Cold cases, unsolved murders, and disappearances wreak havoc on the emotions of the families left behind. Recently, two of Massachusetts’ most notorious “cold cases” were solved, ending decades long quests by detectives and the families to determine who was responsible for these brutal crimes.
James “Jamie” Lusher – Mystery Solved Via Confession
The grieving family of James “Jamie” Lusher will finally get some closure. On November 6, 1992 the 16-year-old Westfield boy hopped on his bike and started on his way to a relative’s home. The boy never arrived and his body was never found, leaving his family searching for answers for decades.
An intensive search of the area followed, with police initially believing Lusher was hiding and afraid to come home. However, earlier this month convicted child serial killer Lewis Lent confessed to killing the teen and dumping his body in a pond. According to authorities, prosecutors agreed not to prosecute Lent for Lusher’s murder in exchange for his confession.
Lent is currently serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders of two other children including the murder and kidnapping of a 12 year-old Pittsfield boy and a 12-year-old Frankfort, N.Y. girl.
While the family will not have the opportunity to face Lent in a trial, they will finally achieve the closure they have been denied. As stated by the father of Jamie “My closure is finding my son … I couldn’t care less what happens to Lewis Lent. He can rot in hell, I don’t care.”
Mary Sullivan – Mystery Solved Via Science
Another high-profile cold case has just been solved thanks to advances in science.
The “Boston Strangler” – allegedly responsible for at least 13 deaths from 1962-1964 – has just been conclusively linked to the murder of 19-year-old Mary Sullivan. In 1967 Anthony DeSalvo, a convicted rapist, claimed he was the notorious “Strangler.” He confessed to Sullivan’s death as well as 11 others while in jail. However, he recanted his confession and was never convicted. He died in 1974 in a prison fight before police had the technology to test the DNA samples taken at the scene of the crime.
Massachusetts’s police continued their attempts to link DeSalvo to Sullivan’s death over the last several decades, but the available technology couldn’t conclusively identify DeSalvo as the murderer.
However, scientific advances in the use of DNA testing and technology have changed everything. Now it is possible to test decades old DNA. As a result, in July, officials exhumed DeSalvo’s body. Comparing DeSalvo’s remains -including a 6-inch piece of DeSalvo’s femur, three of his teeth and tissue samples – with evidence collected from the crime scene, detectives confirmed him as Sullivan’s killer.
While an obvious benefit to solving cold cases is to provide closure and justice to families who have waited decades for answers, it also benefits wrongfully accused and convicted criminal defendants who may be finally able to clear their names.