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Albert DeSalvo
The Boston Strangler

1931 - 1973

 

 


Albert Henry DeSalvo, a criminal whose sexual obsession terrorized the greater Boston, Massachusetts, area between 1962 and 1964, was popularly known as the Boston Strangler. The Strangler's 19-month spree of rape and murder ended with DeSalvo's life sentence in the state prison, where he was stabbed to death by fellow inmates in 1973.

The mayhem began in mid-1962 when a 55-year-old woman was raped and strangled with the belt of her housecoat, tied in a bow around her neck. Over the next 19 months, thirteen such rapes and murders took place, the mostly white victims ranging in age from 19 to 85. The murders grew increasingly brutal, but the killer usually left a trademark, a bow tied around the victim's neck. Finally, in October 1964, a woman was raped but not murdered. Instead, the rapist said, "I'm sorry," and fled. The victim described him to police, and they arrested Albert DeSalvo.

DeSalvo had a troubled childhood, like most serial killers. He was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on September 3, 1931. His father was an alcoholic and physically and sexually abusive to his mother. By the time DeSalvo was 17, he had a police record for theft, which he left behind to join the army. In Germany, he married, and the couple returned to the United States, where they eventually had two children.

DeSalvo's first signs of seriously deviant behavior occurred in 1955, when he was arrested for molesting a nine-year-old girl. The mother did not press charges for fear of publicity. Once out of the army, DeSalvo returned to Massachusetts where he worked as a handyman. Before long, the Boston area police were hearing reports of a suspect they called the "Measuring Man." He would enter victims' homes with a measuring tape and claim to be employed by a modeling agency. He apparently did little more than fondle the naive women, so the police regarded him as relatively harmless. However, in early 1960, DeSalvo was caught trying to enter an apartment with a screwdriver. When a personal search turned up a measuring tape, DeSalvo was tried and sentenced to two years imprisonment, of which he served just ten months. Released in 1960, he began a new career in which his perversions became more serious. Wearing green coveralls, he posed as a repairman to gain entrance to apartments where he raped the victims. This new pose earned him a new title, "Green Man." Later, DeSalvo claimed that during this period, he committed 1,000 rapes. In 1962, the killings began.

When DeSalvo was picked up for rape in 1964, the police made no connection between him and the Boston Strangler. Instead, he was placed in a ward for the criminally insane. While there, he talked to George Nassar, whom the police at one time did suspect of being the Strangler. Nassar told his own lawyer, the famed F. Lee Bailey, that DeSalvo was the actual rapist. Bailey interviewed DeSalvo and so did police authorities.

From his testimony--in which he even confessed to murders the police knew nothing about--it seemed clear that DeSalvo was the Boston Strangler. However, he was charged only with robbery and earlier rape offenses. Some believed the Boston police did not push the matter out of embarrassment over not fingering DeSalvo earlier.

DeSalvo received a life sentence at Walpole State Prison. Pointed out as the Boston Strangler, he became something of a national celebrity. When his biography was published, he willingly signed autographs for visitors. His celebrity status came to an end, however, at the hands of fellow inmates, who stabbed him to death on November 26, 1973.

In 2000, the family of Mary Sullivan, the final victim of the Strangler, and family of DeSalvo pressed for the case to be re-opened under the claim that DeSalvo was not in fact the murderer. Sullivan's body was exhumed and tested by a team of forensic scientists, who found results that differed from the testimony given by DeSalvo about the murder. The case was still under investigation as of June 2001.

 

 

 

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This web page was last updated on: 09 December, 2008