Advances in DNA testing technology are helping investigators definitively connect the man who confessed to being the Boston Strangler to one of his victims, said Boston police on Thursday. According to the Associated Press, Albert H. DeSalvo’s body will be exhumed to collect DNA evidence that could finally answer whether DeSalvo was telling the truth when he confessed to being the killer who terrorized the Boston area for nearly two years in the early 1960s.
The so-called Boston Strangler killed 11 women over the course of his rampage, but 19-year-old Mary Sullivan’s rape and murder was the only case in which the killer left behind clues in the form of DNA. DeSalvo was stabbed to death in prison in 1974, but Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley announced in a press conference Thursday morning that investigators were able to obtain DNA from a water bottle discarded by one of the alleged killer’s nephews and establish a “familial match” with the DNA found on Sullivan’s body in January of 1974.
DeSalvo was in prison on rape charges when he confessed to the stranglings, but was never prosecuted for them. Some people, including then-Attorney General Edward Brooke, were skeptical of DeSalvo’s claim.
Brooke told the Boston Globe in 2012, “Even to this day, I can’t say with certainty that the person who ultimately was designated as the Boston Strangler was the Boston Strangler.”
Twelve years ago, investigators attempted a DNA match from the semen sample found at the scene of Sullivan’s murder, but technology was still so limited at the time as to make a match impossible.
When asked why the department had to result to subterfuge, stealing a drink bottle to get a DNA sample, a police spokesperson said at the conference that he “wouldn’t characterize the DeSalvo family as uncooperative,” but the investigators had not wanted to cause the family undue anxiety if the samples did not come back as a match.
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