Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Update: DNA Match Between Boston Strangler Murder and Albert DeSalvo

Albert DeSalvo

Albert DeSalvo, Source: Public Domain

Update: Authorities have confirmed a match between DNA found at the 1964 murder scene of Mary Sullivan and confessed Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo. Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley announced the results claiming,  “unprecedented level of certainty” that DeSalvo raped and killed Sullivan.” He added, “Questions that Mary’s family asked for almost 50 years have finally been answered. They, and the families of all homicide victims, should know that we will never stop working to find justice, accountability, and closure on their behalf.”

Conley credited the members of ”a relentless cold case squad” who ”refused to give up, waiting until science met good police work to solve this case.”

 Below: Authorities to Exhume …


Originally published on July 11, 2013

Authorities to Exhume Body of Albert DeSalvo for DNA Sampling

Authorities are planning to exhume the body of confessed Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo to conduct DNA testing against evidence from the 1964 murder of Mary Sullivan, 19, who was raped and murdered in her Boston home on January 4 of that year, and is believed to have been the Strangler’s final victim.

Though DeSalvo confessed to the 11 Strangler murders, there were notable errors in the details of his confession, such as time of death and murder weapon, which have led Sullivan’s family, and many in law enforcement, to conclude that DeSlavo, who was never tried for the murders, did not kill Mary Sullivan. Fortunately the investigation into the Sullivan case yielded viable genetic material from seminal fluid found on her blanket at the murder scene. Sullivan’s is the only Strangler case that has yielded such evidence.

According to Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, samples from the Sullivan case that were compared to samples of a DeSalvo close biological relative, yielded a “familial match” between Sullivan’s killer and DeSalvo. That DNA was obtained surreptitiously from a bottle discarded by a member of the DeSalvo family. A move which, though sneaky, law enforcement deemed justifiable to put the case to rest.

Based on the familial DNA match, prosecutors have requested DeSalvo’s exhumation to provide conclusive answers and, they hope, closure to the series of grisly murders. Conley admitted, however, that without genetic material in any of the other 10 Strangler murders, DeSalvo’s guilt in those cases cannot be conclusively established, “At this point in time, 50 years removed from those deaths and without the biological evidence that we have in the Sullivan case, that is a question that we cannot answer, but these developments give us a glimmer of hope that there can be one day finality, if not accountability, for the families of the ten other women murdered so cruelly in Boston, Cambridge, Lawrence, Lynn and Salem,” Conley said.

Attorney Elaine Whitfield Sharp, who represented the DeSalvo family in 2000 during their own forensic study that eliminated DeSalvo as the source of the sperm found on Sullivan’s blanket, applauded the move to exhume,  but is not convinced, “It is strong evidence. But it is not definitive, she said, “But, in the interests of pursuing the truth, one more suspect needs to be ruled out as the killer.”

Mysteriously, she did not name that suspect.

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