issue to contend with: how to justly serve the rights of the confessed Strangler and the demands of the people for justice.

DeSalvo Didn't

Nobody that knew DeSalvo believed that he was the Strangler: his wife and family, his former employers, his lawyer, an eminent prison psychiatrist, and even the police who had become very familiar with Albert with his frequent arrests for breaking and entering. Everyone who knew him thought of him as a very gentle, decent family man, who just happened to be an incorrigible small-time thief.

Susan Kelly in The Boston Stranglers: The Public Conviction of Albert DeSalvo and the True Story of Eleven Shocking Murders makes a persuasive argument for DeSalvo being innocent of the strangling murders.

She cites a number of reasons why she and others still believed that DeSalvo was innocent. One of the strongest of these reasons is that there was "not one shred of physical evidence that connected him to any of the murders. Nor could any eyewitness place him at or even near any of the crime scenes. Albert had a relatively memorable face, particularly because of his prominent, beak-like nose.

The Strangler (or Stranglers, since some experts believe that it had to be at least two different murderers and possibly more) was seen by a number of eyewitnesses.

One was Kenneth Rowe, the engineering student who lived on the floor above Joann Graff's apartment. He spoke to the stranger who was looking for her apartment just before she was killed. When Rowe was shown a photo of Albert DeSalvo, he did not recognize him as the man looking for Joann.

Jules Vens who ran Martin's Tavern right near Joann Graff's apartment in Lawrence did not identify DeSalvo as the man who, dressed identically to the man Rowe had seen, had come into the tavern nervous and agitated as though someone were following him.

Eileen O'Neil could not identify DeSalvo as the man who she saw in Mary Sullivan's bathroom window around the time of her death.

Plus, Kelly points out, "three fresh Salem cigarette butts were found in an ashtray near Mary Sullivan's bed. Neither Mary nor her roommates ...smoked this brand. A Salem cigarette butt was found floating in the toilet of Apartment 4-C at 315 Huntington Avenue in Boston the day Sophie Clark died there...Albert DeSalvo did not smoke."

Even more remarkable were the reactions that two very important eyewitnesses had to seeing Albert and his killer friend George Nassar. Marcella Lulka, who lived in the same apartment building as Sophie Clark, had an encounter with a man called "Mr. Thompson" who said he had come to paint her apartment. This man was about 5 feet nine with pale honey-colored hair combed straight back over an oval face. She said he could have been a light-skinned black or a white man. She estimated his age as around 25 years old. She got rid of him by telling him that her husband was asleep inside her apartment. This encounter was just before Sophie Clark was murdered.

"Mrs. Lulka later sketched for police a portrait of "Thompson." It shows a delicately featured young man with a long, narrow face, a very thin nose, a point chin, and large, almond-shaped eyes. It looks nothing like Albert DeSalvo." (Kelly).

When Albert began confessing to the stranglings, Bottomly rounded up Mrs. Lulka and Gertrude Gruen so that they could secretly view Albert in prison. Gertrude Gruen was considered at that time the only woman who survived an encounter with the Strangler. She had given her attacker a good fight and he fled.

Both women thought that they were coming to view one man - Albert DeSalvo. Neither realized that they would see another man also - George Nassar. The women posed as visitors in the prison's visiting room. Nassar was the first one to enter the room to meet with the prison social worker. Gerold Frank describes this unexpected reaction:

[George Nassar]..darted a sharp glance at her [Gruen], and then a second. She thought, There's something upsetting, something frighteningly familiar about that man. Could he know her?

At that moment, DeSalvo entered and took his place across the table from Dr. Allen. Miss Gruen looked at him. No, he was not the man who talked with her, attempted to strangle her, the man with whom she fought, the man who fled when her screams brought workers on the roof peering into her windows.

But the man now talking to the social worker, the man who had turned his dark eyes on her so sharply -

Moments later, in Dr. Robey's office, surrounded by police, she said agitatedly, "I don't know what to say...I'm so upset." She appeared on the verge of a breakdown...Finally she was able to talk.

It was not Albert DeSalvo, she said. When she had been shown his photographs a week earlier, she'd thought she saw certain similarities. "Now, I know he is not the man," she said. But the first man who entered - George Nassar - I realize how shocked I was when I saw him. To see this man, his eyes, his hair, his hands, the whole expression of him..." He looked like the man who attacked her, walked, carried himself like him, his posture..."My deep feelings are that he had very great similarities to the man who was in my apartment."

But - she was not sure. She wept with frustration. She wanted so badly to identify this man.

And Marcella Lulka, who had also been brought to identify DeSalvo?

She had not been sure when shown his photographs a few days before. Now, she said, seeing him in person, she must definitely eliminate him. But the prisoner who preceded him - Nassar -when she saw him enter, her heart jumped. In every way but one -his eyes, his walk, his furrowed face, his dark, speculative gaze -he was her mysterious caller of that dreadful afternoon. Only his hair was different. "Mr. Thompson" had honey-colored hair, as she had told detectives. This man's hair was black. Might it not have been dyed the day she saw him..."

The motive for DeSalvo confessing to the crimes remains the same whether he actually committed them or not. He believed that he would be spending the rest of his life in jail for the Green Man attacks and wanted to use the confession to raise money to support his wife and children. Plus, to a braggart like DeSalvo, being the notorious Boston Strangler would make him world famous. Dr. Robey testified that "Albert so badly wanted to be the Strangler."

One of the key issues that Kelly addresses - with mixed success - is the accuracy of the voluminous confession and its myriad of details, some of which were correct and some of which were not. How did Albert DeSalvo, a man of average or less than average intelligence convincingly absorb so many, many details about the victims and their apartments if he was not the Strangler?

Kelly points out that Albert had an exceptional memory. Dr. Robey testified that he had "absolute, complete, one hundred per percent total photographic recall." One of his lawyers. Jon Asgeirsson noted that "Albert had a phenomenal memory. Another of his lawyers, Tom Troy agreed, "It was remarkable."

Robey cites an example of how he tested Albert's ability to make instantaneous mental carbon copies of people, places, things: "We had a staff meeting [at Bridgewater] with about eight people. Albert walked in and walked out. The next day we had him brought back in. Everyone had on different clothes, was sitting in different positions. I said, "Albert, you remember coming in yesterday? Describe it."

Albert did, perfectly (Kelly)

She also cites a number of sources of information available to Albert to learn what he did about the crimes:

The newspaper accounts were extraordinarily detailed. The Record American printed up a chart, along with the victims' photos, called "The Facts: On Reporters' Strangle Worksheet." This chart was a summary of all the important details of each crime, what victims were wearing, their hobbies, affiliations, etc. Kelly says, "That DeSalvo had memorized this chart is apparent because in his confession to John Bottomly, he regurgitated not only the correct data on it but the few pieces of misinformation it contained as well.

Leaks by law enforcement agencies, particularly the Strangler Bureau, which was criticized for being lax with its accumulated material, and the Suffolk County Medical Examiner, who allegedly held a number of unauthorized press conferences in which he freely distributed information about the victim autopsies.

Albert's own research as a burglar put him in many of the apartment buildings in which women were murdered. He knew the layouts of the apartments and, according to Kelly, had visited each apartment after the murder.

Information deliberately and inadvertently fed to him by people anxious to wrap up the investigation, such as John Bottomly who, according to Kelly, "did knowingly and quite intentionally provide Albert with information about the murders -while he was taking the latter's confession to them...which explains why the only version of it [the confession] ever made public were abbreviated and heavily doctored. The full version virtually exonerates DeSalvo."

Possible information provided by another suspect who could have coached DeSalvo on the details. Police speculated that George Nassar could have been one such source of information.

Finally, experts never saw the stranglings as the work of one individual. The modi operandi were not identical and the victims as a group were quite dissimilar. Kelly summarizes some of the more obvious differences:

No similarity whatsoever exists between the relatively delicate killing of Patricia Bissette, whose murderer tucked her into bed, and the ghastly homicidal violation inflicted on Mary Sullivan, whose killer's intent was not just to degrade his victim by shoving a broom handle into her vagina but to taunt the discoverer of her corpse by placing a greeting card against her foot. Beverly Samans was stabbed but not sexually assaulted; Joann Graff was raped vaginally and strangled. Evelyn Corbin had performed -probably under duress - oral sex on her killer. Jane Sullivan was dumped facedown to rot in a bathtub. Ida Irga was left in the living room with her legs spread out and propped up on a chair.

Serial killers tend to select and stick with a particular kind of victim. For example, Jack the Ripper picked prostitutes; Ted Bundy picked pretty, longhaired young girls; Jeff Dahmer young boys, etc. The strangling victims represent a wide disparity in age and attractiveness and race which flies in the face of serial killer profiling expertise. A very likely explanation is that some of the crimes were committed by one individual, especially the murders of Ida Irga, Jane Sullivan and Helen Blake.

And what about Mary Mullen, the elderly woman who died of a heart attack? Kelly says that this may be the only killing of which DeSalvo is guilty. He probably burglarized her apartment and she died of fright. Did the same Albert DeSalvo who carried his unintended victim over to her couch and fled without stealing anything savage the bodies of Ida Irga and Jane Sullivan?

The Mary Brown affair raised some interesting questions. She had been raped, strangled and beaten to death in Lawrence in early March of 1963. Albert's confession to this crime was very sketchy and many of the details were incorrect. Perhaps, Albert had been told about this crime from the Bridgewater inmate who was really responsible. Kelly says Mary Brown lived on the same street as the man that George Nassar shot to death in 1948.


The Jury Speaks

Once the Commonwealth was satisfied that DeSalvo was the Strangler, very sticky legal issues had to be resolved before any trial could be held. Basically, DeSalvo's confession was inadmissible as evidence.

Bailey put it this way to Brooke and Bottomly: "When I met Albert, there were enough indictments pending against him to pretty much ensure that he'd never be walking the streets again. Now, I've helped him disclose that he's committed multiple murder, it's a certainty he'll never be released. Show me some way to avoid the risk of execution - I'll run the risk of conviction, but not execution - and you can have anything you want. I know damn well that neither of you really wants to see him killed. Tell me, is that asking too much?"

Brooke didn't think Bailey was asking for too much, but he wanted to think about it some more. At this point he was a solid candidate for the Senate and they agreed that it would be a mistake to have the DeSalvo trial in the midst of the campaign. At least Bailey could get a ruling on whether DeSalvo was mentally competent to stand trial. And despite the objections of Dr. Robey, DeSalvo was found competent to stand trial.

Finally on January 10, 1967, Albert DeSalvo was tried on the Green Man charges. Bailey explained that "the basic strategy by which I hoped to convince a jury to find Albert not guilty by reason of insanity was simple: I would attempt to use the thirteen murders he had committed as the Boston Strangler to show the extent of his insanity. To do this, I would try to get both his confession and its corroboration by police into evidence... Certainly the problem was unusual: I wanted the right to defend a man for robbery and assault by proving that he had committed thirteen murders."

Donald L. Conn led the prosecution team, F. Lee Bailey the defense in Judge Cornelius Moynihan's court. Conn called four Green Man victims with very similar stories. DeSalvo would either jimmy the door or con his way in to the apartment verbally. He would tie the woman, strip her and fondle her breasts, demand fellatio or cunnilingus, but stopped short of rape. He used a knife or toy gun to ensure cooperation. After he was done, he took money and jewelry from the victims. Bailey did not cross-examine the witnesses because he felt he had nothing to gain by doing so.

Bailey said in his opening statement that he had no doubts that DeSalvo committed the crimes as charged and the only "issue was whether the Commonwealth could prove that he was not insane at the time." Bailey brought forth his expert witnesses to testify to Albert's paranoid schizophrenia. They said that while Albert knew what he was doing was wrong, "his Green Man crimes were the result of an irresistible impulse."

Conn pointed out that the non-sexual aspects of the crimes - jimmying the locks, lying to gain entrance and the theft of valuables - were not a result of irresistible impulse. The psychiatrist agreed that only the sexual assaults were.

The jury thought about it for four hours, found DeSalvo guilty on all counts and sentenced him to life in prison. The psychiatric help he wanted was denied.

Bailey was very angry: "My goal was to see the Strangler wind up in a hospital, where doctors could try to find out what made him kill. Society is deprived of a study that might help deter other mass killers who lived among us, waiting for the trigger to go off inside them."


Aftermath

Albert DeSalvo was serving out his life sentence at Walpole State Prison, now called MCI-Cedar Junction, when he was stabbed to death in the infirmary in November of 1973. The night before he was murdered, he telephoned Dr. Ames Robey and asked him to meet with him urgently. DeSalvo was very frightened. Robey promised to meet with him the next morning, but Albert was murdered that night.

Albert had asked one other person to meet with him and Robey - a reporter. Robey explained," He was going to tell us who the Boston Strangler really was, and what the whole thing was about. He had asked to be placed in the infirmary under special lockup about a week before. Something was going on within the prison, and I think he felt he had to talk quickly. There were people in the prison, including guards, that were not happy with him...Somebody had to leave an awful lot of doors open, which meant, because there were several guards one would have to go by, there had to be a fair number of people paid or asked to turn their backs or something. But somebody put a knife into Albert DeSalvo's heart sometime between evening check and the morning."

Officials believed that Albert's death was related to his involvement in a prison drug operation. 3 men were tried, but twice the trials ended in hung juries.

Albert wrote this poem a few years before his death:

Here is the story of the Strangler, yet untold,
The man who claims he murdered thirteen women,
young and old.
The elusive Strangler, there he goes,
Where his wanderlust sends him, no one knows
He struck within the light of day,
Leaving not one clue astray.
Young and old, their lips are sealed,
Their secret of death never revealed.
Even though he is sick in mind,
He's much too clever for the police to find.
To reveal his secret will bring him fame,
But burden his family with unwanted shame.
Today he sits in a prison cell,
Deep inside only a secret he can tell.
People everywhere are still in doubt,
Is the Strangler in prison or roaming about?


Bibliography

Surprisingly little remains in print about the Boston Strangler. There are two books devoted to the subject, only two of which are currently in print, and several chapters of another book that are recommended by The Crime Library.

Susan Kelly's Boston Stranglers; The Wrongful Conviction of Albert Desalvo and the True Story of Eleven Shocking Murders (Carol Publishing Group, 1995) makes a persuasive argument that Albert DeSalvo was not the Strangler. She argues that there were at least two and possibly many more copycat murderers. Index and bibliography.

A&E Biography Video: The Boston Strangler

Larry Maneness has just published a novel called Strangler  (Presidio, 1998)

The "official" book on the story, authorized by DeSalvo and F. Lee Bailey is Gerold Frank's book The Boston Strangler (New American Library, 1966). This book makes an equally persuasive case that DeSalvo was the Strangler, even though nobody wanted to believe it at the time. This book is out of print and may be difficult to find.

F. Lee Bailey in his book Defense Never Rests (Penguin Books paperback; Stein and Day hardcover, 1971) devotes several chapters to the Strangler case. He also takes the position that DeSalvo was the Strangler. This book also contains chapters on the Sam Sheppard case in which he represented Sheppard successfully in his bid to the Supreme Court for a new trial in the murder of his wife.

Boston newspapers are an excellent source of contemporary information on the murders as they happened and their impact upon the people of the city. The Boston Globe, Boston Herald and Record American had the most extensive coverage.

A major feature film The Boston Strangler premiered in 1968, starring Tony Curtis and Henry Fonda. It is not distinguished by its accuracy.

CrimeLibrary.com

 

 

 
 
 
 
home last updates contact