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Carpenters Floyd Wiggins and Albert DeSalvo (right) stand behind Sebastian Junger, then less than a year old, sitting in the lap of his mother, Ellen Junger.
Sebastian Junger set out to write a book about a murder that occurred in the quiet neighborhood where he grew up. ONE One morning in the fall of 1962, when I was not yet one year old, my mother, Ellen, looked out the window and saw two men in our front yard. For Junger, author of the best-selling The Perfect Storm, the story of who killed Bessie Goldberg hit close to home in more than one way.
One was in his thirties and the other was at least twice that, and they were both dressed in work clothes and seemed very interested in the place where we lived.
NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. He had left Goldberg's house less than an hour before her husband came home and found her strangled on the living room floor. One of the workmen was Al DeSalvo, who in 1965 confessed to killing 13 women and being the Boston Strangler.
He had a painting job around the corner, Blomerth said, and that was why they were in the neighborhood.
My mother said that the house was wonderful but too small and that she and my father were taking bids from contractors to build a studio addition out back. She was an artist, she explained, and the studio would allow her to paint and give drawing classes at home while keeping an eye on me. Blomerth said that he would be, so my mother put me in his arms and ran inside to get a copy of the architectural plans.
In exploring something that you can't know for sure, and then you get to examine the ways in which you examine evidence, the ways in which you try to come to a decision the way juries must." The victim's daughter, Leah Goldberg Scheuerma, has questioned the facts in Junger's book. Some days all three men showed up, some days it was Blomerth and Wiggins, some days it was just Al. Around eight o'clock in the morning my mother would hear the bulkhead door slam, and then she'd hear footsteps in the basement as Al got his tools, and then a few minutes later she'd watch him cross the backyard to start work.


Al never went into the main part of the house, but sometimes my mother would bring a sandwich out to the studio and keep him company while he ate lunch. Al had served with the American forces in postwar Germany and been the middleweight champion of the American army in Europe. Al had dark hair and a powerful build and a prominent beak of a nose and was not, my mother says, an unhandsome man. Canton was a conservative little city that could be stifling to a woman who wanted more than a husband and children — which, as it turned out, my mother did. At eighteen she moved to Boston, went to art school, and then rented a studio and started to paint. Young women of her generation did not pass up marriage for art, and that was exactly what my mother seemed to be doing. A few years went by and she hadn't married, and a decade went by and she still hadn't married, and by the time she met my father, Miguel, in the bar of the Ritz Hotel her parents had all but given up.
The son of a Russian-born journalist who wrote in French, and a beautiful Austrian socialite, he had come to the United States during the war to escape the Nazis and study physics at Harvard. He spoke five languages, he could recite the names of most of the Roman emperors, and he had no idea how the game of baseball was played. He also had made it to age thirty-seven without getting married, which alarmed any number of my mother's female friends. Against their advice she eloped with him to San Francisco, and they were married by a judge at the city hall. A year later my mother got pregnant with me, and they bought a house in a pretty little suburb called Belmont. There was a Plexiglas skylight at the roof peak that poured light onto the tile floors, and there was a raised flagstone landing that my mother populated with large plants.
The job was completed in the spring of 1963; by then Blomerth and Wiggins had moved on to other work, and Al was left by himself to finish up the last details and paint the trim.
On one of those last days of the job, my mother dropped me off at my baby-sitter's and went into town to do some errands and then picked me up at the end of the day.


Several days earlier, a sixty-eight-year-old woman named Mary Brown had been raped and bludgeoned to death in the small town of Lawrence, north of Boston.
They were the eighth and ninth sex murders in the Boston area in almost a year, and the city was in a state of terror. My mother rushed out to the studio where Al was painting on a ladder and told him the news. Al shook his head and said how terrible it was, and he and my mother talked about it for a while, and eventually she went back into the house to start dinner. He showed up with Blomerth and Wiggins because the job was almost done and they had to start packing their tools and cleaning up the site.
Blomerth had brought a camera for the occasion, and he arranged us all inside the studio and took a photograph. She is thirty-four years old, and her dark brown hair is pinned high on her head and she wears a paisley shirt with the sleeves neatly rolled up and she appears primarily interested in the baby on her lap.
Behind my mother and off her right shoulder is old Mister Wiggins standing politely in a sweater-vest with his hands clasped behind his back and a claw hammer jammed headfirst into his front pocket. His shirt is buttoned right up to his chin, and he looks like he's at least seventy-five years old.
His dark hair is greased up in a pompadour, and he is clean-shaven but unmistakably rough looking, 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 have been arranged. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.




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