“The Boston Strangler” is the name given to a presumed serial killer who is thought to have operated in the Boston area from June of 1962 until January of 1964. The killer (or killers, as some would say) was responsible for the deaths of thirteen women. Of course, as with most presumed serial killings, it is difficult to know whether more killings took place in other areas. One man in particular-Albert DeSalvo is widely believed to have been responsible for the “Boston Strangler” murders. However, it is important to bear in mind that he was never charged with the murders. In fact, no one ever was.
The “Boston Strangler” first struck on June 14, 1962. The victim was 55-year-old Anna Slesers. Anna’s son found her on the floor of the bathroom in her apartment on Gainsborough St. in Boston. She was wearing only a bathrobe, which had been left open, exposing her nude body. She had been sexually assaulted, but not raped. Anna was strangled with the belt of her bathrobe, which had been left around her neck. It was tied in a bow.
Notably, the apartment had been ransacked, but nothing had been taken. This would be the case in many of the murders to come. Why the attacker did this, no one knows. It was obvious to police that it was not a robbery gone awry. The killer must have known this after the newspaper reports on the murder came out. So, why did he continue with the farce? Did he gain some sort of pleasure from rifling through the woman’s belongings? We will never know.
The second “Boston Strangler” victim was killed on June 30, 1962. Her name was Nina Nichols and she was 68-years-old. Nina was also sexually assaulted, but not raped. She was also in her bathrobe, which was pulled up, exposing her from the waist down. Her murderer strangled her with her own nylons and he, again, left the weapon around his victim’s neck, tied in a bow.
On July 2, 1962, the body of Helen Blake was found in her apartment on Newshall Street in Lynn. Post-mortem showed that the 65-year-old woman had been killed on June 30. She had been strangled with her nylons looped through her bra. As before, they were left around her neck in a sadistic parody of a gift decoration. Also as before, her body had been violated, but not raped.
The “Boston Strangler” struck again on August 19, 1962. His latest victim was 75-year-old Ida Irga. Her body was not found in her apartment on Grove Ave in the West End for three days. She had been strangled with a pillowcase that was left in the now familiar bow around her neck. Her body had been violated and positioned sexually.
The next “Boston Strangler” victim was discovered in her apartment on Columbia Road in Dorchester on August 30. She was 67-year-old Jane Sullivan and she had been dead for ten days. She was found in her bathtub with her nylons tied around her neck. Police were unable to ascertain if she had been molested due to her body’s state of decay. However, it can probably be assumed that she was. There was a new twist, though. The murderer did not ransack her apartment as he had all the others before it.
There would be a lot more changes in the next murder attributed to the “Boston Strangler.” His next victim was 20-years-old, African-American (all before her had been Caucasian) and she had been raped. Her name was Sophie Clark and her body was found in her apartment in the Back Bay on December 5. She had been strangled with her stockings, which were around her neck, along with her slip. She was otherwise naked and she had been positioned sexually.
On December 31, 23-year-old, Patricia Bisette was found in her apartment in the Back Bay. She had been raped and strangled with her stockings and her blouse. The murder weapons were still around her neck. However, unlike the others, she was not lewdly positioned; she was covered with her blanket up to her neck. She was one month pregnant at the time of her death.
On May 6, 1963, 23-year-old Beverly Samans was killed by the “Boston Strangler.” She was found on the couch in her apartment. An attempt had been made to strangle her. However, the cause of death was stab wounds to the neck and chest. The murderer left his signature bow around her neck, this time made out of two hankies and a stocking. One handkerchief was stuffed in her mouth, another lay over it. The knife was found in her sink.
The “Boston Strangler” returned to his older women on September 8, 1963, with the murder of 58-year-old Evelyn Corbin. She was found in her apartment in Salem lying nude face up on her bed. Police found sperm in her mouth along with underwear that had been stuffed there.
On November 23, 1963, the body of 23-year-old, Joann Graff was discovered in her Lawrence apartment. She was raped and strangled with a nylon stocking, which, you guessed it, was tied in a bow around her neck. One of her breasts had been bitten.
The last victim of the “Boston Strangler” was 19-year-old, Mary Sullivan. Mary was left in a very gruesome near-sitting position with a broomstick handle in her vagina. A bow made out of the nylons and two scarves she was killed with was around her neck. There was a New Years card resting on her foot.
The above are the eleven murders that police had attributed to the “Boston Strangler, at that point.” That number would go up by two when the police heard a confession from a man who was awaiting trial for rape and breaking and entering. That man was Albert DeSalvo.
Albert DeSalvo was a working-class man with a wife and two children when he was arrested and jailed for breaking into women’s houses and raping or molesting them. Although, on some occasions he would simply tie them up at knifepoint and then apologize before leaving the premises. He would later claim that the number of women he had attacked was around 300.
Albert DeSalvo had been raised by his mother after his father abandoned his family when Albert was 8-years-old. Albert’s father, Frank DeSalvo was an alcoholic who abused his wife and children. There are even claims that he brought prostitutes home and forced his children to watch him have sex with them. This is not certain, though it is certain that Albert came from one messed up background. When he was seventeen, he joined the army. He met and married his wife while stationed in Germany. The couple moved back to the U.S. in 1954, where DeSalvo was stationed at Fort Dix.
While Albert was stationed at Fort Dix, he was arrested for molesting a nine-year-old girl. The charges were dropped and he was honorably discharged in 1956. He and his family then moved to Massachusetts, where they eventually settled in Malden. Albert became a criminal around this time. Despite having a job, he turned to breaking and entering and theft. Around the same time, he began a series of crimes that earned him the title “Measuring Man.” He would tell women that he worked for a modeling agency and then convince them to allow him to take their measurements, naked or clothed. He was never charged for anything regarding this behavior. The police did take notice, however. DeSalvo was jailed for breaking and entering in 1961 and served 6 months.
The murders began in 1962 and ended in 1963. Sometime after the last “Boston Strangler” murder, Albert began his life as the “Green Man.” The “Green Man” was the name Albert was given during his time breaking into women’s houses and assaulting them. He was finally taken into custody when one of his victims was able to identify him. He was first brought to the Bridgewater State Hospital (a mental facility) and then placed in Cambridge Prison. However, he was brought back to Bridgewater because of his mental state.
While in Bridgewater, Albert DeSalvo told another inmate that he was the “Boston Strangler.” That inmate (George Nassar) told his lawyer, Lee Bailey. Lee Bailey contacted the police and informed them that he was going to question Albert, which he did. Albert gave them a startlingly accurate confession. However, it should be noted that Albert gave them a few false details as well. He also confessed to two other murders that the police had not linked to the “Boston Stranger,” those of Mary Brown and Mary Mullen. It should be pointed out that Albert DeSalvo was known for being a boastful man. That is not to say that he lied, but that it is possible he wanted the attention that being the “Boston Strangler” would get him.
Prosecutors were unable to try Albert for the murders because his confession was useless unless they let him plead insanity, which they would not. However, DeSalvo was found competent to stand trial for the rapes he had committed and for those he was found guilty and sentenced to life in Bridgewater State. After he escaped from Bridgewater State and turned himself in, he was sent to Walpole maximum-security prison. He was stabbed and killed in his cell there on November 25, 1973.
Many people have claimed that Albert DeSalvo was not the “Boston Strangler.” They say that because his motive for confessing may have been money and that some of the details he gave in his confession did not add up that he must not have been the killer. Furthermore, some people have stated that the “Boston Strangler” did not exist and that several killers were at work. The killer may not have been Albert DeSalvo, but one thing is certain and another is nearly certain. Albert was a sick man and the “Boston Strangler” was most likely a serial killer. Unless, of course, there were twelve copycats living in the area at the same time, which is doubtful.
Case File: Albert DeSalvo: The Boston Strangler, retrieved 4/23/10, fortunecity.com/roswell/streiber/273/desalvo_cf.htm
Bardsley, Marilyn, The Boston Strangler, retrieved 4/24/10, trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/notorious/boston/index_1.html