Murders & Other Fun Facts

The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run | The Cleveland Torso Murderer

The Cleveland Torso Murderer, also known as the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run, was an unidentified serial killer who murdered and dismembered at least twelve (12) victims in the Cleveland area in the 1930s.

Recently, the official number of murders attributed to the Torso Murderer has been called into question, as it appears to be closer to twenty. Lead Cleveland Detective Peter Merylo and others believe that the Torso Murderer may have traveled and killed not only in Cleveland, but also in Pittsburgh and Youngstown, Ohio, between the 1920s and 1950s.

The Torso Murderer’s victims were usually drifters who were not identified with a few exceptions, and hailed from the lower class of society. He showed no preference for male or female, but always beheaded and often dismembered his victims. Most of the males were castrated, some had a chemical treatment applied. Many were not found for a considerable period of time following their murder making identification difficult, increasingly so in the situations where the heads were not located.

cleveland torso murder edwardThe first official identified victim was found on September 23, 1935. He was identified as Edward Andrassy, a homeless man in Cleveland, who was found on the Jackass Hill area of Kingsbury Run. He had been decapitated and emasculated. “Victim Zero,” though, is believed to be the “Lady of the Lake.” This body was found near Euclid Beach on Lake Erie’s shore on September 5, 1934, nearly a year before the first identifiable victim. This is connected to the Cleveland Torso Murderer so readily not only because of the manner of death, but also because she was found at almost the same spot as victim number 7.

The Cleveland Torso Murderer Gets Cheeky

death mask cleveland torsoOver the course of his decades long spree, the Torso Killer had fun messing with investigators who were running around with no suspects. In 1939, he called and reported that he killed again and left a body in Los Angeles – law enforcement only found animal bones.

In many of the body dumps, body parts were missing. Given the sporadic nature of the bones that went missing, it is more likely that the Torso Killer kept a rib from victim 8, may have retained the missing heads that were never recovered, and appeared to have chemically treated some of the victims. It was senseless and sickening. Why did he emasculate the men?

At one point, the killer taunted the Public Safety Director of Cleveland, Eliot Ness, who was the leader of the Untouchables, by placing the remains of two victims in full view of his office in city hall. While Ness had little to do with the investigation for the Cleveland Torso Murderer, he did interrogate one of the prime suspects, Dr. Francis E. Sweeney.

The Cleveland Torso Murderer Connection to Pennsylvania

In New Castle, Pennsylvania, headless bodies began to pop up in boxcars. The first was discovered on July 1, 1936, three more were found four years on May 3, 1940, near the same area. All bore similar injuries inflicted by the Cleveland Torso murderer.  Additionally, dismembered bodies were found in swamps near New Castle between 1921 and 1934, and 1939 and 1942. It was Detective Merylo that was convinced that a connection existed, as the railroad ran between Cleveland and New Castle twice a day.

Some investigators have suggested that the Black Dahlia, a Los Angeles murder case may have been committed by the Cleveland Torso Murderer. The Black Dahlia was the nickname given to Elizabeth Short who was murdered in a fashion similar to the Cleveland Torso Murderer’s manner. She was found mutilated, sliced in half at the torso, in Los Angeles (which is where the Cleveland Torso Murderer had called to report he killed someone in 1939 although only animal bones were located). What does not fit the Torso killer’s murder pattern, though, is that Short was drained of all her blood, had been washed by her killer, had been given a Glasgow smile, and appeared to be posed.

Suspects Identified in Cleveland Torso Murders

The Bricklayer: Frank Dolezal

Frank Dolezal was arrested on August 24, 1939, as a suspect in Florence Polillo’s murder (victim #3).  While awaiting trial, Frank died under “suspicious circumstances” in the Cuyahoga County jail. It was soon discovered that he had suffered six broken ribs – injuries his friends say he did not have prior to his arrest by Sheriff Martin O’Donnell six weeks prior.  While Dolezal admitted to killing Polillo in self-defense, at one-time, most believe there is no evidence that he was involved in the murders. Further, before his death (or more likely, his murder) Dolezal recanted his confession, as well as, two others saying he had been beaten until he agreed to confessed.  This seems to explain how he broke those ribs.

The Doctor: Dr. Francis E. Sweeney (unstable lunatic)

Dr. Francis E. Sweeney (also a suspect in the Black Dahlia murder) a World War I veteran who conducted amputations in the field. He is said to haveness torso killer failed to pass two early polygraph tests by a polygraph expert, Leonard Keeler, who believed Sweeney was the serial killer. However, Ness felt a successful prosecution was unlikely since Sweeney was not only a doctor but also the first cousin of one of Ness’s political opponents, who was hounding Ness publicly about his failure to catch the Torso killer. Further, Sweeney was related to the Sheriff! The official investigation into Dr. Sweeney stopped once he committed himself into a veterans’ hospital, though. 

Political Pressure to Drop the Doc?

There has been much speculation into Dr. Sweeney’s involvement in The Cleveland Torso killings, as well as, speculation of his involvement in the Black Dahlia murder. Many believe Ness knew he was guilty but was too afraid to act, due to limited evidence and the political pressures mentioned above.  Honestly, given an allegation by Emil Fronek, a homeless man, who alleged a Cleveland doctor attempted to drug him in 1934, it is likely that Dr. Sweeney had some involvement. Who will know now, though?

This is still an unsolved serial killer case. Many of these families never found closure, even if Dr. Sweeney may have been the murderer, although given torso murder postcardthe timeline, it is likely he may have been hospitalized during the time some of the New Castle murders occurred. There were letters sent to Ness signed by F.E. Sweeney that should have and could have been fingerprinted but were not. It is possible, as well, that a confession may have been given to Ness and he did not disclose it due to the political pressure. I wish I could say this was an old problem, but I am certain this is a problem that has only gotten worse with time.  

Given the cheekiness of the killer placing the bodies in front of Ness’ office window, and potentially sending the postcards (although I would bet my house those came from Sweeney), I am surprised he did not write a death bed confession or do some big “go out in fireworks” type of scheme. I would be interested in seeing if the FBI Behavioral Unit has ever done an analysis on this person. He has to have some trait that makes him want to be caught. Yes, he picked on people who would be not be missed by anyone. The castration interests me, as well… why? He already killed the person? Had he sexually raped the victim? Was he destroying evidence? And, how was it that so many of the victims left unidentified? Completely unacceptable to me.

Fingerprints and cyano-fuming would have changed the outcome of this case I am sure. There is no way the Cleveland Torso killer did not leave a bumload of fingerprints.

Although some buzz from recent book releases, mentions in television , and movies has caused move research into the case, no new developments have been made in this still unsolved case.


 DISCLAIMER:: This site is to discuss and open our minds to the fascination of serial killers, the science mistakes that occur in these cases, the procedural issues that may have occurred, fun facts, and may help us learn how to avoid being victims… or how to identify a murderer among us (although I hope I pick my friends better than that).  This is just another way for me to soothe my mind as I deal with chronic pain, so please don’t judge all us crazy people who are fascinated by this stuff.

*If you know any additional facts about this case, please feel free to share it in the comments, or correct me if anything I’ve said is not absolutely accurate, I did my best (but still claim to know nothing).

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