Written by Bev Ford and Ginger Adams Otis and Originally Published in The New York Daily News on July 12, 2013
Police on the hunt for new forensic evidence dug up the remains Friday of the man who once said he was the notorious Boston Strangler and then later recanted his confession.
It took only 90 minutes to exhume the grave of Albert DeSalvo, the suspect in the death of Mary Sullivan, the Strangler’s last victim.
It’s the latest bid by authorities to get an definitive answer to the identity of the homicidal killer who terrorized Boston for two years in the 1960s and is believed to have murdered 11 women.
The medical examiner is going to take tissue or bone samples from DeSalvo’s corpse, according to the Suffolk District Attorney’s office.
Authorities revealed Thursday that for the first time they have DNA evidence tying DeSalvo to Sullivan’s death.
DeSalvo confessed to being the Strangler but later took it back. He was stabbed to death in prison while serving a life sentence for other crimes.
Boston cop Phil DiNatale, one of the key investigators in DeSalvo’s case, went to his grave believing he was the Strangler, according to his son John DiNatale.
“DeSalvo wrote him from prison ...(about) how he was like a radiator without a relief valve. He told my father he could have dinner with his family, walk into the living room and kill and rape someone and then walk back to the dining room sit down and have dinner. He knew he was sick,” DiNatale said.
His father never doubted DeSalvo was the Strangler — nor did any of the detectives who worked the case, DiNatale said. But Sullivan’s family spent decades wondering if police pinned Mary’s murder on the right man.
The 19-year-old Sullivan moved to Boston from Cape Cod in January 1964.
A few days later she was dead, raped and strangled in the apartment she’d just moved into.
Authorities were exhuming DeSalvo’s remains because testing of DNA from the scene of Sullivan’s rape and murder produced a “familial match” with him.
It happened after scientific advances that only became possible recently, and after police secretly followed DeSalvo’s nephew to collect DNA from a discarded water bottle to help make the connection.
But the Suffolk D.A. stressed that the evidence only applied to Sullivan’s slaying and not the other 10 homicides.
“Even among experts and law enforcement officials, there is disagreement to this day about whether they were in fact committed by the same person,” Daniel Conley said.
DeSalvo, a blue-collar worker and Army veteran who was married with children, confessed to the 11 Boston Strangler slayings and two others. But he was never convicted of them.
He went to prison for a series of armed robberies and sexual assaults before his death in Massachusetts’ maximum security prison in Walpole in 1973.