Carrie Coon and Keira Knightley in ‘Boston Strangler’ credits – Courtesy of 20th Century Studios
Following on from a series of popular true crime adaptations ranging from the HBO series the staircase for Netflix Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story comes the new from Hulu boston strangler film, released on March 17.
Written and directed by Matt Ruskin (crown heights), boston strangler tells the story of 13 women who were murdered in and around Boston in the early 1960s, sometimes referred to as the “Silk Stockings Murders”, from the perspective of the two journalists who broke the story of the connected murders, Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley). and Jean Cole (Carrie Coon).
As investigative reporters for Record American (predecessor of boston herald), McLaughlin and Cole faced sexism and pressure to abandon the story both from their own newsroom and from a skeptical, uncooperative police force as they tried to expose the truth and bring justice to the women who were killed – similar to the film.
Thirty years after the first series of murders, McLaughlin wrote a story for the boston globe about what prompted her to cover the case, explaining how it was the fourth murder in the summer of 1962 that “galvanized” her attention. “One editor disputed the value of a series about the four dead women, noting that they were ‘nobodies,’” she wrote. “That was exactly it, I felt it. Why should someone kill four shady women? That’s what made them so interesting…sisters in anonymity, like the rest of us.
What role did McLaughlin and Cole play in the case?
Over the nearly two years that the 13 victims, aged between 19 and 85, were killed, McLaughlin and Cole led the charge based on the theory that the grisly murders were the work of a single perpetrator, whom they dubbed the “Boston Strangler”. This was nearly a decade before the term “serial killer” was coined.
The first six murders, all of older single women who apparently willingly allowed the killer into their homes, took place in the summer of 1962. There was then a months break in the killing until 20-year-old Sophie Clark. she was found strangled to death in her apartment in December. The next six victims, murdered between December 1962 and January 1964, were between the ages of 19 and 69. Most were sexually assaulted before being strangled to death.
McLaughlin and Cole began publishing a series of investigative reports on the murders in January 1963, with the first story bearing the newspaper’s chosen questionable headline of “Two Female Reporters Analyze Strangler”. That launched a series of about 30 articles about the murders, according to smithsonian magazine. It was at this point that McLaughlin and Cole began to face significant resistance from authorities who took the position that the level of detail included in their reports was not helping the investigation and could inspire copycat crimes.
As for the accuracy boston strangler portrays McLaughlin and Cole, Ruskin told Collider that while parts of the film are dramatized, he did his best to create a realistic depiction of the two women.
“I developed a personal relationship with Loretta and [Jean’s] children. I got to know their families very well, and getting the story right was really important to me,” she said. “So I wanted to convey the spirit of these women as truthfully as possible. That said, in terms of trying to tell a story that spanned several years in a feature film, you obviously have to take some liberties.”
Who was the Boston Strangler?
In October 1964, 34-year-old Albert DeSalvo (played by David Dastmalchian) was arrested for sexually assaulting a woman after pretending to be a police officer to get into her home. When his picture was published in the newspapers, several other women came forward to say that he had committed similar assaults against them, a set of attacks that became known as the “Green Man” crimes.
DeSalvo was sent to await trial at Bridgewater State Hospital, a state facility for the criminally insane, and it was there that he allegedly confessed to his cellmate, George Nassar (played by Greg Vrotos), that he was responsible for the murders associated with the Affair of Boston Strangler. Nassar relayed the confession to his attorney, famed defense attorney F. Lee Bailey (played by Luke Kirby), who hired DeSalvo as a client when he became the prime suspect in the case.
See more information: Keira Knightley investigates a serial killer in tense and absorbing time boston strangler
Even with DeSalvo’s own confession, there was not enough evidence to prosecute him for the Boston Strangler murders. In 1967, he was tried on charges related to the “Green Man” crimes and sentenced to life in prison for armed robbery and sexual assault. DeSalvo recanted his prison confession in 1973, shortly before he was stabbed to death by another inmate.
Some have suggested that Nassar, who is serving life in prison on a separate murder conviction, is a more likely suspect than DeSalvo and trained him to confess with promises that his family would be taken care of financially. In an interview with WBZ-TV in 2018, Nassar denied taking part in the murders and stated that he told Bailey to take over DeSalvo’s case. “We were setting it up, saying Al, you’re going to confess, you’re going to trial, you’re going to do your book, we’re going to take care of your family and he was saying okay, okay, okay,” he said.
boston strangler postulates that another likely suspect was Daniel Marsh (played by Ryan Winkles), an alias given by the film to a former Harvard student who was also one of DeSalvo’s Bridgewater prison mates and once dated one of the victims. Over the next few years, Marsh moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where a series of similar murders later took place.
Forty years after DeSalvo’s death, a 2013 DNA analysis linked him to the murder of Mary Sullivan, the last and youngest of the victims associated with the Boston Strangler case. The question of whether DeSalvo committed the other 12 murders remains unanswered.
At the time of the positive DNA identification in 2013, the New York Schedules quoted Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley as saying that DeSalvo’s confession “has been the subject of skepticism and controversy almost from the moment it was given”.