In the Boston Strangler case over a 196 day period from June 14 to December 31, 1962, there were 7 white women murders attributed to the Strangler; over a 106 day period in 1979 between January 29 and May 7 there were 11 black women murdered.
The murder of white women was at the rate of about one every 26 days compared with the rate of black women at the rate of about one every nine days two. Many have heard of the Boston Strangler; few know about what one headline said was: “The terror that stalks black women.” The attitude of the Boston Police and others toward black women would be shown by how they reacted here.
The first two women were Christine Ricketts, 15, and Andrea Foy, 17. They were found wrapped in a blanket and a garbage bag on a sidewalk in Roxbury on January 29, 1979. The next day the body of Gwendolyn (Yvette) Stinson, 15, was discovered in a lot near her home.
A week later on February 5 the fourth black woman Carolyn Prater, 25, was found stabbed to death near Franklin Park. Within a dozen days, of the initial discovery, on February 9 a group of 65 black women called “Sisters of Ebony Life” marched on City Hall calling for increase police protection and less police apathy. The police commissioner and deputy superintendent made it known they already had detectives who were working hard on these murders. That night the Mayor White , Boston Police Superintendent, Earl Bolt, described as the chief of detectives and highest ranking black in the city’s police force, and others involved in the matter met with the residents of the neighborhood in the Lee School in Dorchester to explain they would pursue the matters diligently.
All those four murders resulted in arrests. The first two victims were murdered by one man who would be convicted; Prater’s murderer would also be convicted; the man charged with Stinson’s murder would be acquitted.
More murders followed. Darayal Ann Hargett, 29, was found strangled on February 21 in her apartment; on March 14 Desiree Etheridge, 17, was found badly beaten under a pile of smoldering wood in Roxbury near where the first victims were found. Neither case would be solved.
The Boston police continually sought to assure the community there was no pattern linking the deaths and that “no new Boston strangler preys on young black women.” The police had forty detectives working on the cases. They pointed out there was no evidence of rape although suspicion of such in one case.
Bolt assured the public of the full dedication of the department to solving these murders. Slightly over two months after the first murders and before the seventh the Boston police were clearly stating that black women lives mattered.
Five more murders would happen: on April 6 the body of Darlene Rogers, 22, was found stabbed to death in Washington Park; on April 27 Louis Hood Nesbitt, 31, was found strangled in her apartment near Eggleston Square; May 5, Valyrie Holland, 19, was stabbed in her apartment and died at the hospital; the same day Sandra Boulware, 30, was found beaten to death and her body burned in a vacant yard in Roxbury; and on May 7 Bobbie Jean Graham, 4, was discovered a few doors down from her apartment near 293 Commonwealth Avenue. She died from multiple blows to her midsection with a blunt instrument.
Rogers and Graham’s cases were not solved; Boulware’s case resulted in a conviction; Nesbitt’s an acquittal; and Holland’s case I can find no result although the man who was present when she was found she identified as her assailant before she died was arrested and charged with first degree murder,
In sum of the 11 murders charges were brought in seven with two acquittals. Four remained unsolved. There was no lack of police effort in getting to the bottom of them. Each one differed from the other. There was no one person responsible for all. Even in the four cases where charges were not filed the deaths resulted from different means: a stabbing, a blunt instrument, a strangling, and a beating and an attempt to burn the body. (continued in part 8)