Police arrested a 35-year-old New Jersey lawyer Tuesday in connection with a series of rapes that occurred in Charlestown in 2007 and 2008.
Matthew J. Nilo’s arrest, which occurred at his home in Weehawken, New Jersey, marks the culmination of a lengthy investigation that was broken open by the use of investigative genetic genealogy, officials said.
Nilo, who used to reside in the North End, is charged with three counts of aggravated rape, two counts of kidnapping, one count of assault with intent to rape, and one count of indecent assault and battery, Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox said at a press conference Tuesday.
The assaults in question occurred on Aug. 18, 2007; Nov. 22, 2007; Aug. 5, 2008; and Dec. 23, 2008, in the area of Terminal Street in Charlestown, Cox said.
Nilo was arrested without incident and was being transported back to Massachusetts, Joseph Bonavolonta, the FBI’s special agent in charge of the Boston field office, said at the press conference. News of Nilo’s arrest was shared with the four survivors immediately after he was taken into custody.
“We certainly realize that identifying this individual does not ease their pain. Nothing can, but hopefully it answers some questions,” Bonavolonta said.
Investigative genetic genealogy combines the use of DNA analysis with traditional genealogical research and historical records to generate new leads. It was also used to identify the murder victim known as “The Lady of the Dunes.”
The BPD’s Sexual Assault Unit requested assistance from the FBI last October in using investigative genetic genealogy to identify the suspect in this case. The department received a $2.5 million grant from the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative to improve its ability to investigate cases like this. Last May, BPD officials launched renewed efforts to “review unsolved sexual assault cases that posed the most threat to public safety,” Cox said.
Law enforcement officials received positive genealogical confirmation of Nilo’s identity last month, Bonavolonta said.
“This is simply just one technique that is used for lead purposes. It’s not the end-all, and there is a significant amount of investigative steps that have to occur even after we’ve identified who we believe to be, in this case, a suspect in an investigation,” he said.
Nilo is originally from the Boston area. Since 2008, he has lived in Wisconsin, California, and New York, Bonavolonta said.
Nilo works as a cyber claims counsel for Cowbell, a cyber insurance company with offices in New York and around the world, according to his LinkedIn profile.
“Matthew Nilo was an employee of Cowbell and was hired in January, 2023, after passing our background check,” the company said in a statement to The Boston Globe. “Mr. Nilo’s employment at Cowbell has been suspended pending further investigation.”
Officials did not reveal specific details about the attacks. Cox said that more information will likely come to light during a trial.
“Sadly, the facts in this case are all too familiar,” Bonavolonta said. “We would be remiss if we didn’t thank the brave survivors, who, although terrorized, came forward and reported to the police what happened to them and subjected themselves to very invasive exams for one purpose: to identify their assailant.”
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