Best Known For
Alberto DeSalvo is best known for confessing to be the "Boston Strangler," who killed 13 women in Boston in the early 1960s.
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Mary Sullivan was found dead sitting on her bed, her back against the headboard. She had been strangled with a dark stocking. She had been sexually assaulted with a broom handle. This obscenity was rendered even more disturbing by the fact that a Happy New Year card lay wedged between her feet. The same hallmarks of the killer were evident; a ransacked apartment, few valuables taken and the victims strangled with their own underwear or scarves, which were tied into bows.
The city was panic stricken and the situation prompted the drafting in of a top investigator to head the hunt for the Strangler. Massachusetts Attorney General Edward Brooke, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in the state, began work on January 17, 1964 to bring the serial killer to book. Pressure was on Brooke, the only African-American attorney general in the country, to succeed where others had failed.
Brooke headed up a task force that included assigning permanent staff to the Boston Strangler case. He brought in Assistant Attorney General John Bottomly, who had a reputation for being unconventional.
Bottomly's force had to sift through thousands of pages of material from different police forces. Police profiling was relatively new in the early 1960s, but they came up with what they thought was the most likely description of the killer. He was believed to be around thirty, neat and orderly, worked with his hands and was most likely a loner who may be divorced or separated.
In fact, the killer ended up being found by chance, not by the work of the police force.
After a spell in prison for breaking and entering, DeSalvo went on to commit more serious crimes. He had broken into a woman's apartment, tied her up on the bed and held a knife to her throat before molesting her and finally running away. The victim gave the police a good description, one that fitted his likeness sketch from his previous crimes. Shortly afterwards DeSalvo was arrested.
It was after he had been picked out of an identity parade that DeSalvo admitted to robbing hundreds of apartments and carrying out a couple of rapes. He then confessed to being the Boston Strangler.
Despite the police not believing him at the time DeSalvo was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital to be assessed by psychiatrists. He was assigned an Attorney by the name of F. Lee Bailey. When DeSalvo's wife was told by Bailey that her husband had confessed to being the Strangler she couldn't believe it and suggested he was doing it purely for payment from the newspapers.
During his spell in Bridgewater, DeSalvo struck up a friendship with another inmate, an intelligent but highly dangerous killer called George Nassar. The two apparently had worked out a deal to split reward money that would go to anyone who supplied information to the identity of the Strangler. DeSalvo had accepted that he would be in prison for the rest of his life and wanted his family to be financially secure.
Bailey interviewed DeSalvo to discover if he really was the notorious killer.
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