The man who once claimed to be the Boston Strangler has been linked to one of the 11 victims by DNA evidence for the first time, leading to the planned exhumation of his remains and perhaps putting to rest some speculation that he wasn’t the notorious killer.
Albert DeSalvo’s remains will be dug up because DNA from the scene of Mary Sullivan’s rape and murder produced a “familial match” with him, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley said Thursday.
Police secretly followed DeSalvo’s nephew to collect DNA from a discarded water bottle to help make the connection, officials said. Conley said the match excludes 99.9 percent of suspects, and he expects investigators to find an exact match when the evidence is compared directly with DeSalvo’s DNA.
The district attorney 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,” Conley said.
Sullivan, 19, had moved from her Cape Cod home to Boston just days before her death. She was found strangled in her Boston apartment in January 1964 and has long been considered the strangler’s last victim.
Eleven Boston-area women between age 19 and 85 were sexually assaulted and killed between 1962 and 1964, crimes that terrorized the region and grabbed national headlines.
Thursday’s announcement represented the first forensic evidence tying DeSalvo to the case.
DeSalvo, a blue-collar worker and Army veteran who was married with children, confessed to the 11 Boston Strangler slayings, as well as two others. But he was never convicted of the Boston Strangler killings.
He had been sentenced to life in prison for a series of armed robberies and sexual assaults and was stabbed to death in the state’s maximum-security prison in Walpole in 1973 — but not before he recanted his confession.
An attorney for DeSalvo’s family said Thursday they believe there’s still reasonable doubt he killed Sullivan, even if additional DNA tests show a 100 percent match.