Monday, April 17, 2006
Best-selling author's link to serial killer
Hope you all had a great weekend. I wanted to let you know in advance about a special edition of "360°" that is going to air tomorrow night.

Sebastian Junger, the author of "The Perfect Storm," has written a new book called "A Death in Belmont." It's a chilling and controversial reexamination of the Boston Strangler murders of the early 1960s, as well as a killing not attributed to the Strangler, a murder that happened about a mile away from Sebastian Junger's childhood home.

What makes this book so interesting is that before he confessed to being the infamous Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo was Al the handyman, a carpenter working at the home of a woman named Ellen Junger. Ellen is Sebastian Junger's mother, and in "A Death in Belmont," she recalls this encounter with the serial killer she knew only as her handyman.

"I went to the basement door and looked down at him and he was looking up at me with this frightening expression in his eyes, kind of intense and burning. It wasn't anger. It was more as if he was trying to mesmerize me, to compel me to come downstairs. It was like he was seeing right though me. I've never had anybody look at me like that. I was terrified."

Ellen Junger was lucky. Thirteen other women were not. But it's that other murder, the one the one the Strangler did not confess to, that has haunted Sebastian Junger all these years. This murder had all the markings of another Strangler killing, but an African-American cleaning man named Roy Smith was found guilty of the crime.

The case against Roy Smith is strong, but there are some intriguing questions that Sebastian Junger has spent several years trying to answer. Was Smith truly guilty or did DeSalvo get away with one more murder? Some have criticized Junger's new book, questioning his research and some of his conclusions. This Tuesday night, in a 2-hour special, we'll take a closer look at "A Death in Belmont," and let you be the judge.
Posted By Anderson Cooper: 1:07 PM ET
  50 Comments
I'm looking forward to the Special Edition of 360, and I'm glad you are covering stories such as these. Not only is the human psyche intriguing in cases like these, but it sheds a new light on our justice system when these sort of controversies are brought out. Thanks again for covering these stories!!!
Posted By Anonymous Rita, Plainview, TX : 1:28 PM ET
It sounds like a very interesting and controversial topic to cover. I'm looking forward to the special tomorrow!
Posted By Anonymous Sarah, New Orleans, LA : 1:28 PM ET
Wow, examining another book. Here's hoping your book doesn't come under such scrutiny. [jk]
Posted By Anonymous Sheba, Gotebo, OK : 1:44 PM ET
Do most serial killers admit to all the murders they act out?? If they do then why wouldn't DeSalvo admit to this one? Was it easier to go after a black man than to try and convict DeSalvo? On the surface I would tend to agree that Smith's conclusions may be suspect (because of his mother's experience with DeSalvo). Still, it will be interesting to watch.
Posted By Anonymous Cheryl Raleigh, NC : 1:53 PM ET
I hope you had a good weekend, too, Anderson!

I look forward to Tuesday's interesting show.
Posted By Anonymous Linda, Boulder, Colorado : 1:56 PM ET
I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend as well, Anderson!

I know I must sound like a nerd, but I'm really looking forward to this special tomorrow night. I enjoyed your special on the BTK killer last week, as well.

Novels like Junger's give me goosebumps and make it hard for me to sleep at night! And I know that after your special, I'm going to have to read the book! I guess I'll be catching 360 on the 1am repeats as well for a few weeks!
Posted By Anonymous Sheryn R, Pohatcong, NJ : 2:03 PM ET
If there is any doubt about Roy Smith's guilt, it is important that there is someone out there to help shed light on the truth. It is a stain on the criminal justice system that it takes money to "buy" freedom. This man probably had to depend on a public defender, and if so, his fate may have already been sealed without extra money needed for investigations. Public defenders have heavy caseloads and it's unfair that the indigent have an unfair disadvantage in criminal cases. I am looking forward to this special. Thanks for bringing important issues like these to America's attention and conscience.
Posted By Anonymous Paige B., Austin, TX : 2:07 PM ET
Hi Anderson,
Can,t wait to see the show tomorrow night, it sounds very interesting. Will have to read this book. Love your show by the way.

Sandy




,
Posted By Anonymous Sandra Belvin Richmond, Va : 2:15 PM ET
I can't wait to see this special, though usually I prefer to see live reports on AC360.
I have read all of Sebastian Junger's books and his new book is already lined up in my queue of books to be read and after the special I properly can't wait to get started on the read.
Posted By Anonymous Elke, Naples/FL : 2:15 PM ET
Hey, Anderson. Hope you enjoyed your weekend, too. Thanks for the preview. I'm really interested to find out how Mrs. Junger got out of that situation described in the quote, as well as the details of that other murder. Do police think Smith was copycatting, and did DeSalvo actually deny committing it or is it that he just never confessed? How do they know he didn't frame Smith? Guess I'll find out tomorrow night...

So they called DeSalvo "Al", huh? That's my nickname...
Posted By Anonymous Allie, Piscataway, NJ : 2:22 PM ET
This feels like an early birthday present - first the BTK coverage, now a Boston Strangler special. I love reading true crime books and watching "Cold Case Files" late at night. I know a lot of people think it's sensationalist, particularly on this blog, but it's fascinating to me to try to understand what makes people snap. It's fascinating to see and confront what we hide from the outside world. Looking forward to the special!
Posted By Anonymous Sarah, Baltimore, MD : 2:45 PM ET
Hey Anderson:

Had a GREAT weekend, thanks. Glad to read you are coving this story in depth. I've read lot of books about serial killers and how thier minds work and will be glued to the t.v. for this special edition of 360.
Posted By Anonymous Liz, Baltimore, Maryland : 2:48 PM ET
I usually love the show, but why are you spending two entire hours on one crime drama? How is this news? I think I'll pass. By the way, if you can spend two hours on this case, why can't you spend 5 minutes on something more important like, say, Darfur?
Posted By Anonymous Stephanie, Lawrence, KS : 3:00 PM ET
It amazes me to think that someone could be sitting in jail, rotting their life away for a crime they may not have committed. With all of the technology that is currently available it is shocking that anyone is able to get away with murder. Yes, there are crimes that deserve a life sentence or possibly the death penalty, but it really makes you wonder how many people are on death row who truly have done nothing wrong. I think this special is important because people never want to believe that crime can involve the people you know or the town where you live. This story seems to show just how little we often know about the people around us. Just last week six bodies were found beaten to death in a house I've passed many times and I had gone to school with one of the victims. Who would have guessed that such a heinous crime could happen in such a small town, but sadly it did.
Posted By Anonymous Kimberly Miller, Leola, PA : 3:14 PM ET
Must be a "slow news day/week", Anderson. Who cares about the Boston Strangler story? Can we have something a little more "newsworthy", please, thanks. I could care less about murders from the 1960s, no matter how infamous. Blah, blah.
Posted By Anonymous Mark, Sacramento, CA : 3:24 PM ET
I have been recently watching the program Injustice and I find it very interesting. Even though it is supposedly not based on true stories I can't help but wonder just how many innocent people are sitting in jail cells in this country. I do think a lot of times there is a rush to judgement because people want someone to be held accountable. I think it is a very interesting and worthwhile topic to explore.
Posted By Anonymous Vicki Pittsburgh, PA : 3:29 PM ET
Is it wrong for me to look forward to seeing a story that has nothing to do with war or politics, even if it IS about a murderer?
Posted By Anonymous Lori H, San Antonio, TX : 3:48 PM ET
Anderson, please ask the author if he knows the status of the DNA testing that was performed on one of the Strangler's victims, one Mary Sullivan.
Posted By Anonymous Linda Dyer, Hanover, MA : 3:50 PM ET
Sounds like a great show and a good book. But you have to quit presenting such interesting authors on your show because my Summer reading list is getting too long and I won't have time to read your book. Anyway can't wait until tomorrow night.
Posted By Anonymous Marcia, Warren MI : 4:04 PM ET
Hey Anderson I hope you had a nice weekend also. Am I the only only guy watching your show or blogging. I just saw your commerical for tomorrows show, looks really interesting. Cant wait until your book comes out.
Your Amazing,
Anthony Guiliano
Posted By Anonymous Anthony Guiliano Allentown PA : 4:04 PM ET
Dear Anderson and 360 Folks:

Please don't get me wrong, because I think you and your show are wonderful, but I am not a fan of sensationalism (certainly not for a full hour). I am, however, hoping that there is more texture to this story (such as exploring the issues of racism and whether or not that contributed to the black man being charged) that makes it worthy of being so prominently featured on your show.

If you must do a daily drama segment (and I hope you never spend as much time on one as you did on the Entwistle case, complete with lawyers who had nothing to do with the case screaming at each other), I appreciate it when you share some sort of lesson from the tragedy of the day. For example, several months ago, when a couple nearly died from breathing in carbon monoxide, you shared the warning signs of exposure to the odorless gas.

360 and you are at your best when you do stories that matter and affect us all. Why not an hour on the environment, education, domestic violence, or Darfur? Poverty in the US and abroad? Breakthroughs in medicine and disease prevention? How unprepared we are for the next disaster? What specifically is going on in training Iraqis to protect themselves (what are the plans of the US and are those goals being met), do we have enough troops (and I ask that question as someone completely opposed to the war; we still need to win it in order to prevent the violence from spreading), and what is daily life like for the people of Iraq? Etc.

Also, when you are looking to fill time, it would be lovely if you used some of the segments from the world news program at noon. We Americans are grossly unaware of what is going on in other countries, especially if the situation does not appear to affect us directly, although I hope we are better understanding how interconnected we all are.

On the plus side (and, to reiterate, I do love your program), thank you as always for what you said the other night about how you will continue to cover the aftermath of Katrina. This is critical because, as you know even better than I do, people are still suffering and we all must keep on the pressure until something is done to help people and to understand how so many were abandoned in the first place.

Best,

NKM
Posted By Anonymous Norah, West Chester, PA : 4:40 PM ET
Hey Anderson,
I don't mean to go against the flow, and I usually enjoy most segments, however, I do not enjoy this sort of thing and will not watch it.
Hopefully, this will not become a steady diet for 360, or there might be some weight loss.
Posted By Anonymous Ellee , Fargo, North Dakota : 4:43 PM ET
Sebastian Junger is a great writer and I'm sure this book will be just as good, if not better than "The Perfect Storm."
Posted By Anonymous Joe Boesch, Port Jefferson, NY : 5:08 PM ET
This really sounds great. I slept through the BTK piece, but fortunately I "TiVoed" (well, fax can be used as a verb)it. It was really superbly done and I enjoyed it tremendously. I had either read a book or a lengthy article on it as it was too familiar to me.
Keep giving us stuff like this. But appear in it. You are a super commentator.
Posted By Anonymous Angie Holliday; Laredo, Tx : 6:01 PM ET
Thought you might be interested to know that a similar article is already in the May 2006 issue of Vanity Fair, currently available in newstands everywhere. I can't say that it is a subject of such substance that deserves a full two-hour segment from CNN. I believe that are more vital issues in the world around us.
Posted By Anonymous Eliza, Toronto, Ontario : 7:23 PM ET
I was very young when the Boston Strangler case first came to light. I am very interested to see what Mr. Junger has to say about all of this and I will be watching the program tomorrow night. However, I question whether this subject is worthy of the focus of a two-hour program. It seems to me that 360 has slowly evolved into a "younger" version of your predecessor's newsmagazine. There is nothing wrong with your efforts to present all the angles of a different story. But I am troubled by the fact that what made 360 unique has been slowly siphoned off.
Posted By Anonymous AnonaMoose, Chicago : 9:02 PM ET
Hey Anderson, hope you had a nice weekend as well!

That is plain SCARY. It just goes to show that you never really know someone and we shouldn't ever let our guards down.
Posted By Anonymous Courtney, Chagrin Falls, OH : 9:17 PM ET
Hey Anderson,

Hope you had a great weekend, too.

I agree 100% with the lengthy post by Norah from West Chester, PA, posted at 4:40 p.m., and the post by Ellee from Fargo, ND, posted at 4:43 p.m. I am absolutely so not interested in the sick minds of serial killers and other criminals, and I don't think your show is the right forum for such lengthy disgusting and outdated topics. I am also dismayed by the recent presentation of CNN Presents specials in your time slot. This is just so wrong!

Please reconsider your programming choices! Like Norah said, there are many more interesting and urgent topics that could be covered that affect all of us.
Posted By Anonymous Monika, Eagar, Arizona : 9:23 PM ET
I am very much looking forward to your show on this topic. I believe there are many unanswered questions and since I have read The Perfect Storm and Fire, Sebastian Junger is well equipped to tell the story.
Posted By Anonymous KS, Los Angeles, CA : 1:40 AM ET
Junger isn't an investigative journalist just a guy trying to make a buck. He may not know a thesis, but he knows how to spot a buck from a great distance. Luck, whether being in Glouster for "The Perfect Storm" or having "The Boston Strangler" for a domestic is the limit of Mr. Junger's writing ability. What's next? That on a family vacation he saw the Kennedy Assasination? I call it book number three.
Posted By Anonymous Garrett Osborne, Marina Del Rey CA : 4:45 AM ET
I've heard a bit about this story and I'm looking forward to tonight. Can you imagine finding out you handyman working in your home is the Boston Strangler?

You always bring us the most facinating stories. Keep up the great work.

And thanks - I did have a good weekend.

LindaV
Posted By Anonymous LindaV, Butler, PA : 7:40 AM ET
I love to judge situations, people and nature. I sound crazy I suppose. But not crazy enough to ....... I am looking forward to viewing your segment Anderson Cooper, and thanks for letting me be the judge.

Rekha.Joy
Posted By Anonymous rekha, Fremont, CA : 11:54 AM ET
Anderson - I'm looking forward to spending another night with your intriguing investigative stories - thanks for bringing all the stories to us, not just the ones making the biggest headlines.
Posted By Anonymous Kelly, Peoria IL : 1:29 PM ET
2300+ U.S. casualties in Iraq, beginning of a nuclear war with Iran, global warming, genocide in Darfur, and the disaster in the Gulf region. These are actual news that impact all of us day to day.
I am glad to see that CNN has its priorities straight by airing two hours of the Boston Strangler instead of reporting on actual news. Thank you CNN for keeping us informed.

P.S. Mr. Turner you are missed.
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer H. Richardson,Tx : 2:26 PM ET
I was a college student in Boston during 1963 and remember well the terror we felt in the dormitory -- and the fear that gripped the city -- I also lived before that in Watertown MA which is one town over from Belmont -- We always believe that the Belmont killing was the Boston Strangler. Can't wait to watch tonight and see someone else who believes the same thing.
Posted By Anonymous Claire Arlington VA : 4:48 PM ET
Sounds interesting. It makes me glad that I live in a town where the most serious crimes that occur are kids TPing houses (if you could even call that a crime).
Posted By Anonymous MK, Crown Point, IN : 6:59 PM ET
I just read an extremely well written and interesting article by Sebastian Junger in April's Vanity Fair about the war in Afghanistan. If his book is anything like the article, it will be an interesting read.
Posted By Anonymous Nicole, Chicago, IL : 7:30 PM ET
I am outraged that 360 would neglect to cover the exact same stories they just covered last night in favor of occasional specials, true crime or human interest stories! I demand that you cover all things at all times and never make any interesting detours! God knows there's no other way I could possibly stay up to date on intractable situations like Iraq or Darfur, not even if I watched all 2000 weekly hours of The Situation Room or actually lifted a finger to seek out the information on my own! Or if I waited until the next night!

But seriously, this special sounds really interesting, and I'm always interested in coverage of books and writers. I enjoyed your coverage of the Frey controversy immensely, and I'm definitely looking forward to your own book. I haven't missed a show since 360 went to two hours last year, and I especially appreciate your continuing dedication to the Gulf Coast.
Posted By Anonymous Valerie, Julian CA : 7:36 PM ET
I can *never* get through on the phone line, but maybe I can get on the blog tonight.

After carefully watching this last hour and having done a lot of background research today in preparation for watching the special tonight, I have to say I tend to agree with those that say Junger's assertions are not entirely with problems; I'm not convinced his theses hold up. While there certainly is a possibility that Roy Smith did not commit the crime (killing someone for drinking money?), I think it's very clear DeSalvo was not involved; he would have "bragged" about the murder if he had, just like with the others. I have enormous respect for F. Lee Bailey's work and intellect, and hearing his comments tonight sealed that thought for me.

I don't necessarily think Junger has such craven motives of profit in writing this book that other cynical commenters have alleged, but I do think his physical and emotional proximity to the case ("Junger's magnifying glass") has really affected the book he produced. His interpretation of the picture with DeSalvo's hand on his stomach powerfully speaks to that. I think many times writers create their texts to deal consciously or otherwise with issues in their own lives, and in this case, I think this a book about Sebastian and his mother trying to understand and deal with their unique connection to tragic events and a horrible person who they never really knew.
Posted By Anonymous Paul, Fort Worth, TX : 11:31 PM ET
It is amazing how Ellen knew to trust her instincts. I think so many people these days go against what their instincts are telling them...and maybe this is a lesson that people should learn to trust themselves more.
Posted By Anonymous Gabrielle, Chilton WI : 11:57 PM ET
I wonder if it was worth to have 2 hours dedicated to this Belmont crime. The 2 convicted people are dead, there's no DNA, the author didn't come up with anything useful, the former prosecutor is a creep. Oh well, they all got their 120 minutes of fame (less commercial breaks). I really miss Aaron Brown's shows - they were useful, informative, decent, not trying so hard to be sensational. I wonder what's wrong at/with CNN? It seems that day after day the quality of the programms is going down.
Posted By Anonymous Dana, Montreal (Quebec), Canada : 12:19 AM ET
Anderson, thank you for doing this story. We live in a different era since Roy Smith was found quilty; racism & the science of DNA. Based on the program, I'm not convinced Roy Smith is guilty, nor am I convinced DeSalvo isn't guilty of the crime. The question that kept coming back to me, oddly enough - was DeSalvo a racist? beyond his own mental illness that led to his being a serial killer? Has anyone researched DeSalvo as a serial killer? Could that part of him who may have been a racist want to see Smith be convicted, why would he be so interested in following Smith's case & adding one more murder wouldn't have changed DeSalvo's prison sentence, anyway. A murder that was very much like the Boston Strangler Murders, my guess is - DeSlavo was more likely to have commited the murder than Smith. I will read Mr. Junger's book. The interview has left me with many questions. I found Mr. Junger to be very fair & the impression I was left with is that he leaves the reader to make up their own mind in his book "A Death in Belmont". Thank you Anderson & a thank you to Mr. Junger for his work.
Posted By Anonymous dee, Stamford, CT : 12:30 AM ET
Wow, AC, what a thought provoking show. I tried to call, but your phones were non stop busy. What a great response. Do you think Mr. Smith was convicted on circumstantial evidence? Did he take anything from the house besides the money? Was it a social issue involving a black man working for a white woman who ends up dead? Thank goodness Mrs. Junger refused to go to the basement. I am tending to lean towards DeSalvo. Yikes, I might have to read the book! Thanks, AC, for providing shows that leave us wanting more!
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago, Il : 12:33 AM ET
this is spinning a crime that's been solved as far as I am concerned.
Lets face it if Roy wasn't black this book would never have been written.
He was not a nice person.He was a proven liar.He was a criminal.
The fact that he claimed innocence and/or educated himself in prison does not absolve him of the crime that he was convicted of due to overwhelming evidence.
Trying to make this a racial incident is very unfair to all involved.
Posted By Anonymous mbrandi nyc,ny : 1:45 AM ET
One question I wanted answered when I dialed into the televised live interview was:
did anyone consider the possibility that Bessie Goldberg was murdered earlier than 12:00 noon and Roy Smith arrived, started cleaning, discovered the murdered body and left the scene in a dazed, horrific understanding of what it meant to his life? If so, then it might explain his behavior after the fact and why the evidence does not point to him as a suspect.
I phoned into the show to see if I could deliver my question, but to no avail as I received busy signals repeatedly.
I am still curious as to what an 'expert' or another might have to say on that aspect.

Tx.
Mary KH
Posted By Anonymous Mary KH, Neptune City,NJ : 1:49 AM ET
Anderson, There was one question that was not asked. If they didnt convict Smith of the rape and they know she was raped, then who would come in with bad intentions, find a dead woman and rape her? Or was she raped and then Smith came in and thought all he had left was to rob her?
Posted By Anonymous Hanif, Dana Point Ca. : 2:57 AM ET
Two hours spent promoting a book about a murder 40+ years ago was as disappointing piece of fluff. I watch CNN and your program for news and information about issues and concerns. Stick to what you do best -- news -- and let "Dateline", et. al. present programs about rehashed murders.
Posted By Anonymous S. Kotinek-Wautoma, WI : 9:04 AM ET
Hi Anderson,
After watching last night's show on the "Boston Strangler", and Roy Smith, I feel more in doubt now about Roy Smith's charges. I am doubting that, maybe, the Boston Strangler, AKA Al, really did get away with one more murder! Plus, being a 42-year old, recent widow, with two daughters, ages 11 and 9, I was a little nervous to turn out the lights after watching this segment! Especially, after I've had "handymen" in my house the last two days gutting out our bathroom. Maybe, next time, I should invite my dad over to help supervise?! It just hit too close to home after the workers were here. It was a riveting segment, to say the least, but it just raises more questions. I didn't know you had a book out; what is the title? Lisa Brown, Buffalo Grove, IL
Posted By Anonymous Lisa Brown, Buffalo Grove, IL : 3:13 PM ET
Anderson, I really enjoyed watching your show last night. It was so darn interesting and a bit eerie too. I really think that Roy Smith killed that elderly cleaning lady he worked for and his case was not at all connected with the Boston Strangler. I would be curious to watch the old black & white movie, "The Boston Strangler" with Tony Curtis who played Albert DeSalvo and then read Junger's new book as an comparison. Where did Junger get his ideas and where did they get ideas for the movie?? Good stuff!!
Posted By Anonymous Julie, Sacramento, CA : 4:04 PM ET
granted i haven't been able to read the book yet, but the case didn't seem terribly compelling (nor, frankly, worth an entire 2 hours). i'd really like to believe smith was innocent, but i just can't get past the vacuum cleaner. there's no reason for it to be out if he'd finished the job, and the notion that maybe it was brought out after he left doesn't hold water -- everyone knows you dust and vacuum BEFORE the cleaner gets there!!!!
Posted By Anonymous cathy, riverside CA : 4:32 PM ET
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