Was Paul Dempsey The Real Boston Strangler? Why Did Albert Desalvo And George Nassar Lie To The Police?


From the very beginning of the film, “Boston Strangler,” we saw that the police were trying to cover up the blunders that they had committed during the investigation of the multiple murders that had shaken the entire city. Firstly, they were not able to ascertain that the murders were being committed by a single person, as there was a pattern in the way the victims had been killed. Had it not been for Loretta McLaughlin, the fact that all murders were connected wouldn’t have ever come to light. Instead of making sure that justice was served and the real perpetrator went behind bars, the police were just trying to run away from any sort of accountability. The commissioner paid a visit to the Record American office just to make them stop publishing any more articles, though he had no evidence to prove that what Loretta was claiming was wrong. The commissioner was an experienced man, and he knew the consequences of a case coming under public scrutiny, which he wanted to avoid at all costs. He knew that once society started talking about it, the investigation carried out by the police department would be under intense scrutiny, and they wouldn’t be able to just make up some false story and shut down the case.

Loretta and Jean Cole wouldn’t have been so persistent in their criticism had the police department done its job properly. The police were not following potential leads; they were missing links that could help them identify the killer, and most of all, they didn’t have any sort of strategy to catch the Boston Strangler, and they were just randomly shooting arrows in the dark.

How Did Paul Dempsey Become A Prime Suspect?

One day, Loretta got a call from Detective Linski, who worked at the New York Police Department, and he told her that he had reason to believe that a person named Paul Dempsey was linked to the Boston murders. Detective Linski had tried contacting the Boston PD, but surprisingly, they didn’t follow the lead. Even he was shocked that they were not doing a background search of the guy when he was giving them proper evidence that proved that Dempsey was in Boston during the first five murders. Paul Dempsey had strangled an elderly woman four years prior to the first case, but because the Boston Police Force didn’t set up a centralized effort to look into the matter, and they didn’t even investigate it when the evidence was placed on their laps, the case never came to light.

Loretta gave the police two more names of people she suspected. She had talked to the family members of the victims and came to know about the dubious relationship that men named Daniel Marsh and Gordon Neilson had with the victims, Beverly and Patricia, respectively. Though Gordon Neilson failed two polygraph tests and the police knew that he had gone to Patricia’s house to remove the evidence, the DA still thought that he couldn’t be linked to the murders, so he was released.

How Did Albert DeSalvo And George Nassar Come Under The Radar?

During her investigation, Lorette got to know about another suspect named Albert Desalvo, whose profile was really similar to that of the murderer, but the problem was that he was in police custody during the first six murders. Loretta was very sure that he was the one who had committed the murders, but he had such a strong alibi that she couldn’t do anything about it. That’s when Jean Cole asked her if she had checked the actual release records, and they struck gold. Loretta and Jean found out that Desalvo had been released by the judge on account of his good behavior. Desalvo came out of the poison a couple of months prior to the first murder that had happened in Boston. So that’s how Albert Desalvo became the prime suspect in the murders, and as soon as the media got a whiff of that news, there was another development that really baffled everybody at the Record American office. Desalvo had hired a hotshot lawyer named F. Lee Bailey, and Loretta didn’t know how he had managed to get in contact with him and take him on board, considering he charged a huge fee for his services. There was another weird thing that happened, about which Loretta came to know through Detective Jim. When Jim asked a victim’s neighbor to identify Desalvo, she wasn’t able to recognize him and instead pointed towards another man named George Nassar.

Bailey, Desalvo’s lawyer, said that his client would make a confession only on one condition that they wouldn’t be allowed to use the confession in court. So basically, what it meant was that the case would be closed, but Desalvo would never be charged for murdering those 13 women. Desalvo had a number of other cases pending against him, and officials knew that they could sentence him to life and keep him off the streets in any case. Jack told Loretta that all they wanted was to put the guy behind bars, and now that it was happening, she should worry if he was being labeled as the Boston strangler and charged specifically for those crimes or not. But Loretta just couldn’t ignore the fact that Boston PD had botched up the entire investigation and now they were trying to cover it all up.

What Was The True Story Behind The Boston Murders? Was Paul Dempsey The Real Boston Strangler?

The case was believed to be solved by everybody but Loretta what had happened behind the curtains, and she couldn’t make peace with that fact. She got a call from Detective Deline, who worked at the Michigan State Police Department. He said that there were six murders that had happened in and around his area, and the manner in which they were executed was identical to that of the Boston Strangler. The catch was that DeSalvo was in prison during that time, and Loretta knew that he couldn’t have committed those murders. Loretta went down to Michigan and accidentally bumped into a piece of information that became the basis of her entire theory. Daniel Marsh, who had been Loretta’s favorite suspect, was also in town when the murders had happened, and she got to know from Deline that he was their prime suspect too. Loretta found out that Daniel Marsh was also at Bridgewater State Hospital, together with Desalvo and George Nassar.

Loretta got the recording of Desalvo’s confession through Detective Jim Conley, and she found out that he was being prompted throughout the session and had no clue about the details of most of the murders. Loretta contacted Desalvo, and he agreed to talk to her and tell her why he was taking a fall for the system, but before he could do that, he was killed by an unknown man in his cell. Loretta went there, and a worker gave her a piece of paper with the name and address of a person named Harrison, who had stayed with Desalvo and apparently knew something of great significance pertaining to the investigation. Harrison told Loretta that Desalvo had been asked to confess all the crimes and was being coached by Nassar and Daniel Marsh so that during his confession, he didn’t falter or miss out on any detail. Nassar told Loretta that there was a reward of $10,000 for a victim, and that’s how he had looped in his lawyer, F. Bailey, to help them out.

Loretta realized that there were multiple people who were committing crimes to get rid of the women whom they didn’t want in their lives and were using the identity of the Boston Strangler as a cover. She said that the psychologist whom she had contacted at the beginning of the investigation was absolutely right in saying that these murderers often had a pattern that they never broke. It corroborated her story that there were multiple Boston Stranglers. Loretta came to the conclusion that the first few murders were committed by Paul Dempsey, as all the victims were elderly women. After Paul moved to New York, suddenly, young girls were being murdered, which meant that others had started taking advantage of the situation. Because the city desperately wanted to move on, nobody cared about the loopholes in the investigation once Desalvo confessed to his crimes.

In real life, the court wasn’t able to find any incriminating evidence against Daniel Marsh, and years later, they could only link DeSalvo to the last murder, i.e., the murder of the 13th woman, whereas the other 12 remain unsolved. In the infamous case of the Boston Strangler, a blot was left on the entire legal setup of the country, and from the police officers in charge of the investigation to the legal officers, everybody was to blame for the mishap. It was the persistence and courage of two female journalists that led the world to know about the injustice that had happened in Boston, and had they not been so resilient in their approach, the authorities would have successfully covered up the entire thing without letting anybody know what had actually happened.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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