Was Paul Dempsey the Boston Strangler? Where is He Now?

Disney Plus’s true crime drama, ‘Boston Strangler,’ follows the story of two investigative reporters looking into the crimes of the titular serial killer. The film takes the audience through many twists and turns in the case, along with the tug-of-war between the media and the police department, the case details, and the investigation method. Loretta McLaughlin and Jean Cole dedicate themselves to uncovering everything about the murders and pinpointing the identity of the murderer. There are several suspects in the case, one of whom, Paul Dempsey, fits the pattern of the initial murders. If you want to learn more about him, we’ve got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD

Paul Dempsey is Not a Real Serial Killer

No, Paul Dempsey in ‘Boston Strangler’ is not a real-life serial killer. However, he does exhibit a resemblance with Charles Terry, who was convicted for the murder of a 62-year-old woman in New York City in 1963. His MO had been similar to the Boston Strangler. He killed the victim by strangling her with a scarf and then tied it in a bow around her neck. He was also a suspect in at least three other murders, with all the victims dying by strangulation. Terry received a death sentence, which was later commuted to a life sentence. He died in Attica Correctional facility at the age of 50 from a pulmonary embolism on April 15, 1981.

In real life, the Boston Strangler was said to have killed thirteen women. Due to the similar modus operandi of all crimes, one person was believed to be behind all of them. Later, Albert DeSalvo confessed to being the Boston Strangler, and it was assumed that the case was closed. However, there were inconsistencies in DeSalvo’s story, and he was also believed to be a pathological liar. Some theorize that while DeSalvo did kill some of the victims, he didn’t kill all thirteen women.

The theory behind the existence of multiple murderers stems from the fact that all thirteen murders don’t follow the same pattern. The first victim was a 55-year-old woman named Anna Slesers. The following five victims were all older women ranging from 65 to 85 years of age. They were all killed in the same way and were all white women. These specifics confirmed that it could be the work of a serial killer. However, a few months later, the pattern broke.

20-year-old Sophie Clark was killed similarly. This was completely uncharacteristic of the killer because, this time, he had subverted the pattern and killed a young black woman. Despite the same MO, the change in age group and ethnicity meant that Sophie’s killer could be a different person. Following this, the killer continued his killings targeting women of other age groups and displaying haphazard behavior.

When Albert DeSalvo confessed to killing all thirteen women, some people were satisfied with the answer. But then, his confession was said to have a few discrepancies. It was theorized that the details he got correct could be the ones he read in the newspapers, considering how extensively the case was being covered in the newspapers. Later, a man who had been in the same ward as DeSalvo claimed that he had overheard DeSalvo and others discussing the details of the case, polishing his confession before he talked to the police.

Was Paul Dempsey the Boston Strangler?

The Disney Plus movie tries to piece together an answer from all the available details. While most of the things shown in it are true, it takes creative license to add plot points of its own for dramatic effect. The character of Paul Dempsey appears to be one of those things. Loretta finds out about him from NYPD’s Detective Linski. He reveals that an old woman was murdered the same way as the victims of the Boston Strangler. He succeeded in tracking down the murderer, Paul Dempsey, and even got a confession.

Linski believed that Dempsey could be the Boston Strangler, but when he reached out to the cops in Boston, they ignored him. This is why he reached out to Loretta. A background check of Dempsey reveals that he had been a suspect in the murder of an old woman who was strangulated to death in Maine. This was four years before the Boston Strangler. Linski places Dempsey in Boston for the first five murders, which follow the same pattern.

In the end, Loretta explores the possibility of multiple murderers and realizes that Dempsey could have been the original Boston Strangler. The killing of older white women by strangulation was an unbroken pattern, and Dempsey was never implicated in killing women in any other age group. This means that he did murder the first five victims and then moved on to New York. This explains why there was a break of a couple of months before the subsequent murder and why there was a pattern break. The rest of the murders were committed by other people, all copycats.

Read More: Is Jean Cole Based on a Real Boston Reporter?