Was Albert DeSalvo Really the Boston Strangler?

Black and white photo of Albert DeSalvo in police custody.

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The Boston Strangler operated in the Boston area during a two-year span in the early 1960s. The "Silk Stocking Murders" is another epithet given to the same series of crimes. Though Albert DeSalvo confessed to the murders, many experts and investigators have doubts about his involvement in the crimes.

The Crimes

Beginning in June 1962 and ending in January 1964, 13 women were killed in the Boston area, mainly by strangulation. Most of the victims were found with their own nylons wrapped several times around their neck and tied with a bow. The murders occurred generally twice a month, with a brief respite from the end of August to the first week of December 1962. The victims ranged in age from 19 to 85 years of age. All were sexually assaulted.

The Victims

Most of the victims were single women living in apartments. No sign of breaking and entering was evident and investigators deduced that the victims knew their attacker or his ruse was sufficiently clever to allow him to gain admittance to the home.

DeSalvo's Arrest

In October of 1964, a young woman reported that a man claiming to be a detective tied her to her bed and began to rape her. He suddenly stopped, apologized, and left. Her description helped police to identify DeSalvo as the assailant. Several women came forward to accuse him of accosting them when his picture was released to the newspapers.

His Childhood Years

Albert Henry DeSalvo was born in Chelsa, Massachusettes on September 3, 1931. DeSalvo's father beat and abused his wife and children. By the time he was 12, DeSalvo had already been arrested for robbery and assault and battery. He was sent to a correctional facility for a year and worked as a delivery boy upon his release. In less than two years, he was readmitted to the facility for car theft.

Army Years

After his second parole, DeSalvo joined the army and did a tour in Germany. This is where he met his wife. He was honorably discharged for disobeying an order. He reenlisted and was accused of molesting a nine-year-old girl while stationed at Fort Dix. The parents declined to press charges and he was again honorably discharged.

The Measuring Man

After his discharge in 1956, DeSalvo was arrested twice for robbery. In March of 1960, he was arrested for burglary and confessed to "the Measuring Man" crimes. In this series of crimes, DeSalvo would approach good-looking women posing as a fashion model recruiter. He then fondled the victims under the pretense of taking their measurements with a tape measure. Again, no charges were filed and he spent 11 months on the burglary charge.

The Green Man

After being released, DeSalvo allegedly began his "Green Man" crime spree, so named because he dressed in green to commit sexual assaults. He is reputed to have raped over 300 women (as many as six a day) in four states over a two-year period. He was arrested in November of 1964 for one of these rapes and remanded to Bridgewater State Hospital for evaluation.

Was Albert DeSalvo the Boston Strangler?

Another inmate, George Nassar, turned DeSalvo into the authorities as the Boston Strangler in order to collect the reward that was offered for information concerning the stocking murders. It was discovered later that Nassar and DeSalvo made a deal that part of the reward money would be sent to DeSalvo's wife. After being identified by Nassar, DeSalvo confessed to the Boston Strangler murders.

Problems occurred when the only survivor of the Boston Strangler failed to identify DeSalvo as the attacker and insisted that George Nassar was her attacker instead. DeSalvo was never charged with any of the Boston Strangler murders. Famous lawyer F. Lee Bailey represented DeSalvo on the Green Man crimes, for which he was found guilty and received a life sentence.

DeSalvo was stabbed to death by another inmate in Walpole Prison in 1973.