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Donald Hayes was sitting at his desk in the Boston Police crime lab in the mid-1990s when the lieutenant running the cold case squad dropped a book in front on him: “The Boston Stranglers.”
Hayes had been a young boy north of Boston when a series of gruesome murders attributed to a serial killer terrified the region, and he knew only a little about the case. But he devoured the book — the latest to speculate that there were multiple killers — and soon shared Lieutenant Tim Murray’s desire to delve into a mystery that officials had more or less abandoned, even as it remained one of crime’s great enigmas.
Digging into the lab’s archives, Hayes wondered if he might find any surviving scrap of evidence that could be tested using modern methods to either exonerate Albert DeSalvo or provide the first physical link to any of the killings the smooth-talking laborer claimed he committed — a blanket confession made while awaiting trial for other crimes. Long after DeSalvo was stabbed to death in prison in 1973 doubts on that confession remained.