This week (December 29-January 4) in crime history – London’s “Railway Rapists” commits first murder (December 29, 1985); Rasputin was murdered (December 30, 1916); John Salvi goes on murderous rampage at two Massachusetts abortion clinics (December 30, 1994); Subway Vigilante Bernie Goetz surrendered to police (December 31, 1984); Real “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” murder (January 1, 1973); Yorkshire Ripper was captured (January 2, 1981); Jack Ruby died (January 3, 1967); Boston Strangler committed his last murder (January 4, 1964).
Highlighted story of the week -
On January 4, 1964, Mary Sullivan was raped and strangled to death at her Boston apartment. The killer left a card reading "Happy New Year" leaning against her foot. Sullivan would turn out to be the last woman killed by the notorious Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, who terrorized the city between 1962 and 1964, raping and killing over a dozen women.
DeSalvo's serial-killing career was shaped at an early age. His father would bring home prostitutes and have sex with them in front of the family, before brutally beating his wife and children. On one occasion, DeSalvo's father knocked out his mother's teeth and then broke her fingers one by one while she lay unconscious on the floor. DeSalvo himself was sold by his father to work as a farm laborer, along with two of his sisters. In the late 1950s, as a young man, DeSalvo acquired the first of his criminal nicknames. He knocked on the doors of young women, claiming to represent a modeling agency. He told the women that he needed to take their measurements and proceeded to crudely fondle the women as he used his tape measure. His stint as the "Measuring Man" came to an end with his arrest on March 17, 1960, and he spent nearly a year in prison. When DeSalvo was released, his next series of crimes were far worse. For nearly two years, he broke into hundreds of apartments in New England, tied up the women and sexually assaulted them. He always wore green handyman clothes during his assaults and became known as the "Green Man."
In 1962, DeSalvo started killing his victims. He strangled Anna Slesers with her own housecoat and tied the ends in a bow, which would become his trademark. Throughout the summer of 1962, DeSalvo raped and killed elderly women in Boston. However, by winter he began attacking younger women, always leaving the rope or cord used to strangle the victim in a bow. Police, who were thwarted in their attempts to stop the newly dubbed "Boston Strangler," even brought in a psychic to inspect the clothes of the victims. However, it was DeSalvo himself who enabled the police to close the case. On October 27, 1964, after raping another young woman, he suddenly stopped before killing her. When the victim called police and gave a description of her attacker, police arrested DeSalvo. DeSalvo confessed the murders to his cellmate George Nasser. Nasser told his attorney, F. Lee Bailey, about DeSalvo, and Bailey took on DeSalvo as a client. Under a deal with prosecutors, DeSalvo was never charged with the Boston Strangler crimes, getting a life sentence instead for the Green Man rapes. Still, DeSalvo's life term was short. He was stabbed to death by an unidentified fellow inmate at Walpole State Prison on November 26, 1973.
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Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: