Families sue state, authorities for Boston Strangler evidence

BOSTON - Relatives of Albert DeSalvo and the family of one of the women he confessed to killing sued local and state authorities Thursday seeking information they say proves the real Boston Strangler is still at large.

The families said they were forced into action by officials who refused to turn over evidence, including semen and hair samples for DNA testing.

They claim a tape of DeSalvo's confession in the 1964 murder of Mary Sullivan - the only evidence linking him to the crime - contains a key error that proves DeSalvo couldn't have been the real killer.

''His confession contradicts the official autopsy report,'' said Casey Sherman, Sullivan's nephew and a WBZ-TV producer who has been pursuing the case for years. ''In my eyes, it could be the smoking gun in this case.''

Sullivan was one of 11 women believed killed by the so-called Boston Strangler between June 1962 and January 1964. DeSalvo confessed to those killings and the deaths of two other women but was never charged.

He was killed in prison in 1973 while serving time for an unrelated crime.

In portions of a taped confession played Wednesday night on WBZ-TV, DeSalvo claimed he raped Sullivan prior to her slaying. But according to the autopsy report, no semen was found on Sullivan's body.

Another portion of DeSalvo's confession, in which he said he had used a gag, also contradicted autopsy results, the station reported.

Defendants in the lawsuit include Attorney General Tom Reilly, the chief medical examiner, state police and Boston police.

In May, Reilly's office said it would give families access as soon as it determined the full content of evidence gathered during the investigation. A month later, the office said because no one was ever charged, the petitioners weren't entitled to the information.

''We certainly respect the concerns of the family,'' Reilly said Thursday. ''Whatever Mr. DeSalvo may have said more than 30 years ago, the fact remains - he was not charged, nor was anyone else. As far as we're concerned this is an unsolved homicide.''

Elaine Whitfield Sharp, an attorney for the families, complained that much of the evidence has been made available to journalists.

''Our point is if journalists can get this, why can't the families?'' she said.

Sharp said the families and the team of lawyers and forensics experts hoped to obtain semen and hair samples in order to perform the kind of DNA testing that wasn't available when the murder took place.


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