GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Latest Cape Ann News

July 12, 2013

Officials to exhume alleged Strangler from Peabody grave

PEABODY — Officials plan to exhume the body of Albert DeSalvo from the Puritan Lawn cemetery in order to test the DNA of the suspected Boston Strangler against DNA newly developed from the death scene of Mary Sullivan, a 19-year-old strangled in Boston in 1964.

Advances in DNA testing have allowed criminologists to prove there is a connection between the crime and someone in the DeSalvo line, according to a team led by Attorney General Martha Coakley and Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley. Now they want to prove that “someone.”

“There was no forensic evidence to link Albert DeSalvo to Mary Sullivan’s murder — until today,” Conley said at a Thursday press conference. “Advances in the sensitivity of DNA testing have allowed us to make a familial match between biological evidence recovered from the crime scene and a suspect in Mary Sullivan’s murder. That suspect is Albert DeSalvo.”

The new technology can coax DNA from aged samples. By testing DeSalvo’s remains, Conley hopes to make the identification 100 percent positive and solve a mystery that has haunted Massachusetts for roughly half a century.

It will mark the second time in little more than 10 years that the suspected killer’s body has been removed from its grave in Peabody. In October 2001, a private group led by forensic scientist James Starr — notable for previously exhuming the body of Jesse James — disinterred DeSalvo for testing. Those results were not conclusive.

Starr also exhumed the body of Mary Sullivan and reported finding DNA from someone who was not DeSalvo. Marblehead attorney Elaine Sharp, who represents the DeSalvo family, believes that means there will be unanswered questions despite the new evidence.

While Sharp called the new DNA evidence “strong” and praised the effort in seeking the truth all these years later, she said, “It is not definitive.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest Cape Ann News

Pictures of the Week
Your news, your way
Comments Tracker
AP Video Network
Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dead at 87 Beau Biden Plans 2016 Run for Del. Governor Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later Sister of Slain MIT Officer Reflects on Bombing