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Investigators Match DeSalvo DNA to Sullivan Crime Scene

Officials have closed the book on the final in a series of murders allegedly committed by the Boston Strangler.

DeSalvo's grave was opened July 12. Investigators will draw a DNA sample from his remains to compare with a sample collected at the 1964 Mary Sullivan murder scene. Credit: 7 News, WHDH.com
DeSalvo's grave was opened July 12. Investigators will draw a DNA sample from his remains to compare with a sample collected at the 1964 Mary Sullivan murder scene. Credit: 7 News, WHDH.com
BOSTON -- After a 49-year wait, the mystery of the Boston Strangler murders may have come close to an end.

Officials announced "scientific certainty" that the confessed Boston Strangler, Albert H. DeSalvo, was the source of seminal fluid evidence found at the murder scene of Mary Sullivan in 1964, according to a press release from Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley's office Friday.

Officials exhumed DeSalvo's body July 12 after investigators announced a major break in the 5-decade-old cold case July 11. They'd taken a sample from a water bottle DeSalvo's nephew drank from and were able to match this with the DeSalvo Y chromosome. The sample from the bottle was matched with a sample of seminal fluid taken from blankets at the scene of Sullivan's murder. 

Conley said at the July 11 press conference a match to DeSalvo was "99.9 percent" certain. With the evidence match to DeSalvo's remains, officials have raised that percentage to 100.

“We now have an unprecedented level of certainty that Albert DeSalvo raped and murdered Mary Sullivan,” Conley said in a press statement Friday. “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.”

Sullivan, 19, was sexually assaulted and strangled to death in her Charles Street apartment sometime on the afternoon of Jan. 4, 1964. DeSalvo later confessed to that crime and about a dozen other murders, but recanted his admissions and was never convicted of any of them.

Slides containing the evidence from Sullivan’s remains were sent to Bode Technology, while cuttings from the blanket were sent to Orchid Cellmark, according to the press statement. Separate technicians at those separate laboratories were able to extract DNA profiles from both sets of samples, and those DNA profiles matched one another.

The DNA profile was uploaded to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, which contains DNA profiles from millions of known offenders. There was no “hit,” ruling out at least one man who had earlier been an unofficial suspect in Sullivan’s homicide.

More Coverage of Boston Strangler Developments:

Gilbert R Albright Jr July 19, 2013 at 12:52 PM
I wish it had been O.J. Simpson they had to dig up to confirm he was guilty.
frank robertson July 19, 2013 at 01:23 PM
Good that the family now has "closure" though I really don't know what that means. To tragically lose someone to such a horrible fate is something that one could never really put away; even with the evidence concluding the case being beyond question.
Bob Brennan July 19, 2013 at 01:57 PM
Not to get political, but Ted Cruz resembles DeSalvo to me.
Jake Mooney July 19, 2013 at 02:43 PM
Thank God. I have been losing sleep over this for almost fifty tears.
Joe July 19, 2013 at 03:10 PM
Sounds Good! .....But you lost me with the whole nephew thing. Why not just compare the DNA you dug up with that found at the crime scene?
Michelle Audrey Marteinsson July 19, 2013 at 03:17 PM
I wish that they were able to get the DNA from my Aunt Joanne Graff to see if he killed her too. Yet, I cannot put my father in such a tragic position. She was murdered the day after Kennedy was. Nov.1963
Sammy July 19, 2013 at 03:27 PM
"The sample from the bottle was matched with a sample of seminal fluid taken from blankets at the scene of Sullivan's murder." So, why go to the expense to dig him up then? Also, didn't he confess to the crimes?
Bret Silverberg July 19, 2013 at 04:35 PM
Maybe this paragraph, taken directly from the state's press release, will shed some brighter light on why they had to exhume DeSalvo's remains: "Among modern advances in DNA technology is the comparison of Y chromosomes, which are passed down almost unchanged from father to son. Male descendants of the same father share almost identical Y chromosomes, which can be compared through testing of biological material. Bearing this in mind, Boston Police retrieved a water bottle that one of DeSalvo’s nephews drank from and discarded. That 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% of the male population. To confirm the strong evidence that DeSalvo was Sullivan’s killer, however, authorities needed a confirmatory test."
Mrs. G. July 19, 2013 at 05:27 PM
Why not stop at the DNA sample from the nephew and the resulting Y chromosone match? Did the taxpayers need to go any further? I read they were over 99% certain based on the nephews DNA. I am glad it is solved. The victims nephew (ironicly) wrote a book several years ago outlining why he felt his aunt was indeed a victim of DeSalvo.
Joe July 19, 2013 at 05:34 PM
Wow.... I understand the probability makes it most likely they found the correct guy! But so much for my respect for DNA as absolute proof. I guess the best it can do is say that any male in someones family could have committed the same crime.
Carole Sullivan Puryear July 19, 2013 at 08:28 PM
Thank you for not giving up!

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