Rapist who died in 2001 is connected by DNA evidence to 1973 murder of woman on Beacon Hill
Boston police have cracked a cold case and identified a dead man as the assailant in the 1973 murder and sexual assault of a 24-year-old woman in her Beacon Hill apartment, officials said today.
Michael Sumpter was the man who raped and strangled 24-year-old Mary Lee McClain on De
c. 12, 1973, said Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis and Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.
Sumpter died of cancer in 2001 while serving a 15-to-20-year sentence in a different case — the 1975 rape of a 21-year-old woman in her Beacon Street home, officials said in a statement.
The brutal attack on McClain is the second murder from the 1970s authorities have posthumously linked to Sumpter. In 2010, DNA evidence connected him to the 1972 rape and murder of Ellen Rutchick, 23, in her Beacon Street residence.
He is also believed to have committed the 1985 rape of a 21-year-old woman inside a Marlborough Street apartment.
Police concluded at the time of her murder that McClain was killed by an unknown person who broke into her apartment on Mount Vernon Street. Boston police collected evidence and interviewed several people, but were unable to connect the attack to Sumpter until a federal grant provided the money to launch a cold case investigation in May, officials said.
“This is a story about an old case and new technology, but also a story about hope and perseverance,” Conley said in the statement. “Mary’s family never lost their faith that her murder would be solved. Investigators stored the crucial evidence for decades under laboratory conditions even after the case went cold.’’
He added, “When a new team brought the latest science to the table, that hope and perseverance paid off with a positive identification of her killer. After all these years, we hope this news and the finality of the suspect’s death to cancer can provide them some sense of closure.”
Police and prosecutors have found no evidence to suggest that McClain knew Sumpter, who had a history of violence against women living in Beacon Hill and in the Back Bay, officials said. If he were alive today, authorities said, he would be charged with murdering McClain.
“Our dedicated detectives and our Crime Lab analysts worked tirelessly on this case,” Davis said. “They never gave up, leaving no stone unturned to provide the family with answers. We hope this information gives them some peace.”
Sumpter was ordered to provide a DNA sample to the database after he was convicted of the 1975 rape, according to the statement. And through the Boston police crime lab and the FBI’s national database of the DNA of criminals, suspects and from unsolved crimes — known as CODIS or the Combined DNA Index System — Sumpter was tied to the 1985 rape in 2002.
Last month, similar techniques led to the conviction of another man, serial rapist Charles H. Brook Jr., for the 1989 murder of 87-year-old Zahia Salem in her South End home, authorities said.
As with Sumpter, Brook was ordered to submit a DNA sample to CODIS because of his prior convictions.Melissa Werthmann can be reached at email@example.com.
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