|Image Attribution: Federal Bureau Of Investigation [Public Domain] via Wikimedia commons|
Between the years of 1962 and 1964, the US city of Boston was gripped by fear. Fear of a man the media referred to as The Boston Strangler.
It all started on June 14, 1962, when the body of a 55-year-old woman was found lying on the floor of her apartment. There was a rope around her neck. At first it looked as though she had hung herself, then fallen to the ground. But closer examination revealed otherwise: Her body had been posed after death, with her legs spread unnaturally wide. She had also been raped with a foreign object. It was clearly a murder.
A little over 2 weeks later, on June 30, another body was found. It was that of 68-year-old Nina Nichols. She had been sexually assaulted with a foreign object, strangled, and posed in the same way as the victim of the June 14 attack.
The third body was discovered on July 2. Again she had been raped with a foreign object, strangled, and posed with her legs spread wide. A fourth victim followed in late August. This time it was a 75-year-old, Ida Irga.
People became terrified. Boston women, in particular, started to take unusual precautions. Sales of deadbolts and other home security devices skyrocketed. Strangers were treated with suspicion, and some women went so far as to refuse to go out without an escort.
Another victim was found, having been killed within 24 hours of Ida Irga. The FBI were called in to help with the investigation. Scores of known sex offenders were questioned. A psychological profile was created of the killer. But still The Boston Strangler managed to elude capture.
Then, on December 5, 1962, The Boston Strangler did something that made the city even more terrified - he struck again, but this time he didn't take the life of an elderly, white woman. Instead, he attacked and killed a young, black woman. Suddenly no one was safe. Levels of paranoia and fear went through the roof.
A further 5 victims were to be found before The Boston Strangler would finally be caught. The last of these was 19-year-old Mary Sullivan, who was found dead in her apartment on January 4, 1964.
At this point, the police still had no real idea as to the identity of The Boston Strangler. But then George Nasssar, a patient at the Bridgewater Hospital for the Criminally Insane, told investigators that one of his fellow inmates had all but confessed to being The Boston Strangler.
This fellow inmate was Albert DeSalvo, a 29-year-old man who was incarcerated for sexually assaulting a woman after tying her up. Under questioning, he was able to give the police details of the Strangler's crimes that had not been released to the general public.
However, a number of the doctors at the hospital were not very convinced. For one thing, it was a hospital for the criminally insane: could they really take the word of two mentally ill patients? Secondly, Nassar was trying to use the information to set up a plea bargain for himself. He would testify in court if the police gave him something in return. And finally, Nassar's psychological profile was a better match to that of The Boston Strangler than Albert DeSalvo's.
But DeSalvo confessed to the crimes, and did so in a detailed and believable manner (though, of course, he could have easily learnt the facts from Nassar). He also confessed to two murders that the police had not previously attributed to The Boston Strangler - the first because she had been bludgeoned to death, not strangled, the second because she had died of a heart attack. DeSalvo claimed that when he went to strangle her, she had a heart attack and just collapsed in his arms. No one had ever even suspected foul play.
It should probably be mentioned at this point that Albert DeSalvo did possess a large number of traits that crop up time and time again in cases of serial sexual murder. For one thing, he had suffered an abusive childhood at the hands of his father, who had beaten DeSalvo, along with DeSalvo's mother and siblings. DeSalvo also had an almost unbelievable sex drive. He would have sex with his wife around 30 times a week, and would also flirt with other women as well. This sex drive is reminiscent of other sexually-motivated serial killers, such as Bobby Joe Long and The Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway.
It was never proven beyond doubt that Albert DeSalvo was the Boston Strangler. Instead, he was charged with a series of rapes, to which he pleaded guilty. He was found stabbed to death in his prison cell on November 26, 1973. In July of 2013, DNA evidence was found that linked DeSalvo to the rape and murder of the Strangler's last victim, Mary Sullivan. The DNA evidence excluded 99.9% of the population, meaning that although it was highly likely to have come from DeSalvo, it is not 100% certain.
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Bobby Joe Long - The Want-Ad Rapist/Killer, Gary Ridgway - The Green River Killer, Edmund Kemper - The Co-ed Killer