BOSTON (AP) — Advances in DNA technology have allowed investigators to link longtime suspect Albert DeSalvo to the last of the 1960s slayings attributed to the Boston Strangler, a prosecutor said Thursday.
The DNA produced a “familial match” with the late DeSalvo in the rape and murder of Mary Sullivan, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley said. DeSalvo’s remains were being exhumed, and Conley said he expected investigators to find an exact match when the evidence is compared with his DNA.
Sullivan, 19, was found strangled in her Boston apartment in January 1964. Sullivan, who had moved from her Cape Cod home to Boston just three days before her death, had long been considered the strangler’s last victim.
The announcement represented the most definitive evidence yet linking DeSalvo to the case. Eleven Boston-area women between the ages of 19 and 85 were sexually assaulted and killed between 1962 and 1964, crimes that terrorized the region and made national headlines.
DeSalvo, married with children, a blue collar worker and Army veteran, confessed to the 11 Boston Strangler murders, as well as two others.
Represented by F. Lee Bailey, DeSalvo was never convicted of the Boston Strangler killings. He was sentenced to life in prison for a series of armed robberies and sexual assaults and was stabbed to death in the state’s maximum security prison in Walpole in 1973 — but not before he recanted his confession.
Sullivan’s nephew Casey Sherman has for years maintained that DeSalvo did not kill his aunt and even wrote a book on the case pointing to other possible suspects.
He said he accepted the new findings after concluding that the DNA evidence against DeSalvo appeared to be overwhelming.
“I only go where the evidence leads,” he said.
He thanked police and praised them “for their incredible persistence.”
Officials stressed that the DNA evidence links DeSalvo only to Sullivan’s killing and that no DNA evidence is believed to exist for the other Boston Strangler slayings.
State Attorney General Martha Coakley, however, said investigators hoped that solving Sullivan’s case might put to rest doubts about DeSalvo’s guilt.
Conley said the “familial match” excludes 99.99 percent of suspects but isn’t enough to close the case.
A woman who answered the phone at the home of DeSalvo’s brother Richard said the family had no comment. She did not identify herself.
Main events in the case of the Boston Strangler:
Jan. 4, 1964 — Mary Sullivan, 19, the last of the 11 victims, found murdered in her apartment in the Beacon Hill section of Boston.
1965 — Albert DeSalvo, a factory worker being held on unrelated charges, confesses to the Strangler’s 11 killings and two others. He never is charged with them.
1973 — DeSalvo killed in prison by another inmate.
July 1999 — Boston police reopen the Strangler case, hoping to use DNA technology to analyze evidence from the crimes.
Sept. 14, 2000 — The DeSalvo and Sullivan families sue local and state authorities in Massachusetts to force investigators to turn over crime scene evidence they say will prove DeSalvo’s innocence.
Oct. 14, 2000 — Sullivan’s remains exhumed for DNA testing.
Oct. 20, 2000 — Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly says his office will do new DNA tests on evidence from Sullivan’s slaying.
Oct. 26, 2001 — DeSalvo’s body exhumed for DNA testing.
Dec. 6, 2001 — Forensic scientists announce that DNA evidence taken from Sullivan’s body does not match DeSalvo’s DNA.
Dec. 24, 2001 — Judge says state doesn’t need to share forensic evidence with the DeSalvo and Sullivan families because the investigation into the killings remains open.
July 11, 2013 — Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley says advances in DNA technology have allowed investigators to link DeSalvo to Sullivan’s killing. Conley says the DNA produced a “familial match” with DeSalvo, and he expects an exact match once DeSalvo’s remains are re-exhumed.