Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Boston Strangler

The Killings Continue

There was another quiet period during the summer of 1963. June, July and August passed without another strangling. Then on September 8, 1963, in Salem, Evelyn Corbin, a pretty 58-year-old divorcee, who passed herself off as more than a decade younger, was found murdered.

She had been strangled with two of her nylon stockings. She lay across the bed face up and nude. Her underpants had been stuffed into her mouth as a gag. Around the bed were lipstick-marked tissues that had traces of semen as well. Spermatozoa were found in her mouth, but not in her vagina.

Her locked apartment had been searched, but apparently nothing was stolen. A tray of jewelry had been put on the floor and her purse had been emptied onto the sofa. One strange clue could not be explained. Outside her window on the fire escape was a fresh doughnut, which was not deposited or thrown there by anyone in the building.

On November 25, the Boston area was still grieving for the loss of their beloved President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated three days earlier. While most American stayed numbly glued to their television sets, Joann Graff was raped and murdered in her ransacked Lawrence apartment.

Mary Sullivan
Mary Sullivan

The very conservative and religious 23-year-old industrial designer had died shortly before the President. Two nylon stockings had been tied in an elaborate bow around her neck. There were teeth marks on her breast. The outside of her vagina was bloody and lacerated.

At 3:25 P.M., the student that lived above her heard footsteps in the hall. His wife had been concerned that someone had been sneaking around in the hallways, so he went to the door and listened. When he heard a knock on the door of the apartment opposite his, the student opened his door to find a man of about twenty-seven with pomaded hair, dressed in dark green slacks and a dark shirt and jacket.

"Does Joan Graff live here?" he asked, mispronouncing Joann's name.

The student told him that Joann lived on the floor below the apartment at which he was knocking. Moments later, he heard the door open and shut on the floor beneath him and assumed that Joann had let the man in her apartment. Ten minutes later, a friend telephoned Joann, but there was no answer.

The morning before Joann's death, in the apartment down the hall from Joann's, a woman heard someone outside her door. Then she saw a piece of paper being slipped under her door. She watched, mesmerized, as it was being moved from side to side soundlessly. Then, suddenly, the paper vanished and she heard footsteps.

A little over a month later on January 4, 1964, two young women came home after work to their apartment at 44A Charles Street. They were stunned to find their new roommate, 19-year-old Mary Sullivan, murdered in the most grotesque and shocking fashion.

Like the other victims, she had been strangled: first with a dark stocking; over the stocking a pink silk scarf tied with a huge bow under her chin; and over that, another pink and white flowered scarf. A bright "Happy New Year's" card had been placed against her feet.

It got worse: she was in a sitting position on the bed, with her back against the headboard. Thick liquid that looked like semen was dripping from her mouth onto her exposed breasts. A broomstick handle had been rammed three and a half inches into her vagina.