TVs DeSalvo debunker

WBZ-TV producer, and relative of Boston Strangler victim, concludes that confessed killer is the wrong man
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Before the Night Stalker
and the Son of Sam,
there was the Boston Strangler. Or was there?

A Boston TV producer has revived a nearly four-decades-old investigation and has concluded that the late Albert DeSalvo-subject of articles, books and film-was not the infamous murderer who terrorized Boston in the early 1960s.

In fact, says WBZ-TV producer Casey Sherman, there may have been no single strangler but a number of rapists and killers who committed the crimes to which DeSalvo confessed.

"DeSalvo was a nut who confessed," says Sherman. "Don't get me wrong; he was a bad guy: a rapist and a thief. But he was not the Boston Strangler. He was a guy who didn't want to go to prison; he wanted to be studied in a psychiatric facility." DeSalvo died in a Massachusetts prison, however.

Sherman is neither a professional historian nor a theorist fixated on an event like the Kennedy or King assasinations. He comes by his fascination with the Boston Strangler murders naturally: The last alleged victim of Albert DeSalvo was his aunt, 19-year-old Mary Sullivan, who had come to live in Boston from Cape Cod a few days before.

In recent weeks, Sherman's own family and that of DeSalvo himself have cooperated in having Sullivan's body exhumed from her Cape Cod grave, and they have sued police to release evidence in the case. Now the state of Massachusetts has reopened the case. Sherman is hoping that DNA and other evidence-including some newly discovered in a medical examiner's office-will lead investigators away from DeSalvo and toward his aunt's real killer.

Sherman began studying the Strangler as a journalism student at Boston University in the early 1990s. "My family never believed DeSalvo was the Strangler. I wanted to prove that it was him, to bring some closure. But all the evidence points away from DeSalvo."

His own belief is that the death of his aunt came at the hands of a man still alive, still living in New England, someone who knew his aunt and failed two police lie-detector tests. Sherman has not identified the suspect, but he has spoken with him and made his accusation known. "Once we exonerate DeSalvo, we will go after the prime suspect," he said. DeSalvo's confession, he says, allowed investigators to wrap things up neatly, despite the doubts of many.

Sherman and WBZ-TV have already done several pieces on the Strangler case for WBZ-TV, and his work is gaining notoriety outside Boston. He has even debated one of DeSalvo's lawyers: F. Lee Bailey, to whom DeSalvo confessed the killings.