Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Boston Strangler

Update: What Kelly Learned

Kelly provides a convincing argument, based on facts from files and interviews, that we should remove DeSalvo from the pantheon of infamous American serial killers and remember him only as the pathetic Green man and Measuring Man. We should also remove the series of crimes attributed to a Boston Strangler from all the encyclopedias and criminological studies of serial murder. More than likely, they were not so neatly linked.

Albert DeSalvo
Albert DeSalvo

Since DeSalvo's confession is so central to the belief that he's the notorious killer, despite an alleged recantation, Kelly cites a number of sources of information available at the time from which he could have learned key details about the crimes:

  • Some newspaper accounts were extraordinarily detailed. The Record American printed a chart, along with the victims' photos, called "The Facts: On Reporters' Strangle Worksheet." This chart was a summary of all the important details of each crime, as well as items about what victims were wearing and about their hobbies and affiliations. Kelly says, "That DeSalvo had memorized this chart is apparent because in his confession to John Bottomly, he regurgitated not only the correct data on it but the few pieces of misinformation it contained as well."
  • Leaks by law enforcement agencies, particularly the Strangler Bureau, which was criticized for being lax with its accumulated material, and the Suffolk County Medical Examiner, who allegedly held a number of unauthorized press conferences in which he freely distributed information about the victim autopsies.
  • Albert's own research as a burglar put him in many of the apartment buildings in which women were murdered. He knew the layouts of the apartments and had even visited each apartment after the murder — the addresses had been published.
  • Information deliberately and inadvertently fed to him by people anxious to wrap up the investigation, such as John Bottomly who, according to Kelly, "did knowingly and quite intentionally provide Albert with information about the murders — while he was taking the latter's confession to them... which explains why the only version of it [the confession] ever made public were abbreviated and heavily doctored. The full version virtually exonerates DeSalvo."
  • Possible information provided by the person who did commit some of the crimes. Police speculated that George Nassar, a man in prison with DeSalvo, could have been one such source of information. Or it could have been someone like Nassar. Since DeSalvo appeared to be willing to confess in order to have the reward paid to his family and to also become famous (he had nothing to lose), another inmate could easily have exploited this. It's been done in other cases.
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