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July 12, 2013

DNA links Boston Strangler suspect to serial killings

Suspected of murdering two in Lawrence 50 years ago

The man who once claimed to be the Boston Strangler has been linked to one of 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 homicides.

The killings included two in Lawrence. Mary M. Brown, 68, who was stabbed, strangled and beaten. Her body was found on March 6, 1963. Joann M. Graff, 23, was sexually assaulted and strangled. She was found dead on Nov. 23, 1963.

Lawrence Police Chief John Romero said yesterday’s development was “an opportunity to bring closure” for the surviving family members, friends and relatives of Sullivan and other alleged victims of DeSalvo.

“Even after all this time, memories linger when a relative close to you meets an untimely death in such a violent fashion,” Romero said. “I commend the attorney general for taking this step, even after all these years.”

Romero said the Brown and Graff cases remain open to this day.

“There’s been a lot of speculation who was responsible for the Boston Strangler murders. This could also be an opportunity to see if he (DeSalvo) was involved in all these other cases,” Romero said.

Mary 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.

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