Boston Strangler’s DNA Matched to Crime Scene Evidence From Last Murder

After exhuming the body, officials matched the tissue to crime scene evidence from the sixties.

Screen Shot via Livestream

Screen Shot via Livestream

A week after the body of Albert DeSalvo, the man who claimed to be the Boston Strangler, was exhumed, police said the DNA extracted from the remains matched that of evidence from a crime scene of the suspect’s last victim.

A nationally recognized laboratory has matched DNA recovered from the body of Mary Sullivan almost 50 years ago with that of her suspected killer, DeSalvo, according to Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley’s office. Officials said the results show “scientific certainty” that the confessed Boston Strangler, who also admitted to raping and killing Sullivan in her Beacon Hill home in 1964, were the same, citing seminal fluid recovered at the scene.

Conley’s announcement on the connection to the murder was made in conjunction with Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis.

Sullivan, 19, was sexually assaulted and strangled to death in her Charles Street apartment on the afternoon of January 4. DeSalvo later confessed to that crime and to the dozen other murders allegedly committed by the Strangler, although he was never convicted for those crimes, and police never made a connection aside from his confession. The latest development in Sullivan’s case, however, marks the first time that law enforcement officials could confirm DeSalvo’s connection to that specific homicide.

Police will use this latest lead to look into evidence that may be able to link DeSalvo to other homicides at the hands of the Strangler. “We now have an unprecedented level of certainty that Albert DeSalvo raped and murdered Mary Sullivan,” Conley said in a statement. “We now have to look very closely at the possibility that he also committed at least some of the other sexual homicides to which he confessed. Questions that Mary’s family asked for almost 50 years have finally been answered. They, and the families of all homicide victims, should know that we will never stop working to find justice, accountability, and closure on their behalf.”

The exhumation of DeSalvo’s body took place at the Puritan Memorial Park in Peabody last Friday afternoon, after officials obtained a court ordered warrant authorizing the procedure as officials used heavy machinery and shovels to dig into the dirt and remove DeSalvo’s coffin.

Advances in DNA testing allowed officials to extract genetic profiles from samples that even a few years ago would have been too small, too old, or too degraded to be useful, they said. Using DNA from a water bottle recovered by DeSalvo’s relative, police were able to make the connection. This process was possible because the comparison of Y chromosomes, which are passed down nearly unchanged from father to son. Male descendants of the same father share almost identical Y chromosomes, officials said, which can be compared through testing of biological material. “The bottle was sent for comparison to the crime scene DNA, and the result, obtained earlier this year, was a match that implicated DeSalvo and excluded 99.9 percent of the male population,” according to a statement from Conley’s office.

In December 2001, top investigators were adamant that DeSalvo, who died in prison in 1973, was in no way connected to the death of Sullivan, going as far as saying if they were sitting on a  jury they would say he was “not guilty,” according to a New York Times report. That notion was debunked by the latest developments, bringing closure to Sullivan’s family after decades of questions. “I hope this brings some measure of finality to Mary Sullivan’s family,” Coakley said Friday. “This leaves no doubt that Albert DeSalvo was responsible for the brutal murder of Mary Sullivan, and most likely that he was responsible for the horrific murders of the other women he confessed to killing.”