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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

A Death in Belmont

Aired April 18, 2006 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening.
Tonight, the man who gave us "The Perfect Storm" returns with a perfect crime story -- Sebastian Junger and his personal connection to the Boston Strangler.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): The place:

SEBASTIAN JUNGER, AUTHOR, "A DEATH IN BELMONT": Belmont was the quintessential American suburb. I mean, there was lots of trees and beautiful houses. There was no crime in Belmont.

COOPER: Until the brutal strangling.

S. JUNGER: "Bessie Goldberg was lying on her back with her skirt and apron pulled up and her legs exposed. One of her stockings had been wound around her neck. And her eyes were wide open. And there was a little bit of blood on her lip."

COOPER: The accused:

LEAH GOLDBERG, DAUGHTER OF BESSIE GOLDBERG: The name of the person was Roy Smith.

COOPER: The evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a circumstantial-evidence case. There was no direct evidence, witnesses, fingerprints, clothing, nothing directly tying him to the crime.

COOPER: The handyman working a mile away.

Al DeSalvo was the Boston Strangler.

COOPER: The mystery: Who killed Bessie Goldberg?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Before the notorious serial killers of our recent time, there was the Boston Strangler. In less than three years, he confessed to strangling 13 women. But did he get away with one more murder, a murder that a black man went to prison for?

Best-selling author Sebastian Junger has spent years trying to answer that question. In his new book, "A Death in Belmont," Junger explores the evidence, the suspects, and the trial proceedings, and, along the way, reveals his family's chilling connection to the Boston Strangler.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: ... to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

S. JUNGER: Belmont was sort of 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 Schubert. She also taught painting in their home.

(on camera): At some point, you had a growing family. You decided to add on to the house.

ELLEN JUNGER, MOTHER OF SEBASTIAN JUNGER: We did, because I didn't have any place to paint. And, so, Miguel said, "OK, let's build you a studio."

COOPER (voice-over): They hired a team of two veteran carpenters and their younger handyman, Al, who had 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 man: "Yes, ma'am." "No, ma'am." "Is there anything I can get you, ma'am?" -- that sort of -- that sort of thing.

COOPER: And though the Junger home was a picture of suburban bliss, 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.

At that moment, in fact, the Boston Strangler was hardly finished. He still had at least five more victims to find and kill.

S. 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.

S. JUNGER: "Bessie Goldberg was lying on her back with her skirt and apron pulled up and her legs exposed. One of her stockings had been wound around her neck. And her eyes were open. And there was a little bit of blood on her lip. The first thought that went through Israel Goldberg's mind was that he had never seen his wife wearing a scarf before."

COOPER: About a mile away, and not long after the horrifying discovery, Ellen Junger heard the 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?"

She said: "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: A death in Belmont. The question is, who killed Bessie Goldberg?

For Sebastian Junger, examining that question and sifting through all the evidence became very personal, because, in time, the Junger family would learn, to their horror, that Al, the handyman, in this photo with baby Sebastian and his mom, would confess to the serial rape and murders of 13 women.

Al, the handyman, at their home every day, was none other than Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler. And, in the end, he was never charged with the death of Bessie Goldberg.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: In Junger's book, the murder of Bessie Goldberg was the first murder ever recorded in the quiet Belmont suburb where Junger grew up. And, on the day she was killed, Albert DeSalvo was working nearby at the Junger home.

Police had no reason to believe he was the Boston Strangler. All they knew was that another victim had been found strangled.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JURIS SLESERS, SON OF ANNA SLESERS: As I walked up to the door and knocked, I was very surprised not to receive a reply. And I went to the kitchen. And, you know, I -- and I saw her body, which was lying on the back -- you know, on the floor. It wasn't difficult to tell that she was dead, and there was nothing I could -- could be done there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: 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.

Nina Nichols, 68, was next. She was sexually assaulted with an object, and two stockings were wrapped around her neck, tied in a bow. That same day, another victim, Helen Blake, a 65-year-old nurse, also sexually assaulted with an object, found face down on her bed, a stocking and a bra around her neck, the bra arranged in a bow.

Two months later, Ida Irga, 75, strangled by a pillowcase, and left with her two feet wedged between the rungs of the two chairs.

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.

(on camera): Looking at the headlines, there is an element of -- of almost hysteria that sort of builds as -- as these murders go on. How -- how terrified, how paralyzed was Boston by this?

S. JUNGER: By midsummer, several murders into this, Boston was just absolutely paralyzed. Women would not go out by themselves. People bought guard dogs. The hardware stores ran out of locks. It was an absolutely terrifying time, and it was all people could talk about.

COOPER (voice-over): 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLORIA TODD, ROOMMATE OF SOPHIE CLARK: I just shut the door, and I ran down the stairs. And then I thought, well, what was I going to tell her mother? Because when Sophie came to stay with us, the last phrase I said to her mother at the time was: "Don't worry. I will take care of Sophie."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: 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: With nothing solid, police brought in psychics to help and a special Strangler bureau was started.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN DONOVAN, BOSTON HOMICIDE CHIEF: Since June 1962, we have interrogated or interviewed over 5,000 people. We have screened over 2,500 sex offenders who have been released from mental hospitals and jails and institutions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And, still, the Boston Strangler seemed to be a phantom. 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, which we will investigate in a minute.

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 direction.

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.

And how do you know that he actually left at 3:00?

S. JUNGER: Well, we know that he left at -- at 3:00, because there were so many witnesses on the street. I mean, he's a black guy in Belmont. And everyone remembers it very, very distinctly, because they just never saw black people.

COOPER (voice-over): Leah Goldberg says Smith lied about his arrival and departure for another reason, because he couldn't have finished cleaning, as he said he did, in only two hours. He had no way of knowing when Israel Goldberg arrived home, so he didn't realize he was incriminating himself by saying he was at the house later than he was.

GOLDBERG: He wanted to say he stayed for four hours, because the job was constructed for four hours, and, yet, all the witnesses put him in the house just a little bit over two hours.

COOPER (on camera): 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. Unfortunately, he was going in the wrong direction. It went off towards Arlington, and then turned around and went back towards Cambridge. One person said he was in a hurry. But he was a black guy in a white town. There are some other reasons he might have been hurrying, other than murder.

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: When we return, Albert DeSalvo admits to being the Boston Strangler.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

S. JUNGER: He essentially said to the authorities, "I want to make a confession."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ALBERT DESALVO, DEFENDANT: This is very serious stuff. She was alive. She allowed me to do it to her.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back.

It's so astonishing, it bears repeating. Albert DeSalvo, the man who would later confess to being the Boston Strangler, spent months working at the home of Sebastian Junger's family. And, a few blocks away, on a day DeSalvo was at their home, another murder was committed. Bessie Goldberg was strangled. A black man, Roy Smith, was charged with the crime.

Buy why Smith and not DeSalvo? That's a question Junger has spent years trying to answer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

S. JUNGER: He was sort of a petty criminal. I mean, there was a lot of drinking and driving. There was a lot of nonpayment of child supporting, driving without insurance. There was a couple of bar fights.

COOPER (voice-over): But never any history of sexual assault. And Roy Smith always insisted, he was innocent.

Two-and-a-half years after the Goldberg murder, in November of 1965, the Junger family's handyman, Al, 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."

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DESALVO: Yes, this is very serious stuff.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

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.

S. JUNGER: He would drive around Boston, the outskirts of Boston. He would stop at a likely looking building. And he would just start ringing doorbells. He would say something like, the superintendent sent me to check your plumbing. We think there's a leak. And, as soon as the woman's back was turned, he would attack her.

COOPER: DeSalvo bragged that he could rape and kill a woman in under 30 minutes, in and out, without making a sound or leaving a clue. In his confession, he gave these disturbing details about his last victim, 19-year-old Mary Sullivan.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DESALVO: Yes, this is very serious stuff. I did penetrate her. I had intercourse with her. She was alive. She allowed me to do it to her.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

S. JUNGER: "One of her stockings had been wound around her neck. And her eyes were open. And there was..."

COOPER: Sebastian Junger reading from DeSalvo's confession of the murder of his first victim, Anna Slesers.

S. JUNGER: "I went in to number 77. I remember it said that on the glass above the door in gold letters, and that the door was heavy, but it was open, and I just walked in. I went up to the top floor, and she let me in without no trouble. The bathroom was yellow. The tub would be white, and she was going to take a bath, because there was water in it.

"Music is playing, longhair symphonies and stuff like that. After, I turned it off, but I ain't sure if I got it all the way off. She took me along to show me the bathroom, what had to be done there for work, turning her back on me. When I see the back of her head, I hit her on the head with the lead weight. She fell. I put my arm around her neck, and we fell together on the floor."

COOPER: 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: DeSalvo also seemed a perfect match for the textbook profile of a serial killer.

LOUIS SCHLESINGER, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: He had a history of abuse, which was apparently quite severe. He had a history of animal cruelty, particularly against cats. DeSalvo had said, many times, that he had shot cats with a bow and arrow, watched them die slowly. This is very, very typical of a serial killer.

COOPER (on camera): 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.

COOPER: He was also saying that, down on the waterfront, like, women came for sex and men came for sex, and... S. JUNGER: Yes, there was a lot of sex for sale, and with the kids down there. And he said he was -- he was part of that. He would spent a lot of time on the waterfront. And there were a lot of sort of homeless kids who slept down by the waterfront. And it was a really Dickensian world of brutal childhood.

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 that many workers wear with, you know, green shirt and green pants and so on.

COOPER (on camera): Once the murders did begin, a neighbor, 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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: In 2001, a forensic scientist named James Starrs conducted DNA tests to find out whether DeSalvo killed Mary Sullivan.

JAMES E. STARRS, FORENSIC SCIENTIST, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: The scientific evidence that we have clearly indicates no connection between Albert DeSalvo and the death of Mary Sullivan. I would view the death of Mary Sullivan as being in all probability, a copycat situation.

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 Bessie Goldberg at the time. The police never asked him about it in the 50 hours of interrogation, and the panic to convict somebody probably sent Roy Smith directly to prison.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: When we return, though we know him now as the Boston strangler, at the time to Sebastian Junger's mom, he was simply Al the handyman, and yet there was that one day when he asked her to meet him in the cellar alone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLEN JUNGER, SEBASTIAN JUNGER'S MOTHER: He had the most terrifying look in his eyes, 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We return now to 1965. Roy Smith was in prison. A jury had found him guilty for the murder of Bessie Goldberg. But there was something strange about the verdict. We'll tell you why in just a moment. As for the Boston strangler, he was still at large. Five more women would be raped and murdered after the 1963 Goldberg killing. It was only after the last victim was found dead that Sebastian Junger's mother, Ellen received a call from the carpenter who had hired Al the handyman, to do some work at her home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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 Al's first day on the job in 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. And then I won't tell Russ today. I'll watch it for a few days. And there was never, ever any sign of anything like that morning.

COOPER: Until 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: That phone call brought it all back.

S. JUNGER: Instantly my mother remembered the scene in the basement. My mother remembered Marie, who was clutched by Al in the studio while my mother was out shopping.

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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: When we return, doubts and more doubts about Roy Smith and his connection to Bessie Goldberg and that murder in Belmont.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was no direct evidence, witnesses, fingerprints, clothing, nothing directly tying him to the crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: When Bessie Goldberg was murdered, the man who confessed to being the Boston strangler, Albert DeSalvo, was 32 years old. Now, the records aren't clear, but Roy Smith, who was convicted of the crime, was perhaps only two years older. DeSalvo was from the north, Smith from the deep south, where at a young age he learned that living's sometimes harder than dying.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

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: 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.

S. JUNGER: Parchment Farm was essentially a slave plantation. And they worked in the fields. They worked so hard that the prison turned a profit of $1 million a year.

SMITH: When you go to Parchment, it's not designed to rehabilitate you. Parchment is designed to make you a animal. You will come back out a 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.

He got caught a lot.

S. JUNGER: He was a terrible criminal. I don't think he had a sort of criminal mind in that sense. I think 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: 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: There 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, FMR. 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 ten 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.

S. JUNGER: Roy Smith showed up with about $2 in his pants. He was paid $6.30. So roughly $8 and change. And then he went on to spend more than that in town that evening. And that was where the state got him. The amount that Roy Smith spent over what he had could roughly be covered by that $15. And so the theory was he killed her, stole the money, and blew it -- basically blew it on booze in town.

COOPER: 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. He gave directions to the driver not to stop, to keep going. So there are all these little facts. 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, inconsistent finding, didn't have to explain it to anybody, and picked up their belongings and went home. Never to have to explain it or be heard from again.

COOPER: That same day, 23-year-old Joanne Graph 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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone, I'm Erica Hill. We'll return to "Death in Belmont" in just a moment. First though, we want to get you caught up on some of the business stories we're following tonight. All smiles on Wall Street today as the three major indices posted their biggest gains in a year. The Dow rose nearly 195 points to close at 11268. The NASDAQ gained close to 45 while the S&P was up by 22.

And one reason for the banner day, the Federal Reserve is indicating it's nearly done raising interest rates. Another reason here record high oil prices, which led to a surge in energy shares. The price of a barrel now at a new record of $71.35. The hike comes amid concerns that Iran's nuclear standoff with western nations could affect oil supplies. One thing that is not rising, housing construction. It fell again in March for the fourth time in the past six months. This time by almost 8 percent. The level of housing starts is also at its lowest point in a year.

And Anderson Cooper will return in just a moment with "A Death in Belmont." Also the question, did a jury convict an innocent man for a crime that may have been carried out by the Boston strangler?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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