Friday, May 13, 2011

George Nassar And The Myth Of The High IQ Killer

One of the enduring mysteries of Boston crime is whether or not Albert DeSalvo really was the Boston Strangler. After all, he was convicted of rape, not murder, having earned the nickname “The Green Man” through his wiley ruse of gaining entrance to his victims' apartments by pretending to be a repairman. When he was incarcerated for these crimes, he allegedly outed himself as the Boston Strangler to a fellow inmate, who was himself a murderer named George Nassar. The fact that there was a $10,000 reward for any information about the Strangler muddies the waters of DeSalvo's actual intentions. According to some, Nassar and DeSalvo hatched a scheme by which one of them would confess to the murders, the other would collect the reward money, and the two men would later split the dough. Talking about boneheaded... Anyway, Nassar conveyed word of these jailhouse confessions, bogus or otherwise, to his lawyer, F. Lee Bailey - and the rest is, as they say, history. DeSalvo's accounts of the crimes were hair-raisingly accurate enough to prove that he was either the killer himself - or had been coached by someone who was. DeSalvo remained for the rest of his life in the Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane, eventually getting himself shivved for selling drugs more cheaply than his prison competitors. (Hey, nobody can say this guy didn't know "how to sell".) Years later, when DNA analysis became available, trace evidence from one of the Strangler's last victims, 19-year old Mary Sullivan, was tested against a sample of DeSalvo DNA - and it didn't match! Speculation that DeSalvo was never the Strangler, always present, grew dramatically. For some, George Nassar must have been the Strangler. While DeSalvo was no great shakes in the brains department, Nassar was not only a psychopath but had an "extraordinarily high IQ". And this was according to F. Lee Bailey, who was himself something of an IQ obsessive, boasting of his own IQ test scores to reporters, boosting Patty Hearst's IQ back up to ordinary middle class brightness after her brainwashing by the SLA, embracing MENSA membership, and elevating his own IQ (apparently through repeated self-testing) to a towering 172. Clearly, a man who knows all about "smart". The fact (or myth, perhaps) of Nassar's huge and nefarious intellect has led many to believe that only someone like him could commit the Strangler's crimes and not get caught. On this note, I beg to differ. Successful sociopaths are best known for their ability to dissemble, to charm, to convince others that they mean no harm when, in fact, they mean all the harm in the world. Think Ted Bundy. Think John Wayne Gacy. Think Bernie Madoff. Being smart helps with this, surely, but not always. Sometimes it does the reverse. A quick examination of George Nassar's bio reveals that he was most likely the type of smart dude who could not fit in at all, much less charm anyone. According to Wikipedia, "At school, his teachers found him reserved, quiet, and a poor mixer." It's bad enough to begin life as a social inept, but George Nassar never had the chance to mature into a smiling, glad-handing Ted Bundy type. A crime spree with a couple of pals resulted in a murder conviction that put Nassar in jail at the age of sixteen. When he was finally paroled in 1961, he was twenty-nine years old and probably even more socially backward than ever. Indeed, within three years, he committed yet another murder, of which he was convicted and for which he is still serving time. Intrinsically brilliant though he may be, Nassar strikes me as a kind of nerd manque or closet Aspie who achieved the dark gloss of a mastermind not through guile or clever manipulation, but through feral violence. He specialized in spree killing, which is the metier of a loner frustrated by his own social ineptitude. He is the criminal equivalent of the dude with the genius IQ who can't relate to anybody and ends up sweeping the floor of a McDonald's for the rest of his vocational life. Serial murder requires patience, restraint and a modicum of social skill. Albert DeSalvo, a married guy with kids and a job, a boastful, friendly, goofy-looking extravert who could convince anyone of anything - now that's your serial killer for you, the criminal equivalent of the best life insurance salesman in town.

George Nassar (Wikipedia)
The Boston Strangler (Tru TV)
Article in the North Andover Eagle-Tribune

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