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1935-1938: The Cleveland Torso Murders (Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run)

Discussion in 'Historical Cold Cases - Pre 1950' started by Lily, Jul 23, 2015.

  1. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member

    One day in September of 1935, in the Kingsbury Run area of Cleveland, Ohio, two bodies were found in the bushes. Police were called immediately and, after looking over the crime scene, were able to confidently state that there were two male bodies that had been emasculated and beheaded. There was no blood at the scene, leading detectives to conclude they had been killed elsewhere and transported to the crime site. One of the bodies would remain unidentified, but the other was identified as an Edward Andrassy, who was known to the police as a petty criminal. Curiously, it was determined that the anonymous man had been killed several weeks before Andrassy.

    Police work began in earnest and the workload increased when the body of a female showed up in January of 1936. She had been killed in a similar manner to the two men. Detectives were puzzled that the killer had changed the gender of his victims, which was unusual. The body was soon identified as Flo Polillo, a frequent patron of bars in the area.

    At this point the famous Eliot Ness became involved, as he was Cleveland’s chief of Public Safety. He added himself to the growing number of law enforcement working on the case.

    The murders continued. In June of 1936 a male body was found that featured several notable tattoos. Despite those distinctive markings, the body was never identified.

    A partial body found in September had a hat nearby that was later identified as one given to a homeless man by a local woman. This reinforced the theory that the Cleveland torso murders were being committed solely on people from the lowest rungs of society.

    There was a slight lull in the murders and, although the investigation continued at a frantic pace, Ness and the police were not any closer to finding the killer.

    The killer apparently killed six more times before the last canonical victim was found in August of 1938 (like Jack the Ripper, there was some disagreement among law enforcement as to the number of murders committed by the killer).

    [​IMG]
    Eliot Ness, Cleveland Chief of Public Safety

    The hunt for murderer hit one dead end after another. Investigators were hopeful when a man was identified who often went to a bar patronized by several of the victims. This man was known to become angry and threatening when drunk. The man was taken into custody and, after some time, confessed to one murder. Unfortunately, he killed himself before he was fully questioned about the other murders. Suspiciously, after his death, he was found to have several broken ribs, which acquaintances of the man said he didn’t have when he went into police custody. This led the press and general populace to believe his confession was worthless and had been obtained under physical force.

    Later, Ness himself oversaw the pursuit of another man, a doctor with a history of mental illness. He was brought in and failed a primitive lie detector test. Ness felt he was finally on the path to the killer and continued to press the medical man. The doctor eluded Ness by voluntarily committing himself to a mental institution, which placed him out of reach of Ness and his team. Had Ness pursued the doctor further, the doctor had an insanity defense virtually locked in place.

    Coincidentally, the Cleveland torso murders appeared to stop after the doctor went into that mental hospital. Cleveland police continued to investigate the crimes, but no convictions were ever made and the murders remain a cold case that may be solved in the future — or it may remain an unsolved puzzle from the realm of 20th century true crime.

    http://www.historicmysteries.com/cleveland-torso-murders/


    The official number of murders credited to the Cleveland Torso Murderer is twelve, although recent research has shown there may have been more. The twelve victims were killed between 1935 and 1938, but some, including lead Cleveland Detective Peter Merylo, believe that there may have been 13 or more victims in the Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Youngstown, Ohio, areas between the 1920s and 1950s. Two strong candidates for addition to the initial list of those killed are the unknown victim nicknamed the "Lady of the Lake", found on September 5, 1934, and Robert Robertson, found on July 22, 1950.

    The victims of the Cleveland Torso Murderer were usually drifters whose identities were never determined, although there were a few exceptions (victims numbers 2, 3, and 8 were identified as Edward Andrassy, Florence Polillo, and possibly Rose Wallace, respectively). Invariably, all the victims, male and female, appeared to hail from the lower class of society—easy prey in Depression-era Cleveland. Many were known as "working poor", who had nowhere else to live but the ramshackle shanty towns in the area known as the Cleveland Flats.

    The Torso Murderer always beheaded and often dismembered his victims, sometimes also cutting the torso in half; in many cases the cause of death was the decapitation itself. Most of the male victims were castrated, and some victims showed evidence of chemical treatment being applied to their bodies. Many of the victims were found after a considerable period of time following their deaths, sometimes a year or more. This made identification nearly impossible, especially since the heads were often not found.

    --

    Several non-canonical victims are commonly discussed in connection with the Torso Murderer. The first was nicknamed the "Lady of the Lake" and was found near Euclid Beach on the Lake Erie shore on September 5, 1934, at virtually the same spot as canonical victim number 7. Some researchers of the Torso Murderer's victims count the "Lady of the Lake" as victim number 1, or "Victim Zero".

    A headless, unidentified male was found in a boxcar in New Castle, Pennsylvania, on July 1, 1936. Three headless victims were found in boxcars near McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, on May 3, 1940. All bore similar injuries to those inflicted by the Cleveland killer. Dismembered bodies were also found in the swamps near New Castle between the years 1921 and 1934 and between 1939 and 1942. In September 1940 an article in the New Castle News refers to the killer as "The Murder Swamp Killer" and credits him with 17 murders in New Castle. The almost identical similarities between the victims in New Castle to those in Cleveland, Ohio, coupled with the similarities between New Castle's Murder Swamp and Cleveland's Kingsbury Run, both of which were directly connected by a Baltimore and Ohio Railroad line, were enough to convince Cleveland Detective Peter Merylo that the New Castle murders were the work of the "Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run". Merylo was convinced the connection was the railroad that ran twice a day between the two cities; he often rode the rails undercover looking for clues to the killer's identity.

    On July 22, 1950, the body of 41-year-old Robert Robertson was found at a business at 2138 Davenport Avenue in Cleveland. Police believed he had been dead six to eight weeks and appeared to have been intentionally decapitated. His death appeared to fit the profile of other victims: He was estranged from his family, had an arrest record and a drinking problem, and was on the fringes of society. Despite widespread newspaper coverage linking the murder to the crimes in the 1930s, detectives investigating Robertson's death treated it as an isolated crime.[8]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_Torso_Murderer
     
  2. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member

    Victims



    The three identified torso murder victims, Edward Andrassy, Flo Polillo and Rose Wallace, had at least one thing in common.

    "They all hung around the seedier areas of downtown Cleveland," says James Badal. "There was a bar where all three of them drank at one time or another, a local hot spot for the down and out, if not destitute."

    But their identities did not lead investigators to the killer. And with few clues to the other victims' identities, the vast majority remained anonymous.

    "This led to the idea that the killer was probably trolling for victims in the shantytowns in Kingsbury Run and the Flats," Badal says. "These days, people are amazed that anyone could go missing so spectacularly. But this was the Depression. People hopped freight trains and were riding all over the country."

    Victim No. 0
    A woman in her 30s. On Sept. 5, 1934, her torso and legs were discovered on the lakeshore near Euclid Beach. Known as "No. 0" because police debated whether she was part of the Torso Murders cycle.

    [​IMG]
    Edward Andrassy, 29
    Found Sept. 23, 1935, in Kingsbury Run, with his head severed from his body. A former hospital orderly once charged with carrying a concealed weapon, Andrassy was identified through fingerprints.

    Victim No. 2
    A man, about 45. Found next to Andrassy in Kingsbury Run on Sept. 23, 1935. Also decapitated.

    [​IMG]
    Flo Polillo, 42
    Half of her torso, her upper legs and right arm and hand were found wrapped in newspaper inside two baskets on Jan. 26, 1936, in an alley near 2315 E. 20th St. Her left arm, upper torso and lower legs were found at 1419 Orange Ave. on Feb. 7. Identified through fingerprints, Polillo was a former waitress once arrested for prostitution.

    [​IMG]
    The Tattooed Man, about 25
    His head was found June 5, 1936, rolled up inside a pair of pants in Kingsbury Run. His body was found nearby the next day. Police hoped to identify him through his tattoos, including a butterfly and the comic strip character Jiggs, but could not. His death convinced investigators that the Torso Murders were linked.

    Victim No. 5
    A man in his late 30s. Found July 22, 1936, along Big Creek on Cleveland's West Side, with his head separated from his body.

    Victim No. 6
    A man in his late 20s. His torso and legs were found Aug. 10, 1936, in Kingsbury Run.

    Victim No. 7
    A woman, about 30. Part of her torso was found Feb. 23, 1937, at Lake Shore Boulevard and East 156th Street.

    [​IMG]
    Rose Wallace, 40
    Her dismembered skeleton was found June 6, 1937, under the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge. She was tentatively identified through dental records.

    Victim No. 11
    A woman in her mid-30s. Found dismembered Aug. 16, 1938, at East Ninth Street near the present-day Shoreway.

    Victim No. 12
    A man in his 30s. Bones found Aug. 16, 1938, near Victim No. 11, off East Ninth Street.

    http://www.clevelandmagazine.com/ME...19&tier=4&id=787EFD80E2954205AAD059BA6724F957


    Suspects

    (from Wiki linked above)


    Two suspects are most commonly associated with the Torso murders, although there are numerous others occasionally mentioned.

    On August 24, 1939, a Cleveland resident named Frank Dolezal, 52, was arrested as a suspect in Florence Polillo's murder, died under suspicious circumstances in the Cuyahoga County jail. After his death it was discovered that he had suffered six broken ribs—injuries his friends say he did not have when arrested by Sheriff Martin L. O'Donnell some six weeks prior.[9] Most researchers believe that no evidence exists that Dolezal was involved in the murders, although at one time he did admit killing Flo Polillo in self-defense. Before his death, he recanted his confession and recanted two others as well, saying he had been beaten until he confessed.[9]

    Most investigators consider the last canonical murder to have been in 1938. One suspected individual was Dr. Francis E. Sweeney.[10] Sweeney worked during World War I in a medical unit that conducted amputations in the field. Sweeney was later personally interviewed by Eliot Ness, who oversaw the official investigation into the killings in his capacity as Cleveland's Safety Director. During this interrogation, Sweeney is said to have "failed to pass" two very early polygraph machine tests. Both tests were administered by polygraph expert Leonard Keeler, who told Ness he had his man. Nevertheless, Ness apparently felt[10] there was little chance of obtaining a successful prosecution of the doctor, especially as he was the first cousin of one of Ness's political opponents, Congressman Martin L. Sweeney, who had hounded Ness publicly about his failure to catch the killer. (Congressman Sweeney was a political ally of and was related by marriage to Sheriff O'Donnell and an opponent of Republican Cleveland mayor Harold Burton, who had appointed Ness). After Dr. Sweeney committed himself, there were no more leads or connections that police could assign to him as a possible suspect. The killings apparently stopped after Sweeney voluntarily entered institutionalized care shortly after the last official murders were discovered in 1938.[10] From his hospital confinement, Sweeney would mock and harass Ness and his family with threatening postcards into the 1950s.[10] He died in a veterans' hospital at Dayton in 1964.[10]

    In 1997, another theory postulated that there may have been no single Butcher of Kingsbury Run because the murders could have been committed by different people. This was based on the assumption that the autopsy results were inconclusive. First, Cuyahoga County Coroner Arthur J. Pearce may have been inconsistent in his analysis as to whether the cuts on the bodies were expert or slapdash. Second, his successor, Samuel Gerber, who began to enjoy press attention from his involvement in such cases as the Sam Sheppard murder trial, garnered a reputation for sensational theories. Therefore, the only thing known for certain was that all the murder victims were dismembered.[11]
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
    Mel70 likes this.
  3. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member

    [​IMG]
    Dr. Francis E. Sweeney


    James Badal's resonant voice, slow and precise, builds anticipation. His white hair, mutton-chop sideburns and thick moustache give him a villain's air, but he is actually a scholar of evil. He has written four books about murder.

    Today, over black coffee at a cafe in Tremont, the English professor who relishes the macabre speaks the words every murder investigator longs for.

    "I solved it," he says. His white moustache rises, and his severe face breaks into a grin.

    For 18 years, Badal, 71, has researched the Torso Murders, the spree of decapitation killings that terrified Cleveland during the Great Depression. The torso murderer killed seven men and five or six women. He dismembered most of his victims, cutting them apart with a skill that suggested a knowledge of human anatomy. He was also known as the headhunter, because he always cut off the victims' heads, and as the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run for his habit of leaving bodies in the deep creek valley that runs through Cleveland's East Side from about East 79th Street to the Cuyahoga River. The case tested Eliot Ness, the legendary Prohibition agent turned Cleveland safety director. His inability to catch the butcher drove him to draconian acts that belie his heroic reputation.

    Eighty years later, the Torso Murders have become Cleveland's greatest true-crime legend, and the killer's identity is our greatest unsolved mystery.

    Badal's 2001 book In the Wake of the Butcher proved the identity of the secret suspect Ness interrogated in 1938: a deranged doctor named Francis E. Sweeney. After writing Twilight of Innocence, about the 1951 disappearance of teenager Beverly Potts, Badal explored the Kingsbury Run case further in two sequels, Though Murder Has No Tongue and Hell's Wasteland.

    Now Badal has published another revelation. His revised, expanded edition of Butcher includes new evidence that connects Sweeney to the story of Emil Fronek, a vagrant who claimed a Cleveland doctor tried to drug him in 1934 — right around the time the murders may have begun. Badal also believes he's identified the butcher's laboratory, the place where he disarticulated his victims.

    Has Badal solved the murders? Solved is a relative term. He now knows what Ness knew about Sweeney in 1938 — which wasn't enough to take to court. But 80 years after Fronek's mysterious encounter, and after the possible first victim washed up on a Lake Erie beach, we revisit the case with Badal, run his theory by other authors who've written about the Torso Murders or about Cleveland crime, look at how the case tested Ness and re-examine the cast of characters: the investigators, the suspects and the victims.

    http://www.clevelandmagazine.com/ME...19&tier=4&id=787EFD80E2954205AAD059BA6724F957
     
  4. Mel70

    Mel70 Bronze Member

    This is One PUZZLING AND FRIGHTENING Case! I have wondered MYSELF, HOW COULD THE "KILLER" WALK AROUND "Kingsbury Run" with NO NOTICE! 1st, THEY WOULD HAVE TO BLEND IN. 2nd. HOW COULD NO ONE SEE AT LEAST ONE OF THE VICTIMS WITH THE "KILLER"! 3rd. He Would HAVE TO HAVE A LOCATION AVAILABLE FOR HIM TO CARRY OUT SUCH VIOLENCE, That "Kingsbury Run" DID NOT PROVIDE. 4th. It would be EASY ENOUGH FOR A "Ruse". $$$. AND I'm sure SOME OF THEM KNEW WHAT WAS COMING AND WOULD HAVE AT LEAST YELLED OUT. So Location AGAIN. SOME of the "Victims" were BEHEADED WHILE ALIVE! SO BLOOD WOULD BE PUMPING CAUSING ALOT OF BLOOD SPRAY! He Dismembered Them, and Some, used a UNDETERMINED SUBSTANCE on The Body, giving it a "Red, Leathery" Appearance. Then DISPOSAL. HE TOOK THE RISK AT LEAST 12 TIMES! AND STILL DIDN'T GET CAUGHT! NOT FINDING SOME OF THE HEADS IS A TERRIFYING THOUGHT. I think for whatever reason, HE KEPT SOME AS "TROPHIES" INDICATING HE WAS NOT A RESIDENT of "Kingsbury Run". And for the "Tattooed Man" YOU WOULD THINK THAT SO MANY AND DISTINCTIVE TATTOOS HE WOULD HAVE BEEN IDENTIFIED. SAD. The "Killer" DEAD FOR SURE! BUT IT'S STILL CHILLING! I think that is the Reason People are SO INTRIGUED by "Jack the Ripper" that His "Murders" have been Discussed, Analyzed, Suspects named spanning NOW OVER 3 "CENTURIES".
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2018

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