Real Name: Unknown, assumed to be Albert DeSalvo
Case: Serial Killer/Serial Rapist
Date: June 14, 1962 to September 3, 1963
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Details: Beginning in 1962, thirteen women lost their lives before a figure called "The Boston Strangler", a serial-killer who broke into homes and killed the women in them. The first victim was Anna Slesers, 55, who was strangled with her bath robe and then raped with a blunt object on June 17, 1962. The second victim was Paula Lepro, 57, who was sexually molested and then strangled with nylon stockings on June 22. The third victim was Helen Blake, 65, who was sexually mutilated and then strangled, her bra tied around her neck in the shape of a bow on June 30.
The fourth victim was Nina Nichols, 68, who was strangled and then had her nylon tied in a bow. The fifth victim was Ida Irga, 75, who was sexually molested and strangled to death, found on August 21. The sixth victim was Jane Sullivan, 67, sexually assaulted and strangled with her nylon stockings on August 30. The seventh victim was Sophie Clark, sexually assaulted and strangled on December 6. Patricia Bissette, 23, was the eighth victim, found sexually assaulted and strangled on December 31. The ninth victim was Mary Brown, 69, who was stabbed and strangled to death on March 9, 1963. The tenth victim was Beverly Samans, 23, stabbed to death on May 8. The eleventh victim was fifty-eight-year-old Evelyn Corbin, sexually assaulted and strangled with her nylon stockings on September 6. The twelfth victim was Joanne Graff, 24, found sexually assaulted and strangled on November 23. The thirteenth and final victim, nineteen-year-old Mary Sullivan, was found sexually assaulted and strangled to death on January 4, 1964.
More than thirteen murders were blamed on him, the others attributed to copycats. During this time, the women of Boston lived in fear. Several months after the last murder, thirty-two-year-old Albert DeSalvo was arrested for sexual assault. He had a history of sexual offenses. He became known as the "Measuring Man" and coaxed his way into women's apartments, claiming to be from a modeling agency. After measuring women for clothing, he would fondle them. In March of 1961, he was arrested and sent to a state correction facility.
Soon after his release, investigators received complaints about a sex offender known as the "Green Man". The offender was a maintenance worker who talked his way into women's apartments and then assaulted them. These assaults led to DeSalvo's October 1964 arrest. In February 1965, DeSalvo was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for sexual assault. Dr. Ames Robey was the medical director there. He believed that DeSalvo wanted to make a name for himself. He bragged about almost anything that he did. He told Robey that he wanted to be as famous as the "Boston Strangler".
He acquainted himself with George Nasser, who was under observation for a violent murder. Nasser believed DeSalvo was the Boston Strangler due to their conversations. He relayed this information to F. Lee Bailey, who would later become DeSalvo's defense attorney. He claimed that DeSalvo wanted to write a book about his crimes as well. Bailey met with DeSalvo and asked him to help find out what was wrong with him. DeSalvo confessed to the Boston Strangler murders to Bailey. By confessing, DeSalvo was apparently hoping to go to a mental hospital instead of prison, in order to get out of his rape crimes.
Two days later, Bailey returned with a tape recorder and a list of details that, according to the Boston police, only the Strangler would know. In turn, the tapes would not be admissible in court. During the confessions, he gave the specific details that the police had not released. He also gave detailed descriptions of the crime scenes.
Dr. Robey, however, was not impressed by the confessions. He claimed that DeSalvo had gone to the crime scenes several days after the murders and studied the crime scenes. According to Robey, DeSalvo even had a photographic memory. Robey began to suspect that Nasser may have actually been involved in the murders. Nasser was arrested just a few weeks after the last Boston Strangler murder. Nasser, however, claims that he was just an associate of DeSalvo.
About half of the investigators believed that DeSalvo was the Strangler, while the other half were not certain. DeSalvo's confession was leaked to the press and appeared in several newspapers. As a result, two women came forward: one was a survivor of a possible Strangler attack, while the other was a neighbor of one of the victims. On March 20, 1965, they were brought to Bridgewater to see if they recognized any of the inmates. Surprisingly, they recognized Nassar, not DeSalvo.
DeSalvo, however, remained the prime suspect. Under the advice of Bailey, he was put under hypnosis. During the session, he claimed that he killed the women because he wanted to hurt his mother. However, he also claimed that he loved her and cared for her. The session seemed to reveal that he had strained relationships with his mother, wife, and daughter. Robey, however, did not believe that the information that came out from the session was accurate.
In the summer of 1965, the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office conducted their own series of interrogations. Once again, the recordings were not admissible in court. Author Susan Kelley obtained transcripts of the interrogations. She found that when DeSalvo gave an incorrect answer to a question, the interrogator would guide him to give the right answer. Kelley was convinced that DeSalvo was not the Strangler based on these interrogations.
Bailey, however, was certain that he was the infamous serial killer. He struck a deal with the state; on January 10, 1967, DeSalvo went on trial for the "Green Man" sexual assaults. He was convicted of the charges and sentenced to life in prison. He was never actually tried for the Strangler killings, but was named the killer. Over the next few years, several books and movies chronicled his life.
After six years in prison, he asked to be transferred to a cell in prison infirmary, so that he could be isolated from the other inmates. He was found dead from several stab wounds on November 26, 1973, the same day that he told his psychiatrist, Ames Robey, that he was going to tell him the truth about the murders.
Some of the inmates believed that DeSalvo had been killed over a botched drug deal. Others, including Nasser, believed that he was killed in a dispute over cuts of meat that he was allegedly selling on the prison black market. However, Robey believes that he was killed because he was about to reveal the truth about the Boston Strangler murders. Three inmates were eventually charged with DeSalvo's murder. However, their trials ended in hung juries and no one was convicted.
In recent years, closer scrutiny of the case suggests that DeSalvo was not the Boston Strangler but got his facts and notes about the murders from Nasser himself who may have been the real killer. In fact, two survivors of attacks chose Nasser from mug shots as their attacker. However, Nasser continues to maintain his innocence in the murders.
More recently, updated forensic analysis and DNA evidence seemed to suggest in 2001 that DeSalvo was not the killer of Mary Sullivan, the eleventh victim. Casey Sherman, Mary's nephew, has been investigating the case and found several possible suspects in her murder, including her ex-boyfriend and her roommate's boyfriend. He and author Susan Kelly have also found suspects in the other murders.
On the day that the first victim Anna Slesers was murdered, a painting crew was working in her apartment building. Two weeks later, the same painting crew was seen at the building of the third victim, Helen Blake. Casey believes that this is more than just coincidence. He found that two of the members of the painting crew did not have their alibis corroborated with their boss or fellow workers.
Casey found that there was also a possible suspect in the murder of Sophie Clark. The suspect was a former boyfriend who was seen entering and fleeing her apartment on the day of her murder. He also failed two polygraphs. There was also a suspect in the murder of Patricia Bisette. The suspect was her boss; he had discovered her body and also had an affair with her. Casey discovered that Patricia was one month pregnant at the time; there was now a suspect and motive.
However, investigation into all of these suspects stopped after DeSalvo confessed to the crimes. The information found by Casey Sherman more than suggests DeSalvo's innocence.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the May 11, 1994 episode and expanded on June 28, 2002.
Results: Unresolved - On July 11, 2013, Boston police released information that they had discovered DNA evidence linking DeSalvo to the murder of Mary Sullivan. DNA found at the scene was a near certain match to DNA taken from a nephew of DeSalvo. A court ordered exhumation of the body in order to test the DNA correctly. After the exhumation, authorities announced that they now have an "unprecedented level of certainty" that he raped and strangled Mary. However, DeSalvo's connection to one murder does not confirm his culpability in the other murders. No biological evidence has been found in any of the other cases.
- Boston Strangler on Wikipedia
- Albert DeSalvo on Wikipedia
- Boston Strangler on Unsolved.com
- Retired Detective Still Tracks 'Boston Strangler'
- 'He's not the Boston Strangler. He didn't kill my aunt'
- DNA Evidence Analyzed in Boston Strangler Case
- In 2001 DNA Evidence Didn’t Point to Albert DeSalvo as the Boston Strangler. New DNA Tests Do. What Gives?