Thanks to advances in DNA technology, it looks like investigators have officially solved one of America’s most notorious cold cases: the Boston Strangler murders.
In the early 1960s a slew of brutal killings panicked and frightened Boston-area females. Also referred to as the “Phantom Strangler” due to his uncanny ability to get women to allow him into their apartments, an elusive serial killer would sexually assault his victims and strangle them to death.
In 1964, Albert Henry DeSalvo confessed to the murders after being linked to a series of rapes in the area, but officials were never convinced of the veracity of his claims. Not only were many of his details of the crime scenes inaccurate, but people who knew him personally said they did not believe him capable of such vicious crimes. Similarly, the police were not convinced that all the murders were the work of a single individual, especially because of the wide gap in the victims’ ages. Thus, the Boston Strangler case remained cold and became a part of U.S crime lore.
On July 11, 2013, the Boston Police Department released information stating that they had discovered DNA evidence linking DeSalvo to the murder of of the Boston Strangler’s youngest victim — Mary Sullivan. Here is what you need to know about Albert DeSalvo, his confession and the recent DNA evidence.
1. At Least 11 Brutal Murders Were Pinned on the Boston Strangler
Between June 14, 1962, and January 4, 1964 — 13 women from the ages of 19 to 85 were violently murdered; 11 of the 13 slayings were believed to be the work of the Boston Strangler. Many of them were also raped endured brutal sexual assault. What made the Boston Strangler cases so particular is that the murderer was able to make his way inside women’s homes with no sign of forced entry. Also, victims were usually strangled by their own underwear or stockings.
2. Although He Confessed, DeSalvo Was Never Convicted of the Murders
DeSalvo was not originally suspected of the crimes. After he was in custody for other rape charges, Desalvo gave a detailed confession of his activies as the Boston Strangler. He initially confessed to the crimes to his fellow inmate who then notified his attorney. Although DeSalvo was able to city details which had not been made public, there were some glaring inconsistencies with the facts. This caused there to be even more doubt surrounding DeSalvo and his link to the slew of murders.
There was no physical evidence to substantiate his claims. DeSalvo was also known to be a “bragger” and thus authorities believed he was just trying to get attention.
3. The DNA Evidence Came from the Body of the Youngest Victim
The announcement represents the most definitive evidence yet linking DeSalvo to the case. Nineteen-year-old Mary Sullivan was found raped, strangled and her “body desecrated” in her Boston apartment in January 1964. It is believed she has been sexually assaulted with a broom handle. She was the last of 11 women whose deaths were attributed to the Boston Strangler and the only victim for which DNA evidence is available. According to the Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley, the DNA produced a “familial match” with DeSalvo.
4. DeSalvo Was Sentenced to Life in Prison for Unrelated Rape and Robbery Charges
DeSalvo was sentenced to life in prison in 1967. His lawyer 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 be reason of insanity” verdict. It was ruled inadmissible by the judge.
5. He Escaped from Prison in 1967
The year he was locked up, DeSalvo escaped with two inmates from prison. After triggering a full scale manhunt, he turned himself in the next day. After his escape he was transferred to a maximum security prison in Walpole state prison.
6. DeSalvo Was Stabbed to Death in Prison
Six years after his attempted escape, DelSalvo was stabbed to death in the prison infirmary. His killer/killers were never identified.
7. He Tortured Animals as a Child
DeSalvo was a born in Massachusetts. His mother was of Irish ancestry and his father — a violent alcoholic — was of Italian ancestry. According to some sources, his father at one point knocked out all of his wife’s teeth. Similar sources indicate that his father forced his children to watch him have sex with prostitutes. DeSalvo crossed paths with the law early on in his life as he began stealing in early adolescence. When he was 12 years old he was arrested for battery and robbery. He also tortured animals as a child.
8. DeSalvo Enlisted in the Army
After completing a second sentence at a juvenile detention center, DeSalvo joined the army. He was discharged after his first tour of duty for “disobeying orders.” He re-enlisted and, in spite of being tried in a court-martial, was honorably discharged again.
9. His Body Will Be Exhumed
According to Boston.com, Alberto DeSalvo’s body will be exhumed to allow for new forensic testing. Suffolk Superior Court judge to order the exhumation of DeSalvo’s remains to prove “once and for all” that DeSalvo murdered 19-year-old Sullivan.
10. He Had a Wife and Handicapped Child
After being discharged from the army DeSalvo married his German “sweetheart,” Irmgard Beck. Beck gave birth to a handicapped child soon after. According to biography.com, although DeSalvo was known to have a high sex drive, his wife tried to avoid intercourse for fear of having another handicapped child.