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Encore Presentation: A Death in Belmont
Aired May 7, 2006 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The accused.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The name of the person was Roy Smith.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The evidence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fingerprints, clothing, nothing directly tying him to the crime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The handyman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time that it took him to assault, kill, rape, was maximum 30 minutes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mystery. Who killed Bessie Goldberg?
ANNOUNCER: CNN PRESENTS: A Death in Belmont.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to this special edition of CNN PRESENTS. I'm Anderson Cooper. Over the next two hours we will look at how crime can both brutalize a Los Angeles neighborhood and terrorize a Boston suburb. Before the notorious serial killers of our recent times, there was the Boston strangler who confessed to murdering 13 women. But did he get away with one more murder, a murder that sent a black man to prison for the rest of his life. In his new book "A Death in Belmont," best-selling author Sebastien Junger explores the evidence, the suspects and the trial, and along the way reveals his own families' chilling connection to the Boston strangler.
COOPER (voice-over): For Sebastian Junger, this story begins in 1963, when he was not yet a year old, here in the Belmont suburb of Boston. John F. Kennedy was president. That year, a quarter-million people marched on Washington and heard Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his "I have a dream" speech.
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MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: ... to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice.
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COOPER: Across the country, the civil rights movement was growing, but also spawning racial tension, especially in Irish Catholic Boston.
Of course, the Jungers didn't know it then, but these powerful forces would eventually crash into a terrible and sinister event in, of all places, their own Belmont neighborhood. In 1963, a terrifying shadow was paralyzing all of Boston. Eight women had been raped and strangled, the killer a kind of phantom, brazenly striking at random in the light of day and it seemed any woman could be next. Dubbed the "Boston Strangler," the killer was hardly finished. In fact, he still had at least five more victims to find and kill.
SEBASTIAN JUNGER: It really seized the city with terror. They were ghastly murders, sexual murders, and women wouldn't go out alone. They would only go out in groups. And they -- they would do things like put tin cans in the hallways of their apartment buildings, so that, you know, an intruder would knock those over and warn them. I mean, it really was a time of terror in Boston.
COOPER: There had never been a murder in Belmont, but, on March 11, it looked like the Boston Strangler had found his way to the Jungers' neighborhood.
That afternoon, Israel Goldberg arrived home from work a little before 4:00. He was not inside 10 minutes, before he came out screaming about his wife, Bessie. When Bessie Goldberg was raped and strangled in her home in the middle of the day, she was the ninth woman in as many months to be murdered that way. Police had no leads.
(on camera): Was her killing similar to some of the other Boston stranglings?
S. JUNGER: Her killing was so similar, virtually identical to many of the other Boston stranglings, that the -- the press and the police immediately assumed it was the Boston Strangler.
COOPER (voice-over): The strangler's first murder was in June of 1962 -- the victim, 55-year-old Anna Slesers. Her son found her dead on her kitchen floor. Anna Slesers had been sexually assaulted and strangled, her blue taffeta housecoat ripped open, the sash, knotted tightly around her neck, tied in a bow. Anna Slesers was the first to be killed this way, so, her murder received little attention.
LORETTA MCLOUGHLIN, FORMER "RECORD AMERICAN" REPORTER: It was just "Body of Woman Found in Back Bay" kind of thing. As -- of course, as they progressed, and we had more of them, they became front-page news, and big news. And the city just became locked in a grip of incredible fear.
COOPER: At first, a pattern seemed to emerge. The victims were elderly and matronly in appearance, leading police to theorize the killer was a mother-hater.
S. JUNGER: There was often a scarf or something, a stocking wrapped very tightly around the neck. The women were left, sometimes, in very, very, sort of obscene, sexually suggestive positions.
COOPER: By the time 67-year-old Jane Sullivan was found strangled in her bathtub in August of 1962, the fifth victim in a single summer, it was front-page news. A serial killer was stalking the women of Boston.
Though fears only grew, there was a pause in the killings. The Strangler waited until winter. And, this time, his victim wasn't elderly or white. On December 5, 1962, a roommate found Sophie Clark, young and black, lying half-naked on the living room floor. She had been raped and strangled with three stockings. For frustrated investigators, now even their theories about
the killer's patterns had disappeared. The murders, however, didn't disappear.
Next came victim number seven, Patricia Bissette -- she was 23 -- and then victim number eight, Mary Brown. She was 69. Was the killer a woman-hater? Was there just one killer or possibly a murderous team? Or had the strangler inspired copycats?
MCLOUGHLIN: In fact, they tended to say they weren't related, but that became sort of a difficulty, too, because, if they weren't related, then, we must have had five stranglers, or six, seven, eight, nine.
COOPER: But when Bessie Goldberg was killed in Belmont, the ninth in a string of stranglings, it looked like police might finally have a suspect. When her daughter, Leah, arrived at the house, she found something police had missed, a small note on the kitchen counter. It was from an employment agency. GOLDBERG: That slip of paper had the name of the agency, and it had the name of the -- the person who had -- they -- they had sent, and that the name of the person was Roy Smith.
COOPER: The employment agency had sent Roy Smith, a black day laborer for housekeeping at the Goldbergs' home. That night, the employment agency called the Goldbergs to check up on Roy Smith. Had he done a good job?
GOLDBERG: By the time the woman called our house, he had already killed my mother by that time. All I remember was thinking that he took her life away from her. That's all I could think of.
COOPER: Sebastian Junger and others have turned up evidence and Ambiguities. Leah Goldberg, however, is speaking out against Junger's book, and, to this day, remains certain Roy Smith murdered her mother for money.
GOLDBERG: He thought that, if he stole the money, he -- to -- to cover up the theft, he would kill my mother by strangling her. That way, it would be blamed on the mysterious Boston Strangler. And that's what he was hoping for. And that's what Sebastian's hoping for, too. But the police were too smart for him.
COOPER: The morning after Bessie Goldberg was raped and strangled, rookie cop Mike Giacoppo followed a trail of unpaid utility bills straight to Roy Smith. Smith had spent a booze-filled night at a friend's house in Boston.
MIKE GIACOPPO. FORMER BOSTON POLICE OFFICER: I know, when -- when we grabbed Roy Smith, the headlines read, I -- if I can't remember -- you know, a city can rest in peace for a while, you know? And that was it, because we thought we had arrested the Strangler.
COOPER: But, once the interrogation began, it was clear Smith couldn't be the serial killer. He had an airtight alibi. For most of the murders up to that point, he had been in prison. And, yet, for Bessie Goldberg, Smith was instantly the prime and only suspect.
GOLDBERG: The vacuum cleaner was still out. The attachments were still out. So, the cleaning was not done. And, certainly, the house was not put in -- back into perfect shape, as he had claimed to the police.
COOPER: Indeed, Roy Smith told police he arrived at the Goldberg house around noon, cleaned it, put the cleaning supplies away, and left at a quarter until 4:00.
S. JUNGER: Bessie's husband came home just before 4:00. Roy Smith says that he left the house at quarter of 4:00, which means that he's giving someone else about five minutes, 10 minutes, of opportunity to come into the house and kill Bessie Goldberg.
COOPER (on camera): But a number of witnesses said Smith was wrong about his timeline, but not in the way you would think, not in a way that would have actually helped him.
S. JUNGER: If you were going to lie about when you left, you would want to have it be on the early side. His error was in the other
COOPER: In other words, witnesses actually said he left earlier, a little bit after 3:00. And that timeline would have allowed enough time, about 45 minutes or so, for someone else to rape and strangle Bessie Goldberg before her husband got home. There were children playing on -- on the street outside, playing kickball. Is it possible someone else could have gone in the house without the kids seeing?
S. JUNGER: Roy Smith left around 3:00 from the Goldberg house. And the children started playing kickball around 3:25. So, the house was not closely watched for about 25 minutes.
After they started playing kickball, if it was someone different than Roy Smith who killed Bessie Goldberg, that person would have had to have come in through the backyard, which is entirely feasible.
COOPER: What do we know about what Roy Smith did when he left Bessie Goldberg's house?
S. JUNGER: Well, he left the house, walked down to the bottom of Scott Road, cut the corner there, and I think bought some cigarettes right there. I think that's where the pharmacy was. It has changed now, obviously.
COOPER: Uh-huh. And he was -- so, he was seen buying cigarettes...
S. JUNGER: Yes.
COOPER: ... at the pharmacy?
S. JUNGER: Yes. Didn't seem nervous, bought some cigarettes, and crossed the street.
And there was a -- a bus stop up there, and he got on the bus.
COOPER (voice-over): Both the pharmacy clerk and the bus driver said that Smith seemed relaxed, not nervous, not agitated, not at all as if he had just committed murder.
And, yet, with the Boston Strangler still at large, Roy Smith would be the first and only suspect in the rape and strangling of Bessie Goldberg.
COOPER: But when we return, the confessions of a rapist.
ALBERT DESALVO, DEFENDANT: This is very serious stuff. I did penetrate her. I had intercourse with her.
COOPER: An unexpected break in the Boston strangler case.
COOPER: Before the Bessie Goldberg murder, Sebastian Junger's home town outside Boston was a picture of suburban bliss.
S. JUNGER: Belmost was the quintessential American suburb. I mean there was lots of trees and beautiful houses. There was no crime in Belmont.
COOPER: Sebastian Junger's father Miguel was a physicist, his mother Ellen, an artist who listened to Mozart, Beethoven and Shubert. She also taught painting in their home.
At some point, you had a growing family, you decided to add on to the house.
ELLEN JUNGER, SEBASTIAN JUNGER'S MOTHER: We did, because I didn't have anyplace to paint and so Miguel said, OK, let's build you a studio.
COOPER: They hired a team of two veteran carpenters and their younger handyman Al who would become a friendly fixture at their home, working there for months on the studio addition.
S. JUNGER: My mother says that Al was not very educated but he had a sort of charm about him. He was very, very polite, yes ma'am, no ma'am. Is there anything I can get you ma'am, that sort of thing.
COOPER: As work finished up at the Junger's home, tragedy struck about a mile away. Bessie Goldberg was found strangled in her home. Ellen Junger heard the horrifying news at home.
E. JUNGER: I put the phone down and I went out to the studio and Al was up on the ladder and I said, Al, something so horrible. He said what?
S. JUNGER: She said to Al, Al you won't believe it. The Boston strangler just killed someone in Belmont, just across town. I can't believe it. It's so terrible.
COOPER: Roy Smith, the only suspect in the crime, would eventually go to jail for the Goldberg murder. Two and a half years later, in an unrelated case, a man by the name of Albert DeSalvo was arrested for rape, but in a startling confession, he would provide both grotesque and mundane details about a far worse series of crimes.
S. JUNGER: He essentially said to the authorities: "You got me on rape, but you have no idea the things I have done. I'm the Boston Strangler. I killed 13 women. And I want to make a confession with a tape recorder about these -- these crimes."
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DESALVO: Yes, this is very serious stuff.
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COOPER: In total, DeSalvo would spend 50 hours confessing, often in elaborate detail, to 13 murders, two of which were not even suspected victims of the Strangler. And, yet, DeSalvo never mentioned the name Bessie Goldberg.
S. JUNGER: He described these impulses as a pressure that would build up inside him, sometimes, even starting the night before. It would build up and build up, until he felt like he was just absolutely going to explode.
COOPER: He claimed these impulses were driven by anger at his wife, who had stopped having sex with him after their daughter was born with a hip deformity. DeSalvo seemed to know such specific details about each murder that police became convinced they had finally caught the Boston Strangler.
S. JUNGER: He remembered an awful lot of it in great detail, I mean, the color of the bathrobe, the -- the -- the kind of knot that he used, the -- the -- there was a coffee cup on the table, I mean, just numerous random details about what the crime scene looked like.
COOPER: Albert DeSalvo grew up in this building, 353 in the working class neighborhood of Chelsea. It's just over the river from Boston. You might say DeSalvo survived and learned from his childhood, a childhood marked by abuse, trouble, extreme violence, and sex.
S. JUNGER: Al says that he watched his father grab his mother and break her fingers, one by one, by bending them backwards. His father would bring home prostitutes and have sex with them in the living room. Al was raised in a very sexualized, violent atmosphere.
CASEY SHERMAN, AUTHOR, "SEARCH FOR THE STRANGLER": Albert DeSalvo started a life of crime very early, doing little things, little robberies here and there, and spent much of his early years in reform school.
COOPER: But he avoided jail. At 17, he enlisted in the military and went to Germany, becoming the middleweight Army boxing champion. DeSalvo married a German woman named Irmgard Beck. Back in the States, they had two children, a boy and a girl, and seemed to be a perfectly normal family.
But everything was far from normal.
SHERMAN: He had an insatiable sexual appetite that couldn't be fulfilled at home. So, he would go out and he would assault these women. Other times, he would simply try to get his jollies, so to speak, by measuring women out on the streets or telling them that he was a modeling agent looking for beautiful women.
COOPER: DeSalvo became known to police as the measuring man. He did
10 months in jail for his compulsive sexual schemes. Two months after his release, the Strangler's first victim, Anna Slesers, was killed. But, before escalating to murder, DeSalvo apparently tried random rapes.
SCHLESINGER: He would knock on the door, say he's a repairman here to repair something. When he realized that the women were alone, he then raped them. It was called the Green Man rapes, because he wore a green work suit.
COOPER (on camera): Once the murders did begin, a neighbor of one of the victims, Joann Graff, remembers that a man with green work pants and slicked-back hair knocked on his door one day, asking where Graff lived. Later that day, she was found raped and strangled in this building.
(voice-over): Eventually, it was the Green Man rapes, not the stranglings, that finally led to DeSalvo's arrest.
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F. LEE BAILEY, ATTORNEY FOR ALBERT DESALVO: I don't really look at it as one side winning or the other. I think that the...
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COOPER: Soon, he would come to be represented by a young defense attorney named F. Lee Bailey, who, as it turns out, would be the first of many to be suspicious of DeSalvo's stories.
He was concerned that DeSalvo only wanted to confess, so he could cash in on a book or a movie deal.
(on camera): Did you think, well, maybe this guy is just going to confess to being the Boston Strangler because he wants -- he wants money?
BAILEY: You bet. That's exactly what I thought. He knew things that nobody would ever notice, but, somehow, the police had managed to get into a footnote of the report, where a pack of cigarettes had been knocked off of a bureau, and where it came to rest, and what kind they were.
A lady's sanitary napkin thrown under a chair -- that was never published by anyone, nor would any newspaper dare in those days, but Albert had it right.
COOPER (voice-over): DeSalvo embraced his sudden infamy. He sold necklaces at the prison store called "chokers" by DeSalvo.
Some say investigators eager to solve the strangling cases, fed DeSalvo details and that many of the errors DeSalvo made were also printed incorrectly in the papers. Nineteen-year-old Mary Sullivan was the last victim DeSalvo claimed he killed.
Her nephew, author Casey Sherman:
SHERMAN: Albert DeSalvo was confessing to events that simply never happened. One glaring example is, he said he choked my aunt bare- handed with his thumbs pressing against her Adam's apple. In reality, Mary Sullivan was strangled with two scarves and a nylon stocking.
COOPER: So once again, those ambiguities, who did he or didn't he kill? As for the murder of Bessie Goldberg in Sebastian Junger's neighborhood, the murder in Belmont, DeSalvo would later show a disquieting interest in the details of both her murder and what happened to the man charged with it, Roy Smith. And yet --
F. LEE BAILEY, ALBERT DESALVO'S ATTORNEY: I never asked him about it, never heard of Betsy (sic) Goldberg at the time. The police never asked him about it in 50 hours of interrogation, and the panic to convict somebody probably sent Roy Smith directly to prison.
COOPER: Ahead, a shocking realization about the Boston Strangler. It's too close to home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
E. JUNGER: He had the most terrifying look in his eyes and my heart just started pounding and I what's going on with this man?
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E. JUNGER: It was the contractor, Russ (INAUDIBLE). And he said, "I just have some extraordinary news to tell you. Al DeSalvo is the Boston strangler." And I just collapsed onto the bench. My knees couldn't hold me up. I was just overwhelmed with that news.
S. JUNGER: My mother remembered the murder of Bessie Goldberg down the street and how she had gone back into the studio and said to Al, Al,
it's horrible. The Boston strangler just killed someone in Belmont. In a moment, she remembered all those things.
COOPER: In a split second, Mrs. Junger pieced together a number of disjointed events with Al and wondered how close she had come to being a victim. She remembered one of Al's first days on the job and a strange encounter she tried to ignore.
E. JUNGER: I could hear him yelling up the steps. There's something the matter with your washing machine. And I thought that was very
strange because it wasn't on. And he had just come in. And so I opened up the door, and I saw him. And realized something strange was happening. He had the most terrifying look in his eyes. And my heart just started pounding. And I thought, what's going on with this man? And he just looked at me as if he could draw me down into that basement just by pulling me down. And I thought, I'm not going down in that basement. I'll be harmed if I go down there.
COOPER: What was it about his eyes?
E. JUNGER: It was the expression in the eyes. The expression was just terrifying. It's hard to describe. It was so intense, so intense.
COOPER: Mrs. Junger shut the door, and Al left soon after. The next morning, he was as polite as ever.
E. JUNGER: Al was just charming. "Morning, Mrs. Junger. How are you?" I thought, did I imagine that? And he -- I don't know. He was absolutely normal. And they started working. And I thought, well, I'll just watch it for a few days.
COOPER: Several weeks later, another strange thing happened. Mrs. Junger taught art classes to a girl named Marie. Marie was alone in the studio one afternoon, and Al came in.
S. JUNGER: And he walked up very close to Marie and put his arms around her waist and asked if she was a model. And she sort of tried to push him away. And he held on to her tighter. And right at that moment of high tension and terror in this poor girl's mind, the front door opened, and my mother came back.
E. JUNGER: And, again, at that point, I began to have my doubts about him. He said, "Oh, she's so cute. She's just such a cute kid. You know, I just wanted to give her a hug." So I said, "Well, I don't ever want you to do that again." And he said, "No," he wouldn't.
COOPER: What do you think would have happened if your mom had went down those stairs? S. JUNGER: I think I easily could have lost my mother in that basement, and my life would have been utterly changed in ways that I can't even imagine.
COOPER: Which is why, of course, the Junger family now reads so much into this snapshot Sebastian and his mother posed with the carpenter and Al, the handyman.
S. JUNGER: Al wears an odd smirk, and he has placed across his stomach one enormous outspread hand. The hand is at the exact center of the photograph as if it were the true subject around which the rest of us had been arranged.
COOPER: The photograph was taken on Al's last day of work at the Jungers' home. It was the day after Roy Smith cleaned Bessie Goldberg's home, the day after she was found strangled.
So why was Roy Smith the only suspect? Ahead doubt about a death in Belmont.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no direct evidence, witnesses, fingerprints, clothing, nothing directly tying him to the crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: For the murder of Bessie Goldberg, detectives interrogated Roy Smith for 12 straight hours. He never once asked for nor was he ever offered an attorney. Instead, he freely provided answers to a barrage of questions, all the while insisting he was innocent.
(on camera): And at one point he said something about Mississippi.
S. JUNGER: He's being questioned very, very aggressively by the police. And he says, you don't understand. I wouldn't kill a white lady. I wouldn't even look at a white lady. I'm from Mississippi. You don't understand. I value my neck. Those are his words. "I value my neck."
COOPER (voice-over): The words of a man who grew up in Oxford, Mississippi in the 1930s and '40s, long before civil rights was a vital issue. Back then, black men could be lynched for looking the wrong way at a white woman. Roy Smith's nephew says his uncle had witnessed too much to get into that kind of trouble. COACH SMITH, ROY SMITH'S NEPHEW: He had experienced the beating that you could get for messing with a white lady. He had experienced the hangings that you could get for messing with white people in that time. That wasn't nothing that he wanted to do. He knew the consequences behind that. And Roy wanted to live.
COOPER: Smith's father worked as a janitor and a minister. His mother was a cafeteria worker. Smith dropped out of high school at 14 to work in the scorching cotton fields and at some odd jobs. At 17, just like Albert DeSalvo, he joined the military looking for a better life. After two years as a Marine in the South Pacific, Roy Smith was honorably discharged in 1947.
S. JUNGER: Here's his first encounter with the law. Roy Smith, Case 7551, drunk and using profane language in the presence of two or more persons.
COOPER: Smith also got into his share of trouble. Two years later, at 21, Smith was caught trying to steal cotton. It got him six months at the notorious Parchment State Prison.
SMITH: When you go to Parchment, it's not designed to rehabilitate you. Parchment is designed to make you an animal. You will come back out an animal, a robber, a thief, a rapist, a killer.
COOPER: When Smith came back, he decided to get out. He left the South for good, with stops in Detroit, Chicago, New York, and then Boston. It seemed wherever Smith moved, it wasn't long before the police knew about him. Often alcohol was to blame. On one drunken night when he was living in Harlem, Smith tried to rob a shoe store. He allegedly fired a gun at the clerk, but the gun didn't go off. He was charged with assault and sent to Sing Sing for 18 months.
(on camera): He got caught a lot?
S. JUNGER: He was a terrible criminal. And I don't think he had a sort of criminal mind, in that sense. I think he -- mainly he didn't have a plan. I mean, he was just sort of going from job to job. And I think he didn't have a really clear picture of where he wanted to go in life.
COOPER: (voice-over): By 1963, Smith was living in Boston. He had no steady job. His girlfriend had left him and taken their baby. Roy Smith had bottomed out, and yet his life would only get worse. In November, for the murder of Bessie Goldberg, Smith found himself in front of an all-white jury. His attorney had never tried a murder case.
BERL COHEN, ROY SMITH'S ATTORNEY: It was a circumstantial evidence case. There was no direct evidence, witnesses, fingerprints, clothing, nothing directly tying him to the crime. In 1963, the DNA testing hadn't been used as an investigative tool.
COOPER: There may have been no physical evidence, but the circumstantial evidence was overwhelming. First, there was no disputing Smith was in the Goldberg house that day. No one else was spotted entering or leaving. Then, there was the money.
RICHARD KELLEY, FORMER MIDDLESEX COUNTY PROSECUTOR: The money that the husband had set aside to pay him was gone and had been put in the purse. The purse had disappeared.
COOPER: Mr. Goldberg testified that he left a 10 and five ones for his wife. Several witnesses testified the night of the murder, Roy Smith was out drinking, and had more money than he should have. In fact, he had the exact denominations.
Late in the night after their drinking, a friend testified Smith acted suspiciously as they drove by his apartment.
KELLEY: As he approached his apartment in Boston, he observed, apparently, a couple of officers waiting for him and he gave directions to the driver not to stop, to keep going. So there are all these little -- little facts, but whatever, made a pattern that persuaded the jury.
COOPER: As for all those powerful forces that seemed to crash together in Belmont, before final arguments tragedy struck the nation, and Boston especially.
President Kennedy had been shot, and just about every jury in his hometown of Boston was adjourned -- except for Roy Smith's.
S. JUNGER: And the judge told the jury, "Do not let the brutal murder of our president enter into your thinking when you deliberate the fate of Roy Smith."
KELLEY: Now, whether that's feasible under the circumstances, I'm not sure.
COOPER: In fact, the jury would deliberate for only two hours and return with that confusing verdict -- guilty of murder and larceny, not guilty of rape, even though it was determined Mrs. Goldberg was murdered and raped.
COHEN: They went out, went out about two hours, came back, made the finding -- an inconsistent finding. They didn't have to explain it to anybody. And picked up their belongings and went home.
COOPER: That same day, 23-year-old Joann Graff was found dead. She had two nylon stockings and a leotard knotted around her neck.
S. JUNGER: So within virtually minutes, you have a cannon on Boston common firing a salute, as they did all day, every half hour, to the dead president of the United States. A young woman is being attacked and murdered in a town north of Boston by the Boston Strangler. And Roy Smith is receiving his guilty sentence in a Cambridge courtroom, sentenced to life without parole for something that looked identical to many of the other Boston stranglings. It all happened within minutes of each other.
COOPER: To Sebastian Junger, it was hardly the end of the story about that death in Belmont. (END VIDEO TAPE)
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER (voice-over): Although he confessed to strangling 13 women, Albert DeSalvo always denied killing Bessie Goldberg, yet he continued to have an odd fascination with Roy Smith, the man convicted for the murder.
S. JUNGER: He knew that Roy Smith had failed a lie detector test -- portions of a lie detector test. He knew which questions he had answered wrong. DeSalvo knew, in a different prison, that Roy Smith had gotten certain questions wrong on his test.
COOPER: As you'll see, though DeSalvo seemed to enjoy his ghastly fame, for some reason he followed every turn in Roy Smith's case, right down to the questions he got wrong on his lie detector test, though the operator couldn't get a good reading, so it was ultimately ruled inconclusive. And as it turns out, in prison, Roy Smith was thriving.
S. JUNGER: He started studying. And he study the American history, he studied literature, he studied science. And he basically educated himself up to almost a college level. Now, this is a guy who left school at 14.
COOPER: All the while, Roy Smith maintained his innocence and began lobbying for a commutation of his sentence based on good behavior.
GEORGE BOHLINGER, FORMER SUPERINTENDENT, NORFOLK PRISON: Roy is one of the very, very few people that I have come across in my time in corrections that I felt did not do the crime. And not only that, but other inmates who are really the best source of information in this, didn't feel Roy had done it.
COOPER: This man, Steve Delaney, was an investigator with the Strangler Bureau. At one point, after Roy Smith had been convicted of Bessie Goldberg's murder, he says the state attorney general, Ed Brooke, asked him to review the Bessie Goldberg file. Were they wrong? Could the Strangler have killed her?
STEPHEN DELANEY, THE STRANGLER BUREAU: When the attorney general came back, he said are you finished? What do you think? I said it fits the pattern. And I'll never forget it. He said I'm sorry to hear that because I've been ordered by the chief justice in Massachusetts to return the file to the district attorney.
COOPER: Delaney says the district attorney had heard that the Strangler Bureau was looking into the Bessie Goldberg murder and didn't want Roy Smith's attorney, who was appealing his case, finding out about it.
DELANEY: They considered that a conflict of interest. Well, it is, from their point of view. But what about from the constitution, saying a fair trial and fair review and all of this for the man convicted?
COOPER: Delaney also says he uncovered a lead the Belmont police never pursued. A neighbor of the Goldbergs had seen a man in his driveway the day of the murder.
DELANEY: And this elderly gentleman went out to find out what are you doing in my driveway. And the man said hi, I'm painting a house here in Belmont and the job's coming to an end and I'm looking for some paint jobs.
COOPER: DeSalvo's job at the Jungers' home was ending the very next day.
(on camera): One piece that did not seem to fit the pattern is that Bessie Goldberg was killed in a house, that house behind me. All the other women had been killed in apartment buildings. Still, Investigator Steve Delaney was convinced that DeSalvo, not Smith, had killed her. So he went to visit DeSalvo in prison to ask him.
DELANEY: He greeted me with I know the reason you're here. And he said you're wasting your time. I told the other guys that I didn't do it and I didn't do it.
COOPER (voice-over): But remember, DeSalvo could provide precise and unsettling details about that murder, as well as details about the house where it occurred.
S. JUNGER: DeSalvo knew what kind of gutters were on the Goldberg house. DeSalvo knew a lot about that murder. And it was a murder that he never claimed. It was a murder that ultimately was taken off the Strangler list.
COOPER: To this day, Delaney still thinks DeSalvo killed Bessie Goldberg, in addition to the 13 others.
DELANEY: Assume I'm right and he did it. He has nothing to gain confessing to a crime where a man's been convicted. Nothing. I can assure you from experience, the district attorney would come down hard on him.
COOPER: F. Lee Bailey, Albert DeSalvo's attorney, sees it differently.
BAILEY: Albert told, not with glee, but with some satisfaction, detectives about two murders that were not on the list. What did he have to lose by including Bessie Goldberg? I mean, he could have. Did Albert feel badly that somebody got indicted and tried and convicted for it? Probably not.
COOPER: In February 1967, DeSalvo and two other inmates got their hands on a skeleton key and escaped for 24 terrifying hours. But DeSalvo gave himself up the very next morning at a shoe store in Lynn, Massachusetts.
ALBERT DESALVO, THE BOSTON STRANGLER: And I also wrote in the letter I left at my bedside that I would do no harm to nobody.
QUESTION: Al, did you keep that promise?
DESALVO: I did. I didn't bother nobody.
COOPER: Not long after that, DeSalvo surprised the public once again when he recanted all his confessions, claiming he was not the Boston Strangler.
LOUIS SCHLESINGER, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: I would say that if Albert DeSalvo's confessions represent a false confession, this is probably one of the most traumatic cases of false confession in history. He knew exactly what happened down to a great deal of detail. And miraculously, all of the murders seem to have stopped when he was arrested.
COOPER: But any remaining suspicions or doubts or ambiguities about DeSalvo could never really be answered, because on November 26, 1973, the 10-year anniversary, almost to the day, of Roy Smith's conviction, Albert DeSalvo was murdered. There are some theories that the murder was related to his drug dealing activities in prison. Others believe he was killed to stop him from revealing the identity of the real Boston Strangler. We may never know.
All this time, Roy Smith had been quietly serving time at another prison and still appealing to have his sentence commuted.
In August 1976, after 11 years in prison and in ill health, his plea was granted. He was free to go, but it was too late for Roy Smith.
BERYL COHEN, ROY SMITH'S ATTORNEY: I was at his bedside. I attempted to explain that he was free to leave. He hardly acknowledged it. He was in the depths of his illness and it was just too late. It came too late. It's the final act of at the -- what I believe and have believed for 42 years -- is a miscarriage of justice.
COOPER: Roy Smith died just two days later, with the governor's commutation on his night stand. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Oxford, Mississippi.
COACH SMITH, ROY SMITH'S NEPHEW: The first thing I heard was Roy was coming home. And I heard that from his mother. A few days later, I was walking into the door and she was crying. And she was the one that told me that he was coming home. And she told me then, he's coming home, but he's in a box.
COOPER: Their deaths, of course, meant that neither Roy Smith nor Albert DeSalvo could ever change their stories to tell us what happened to Bessie Goldberg. It meant that 40 years later, questions would linger about what happened that spring day in Belmont.
COHEN: It is unlikely, though not impossible, that someone other than the defendant had the opportunity to commit the crime.
COOPER: The shadow of doubt, when we return. (END VIDEO TAPE)
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
DELANEY: The time that it took him to enter, assault, kill, rape, was maximum 30 minutes. In two or three of the cases he describes, he says 20 minutes, 30 minutes. I'm in, I do it, I'm out.
COOPER: Would it have been possible for him to have committed that murder and get back here?
S. JUNGER: Yes. It would have been. It's a mile, 1.2 miles. He had a car here. He could have driven that in a few minutes. And he was here most of the day alone. Now, whether he did it or not is a different question, but he certainly had the opportunity to.
L. GOLDBERG: And that's almost impossible because the kids were outside playing for most of the time that -- between the time that Roy Smith left and my father came home. He would have had to crawl under the back door or something, because my mother certainly wouldn't have let him in.
DELANEY: I have 45 minutes that Roy Smith is out of that house before the husband comes home. You take the fact that Albert's 1.2 miles between his stop and Bessie Goldberg's, and there's somebody soliciting paint jobs across the street, and he is painting is Belmont, and he admits he did murders out of the Junger home while he was working in Belmont. And I say give that to a jury today, and Roy Smith is not guilty.
COOPER (voice-over): But remember, the circumstantial evidence against Roy Smith was damning.
SHERMAN: To think that Albert DeSalvo could travel to Bessie Goldberg's house in Belmont within an hour, rape and murder her, get out without anybody seeing him, I think, is a stretch. Roy Smith was a guilty man who got an unfair trial. But does that mean Roy Smith was innocent of the crime? I don't think so.
COOPER (voice-over): For Leah Goldberg, who was 24 at the time of the murder, the pain is still raw. The suggestion that Roy Smith could be innocent, simply not possible.
L. GOLDBERG: I think he's guilty because there's a lot of evidence against him. To begin with, he lied to the police. He lied about his arrival. He lied about his departure. He lied about the fact that he didn't finish cleaning the house. He lied about the amount of money that my mother had given him. All he did was lie after lie after lie. And it's not made clear in the book at all. Because if it is made clear, you have no mystery.
COOPER: Leah Goldberg takes issue with Sebastian Junger's suggestion that Roy Smith might not be her mother's killer. L. GOLDBERG: You can see it's preposterous. There is overwhelming circumstantial evidence that convicted Roy Smith. He took her life. She was healthy. She was still relatively young. She was 63 years old. And he had taken her life away from her. And he had ruined my father's life.
COOPER: Naturally, Roy Smith's family sees it with the same intensity, but they see it completely differently.
SMITH: This was a man that died trying to reveal his innocence. And being locked up, I know how he suffered. And that's why I want it to be known that I feel that Roy is innocent. And I take on any challenges from anyone of proving me wrong.
COOPER: In the final chapter, "A Death in Belmont," is Sebastian Junger's book. For him, it's a journey that began with a handyman, Albert DeSalvo, who was working at his family's house. So this investigation comes from Junger's magnifying glass.
(on camera): Who do you think killed Bessie Goldberg?
S. JUNGER: If I knew that, I would have been able to write a very different book. It was possibly Roy Smith. He was a troubled guy. He had a violent streak in him. And, let's face it, he was in that home that day. It would have been hard for someone else to commit that murder.
But that said, it's not beyond a reasonable doubt. If he's innocent, then the question moves to who did kill her? You decide.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
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