On Jan. 4, 1964, young Mary Sullivan was strangled and raped in her Beacon Hill apartment in Boston. Among the evidence collected by police was seminal fluid from her body and from a blanket.
DNA testing did not exist back then, but the Boston police crime lab has held on to the evidence in hopes it might one day lead to the killer of the 19-year-old.
On Thursday, authorities in Boston announced that the nearly 50-year-old evidence has produced a DNA match that links Albert DeSalvo, long suspected as the “Boston Strangler” responsible for 11 slayings, to Sullivan’s death.
Breakthroughs in DNA testing found a “familial match” between the killer’s seminal fluid and a living nephew of DeSalvo, who was stabbed to death in prison in 1973. A fugitive squad cop from the Boston Police Department followed the nephew and recovered a discarded water bottle containing his DNA, authorities announced at a news conference in Boston.
“We got a hit,” Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said of the DNA testing.
Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said the DNA match ruled out 99.99 percent of all other males. “There was no forensic evidence to link Albert DeSalvo to Mary Sullivan’s murder until today,” he said.
Although DeSalvo, an Army veteran with a wife and children, had confessed to the Strangler killings, he was never charged or convicted in connection with the murders.
DeSalvo was serving a life sentence for unrelated armed robberies and sexual assaults when he was killed in a Massachusetts prison. He later recanted, and doubts about his confession have persisted for years.
Conley said he expects a match to DNA from DeSalvo’s remains after they are exhumed this week under a judge’s order.