Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Boston Strangler

The Police Believe

There were so many details that he remembered that could be checked with the police. Bailey called Lieutenant Donovan and his colleague Lieutenant Sherry to his office and they listened to the Dictaphone, which Bailey played at different speeds to disguise Albert's voice.

The detectives listened very closely when DeSalvo described the attack on Sophie Clark:

First DeSalvo said that when he attempted intercourse with Sophie he discovered she was menstruating. He described the napkin he removed from between her legs, and the chair he had thrown it behind. Second, he said that as he was going through Sophie's bureau looking for a stocking to knot about her neck, he knocked a pack of cigarettes to the floor. He named the brand and described the place on the floor where he left them. At this, Sherry grabbed the briefcase and pulled out a photo showing a bureau and a pack of cigarettes just as Albert had described them. On the back of the photo there was an inscription "Homicide – Clark, Sophie –December 5, 1962. (The Defense Never Rests)

Commissioner McNamara and Dr. Ames Robey, the psychiatrist at Bridgewater, were called into the consultation. After talking with DeSalvo, Bailey got him to agree to cooperate with the police and take a lie detector test. They really couldn't go too far without getting John Bottomly, the head of Edward Brooke's Strangler Bureau, involved.

Subsequently, there was a lot of unpleasant legal wrangling while Bailey tried to protect his client from execution and Attorney General Brooke wanted to keep control of the investigation. The stakes were now higher in so much that Brooke was going to run for senator with the incumbent retiring. Resolution of the Strangler case would be a nice boost to his campaign.

The issue of intensive questioning of DeSalvo on all of the murders and checking out every detail of his confession was critical. Finally, on September 29, 1965, the interrogation was completed. More than 50 hours of tapes and 2,000 pages of transcription resulted. While each detail of the confession was checked out, Bottomly, Brooke and Bailey tried to work out the rules for whatever would happen next.

The original doubts about whether DeSalvo really was the Strangler were quickly dissipating:

Details piled upon details as DeSalvo recalled the career of the Strangler, murder by murder. He knew there was a notebook under the bed of victim number eight, Beverly Samans; he knew that Christmas bells were attached to Patricia Bissette's door. He drew accurate floor plans of the victims' apartments. He said he'd taken a raincoat from Anna Slesers's apartment to wear over his T-shirt because he had taken off his bloodstained shirt and jacket. Detectives found that Mrs. Slesers had bought two identical coats and had given one to a relative. They showed the duplicate to DeSalvo, along with fourteen other raincoats tailored in different styles. DeSalvo picked the right one.

He described an abortive attack on a Danish girl in her Boston apartment. He had talked his way into the place, and had his arm around her neck when he suddenly looked in a large wall mirror. Seeing himself about to kill, he was horrified. He relaxed the pressure and started crying. He was sorry, he said, he begged her not to call the police. If his mother found out, [he lied] she could cut off his allowance, and he wouldn't be able to finish college. The young woman never reported the incident. With nothing to go on other than DeSalvo's memory, DiNatale found her. Not surprisingly, she remembered the incident vividly.

Eventually, the Strangler Bureau came to the same conclusion that F. Lee Bailey had – Albert DeSalvo was the Boston Strangler. Now, there was a much larger issue to contend with: how to justly serve the rights of the confessed Strangler and the demands of the people for justice.


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