|Number of victims:||13|
|Span of killings:||June 14, 1962 – January 4, 1964|
The Boston Strangler is a name attributed to the murderer (or murderers) of several women in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, in the early 1960s. Though the crimes were attributed to Albert DeSalvo, investigators of the case have since suggested the murders (sometimes known as the silk stocking murders) were not committed by one person.
Between June 14, 1962 and January 4, 1964, 13 single women (between the ages of 19 and 85) were murdered in the Boston area. Most had been sexually assaulted in their apartments and were murdered in the manner indicated above. Without any sign of forced entry into their dwellings, the women were assumed to have either known their assailant or have voluntarily allowed him into their homes, believing him to be an apartment maintenance person or some other service person. While the police were not convinced that all of these murders were the work of a single individual, much of the public believed so. The media certainly fueled the idea of a single murderer referring to him with names such as 'The Phantom' and 'The Sunset Killer' before settling on 'The Boston Strangler.'
On October 27, 1964, a stranger entered a young woman's home posing as a detective. He tied his victim to her bed, proceeded to sexually assault her, and suddenly left, saying "I'm sorry" as he went. The woman's description led police to identify the assailant as Albert DeSalvo and when his photo was published, many women identified him as the man who had assaulted them. Earlier on October 27, DeSalvo had posed as a motorist with car trouble and attempted to enter a home in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. The homeowner, future Brockton police chief Richard Sproles, became suspicious and eventually fired a shotgun at DeSalvo.
DeSalvo was not initially suspected of being involved with the stranglings. It was only after he was charged with rape that he gave a detailed confession of his activities as the Boston Strangler. He initially confessed to a fellow inmate George Nassar who reported to his attorney F. Lee Bailey who took on DeSalvo's case. The police were impressed at the accuracy of DeSalvo's descriptions of the crime scenes. Though there were some inconsistencies, DeSalvo was able to cite details which had not been made public. However, there was no physical evidence to substantiate his confession. As such, he stood trial for earlier, unrelated crimes of robbery and sexual offenses in which he was known as The Green Man and The Measuring Man respectively. Bailey brought up the confession to the stranglings as part of his client's history at the trial in order to assist in gaining a 'not guilty by reason of insanity' verdict to the sexual offenses but it was ruled as inadmissible by the judge.
DeSalvo was sentenced to life in prison in 1967. In February of that year, he escaped with two fellow inmates from Bridgewater State Hospital, triggering a full scale manhunt. A note was found on his bunk addressed to the superintendent. In it DeSalvo stated that he had escaped to focus attention on the conditions in the hospital and his own situation. The next day he gave himself up. Following the escape he was transferred to the maximum security Walpole State Prison where he was found six years later stabbed to death in the infirmary. The killer or killers were never identified.
Doubts remain as to whether DeSalvo was indeed the Boston Strangler. At the time he confessed, people who knew him personally did not believe him capable of the vicious crimes. It was also noted that the women killed by "The Strangler" came from different age and ethnic groups, and that there were different modi operandi.
Susan Kelly, author of the 1996 book The Boston Stranglers, accessed the files of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts "Strangler Bureau". She argues that the stranglings were the work of several killers rather than a single individual. Another author, former FBI profiler Robert Ressler, said that "You're putting together so many different patterns [regarding the Boston Strangler murders] that it's inconceivable behaviorally that all these could fit one individual."
In 2000, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, an attorney specializing in forensic cases who is based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, took up the cause of the DeSalvo family and that of the family of Mary A. Sullivan. Sullivan was publicized as being the final victim in 1964, although other stranglings occurred after that date. A former print journalist, Whitfield Sharp assisted the families in their media campaign to clear DeSalvo's name, to assist in organizing and arranging the exhumations of Mary A. Sullivan and Albert H. DeSalvo, in filing various lawsuits in attempts to obtain information and trace evidence (e.g. DNA) from the government, and to work with various producers to create documentaries to explain the facts to the public. Whitfield Sharp pointed out various inconsistencies between DeSalvo's confessions and the crime scene information (which she obtained). For example, Whitfield Sharp observed that, contrary to DeSalvo's confession to Sullivan's murder, there was no semen in her vagina and that she was not strangled manually, but by ligature. Forensic pathologist Michael Baden observed that DeSalvo also got the time of death wrong — a common inconsistency with several of the murders pointed out by Susan Kelly. Whitfield Sharp continues to work on the case for the DeSalvo family..
In the case of Mary Sullivan, murdered January 4, 1964 at age 19, DNA and other forensic evidence were used by Casey Sherman to try to track down her presumed real killer. Sherman wrote about this in his book A Rose for Mary (2003), and stated that DeSalvo was not responsible for her death. For example, DeSalvo confessed to sexually penetrating Sullivan, yet the forensic investigation revealed no evidence of sexual activity. There are also suggestions from DeSalvo himself that he was covering up for another man, the real killer.