Here's How Many Victims The Boston Strangler Might Have Had

When it comes to serial killers, it can be difficult to pin down exactly how many murders they're responsible for. Oftentimes they'll confess, but they've been known to exaggerate or otherwise obfuscate the details of their crimes, according to Psychology Today. Further, when a number of victims turn up in an area over a certain period of time, and in particular when those murders share similarities, it can be tempting to chalk all of them up to the work of a single killer, when in fact there may be a team of murderers, or there may have been copycat or unrelated murders mixed in. And of course, in the case of decades-old crimes committed before DNA evidence was a thing, it can be next to impossible to paint a complete picture of who is responsible for the crimes.

All of these caveats are particularly noteworthy when it comes to the case of the Boston Strangler. Between June 14, 1962, and January 4, 1964, 13 (or perhaps 11) women were killed in a similar fashion in and around Boston. One man confessed to the murders and was put away for other, unrelated crimes, according to The New York Times. DNA evidence would later link that man, Albert DeSalvo, to only one of the murders, however.

This is the true number of victims of the Boston Strangler.

There were probably 13 murders tied to the Boston Strangler

Over the course of 19 months in the early 1960s, a number of women would turn up dead in and around Boston, all having been sexually assaulted and murdered. Even the number of victims is disputed: Crime Museum claims there were 11 such murders, while ABC News said there were 13, a claim also made by The Boston Globe.

Even if history could collectively agree on the number of victims killed by the Boston Strangler, it's still unclear if they were killed by one man, or by people who knew each other and committed similar crimes, or if any or all of them were random copycat crimes.

One man was connected to one murder. Albert DeSalvo, a career criminal, was arrested for sexual assault, and while he was in jail, he reportedly gave detailed confessions about the murders, according to ABC News. Years after DeSalvo died, DNA evidence tied him to one — but only one — of the Boston murders.

It may not be an open-and-shut case

If DNA evidence tied DeSalvo to one of the Boston Strangler murders, and if he confessed to the rest, then DeSalvo was the Boston Strangler, right? Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

In her book "The Boston Stranglers : The Public Conviction of Albert DeSalvo and The True Story of Eleven Shocking Murders," Susan Kelly claims that the Boston murders of the early 1960s were the work of several people, not one man. Similarly, author and former FBI profiler Robert Ressler said effectively the same thing, according to CBS News. "It's inconceivable behaviorally that all these could fit one individual," he said.

As for DeSalvo, author Frank Gerold, in his Edgar Award-winning book "The Boston Strangler," claims that DeSalvo confessed to the murders with a view toward splitting reward money with another inmate. Further, Gerold claimed that DeSalvo, like other criminals, craved recognition and notoriety. The Boston Strangler may have killed 11 women or 13 women. Anthony DeSalvo may have killed either one of them, or some of them, or all of them.