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New DNA Testing Ties Boston Strangler To 1964 Mary Sullivan Murder

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley says new DNA technology has allowed investigators to link longtime suspect Albert DeSalvo to the last of the 1960's murders attributed to the Boston Strangler.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Mark Katic reports

Boston Strangler DNA Update

Nineteen-year-old Mary Sullivan was found raped and murdered in her Charles Street apartment in January 1964.

Mary Sullivan
Mary Sullivan. (WBZ-TV file image)

She was the last of 11 women whose deaths were attributed to the Boston Strangler and the only victim for which DNA evidence, a semen sample, is available.

Read: Boston Strangler Timeline

The announcement represents the most definitive evidence yet linking DeSalvo to the case. He confessed to the killings but was never convicted. He was sentenced to life in prison on other charges and was stabbed to death there in 1973.


In a news conference Thursday, Conley said new testing on that DNA evidence produced a "familial match" with DeSalvo.

Conley said investigators used a DNA sample from a water bottle belonging to DeSalvo's nephew to match a Y chromosome in the 1964 semen sample. Conley said that match would eliminate 99.99-percent of the male population as the killer, but it's not enough to close the case yet.

DeSalvo's remains will be exhumed Friday for a DNA sample and Conley says he expects an exact match.

Related: Handwritten Letters From DeSalvo To Detective

Between June 14, 1962 and January 4, 1964, 11 single women between the ages of 19 and 85 were murdered by strangulation in and around the city of Boston.

Police said the serial killer, notoriously known as the Boston Strangler, was a man who duped his way into the homes of trusting, unsuspecting women only to kill them once they let him inside.


DeSalvo, married with children, a blue collar worker and Army veteran, confessed to the 11 Boston Strangler murders, as well as two others.

Despite admitting to carrying out Sullivan's rape and murder, he was never charged because the confession was ruled inadmissible in court.

However, DeSalvo was sentenced to life in prison on unrelated charges involving armed robberies and sexual assaults.

Now, police say DNA evidence has put them in a position to "formally charge the Boston Strangler with the murder of Mary Sullivan."


Attorney F. Lee Bailey, who helped to obtain the confession from DeSalvo, said the announcement will probably help put to rest speculation over the Boston Strangler's identity.

Bailey had been representing another inmate who informed the attorney that DeSalvo knew details of the crimes. Bailey went to police with the information, and he said DeSalvo, who was already in prison for other crimes, demonstrated that he knew details that only the killer would know.

Bailey would later represent DeSalvo.

"It was a very challenging case," said Bailey, who lives in Yarmouth, Maine. "My thought was if we can get through the legal thicket and get this guy examined by a team of the best specialists in the country, we might learn something about serial killers so we could spot them before others get killed."

Officials stressed that the DNA evidence links DeSalvo only to Sullivan's killing and that no DNA evidence is believed to exist for the other Boston Strangler slayings.


Sullivan's nephew, Casey Sherman, raised several questions over the years about DeSalvo's guilt or innocence in the case.

WBZ-TV's Christina Hager reports

"I only go where the evidence leads," Sherman told reporters Thursday.

"The information that I've received and have pertained, based on what these teams have found provides an incredible amount of closure to myself and my mother. We're not there yet. I think once the exhumation is done and there's a definitive answer, yes or no, but we're getting there."

There has been no comment yet from DeSalvo's family.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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