From June 1962 through January 1964, 13 single women between the ages of 19 and 85 were murdered throughout the Boston area. Many people believed that at least 11 of these murders were committed by the same individual because of the similar manner in which each murder was committed. It was believed that the women, who all lived alone, knew the attacker and let him in, or that he disguised himself as a repairman, or a delivery man to get the women to voluntarily let him into their apartments. “In every case, the victims had been raped – sometimes with foreign objects – and their bodies laid out nude, as if on display for a pornographic snapshot. Death was always due to strangulation, though the killer sometimes also used a knife. The ligature – a stocking, pillowcase, whatever – was inevitably left around the victim’s neck, tied with an exaggerated, ornamental bow.” This series of crimes was often referred to as “The Silk Stocking Murders” and the sought after attacker became known as the “Boston Strangler.”
A couple of years before “The Silk Stocking Murders” began, a series of sex offenses began in the Cambridge, Massachusetts area. A smooth-talking man, in his late twenties, went door-to-door looking for young women. If a young woman answered the door, he would introduce himself as a talent scout from a modeling agency looking for new models. If she was interested he would tell her that he needed to get her measurements. Many women expressed interest and allowed him to measure them with his measuring tape. He would then fondle the women as he took their measurements. Several women contacted the police and this man was referred to as the “Measuring Man.”
In March of 1960, police caught a man breaking into a house. He confessed to the burglary, and without any prompting, he also confessed to being the “Measuring Man.” The man’s name was Albert DeSalvo. The judge sentenced DeSalvo to 18 months in jail, but he was released after 11 months for good behavior. Following his release, he began a new crime spree throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. During this spree, DeSalvo, while dressed in green, broke into over 400 homes and sexually assaulted over 300 women. While police throughout New England were in search of the “Green Man”, Boston homicide detectives continued their search for the “Boston Strangler.”
In October of 1964, a young woman who was one of the “Green Man’s” victims came forward to police saying that a man posing as a detective entered her home and sexually assaulted her. From her description of the man, the police were able to identify the man as Albert DeSalvo. A photo of DeSalvo was published in newspapers and several women came forward to identify him as their attacker. He was arrested on a rape charge and was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for psychiatric observation, where he befriended convicted murderer George Nassar. It is speculated that the two worked out a deal to split reward money if one of them confessed to being the Boston Strangler. DeSalvo confessed to his attorney, F. Lee Bailey, that he was the Boston Strangler. Through DeSalvo’s ability to describe the murders in accurate detail, Bailey believed that DeSalvo was in fact the Strangler. After hours of questioning, where DeSalvo described murder by murder, the details of his victim’s apartments and what they wore, the police were convinced that they had the killer.
Despite his confession, there was no physical evidence to link Albert DeSalvo to the “Silk Stocking Murders.” Doubt remained, and police brought the Strangler’s one surviving victim, Gertrude Gruen, to the prison to identify the man she fought off as he attempted to strangle her. To observe her reaction, the police brought two men through the prison lobby, the first was Nassar and the second was DeSalvo. Gruen said that the second man, DeSalvo, was not the man; however, when she saw the first man, Nassar, she felt there was “something upsetting, something frighteningly familiar about that man.” Through it all, DeSalvo’s wife, family and friends never believed he was capable of being the Strangler.
Because there was no physical evidence and he did not match witness descriptions, he was never tried in any of the “Boston Strangler” murders. He was however sent to prison for life for the rapes and sexual assaults from the “Green Man” case. He was sent to Walpole maximum security state prison in 1967 to serve his sentence; but six years later he was stabbed to death in his cell. After nearly 50 years, no one has ever been charged as the Boston Strangler.
In July 2013, the Boston Police Department believed that they had discovered DNA evidence linking Albert DeSalvo to Mary Sullivan, who had been raped and strangled in 1964 – the final victim of the Boston Strangler. After taking DNA from DeSalvo’s nephew, the Boston Police said it was a “near certain match” to DNA evidence found on Mary Sullivan’s body and on a blanket taken from her apartment. Upon this discovery, the court ordered the exhumation of DeSalvo’s body.
After extracting DNA from DeSalvo’s femur and some of his teeth, it was determined that DeSalvo was the man who killed and raped Mary Sullivan. While the case of Mary Sullivan’s murder has been closed, the mystery of the Boston Strangler still remains open to speculation.
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Boston Strangler Case Solved 50 Years Later