Disney Plus’ ‘Boston Strangler’ revisits the case of one of America’s most infamous and prolific serial killers. The story is told from the perspective of Loretta McLaughlin and Jean Cole, two journalists who figure out the connection between the murders and try to figure out the killer’s identity. Throughout the investigation, several suspects emerge as potential killers. One of them is a man named Daniel Marsh. When Loretta meets him for the first time, she is so unsettled in his presence that she runs away. Her gut tells her that he has something to do with the murders. In the end, she is proven right. If you are wondering whether Daniel Marsh really was the Boston Strangler, then here’s what you should know. SPOILERS AHEAD
Was Daniel Marsh a Real Serial Killer?
No, Daniel Marsh was not a real person. In real life, thirteen women were killed between 1962 to 1964, and it was believed that one person was responsible for murdering them. Albert DeSalvo confessed to being the Boston Strangler. Still, with no hard evidence to link him to all the murders and his reputation for being a pathological liar, it is believed that he had been exaggerating the scale of his crime.
Generally, serial killers follow a specific pattern they subconsciously stick to. In the case of the Boston Strangler, the pattern was all over the place. For one cluster of victims, it looked like the killer was the same, but then for three other murders, it appeared that three different people were involved. One such case of pattern breaking was noticed in the murder of 26-year-old Beverly Samans. Almost all of the victims of the Boston Strangler had been strangulated, which is how he received his moniker. Samans, however, had been stabbed to death.
A description of the crime scene in The Crimson revealed that Samans was “strangled with a stocking. Her hands were tied behind her back with another stocking, and puncture wounds covered her body.” This departure from the pattern suggests that someone else might have killed Samans and tried to escape it by misdirecting the cops toward the Strangler. This theory is further supported by the fact that one man, other than Albert DeSalvo, confessed to killing Samans.
In her book, A Rose for Mary: The Hunt for the Real Boston Strangler,’ Casey Sherman wrote about Beverly’s murder and mentioned a man named Daniel Pennachio. The same name also appears in ‘The Boston Stranglers’ by Susan Kelly. The books talk about Beverly’s life, revealing that she had worked as a part-time counselor at Fernald School for people with mental illness. She was known t have invited the residents into her home, which led the cops to consider the possibility that one of them could be the perpetrator.
Sometime after Samans’ murder, Pennachio was arrested “on a charge of lewd and lascivious behavior.” He was a former resident of Fernald. Following the arrest, he confessed to killing Samans. To prove it, he revealed some details about the crime scene, which had not been made public. Despite this, the cops considered him delusional and believed he was lying. He was let go. A few weeks later, he is said to have died in a diving incident. Considering that Daniel Pennacchio was so closely connected to Beverly Samans’ case, it can be assumed that the character of Daniel Marsh was at least partially based on him.
Did Daniel Marsh Kill Beverly Samans?
In the Disney Plus movie, Daniel Marsh is introduced as Beverly Samans’ ex-boyfriend. Her friend reveals that he had been harassing her, and Beverly was really scared of him. This is a lead worth chasing, and Loretta ends up at his door to interview him. However, as soon as she enters, she realizes that coming alone to meet him is a mistake. She is creeped out by the surroundings. He leads her inside the house into a place ideal for killing someone. So, Loretta leaves.
The cops look into Marsh, but they don’t find anything that could link him to the murders. Soon after, Marsh leaves, and Loretta doesn’t hear about him until much later. This is when Albert DeSalvo has already confessed to the crime. Another murder occurred in Ann Arbor, Michigan, almost a year since the Boston Strangler’s last victim. The MO is the same, so the cop contacts Loretta, hoping her expertise could help him crack the case.
Loretta goes to Michigan to look at the case file and discovers Daniel Marsh is in Ann Arbor. She alerts the detective, who reveals that he, too, considers him a prime suspect. Marsh is brought in for questioning, but he walks free due to the lack of evidence. Soon after, he leaves Ann Arbor and, presumably, takes a new identity, never to be heard from again.
Ultimately, Loretta concludes that the Boston Strangler is not one person. Several people have used the narrative of a single killer to get away with murder, and Marsh is one of them. He killed Beverly Samans and then made it look like the Strangler did it. He had been careful about not leaving anything that could be traced back to him. It can be assumed that he also killed the woman in Ann Arbor and, once again, adopted the MO of the Strangler so that the cops would look elsewhere. When they started to suspect him, he left town before they could find something against him.
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