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From the Archives | June 13, 2002

Victims of the Boston Strangler

This article is from the Boston Globe Archive. It was originally published on June 13, 2002. Thirteen victims of the Boston Strangler were found in Eastern Massachusetts between 1962 and 1964. The capsules below describe the circumstances surrounding the discovery of each of the victims.

Anna Slesers, 55

  • 77 Gainsborough St., Boston

  • Found on: June 14, 1962

  • On Thursday, June 14, 1962, NBC is preparing for the debut of what critics call a "Johnny Come Lately" to late-night television, Johnny Carson. At Fenway, a box seat is $3. The Red Sox are in ninth place. In a bylined story, Ted Williams bemoans the vicissitudes of age. He is 43.

  • Anna Slesers is a seamstress for a decorating firm on Canal Street. At 5:30 p.m., she is seen entering her apartment alone. At 7:45, her son, Juris, 23, arrives to take her to church for a memorial service for victims of the Russian invasion of Latvia.

  • He finds her body on the kitchen floor dressed in a housecoat that was ripped open, the cord knotted around her neck in a garish bow. The killer had tried to strangle her with a man's belt, but it broke. She was sexually assaulted, possibly with an object. Her son says she had no enemies. Police speculate she surprised a burglar who gained entry by scaffolding.

  • At headquarters, police question eight men. All are released.


Mary Mullen, 85

  • 1435 Commonwealth Ave., Boston

  • Found on: June 28, 1962

  • On Thursday, June 28, 1962, the Supreme Court rules against prayer in public schools. President Kennedy says the remedy is simple: Pray in private. The town was buzzing about Earl Wilson's no-hitter against the Angels, and newcomers to Boston wonder if the Sox will go all the way. At dinner at the Ritz-Carlton to celebrate the debut of Allen Drury's "Advice and Consent," Boston Brahmins - the Crockers, Coolidges, and Forbes - take second billing to an old Irish woman, Rose Kennedy, mother of the president.

  • On Commonwealth Avenue in the Back Bay, meanwhile, an elderly woman, Mary Mullen, is found dead on the sofa in her apartment.

  • Years later, Albert DeSalvo tells investigators that he was in her apartment, that he did not strangle her, that she simply died in his arms. The death certificate confirms the cause of death was a heart attack. Police speculate she was frightened to death.

Nina Nichols, 68

  • 1940 Commonwealth Ave., Boston

  • Found on: June 30, 1962

  • On Saturday, June 30, 1962, forecasters promise a sunny Fourth of July. Fans look forward to the Sox game against Minnesota, others to patriotic ceremonies at Faneuil Hall, cookouts, sack races, greased watermelon scrambles, and the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Sheraton-Plaza, $2.95.

  • In the afternoon, Chester Steadman, president of the Boston Bar, telephones his sister-in-law, Nina Nichols, a physiotherapist. Receiving no answer, he alerts the superintendent. At 7:30 p.m., her body is found on her bedroom floor. She is wearing a pink flannel robe torn from the waist down, two stockings tight around her neck. Police find no evidence of forced entry. She was sexually assaulted with a wine bottle.

  • At the same time, in a Lynn apartment, a woman hears furniture being moved upstairs and assumes her neighbor, Helen Blake, is cleaning. Forty-eight hours later, she will learn that the sounds were probably those of the Boston Strangler.

Helen Blake, 65

  • 73 Newhall St., Lynn

  • Found on: June 30, 1962

  • On Saturday, June 30, 1962, President Kennedy warns the "Red World" to keep hands off the Western Hemisphere. Brookline gets tough on parking violators, raising fines from $1 to $2. At Hyannis Port, Jean Kennedy Smith is the first of the Kennedys to arrive along with three station wagons, a sedan, and a small minivan with a mountain of luggage, golf clubs, three dogs, hired help, and a birdcage. Monday, while people plan to attend bonfires and fireworks, reporters hammer out stories that will shock readers: "Another Silk Stocking Murder, Two Women Slain the Same Day."

  • Nurse Helen Blake is found face-down on her bed, the bottom of her flannel pajamas on the floor, a stocking and a bra tied around her neck.

  • "The stocking was the instrument of death," writes a reporter, "the bra knotted at the nape as though the killer wanted to make sure of his work." She was sexually assaulted. A massive hunt is underway for the "Mad Triple Killer."

Ida Irga, 75

  • 7 Grove St., Boston

  • Found on: Aug. 19, 1962

  • On Sunday, Aug. 19, 1962, the temperature reaches 84 degrees by noon. In Berlin, Germany, Western commanders send an ambulance to the Red Wall to aid refugees wounded by East German guards. The MDC flushes the Charles River with 15 million gallons of fresh water daily to eliminate objectionable odors. At Longwood Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill, the National Doubles is underway, admission $1.50. At Rogers Peet on Tremont, preppy blazers are $40, Weejun moccasins $15.95.

  • The family of Ida Irga is worried. No one answers the telephone at the Beacon Hill apartment where she has lived 15 years. A cousin climbs to her fifth-floor apartment and opens the door to a grotesque sight. She is on her back, her pajamas torn to expose her body, her legs held apart by two chairs. She has been strangled by pillow case and sexually assaulted.

Jane Sullivan, 67

  • 435 Columbia Road, Boston

  • Found on: Aug. 21, 1962

  • On Monday, Aug. 21, 1962, the Cold War heats up. Soviet missiles menace Berlin. A US Navy plane is shot at near Cuba. In Louisiana, recently desegregated schools are shut down because of threats of violence.

  • On a day when newspapers refer to the strangler as "the deranged killer who has brought chilling terror to the home of every Boston woman who lives alone," Jane Sullivan, a night nurse at Longwood Hospital, is found in her bathtub at home on Columbia Road in Dorchester, face down, kneeling, head and forearms covered by water. Her housecoat is pulled to her shoulders, her panties to her ankles, exposing her buttocks. She has been dead a week, strangled by two nylon stockings.

  • A psychiatrist drawing a hypothetical sketch of the strangler warns: "He is physically small, a fact that nurtures a crippling inferiority complex. (He's) a psychotic sex pervert suffering from a most malignant form of schizophrenia, and unless police get to him, he will kill again."

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Sophie Clark, 20

  • 315 Huntington Ave., Boston

  • Found on: Dec. 5, 1962

  • On Wednesday, Dec. 5, 1962, Western authorities speculate that nine Soviet cosmonauts are lost in space. At the State House, Republicans want a 3 percent sales tax to provide tax relief for owners of property. A dozen eggs costs 96 cents, a quart of milk 52 cents, a loaf of bread 21 cents, a gallon of gas 30 cents, a postage stamp 5 cents.

  • It is 40 degrees and raining. There are 16 shopping days to a Christmas that Sophie Clark will not see. By day she is a hospital technician. At night, she attends classes at Carnegie Institute of Medical Technology on Beacon Hill. Returning home, a roommate finds Sophie Clark on her back, legs spread, wearing a garter belt, black stockings and a blue, floral housecoat and bra that are torn. She was strangled by a stocking and petticoat, intertwined. On the carpet near her body, police find stains. It is semen.

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Patricia Bissette, 23

  • 515 Park Drive, Boston

  • Found on: Dec. 31, 1962

  • Monday, Dec. 31, 1962, is the coldest New Year's Eve since 1918: 4 degrees below zero. Undaunted, Boston celebrates with gusto. Tremont and Washington are thronged with revelers welcoming 1963 with everything from cowbells to bursting bags. At the Statler, 450 jam the Terrace Room, and at Copley Plaza, the Merry-Go-Round is elbow to elbow.

  • Over Christmas, Patricia Bissette had returned to her alma mater, Middlebury College, where she had been editor of the yearbook. She tells a classmate she is not afraid of the Boston Strangler.

  • When she does not arrive for work as receptionist at an engineering company in Kenmore Square, her boss calls her janitor. She is found in bed, in a bra and a blue-red housecoat, a sheet and blanket pulled to her neck and smoothed. She has been strangled with four articles of clothing. Directly against her neck is knotted a blouse, and over that a nylon stocking, and finally, two stockings tied together. She is one month pregnant.

Mary Brown, 69

  • 319 Park Ave., Lawrence

  • Found on: March 6, 1963

  • On March 6, 1963, Nikita Khruschev says in a speech that he never realized innocent people were victimized under Stalin. In Chicago, a relaxed Richard Nixon says he does not envision himself a candidate for public office. Joan Kennedy, 26, is expecting a third child. Cassius Clay wins his 18th straight. Sack Theaters announces the opening of the film the world had been waiting for, "Cleopatra" with Elizabeth Taylor. The Beatles record "Thank You, Girl."

  • In Lawrence, Mary Brown, 69, is found on the floor of her apartment, her head covered with a sheet. She has been raped, strangled, beaten about the head, and stabbed in her breasts with a kitchen fork that was left in her chest.

  • When he confesses, DeSalvo, to persuade authorities of his guilt, provides details about the kitchen faucet (brass) and the kitchen radio (yellow). The investigator says: "That sheet you covered her with must have been bloody."

  • DeSalvo says, "Oh, was it, my God!"

Beverly Samans, 23

  • 4 University Road, Cambridge

  • Found on: May 6, 1963

  • On Monday, May 6, 1963, Viet Cong guerrillas execute an American military adviser in Saigon, the 81st American killed since 1961. In Birmingham, Martin Luther King Jr. is jailed for parading without a permit. Teenagers dance to "Blue Velvet" by Bobby Vinton.

  • On University Road in Cambridge, Beverly Samans is found stretched on her bed, unclad, stabbed, and strangled, her hands tied behind her back. Two silk scarves and a nylon stocking are knotted around her neck. They were not the cause of death, rules the medical examiner, because none of the delicate bones in her neck is fractured. She has been stabbed 16 times, four times in the neck, 12 in the chest, including five times in the left lung.

  • "This could not have been done," says a detective, "by a person of sound mind."

  • Samans was a musical therapist and a graduate student in music at Boston University. In her typewriter was a page of her thesis. The topic: "Mental Aberrations."

Evelyn Corbin, 58

  • 224 Lafayette St., Salem

  • Found on: Sept. 8, 1963

  • On Sunday, Sept. 8, 1963, a one-in-57 million event occurs in Venezuela: the birth of quintuplets. Federal authorities prepare an injunction against Alabama Governor George Wallace so that black pupils may enroll in white public schools. Barbra Streisand marries Elliot Gould.

  • Grateful for a day off from Sylvania, Evelyn Corbin has breakfast with her neighbor, Flora Manchester, then leaves to dress for Mass at St. Theresa's. They plan to meet for lunch.

  • At 1, Manchester goes to Corbin's apartment. Hearing no response, she unlocks the door and finds Corbin draped over the bed, her right leg dangling toward the floor. Around her neck are two stockings. A third is wrapped around her left ankle, a fourth found on the bed. She has been raped.

  • A police lieutenant is asked if her death could be linked to the unsolved stranglings. "The woman's dead," he says. "There's a stocking around her neck. That's similarity enough."

Joann Graff, 23

  • 54 Essex St., Lawrence

  • Found on: Nov. 23, 1963

  • On Nov. 23, 1963, the Maguire Sisters are at Blinstrub's, Louis Armstrong at King Philip's in Wrentham, and Sandra Dee at the Music Hall in "Take Her, She's Mine." Bell introduces push-button phones. Howard Johnson's offers Thanksgiving dinner for $2.95. At dawn that Saturday, across Boston Common, the calm is shattered by cannons that fire to mark the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

  • On Sunday, while the president's body lies in repose at the White House, the landlord collecting rent finds no answer at Graff's apartment. She fails to show up for dinner Saturday night or for services on Sunday at Redeemer Lutheran Church. Friends telephone police.

  • At about the time that Lee Harvey Oswald is shot in Dallas, police find her nude body. Her blouse is pushed up to her armpits, two nylon stockings and a leotard are knotted around her neck. Neighbors say she was a quiet girl. She was a Sunday School teacher. She was an artist.

  • And she was No. 12.

Mary Sullivan, 19

  • 44-A Charles St., Boston

  • Found on: Jan. 4, 1964

  • On Saturday, Jan. 4, 1964, Communist ground fire hits a helicopter in Vietnam, killing four GIs. The Patriots lose the American Football League championship to San Diego. Arthur Murray offers cha-cha lessons, $19.64. Cardinal Cushing prepares for President Kennedy's memorial at Holy Cross Cathedral.

  • At 44-A Charles St., two women arrive home from work at Filene's, see their roommate Mary Sullivan in bed and decide to let her sleep. They prepare dinner, try to rouse her, then discover she's dead. Responding to screams, a motorcycle officer finds Sullivan with a nylon stocking and two scarves around her neck.

  • Lt. John Donovan tells reporters: "It's quite apparrent [sic] that this little girl was strangled,"

  • When Sullivan graduated from Barnstable High School in 1962, classmates described her as happy-go-lucky. Fate determined that she would be remembered as the 13th and final victim of the Boston Strangler.

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