The Boston Strangler - One Man or Many?

 

Elementary Non-Fiction Crime

MassStateHouseIn the early 1960s in Boston, women were afraid, very afraid, of a man called the Boston Strangler. It all started in June 1962 when a fifty-five year old woman opened the door of her apartment to a man who raped her and then killed her with one of her own stockings. A few days later, it happened again, but this time the woman was eighty-five and died of a heart attack before the Boston Strangler could kill her. In just a few weeks, six women, aged between fifty-five and eighty-five, died in Boston.

The police were quick to tell people not to invite men into their apartments because there was a killer in the city. Although many women went out and bought extra locks for their doors and some even left the city, some women still let the man in and the killings did not stop. They all happened in Boston, all inside women’s apartments and the first six were all older people. And the killer strangled them. Why did the women invite the man into their apartments? Did they know him? Did he say he was a policeman or he was there to fix the electricity? The police gave out messages on the radio and TV and in the newspapers, but the killings continued.

Suddenly, they stopped. For more than three months, nobody died. Then, in December of the same year, they started again. Seven more women died, but this time only one was over sixty. The rest were teenagers or in their twenties. And the killer did not rape the older lady. He also did not strangle all of them; he knifed two instead.

In 1964, the last killing took place in January, just over a year since they began again. This time, the police arrested someone. He broke into a young woman’s room and raped her but then did not strangle her. He said sorry and left her apartment. She recognised him from a photo the police showed her. When they arrested the man, the girl again said that it was the same one who came into her flat and raped her.

Albert_deSalvoThe man was Albert DeSalvo. He went to prison for rape but, when he was there he told another prisoner that he was the Boston Strangler. Very soon, the police were questioning him. They were surprised that he could describe the murders and the rooms where they happened. He gave them some information that was not in the newspapers. The police tried DeSalvo again for the murders and the court found him guilty. He died in prison six years later after other prisoners – nobody knows who – knifed him.

But DeSalvo’s family never believed that he was the killer. His friends didn’t either. He was a very quiet, gentle man. And why did he suddenly change from killing old women to raping young ones? Why didn’t he rape the older lady when he started killing again? Why did he knife two of the women? Why did he break into the girl’s apartment and why didn’t he kill her? Was the Boston Strangler really only one man?

With DNA testing, we now know that DeSalvo killed the last of the women. But what about the others?

Glossary