After a spell in prison for breaking and entering, DeSalvo went on to commit more serious crimes. Having broken into a woman’s apartment, he tied her up on the bed and held a knife to her throat before molesting her and finally running away. The victim gave the police a good description, one that fitted his likeness sketch from his previous crimes. Shortly afterwards DeSalvo was arrested.
It was after he had been picked out of an identity parade that DeSalvo admitted to robbing hundreds of apartments and carrying out a couple of rapes. He then confessed to being the Boston Strangler.
Despite the police not believing him at the time DeSalvo was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital to be assessed by psychiatrists. He was assigned an attorney by the name of F Lee Bailey. When DeSalvo’s wife was told by Bailey that her husband had confessed to being the ‘Strangler’ she couldn’t believe it and suggested he was doing it purely for payment from the newspapers.
During his spell in Bridgewater, DeSalvo struck up a friendship with another inmate, an intelligent but highly dangerous killer called George Nassar. The two apparently had worked out a deal to split reward money that would go to anyone who supplied information to the identity of the Strangler. DeSalvo had accepted that he would be in prison for the rest of his life and wanted his family to be financially secure.
Bailey interviewed DeSalvo to discover if he really was the notorious killer. The attorney was shocked to hear DeSalvo describe the murders in incredible detail, right down to the furniture in the apartments of his victims.
DeSalvo had it all worked out. He believed he could convince the psychiatric board that he was insane and then remain in prison for the rest of his life. Bailey could then write up his story and make much needed money to support his family. In his book 'The Defence Never Rests', Bailey explains how it was that DeSalvo managed to avoid detection. DeSalvo was Dr Jekyll; the police were looking for Mr Hyde.
After a second visit and listening to DeSalvo describe in grisly detail the murder of seventy-five year old Ida Irga, Bailey was convinced his client was the Boston Strangler. When he asked DeSalvo why he chose a victim of such an age, the man coolly replied "attractiveness had nothing to do with it".
After many hours of questioning and going into minute detail of what the victims wore or how their apartments looked, both Bailey and the police were convinced that they had the killer. One disturbing revelation was when DeSalvo described an aborted attack on a Danish girl. As he was strangling her he caught sight of himself in the mirror. Horrified by the ghastly vision of what he was doing he released her and begged her not to tell the police before fleeing.