Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Norman Collins: The Co-Ed Killer

Another Suspect?

Aside from the typical suspicions about boyfriends and acquaintances, there was a peculiar connection with the case of the Boston Strangler that perhaps may have merited more attention than it was given, considering the source.

Although the police command post was flooded with hundreds of tips and a few false confessions, they received a call after the fourth murder that alerted them to an interesting lead. The front page of the Ann Arbor News had run a photo of a group of people forming a rent-strike protest against owners of off-campus housing. A leader of that group was named who had been one of the principal suspects in the Boston murders, ultimately pinned on Albert DeSalvo. A former Harvard student, this man in his mid-twenties was now a graduate student at the University of Michigan with an IQ in the 155-170 range (which is exceptional). He also had a history of drug abuse, petty crime, and mental illness, and had been a patient at Bridgewater State Hospital where DeSalvo had been examined. He was diagnosed as psychotic — he claimed he was Othello and showed other signs of schizophrenia. Initially, he had been arrested for abusing his pregnant wife, who claimed to be afraid of him. She said he once had tried to strangle her. He had been without a father for the first three years of his life and had been raised by women. Friends said that he was subject to wild fits of violence and intense anger, and he claimed he would save the world by destroying its women.

The person who noticed his picture was none other than the psychiatrist who had examined him, Dr. Ames Robey. He was now the director at the State Center of Forensic Psychiatry in Ypsilanti, and had formerly been the director at Bridgewater. He had examined both DeSalvo and this young man, named in Gerold Frank's book, The Boston Strangler, as "David Parker." Robey did not believe that DeSalvo was the right man— and in fact DeSalvo was never tried for the murders themselves — but he had strongly suspected that Parker was, to the point of alienating police by his insistence that they had the wrong man. He thought two of the recent victims showed the signature of the Boston murders — stockings tied around their necks. Robey also had recalled that Parker had once tied his shoe with a knot that was characteristic of the Strangler's method.

He contacted the police with his suspicions about the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti murders, but since they had noticed no unusual knot in the choking garments of these victims, they discounted the connection. They also determined that Parker had not been in the area when the first and second murders were committed. However, they did think that Robey's knowledge about both sets of crimes was significant, and he had been around when Mary Fleszar was killed: He'd been appointed in July of 1967. For a time, Dr. Ames Robey was, himself, a suspect.

 

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