Home » The new film “Boston Strangler” will reach out to the families of the victims, those connected with the case

The new film “Boston Strangler” will reach out to the families of the victims, those connected with the case

by Stewart Cole

The son of a Boston police detective who worked on the murders, the brother of a reporter who had a profile in the film and the nephew of one of the victims of strangulation hope that the retelling of this story will provide information on the desperate search for truth and courage. by those who will not resign from the case.

The new film stars Keira Knightley as Loretta McLaughlin, who, along with fellow reporter Jean Cole, wrote about the murders in the 1960s while working for Boston Record American. Filming began Dec. 6 in Belmont and continued in the Boston South End last week.

John DiNatale’s father, Phil, was a former Boston Police Detective and one of the lead investigators in the case. His father later worked as a consultant on the 1968 Hollywood film The Boston Strangler, starring Tony Curtis as Albert DeSalvo, who eventually confessed to being the Boston Strangler and murdered 13 women between 1962 and 1964.

So much time has passed, DiNatale noted, few people can remember DeSalvo and the real crime drama that took place in Boston in those years.

“This is a new story for a whole new generation,” DiNatale said of the new production.

DiNatale hopes that the police investigation is accurately portrayed in the new film and how DeSalvo was identified as the Boston Strangler.

“For many years, people thought the detectives who worked on the case were a bunch of idiots … which is a shame,” DiNatale said.

DiNatale said his father received critical information that led investigators to look at DeSalvo. It happened in January 1965, when he was contacted by the head of security at Massachusetts General Hospital, who received an anonymous letter from a nurse saying he had been assaulted and raped by a man named Albert DeSalvo, and thought he may have been Boston. Strangler.

“They sent this letter to my dad … and so on [DeSalvo] “became part of the investigation,” he said. “It was a nurse who sent an anonymous letter to MGH.”

From all the work he put into the case, DiNatale said that his father “was always convinced that Albert was the Boston Strangler”.

DeSalvo has never been charged with murder. In January 1967 he was sentenced to life in prison for a series of attacks on women that took place before the assassination of the Boston Strangler. The following month he made a brief escape from Bridgewater State Hospital and was later arrested in Lynn. He then spent the rest of his life locked up and had a violent end when he was stabbed to death in Walpole State Prison in 1973.

The Boston Globe reported that DeSalvo once told a prison staffer at Bridgewater State Hospital: “I know I’m famous and when people come in from here on tour, if they point to me and say ‘Boston strangler there’, I do.” does not matter. “But this is only between 9 and 5. I have working hours like any other celebrity, and when I finish work, I want to be able to go back to my room and have a little privacy, as other celebrities want in their private lives.”

Albert Desalvo’s room at Bridgewater State Hospital, where he escaped on February 24, 1967. File photo

Neither Jean Cole nor Loretta McLaughlin will be able to see themselves portrayed in this latest film production (Cole died in 2015 and McLaughlin died in 2018).

Kevin Cole worked with his sister, Jean, for the Record-American newspaper and recalled feeling in Boston in the 1960s as women began appearing dead in their homes.

“It was a scary moment,” Cole said in a telephone interview. “It was getting bigger as different women were being murdered.”

Cole said his sister was one of the first journalists to link the killings.

“She was one of the first to come out and say she was a person,” Cole said.

Cole said as female reporters, his sister and McLaughlin had to overcome many abuses and discrimination at work. Back then, women wrote about beauty and the household – not about crime.

“They broke the ceiling. “They covered everything,” Cole said. “I’m very proud of both of them.”

Cole worked as a photographer for Record-American and had the opportunity to photograph DeSalvo. Cole said he was not a scary figure.

“It was so simple,” Cole said.

Albert DeSalvo enters East Cambridge Court on January 19, 1967.
Albert DeSalvo enters East Cambridge Court on January 19, 1967.Boston Globe

Casey Sherman is the nephew of Mary Sullivan, a 19-year-old victim who was found dead in her Charles Street apartment on January 4, 1964. Sherman wrote about her murder in his book A Rose for Mary: The Hunt for the Real Boston Stranger ».

When it comes to the new film, Sherman said he “is interested in seeing what they put on the screen, for sure.”

“The victims in the Boston Strangler case … came from all walks of life. “The sense of terror that prevailed throughout the city at that time was unprecedented,” Sherman said. “My aunt Mary Sullivan was not only a victim, she was the youngest and last victim in this two and a half year reign of terror.”

Sherman believes more than one man was responsible for the murder of his aunt and 12 other women.

“There are a lot of unresolved issues regarding the stranger case itself, but at least one project like this is holding the debate,” Sherman said. “Remembering the women victims here is important. “Well, you know, I’m looking forward to the movie, and watching as everyone else would, but with a keen eye, obviously, since I know so much about the case.”

Sullivan’s murder made headlines again in 2013, decades after her death, when DNA test was used for confirmation that DeSalvo raped and strangled her.

Former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis was the top police officer in Boston at the time. He grew up hearing about the Boston Strangler and the case was always in the back of his mind.

“I mean, it was definitely a big deal for me personally,” Davis said. “When I was little I read all the titles. “My dad was a policeman, a detective at the time, so I was fascinated by the case.”

Davis explained how Boston police took the original DNA sample following De Salvo’s nephew to a construction site and picking up a bottle of discarded water.

“There was a lot of information in the DNA sample from the water bottle that matched the liquid stain that was left there on the night of the murder,” Davis said. “It was at that point that we had enough to go to court and ask for the exhumation of DeSalvo’s body, because everything fit.”

Albert DeSalvo's body was buried in Puritan Lawn Memorial Park in Peabody in July 2013.
Albert DeSalvo’s body was buried in Puritan Lawn Memorial Park in Peabody in July 2013.David L. Ryan / Globe Staff

In July 2013, DeSalvo’s body was exhumed and his DNA sent to a laboratory. When the results returned, he matched the DNA to the semen recovered from Sullivan’s Beacon Hill apartment.

“We were excited,” Davis said.

Davis said DNA confirmation, all these years later, was the culmination of his career.

“Because I was a young kid and I had this thing – literally 40 or 50 years later – to come back and be responsible for the final completion … closing this case was one of my most exciting experiences as a police professional.”

Davis said he also shows how police never stop working on a case.

“Regardless of who the victim is, we will do everything we can to close the families involved,” Davis said. “There were many casualties inside [the Boston Strangler] case, and you know, as to how many people were actually killed by DeSalvo, I do not know we can say for sure, but I can say that this case, like any other homicide case, is very important to us, and we do not you never close the books “.


The following is a list of victims of the Boston Strangler:


Anna Slesers, 55

77 Gainsborough St., Boston

June 14, 1962

Mary Mullen, 85

1435 Commonwealth Ave., Boston

June 28, 1962

Nina Nichols, 68

1940 Commonwealth Ave., Boston

June 30, 1962

Helen Blake, 65

73 Newhall St., Lynn

June 30, 1962

Ida Irga, 75

7 Grove St., Boston

August 19, 1962

Jane Sullivan, 67

435 Columbia Road, Dorchester

August 21, 1962

Sophie Clark, 20

315 Huntington Ave., Boston

December 5, 1962

Patricia Bisset, 22

515 Park Drive, Boston

December 31, 1962

Mary Brown, 69

319 Park St., Lawrence

March 6, 1963

Beverly Samans, 26

4 University Road, Cambridge

May 8, 1963

Evelyn Corbin, 58

224 Lafayette St., Salem

September 8, 1963

Joann Graff, 22

54 Essex St., Lawrence

November 23, 1963

Mary Sullivan, 19

44-A Charles St., Boston

January 4, 1964


You can contact Emily Sweeney at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.

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