50 years after Boston Strangler, local photographer recalls shot of a lifetime

Photographer recalls shooting picture of captured Boston Strangler

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Charlie Zapolski – known to his friends as Zap – loves photography and has been snapping pictures since he was 14.

The wildlife photos he has taken in his own yard have earned him praise. One of his shots was even published in Parade magazine and seen around the world.

But 50 years ago, Zapolski got the shot of a lifetime.

It started with the police scanner in Zapolski’s house and word that DeSalvo, the escaped Boston Strangler, was in Lynn.

“(It was) just Lynn Police saying there are roadblocks set up at the Lynn-Saugus line at Ballard Street,” Zapolski said. “I said, ‘Oh, it’s only a mile from my house.’ So I went down there to check it out – just to take some pictures of the action.”

Zapolski took photos at the roadblock, before a police officer let him sit in the back of his cruiser because it was so cold outside.

That’s where Zapolski grabbed a shot of DeSalvo’s wanted poster – just before another radio call came in.

“I heard they caught him and he’s being taken down to the Lynn Police station,” said Zapolski. “And I said, ‘That’s where I’m going!’”

The old Lynn Police station is long gone now, but that’s where Zapolski pointed his camera on that frigid February day and got not one – but two – photos of the world-famous Boston Strangler.

State troopers held their rifles aloft outside the Lynn Police station as huge crowds gathered for a glimpse of DeSalvo. That’s when Zapolski got his shot.

“There was a photographer standing on a car and I shot between his legs and it just happened,” said Zapolski of the shot of DeSalvo being led away. “Sometimes you get lucky.”

Luck would soon strike again.

A moment later, Zapolski grabbed another shot of DeSalvo in a cruiser just before a police officer closed the door.

Fifty years ago it all lined up for Zapolski – he was in the right place at the right time with a camera in his hand.

For the record, Zapolski is not a professional photographer and he never worked for a news organization.

“For the passion. I didn’t do it to make money,” Zapolski said.

For Zapolski, that passion has taken him a long way since he was a teen.

DeSalvo was never a free man after Zapolski snapped those photos. He was murdered in 1973 while in prison.

Some still believe someone else was the Boston Strangler, but in 2013, DNA evidence linked DeSalvo to the murder of Mary Sullivan, the Boston Strangler’s final victim.

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