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‘Boston Strangler’ detective would be pleased, daughter says

As helicopters from several news outlets whirred above Friday, more than 20 people were at the site in Peabody when the remains of Albert DeSalvo were exhumed.

DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF

As helicopters from several news outlets whirred above Friday, more than 20 people were at the site in Peabody when the remains of Albert DeSalvo were exhumed.

A daughter of the detective who led a task force on the Boston Strangler case when it terrorized the region in the 1960s said Friday that he would have been thrilled to see the new developments that may finally prove that Albert DeSalvo was responsible for at least one of the killings.

“He would be dancing in the streets right now,” Jeanne V. Elliott, 64, said of her father, Andrew J. Tuney Jr. He died in October at the age of 89 and will be laid to rest Saturday in Stoneham, one day after officials exhumed DeSalvo’s remains.

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Elliott, of Atkinson, N.H., said her father, a former State Police lieutenant detective who led a team established by Attorney General Edward W. Brooke to track down the Strangler, believed that DeSalvo was their man, because he knew so many details about the killings not released to the public.

She said the one killing her father had doubts about was the case of Mary Sullivan, the 19-year-old woman who was killed in her Beacon Hill apartment in 1964.

“He said there was something slightly different in that case, ‘one little thing that bothers me,’ ” Elliott said. “But he never told us what it was.”

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She said she was happy to learn that DeSalvo’s family, the victims’ relatives, and the investigators who worked tirelessly on the case may all soon find closure.

Elliott recalled that women regularly visited her family’s Georgetown home when she was a child to pass along chilling, if ultimately unfounded, tips to her father.

“We all lived through that,” Elliott said. “Wives would come, saying the husbands had done it. Daughters would come and say their fathers did it. Sisters would come and say their brothers did it.”

She said her father described DeSalvo, whom he interviewed several times, as disarming and honest.

“He just said that Albert actually was personable in his own way,” Elliott said. “He was a straight shooter. You asked him a question, he’d tell you the answer.”

Tuney’s funeral and burial service were delayed to allow some family members to come from out of state, said Elliott. She added that the recent break in the case has turned a bright spot on a weekend that she had expected would be somber.

“It was going to be kind of a sad moment, but I don’t think it’s going to be tomorrow,” Elliott said. “I can’t even explain it. I’m as elated as I think he would have been.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@
globe.com
. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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