Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Boston Strangler

Doubts: The Evidence

Nobody that knew DeSalvo believed that he was the Strangler: his wife and family, his former employers, his lawyer, an eminent prison psychiatrist, and even the police who had become very familiar with Albert with his frequent arrests for breaking and entering. Everyone who knew him thought of him as a very gentle, decent family man, who just happened to be an incorrigible small-time thief.

Susan Kelly in The Boston Stranglers: The Public Conviction of Albert DeSalvo and the True Story of Eleven Shocking Murders makes a persuasive argument for DeSalvo being innocent of the strangling murders.

DeSalvo shackled, escorted by officer
DeSalvo shackled, escorted by officer

She cites a number of reasons why she and others still believed that DeSalvo was innocent. One of the strongest of these reasons is that there was "not one shred of physical evidence that connected him to any of the murders. Nor could any eyewitness place him at or even near any of the crime scenes. Albert had a relatively memorable face, particularly because of his prominent, beak-like nose.

The Strangler (or Stranglers, since some experts believe that it had to be at least two different murderers and possibly more) was seen by a number of eyewitnesses.

One was Kenneth Rowe, the engineering student who lived on the floor above Joann Graff's apartment. He spoke to the stranger who was looking for her apartment just before she was killed. When Rowe was shown a photo of Albert DeSalvo, he did not recognize him as the man looking for Joann.

Jules Vens who ran Martin's Tavern right near Joann Graff's apartment in Lawrence, did not identify DeSalvo as the man who, dressed identically to the man Rowe had seen, had come into the tavern nervous and agitated as though someone were following him.

Eileen O'Neil could not identify DeSalvo as the man whom she saw in Mary Sullivan's bathroom window around the time of her death.

Plus, Kelly points out, "three fresh Salem cigarette butts were found in an ashtray near Mary Sullivan's bed. Neither Mary nor her roommates... smoked this brand. A Salem cigarette butt was found floating in the toilet of Apartment 4-C at 315 Huntington Avenue in Boston the day Sophie Clark died there... Albert DeSalvo did not smoke."

 

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