Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Kingsbury Run Murders or Cleveland Torso Murders

The Beginning:
The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run

Kingsbury Run cuts across the east side of Cleveland like a jagged wound, ripped into the rugged terrain as if God himself had tried to disembowel the city. At some points it is nearly sixty feet deep, a barren wasteland covered with patches of wild grass, yellowed newspapers, weeds, empty tin cans and the occasional battered hull of an old car left to rust beneath the sun. Perched upon the brink of the ravine, narrow frame houses huddle close together and keep a silent watch on the area.
Angling toward downtown, the Run empties out into the cold, oily waters of the Cuyahoga River. There, dingy banks sprout a concrete and metal forest of drawbridges, storage tanks, and blackened factory buildings that flourish in the yellow sulfurous fumes and the fiery glow of the blast furnaces.
Kingsbury Run is like an open sore, festering with refuse and decay. Yet, among the old tires and empty wine bottles exists a small city of nomadic men, swept into the ravine by the wave of Depression that surged across the country in the 1930's. Their squat cardboard and tin shacks dot the ominous landscape. Small campfires penetrate the darkness, illuminating the rugged and desperate ugliness of the Run. The men lay sleeping, their heads against the cool earth, oblivious to the haunting wail of passing freight trains.
Two men lay quietly in the grass, not far from one another, beneath the curling smoke that veils the stars, unaware of the great impact their presence will have upon the city.
When the sun rose above the horizon, streaks of golden light filtered through cracks in the makeshift walls of the shanties. Hairy arms stretched toward the lightened sky, forcing moist air into yawning mouths. Above the Run, the grinding sound of early morning traffic contrasted with the melodic chirping of birds and the playful voices of children on their way to school. The two men still slept. The warm September air caressed them lightly. Olive green grasshoppers bounced lazily through the high waving grass, while other winged creatures fluttered and coasted on the soft breeze flowing into the ravine.
Later that afternoon two young boys, laughing loudly beneath the clear sky, stumbled through the weed-choked grass to the foot of a steep embankment called Jackass Hill. One of them saw something sticking out from the weeds and went to investigate. He gasped at the hideous sight and soon the two frightened boys streaked back up the narrow path. They scrambled on their hands and knees to the top of the ridge and ran into a man who stopped them in their flight.
"Hey! Hey there! What's the big hurry? You almost ran me down." The tall man saw the fear in their eyes. "What's the matter? What're you two boys up to?"
One of them gasped for breath and somehow found his tongue. "There's a man down thereand hehe hasn't got any head!"

Not One Body, But Two

Detectives Emil Musil and Orly May were the first Cleveland policemen on the scene. They found not only one headless man, but two, both washed and drained of blood. The police report dated September 23, 1935, described what they found at the foot of East 49th St. and Praha Avenue:
"the bodies of two white men, both beheaded, lying in the weeds; both bodies were naked except that one of them had socks on. After an extensive search the heads of both men were found buried in separate places, one about 20 feet away from one of the bodies and the other head was buried about 75 feet away from the other body. Both men's penises had been severed from their bodies and were found near one of the heads. We also found an old blue coat; light cap and a blood stained union suit. Nearby was a metal bucket containing a small quantity of oil and a torch.
"It was apparent that oil, acid or some chemical was poured over one of the bodies as it was burnt to quite an extent; it was also evident that both bodies had been there several days as they had started to decompose."
Coroner Arthur J. Pearse described the one man eventually referred to Victim One, as "decapitated with one testicle missing. Skin tanned and leathery as from an acid. Dead from 7-10 days. Homicide by person or persons at present unknown. Death by decapitation, hemorrhage, and shock." He was estimated to be between 40 and 45 years old, approximately 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 165 pounds. His hair was dark brown.
Laboratory analysis of the skin of Victim One came back with the following results: "The skin of this victim had a reddish yellow color and was tough (hard) not unlike bacon rind. The skin was carefully washed in benzol, dried, and examined under the microscope. Nothing of importance, other than the hair follicles minus the hair, was noted. It appeared as though the hair had either been shaved or burned off. The skin itself was hard and tough, and very resistant to both acids and alkalis. Warm or hot water however caused it to swell and curl although no difference in texture resulted. It was finally decided that scorching would produce such a condition. This however on dead tissue only.
"Examination of the contents of the bucket disclosed evidence of crankcase drainings (oil), partially decomposed human blood, and considerable black straight hair (probably human).
"Conclusions: Appearances, together with certain findings to indicate that this body after death was saturated with oil and fire applied. The burning however was only sufficient to scorch, hence the peculiar condition of the skin."
The man had been decapitated while alive with a sharp instrument, leaving his skin sharply cut and the muscles retracted. Advanced decomposition prevented the taking of any good fingerprints.
His companion was a man in his twenties with blue-gray eyes, brown hair and light complexion. He had been five feet 11 inches tall and approximately 150 pounds. He was nude except for his black cotton socks. He had eaten a vegetable meal shortly before he died. Unlike Victim One, he had only been dead 2-3 days.
He too had been murdered by decapitation, a very unusual way of killing someone. There were rope burns on each wrist, raising the specter of a man emasculated and decapitated while fully conscious, hands tied behind him.

Edward Andrassy

Fingerprints identified Victim Two as Edward A. Andrassy, one of the first men found decapitated by the 1935 Serial Killer, of 1744 Fulton Road who was approximately 28 years old at the time of his death. At one time, he had been an orderly in the psychiatric ward at Cleveland City Hospital. He met a nurse at the hospital and married her in 1928, but she left shortly afterwards and bore him a daughter sometime later. When he left the hospital job in 1931, he sold magazines for awhile. At the time of his death, he had no job or visible means of support.

Edward Andrassy
Edward Andrassy
His parents, Hungarian immigrants from a once aristocratic family, were very concerned about the kind of life he led and the people he chose as associates. His father Joseph Andrassy and his brother John identified the body at the County Morgue. They had last seen Edward four days earlier.
The tall, slender Andrassy was a dark-haired, handsome man with an extremely unwholesome reputation. He had once been arrested on a concealed weapons charge and had spent time in the Warrensville Workhouse. He had also been picked up several times for intoxication.
Andrassy's mother Helen told police that two months earlier a middle-aged man came to their home and said he was going to kill Edward for "paying attentions to his wife." Just before he left home for good, Andrassy had been afraid to leave his house. He had told his sister that he stabbed an Italian in a fight and that the mob was after him.
His father said that his son frequented the E. Ninth Street and Bolivar Road area and associated with people of questionable character. One of the detectives remembered him as a "snotty punk...the kind of fellow gives a cop a lot of lip when he's questioned. Once I had to knock him down."
In John Bartlow Martin's book Butcher's Dozen he recounts a bizarre story told by a married couple to the police: "The man, who had known Andrassy most of his life, said that early in the summer Andrassy had remarked 'how bad' the man's wife looked. 'She had female trouble,' the man said. Andrassy then spoke up and told them that he was a 'female' doctor and that he would like to examine her. In doing so Andrassy committed sodomy upon her (it isn't clear whether her husband did not protest because he didn't understand or because Andrassy was bigger than he was). He then told the couple that if he would go home and get his instruments he could fix her within a month, so that she could have children. But they told Andrassy not to bother."
There were some of his associates that believed Andrassy to be bisexual. While rumors abounded, the only thing police found that might give credence to any interest in men was the five physical culture magazines they found in his room. Still, there were too many people who claimed that he had male lovers to be completely ignored. Some of his close friends were known to be homosexual.
Steven Nickel in his book Torso summarizes some of the sordid discoveries: "Andrassy had dealt in pornographic literature; he had smoked marijuana; he had gone to Detroit earlier in the summer and had been forced to leave suddenly after angering an Oriental gangster; he had been romantically involved with a married woman whose husband had vowed to kill him. Few people would have made a more likely candidate for murder than Edward Andrassy."

An Earlier Victim?

After a few days of investigation, the police summed up their theories: (1) the murders were crimes of passion, not racket related, (2) a woman will be found to have played some part in the case, (3) the victims were taken to Kingsbury Run after their deaths, (4) the two victims knew each other and were killed by the same person, (5) the unidentified man was killed first, his body immersed in some sort of fluid until the killer could trap and murder Andrassy, (6) each victim, after his hands were tied, was executed by some sharp instrument, like a butcher knife. Police were quite sure that each victim would have had to be carried, probably at night, down the steep embankment of Jackass Hill. Automobiles and trucks couldn't get any closer to the ravine than 100 feet from Praha Avenue.
Police reconstructed the timing of events leading up to Andrassy's murder. He left home on the Thursday evening, September 19, 1935, not telling his family where he was going. From Coroner Pearse's report, he was killed Friday night. On Monday afternoon his body was found. No one was ever found that had seen him after he left his home on Thursday.
Police spent weeks trying to trace what happened to Andrassy that weekend, but with no luck. Nor did police ever identify the man with him, known only as Victim One. Eventually, all clues led to dead ends and the police activity died down.
Nobody at the time tied the two weird murders to an incident a year earlier when the lower half of a woman's torso washed up on the shore of Lake Erie near the Euclid Beach amusement park. The legs had been severed at the knees. Coroner Pearse had estimated that the woman's bisected torso had been in the water some 3-4 months. The odd skin coloration suggested that the body had been scorched or treated with a chemical, perhaps a preservative. Two weeks earlier, the upper portion of the woman's torso washed up on the shore 30 miles away, but the man who discovered it did not realize at that time it was part of a human body. The rest of her was never found.
She was never identified and did not fit any missing person's report. While she was never officially considered part of the Kingsbury Run murders, she was very much unofficially considered the first in the series. The newspapers called her "The Lady of the Lake" and later, Victim Zero.

Death Toll Mounts

By the November 1935 mayoral election, the city of Cleveland was tired of the growing burden of crime that had escalated out of control. Decades of political and police corruption had turned Cleveland into a haven for mobsters and bootleggers. To make this point clearly, Republican Harold Burton was swept into office on a promise to clean up the crime and rehabilitate the police force.
In December Burton started to make good on that promise by appointing Eliot Ness, a young man with a good reputation as a crime fighter, safety director to head up the city's police and fire departments. Ness lost no time launching a major attack on gambling and police corruption. At the same time he made plans to upgrade the caliber of rookie cops and establish a modern police academy.
With the dashing young Eliot Ness dominating the newspapers on a daily basis, Clevelanders had every reason to believe that crime was on the run in their city.

Eliot Ness
Eliot Ness
Sunday, January 26, was one more bitterly cold day in the run of miserable weather the city was experiencing that winter. Butcher Charles Paige, owner of the White Front Meat Market on Central Avenue, called the police to report a murder.
Lieutenant Harvey Weitzel responded to the call at 11:25 A.M. and wrote: "a colored woman name unknown ...informed Charles Paige there was a body of a murdered person laying against a building on East 21st Place. Paige stated that he investigated and found severed parts of a human body..."
Along with Sergeant Hogan, Detectives Shibley and Wachsman, Weitzel found at the northeast corner of the Hart's Manufacturing Company on East 20th Street portions of a human body. Parts of the body were in a half-bushel basket and parts were wrapped in burlap sacks, along with a suit of two piece white cotton underwear wrapped in newspapers. Shortly afterwards, Lieutenant David L. Cowles, superintendent of the ballistic bureau of the police department, was on the scene examining the basket and bags in which the dismembered body was found.

David Cowles as young man
David Cowles as young man
Joseph Sweeney, Acting Chief of Detectives, said that the body had been placed behind the Hart's plant around 2:30 A.M. James Marco, whose home adjoins the plant told police his dog was howling and barking at that time near the place where the basket and bags were found. The actual discovery came about later that morning from the insistent barking of a dog named Lady who lives close to the Hart plant.
The detectives presented the coroner with the lower half of a woman's torso, both of her thighs and her right upper extremity. Fingerprints from the right hand were given to the police department Bertillon division.
Coroner Pearse determined that the woman had been dead anywhere from 2 to 4 days. Dismemberment was done with a sharp instrument like a knife. Again, like in the deaths of Andrassy and his unknown companion, the edges of the skin were sharply and cleanly cut. Whoever did this was very expert at cutting apart flesh.

Flo Polillo

Flo Polillo
Flo Polillo
The Bertillon department came back with the identity of the murdered woman. Florence Saudy Polillo, age 42. She was a moderately stout woman with dyed reddish hair and a fair complexion. Her pleasant features reflected her Irish-American heritage.
Detectives Orley May and his partner Emil Musil did much of the investigation into Flo Polillo's life. She had been arrested a couple of times in Cleveland and Washington, D.C., for prostitution which was why the police had her fingerprints on file.
As May and Musil made their rounds from her landlady to friends and acquaintances, a sad sordid story emerged. Flo was a friendly woman, liked by most people who knew her. Her landlady liked her very much, remarking that Flo had been very kind to her three daughters. Flo had a very extensive doll collection in her modest room and let her landlady's girls play with the dolls frequently.
But Flo had a serious drinking problem and she became aggressive and combative when she had too much to drink. For whatever reason, she drifted into relationships that were abusive, ending up on crutches and with swollen, blackened eyes from the beatings she took at the hands of her lovers.
It hadn't always been that way. In fact, she had a decent husband once. He drove from Buffalo, N.Y., to Cleveland to give a statement to police. Andrew Polillo was a forty-year-old respectable man employed as a mail handler for the U.S. Postal System. They were married in the early 1920's and stayed together for six years. Then Flo started to drink heavily and left Andrew to "get herself straightened out." Instead she drifted from man to man, resorting to temporary waitressing jobs and prostitution to earn a living.
In Cleveland, her associates were at the very bottom of society whorehouse madams, prostitutes, bootleggers, pimps, drug addicts and tavern keepers. All of them knew her, most of them liked her, but none of them had any idea what happened to her the weekend she died.
The meager forensic evidence found with her body was just as silent as her friends were on the circumstances of her death. The police traced the burlap bags in which her body was found, but nothing of value came from that avenue of investigation.
On February 7, 1936, the rest of Flo's body, with the exception of her head, was found behind a vacant house, scattered haphazardly against a fence. The cold spell had kept the body parts remarkably well preserved. It was from this upper torso and thorax that Dr. Pearse announced his chilling discovery. Flo Polillo was decapitated. The muscles in her neck were retracted which meant that the severing of her head was the cause of death.
Like the investigations of the Lady of the Lake, Edward Andrassy and his unidentified companion, the flurry of police activity surrounding Flo Polillo's murder soon died down as the clues and leads dried up. Certainly a few officials speculated that three, and a possible fourth, decapitation deaths was very unusual over an 18-month period, but nobody officially tied these murders together as the work of one killer.

Building a Better Image

Favorable press, an overhaul of the police department, and the systematic raids on organized crime were right in line with Mayor Harold Burton's program to build a positive image for the city. All of these newsworthy events were dovetailing nicely as city was preparing for the Republican National Convention, which was to start the first week of June, 1936.
During the week before the Republican National Convention, Eliot Ness worked almost continuously as he personally supervised every tiny detail of the security plan for the candidates. Checking and rechecking each item in the plan, he was acutely aware that his reputation was on the line if there were any assassination attempts or violent demonstrations in the coming week.
By Friday, June 5, the delegates were starting to pour into the city to begin a weekend of caucusing and partying before the convention officially began on Monday. Those political visitors, most of whom had never seen Cleveland, would take back with them impressions of a dazzling, modern downtown with many new buildings, magnificently landscaped with trees and fountains. In the years just prior to the Depression, Cleveland had undertaken an enormous number of public construction projects in the downtown area. The focal point of this massive urban development program was a large mall with its new city hall and other splendid examples of classical-style architecture. The most memorable of them all was the Terminal Tower, a distinguished-looking forerunner of the modern skyscraper, and one of the tallest buildings in the world at that time. While the front of this splendid tower opened onto Public Square, whose hotels, restaurants, and department stores were a central attraction for the convention delegates, just behind the tower, the landscape suddenly dropped into a world far different that most conventioneers never saw.
Just a few blocks away from the elegant and sophisticated Public Square, the vast industrial belly of Cleveland stretched out for many miles around its lifeblood, the Cuyahoga River. This stinking, oily river was used to feed iron ore and other raw materials to the blast furnaces and mills, while a huge network of railroad tracks, fanning out like capillaries in every direction, took the finished metal products to every part of the country.

Hobos in Kingsbury Run
Hobos in Kingsbury Run
This was the ugliest part of the city; filthy from the black soot of the coal fires, overpowering in its sulfurous stench, and strewn with trash and industrial waste. Almost symbolically here, too, was the dumping place for the city's human refuse, the thousands of men who once lived in rural Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana, made homeless by the Depression. This inexhaustible supply of unwanted labor, "hobos" as they were called, rode the freight trains into Cleveland, looking for nonexistent jobs in the mills. In back of the splendid Terminal Tower, the hobos camped in squalid, corrugated metal shacks, creating a city of their own.
It was there at the Cuyahoga River where the long, deep gully called Kingsbury Run began and cut through the city's East Side. Kingsbury Run had been a beauty spot long ago when the only the stone quarries were there and the area was dotted with lovely, sylvan lakes. But many years later on the bed of this ancient ravine, cut into the earth by some long-dead stream, were the tracks of the Erie and Nickel Plate railroads. At the far end of the ravine, some fifty blocks east of Public Square, sat the office of the Nickel Plate railroad police who patrolled the track area, trying to keep the hobos off the trains.

The Tattooed Man

That Friday morning before the convention began, two young boys had set off to go fishing and took a shortcut through Kingsbury Run. They saw a pair of pants rolled up under a bush and when they poked at the bundle with their fishing pole, a man's head rolled out. Terrified, they ran back to the older boy's house and waited all day until his mother came home and called the police.
Later that afternoon, the police found the head and began a search for the man's body. The next morning they found the naked, headless corpse, almost directly in front of the Nickel Plate police office, hidden in some sumac bushes. Whoever had put it there seemed to be playing a grim joke on the railroad police, whose job it was to keep the area secure.

The Tattooed Man
The Tattooed Man
The victim had been a tall, slender man with a sensitive, handsome face, estimated to be in his mid-twenties. There were six distinctive tattoos on his body, which suggested he might have been a sailor: a cupid superimposed on an anchor; a dove under the words "Helen-Paul;" a butterfly; the cartoon figure "Jiggs"; an arrow through a heart and a standard of flags; and the initials "W.C.G." A pile of expensive bloodstained clothing was found near the body. On the pair of undershorts was a laundry mark indicating the owner's initials were J.D.
Even though he was found in the heart of the hobo country, the young man was probably not one of them. Unlike the hobos, he was clean-shaven, well nourished, and very well dressed in almost new clothing. As the police investigated, it seemed likely the man was killed somewhere else and brought to Kingsbury Run. For one thing, there was no evidence of blood soaked into the ground near the places where the head and body were laying. The body had been drained of blood and washed clean, an impossible task in that area of Kingsbury Run.
Coroner Pearse became distinctly uncomfortable when he examined the victim. Apparently, the man had been killed by act of decapitation itself, just like the prostitute murdered in January of 1936, two men found in Kingsbury Run the year before, and perhaps even that woman who washed up on the lakeshore back in 1934. Death by decapitation was a most difficult thing to do and very, very rare in the history of crime. Pearse saw a terrifying pattern emerging, even though the police wanted to ignore it.

A Single Killer?

By Sunday, the day before the convention was to start, stories of a psychopathic maniac on the loose were in every newspaper. Ness quietly met with Sergeant James Hogan, his newly appointed head of the Homicide Division, and David Cowles, the head of the crime lab. Ness wanted Hogan, the tall, white-haired veteran police detective, to give him the background on these decapitation murders that were filling the newspapers. Ness had already spoken to the coroner who mentioned four, possibly even five, decapitation murders going back as far as 1934.
Ness wanted to know if Hogan thought all the cases, including the Lady of the Lake and Flo Polillo, were connected. The veteran policeman was reluctant to voice too strong an opinion, in case Ness had an entirely different one.
The deaths of the three men found in Kingsbury Run seemed different, Hogan said. They had all been laid out where they were sure to be discovered in a day or two. There was a different pattern to the mutilations, too. Except for the emasculation of Andrassy and his companion, the bodies were whole from the neck down. But the two women, Hogan pointed out, Florence Polillo and the Lady of the Lake had been dismembered as well as decapitated and their bodies were not found in Kingsbury Run.
Then there was the issue of motive. Police science in the 1930's dictated that to solve a murder you tracked down everybody who had a motive for the killing until you had the person with the means and opportunity. The motives proposed for the Kingsbury Run double murder, whether it was jealousy, revenge or sexual deviation did not fit well if the victims were female.
Ness seemed lost in thought for several minutes, remembering the opinion that David Cowles had shared before Hogan had arrived. Cowles was convinced it was a single killer, but hadn't been able to get Hogan to agree. Hogan sat quietly, waiting for his boss to speak. "Jim, you've got a real problem on your hands," Ness concluded. "The same guy did them all. Too much similarity to be coincidental. Death by decapitation. The expert hand with a knife. Bodies all cleaned up and neat. I can't tell you why he kills women one way and men another, but it's the same man, I guarantee you."
Hogan had more sense than to argue with him. He didn't know the "Boy Wonder" well enough to know if he tolerated disagreement from subordinates. Hogan asked him if there was anything special he wanted done, now that he had come to the conclusion about a single murderer.
Ness was very clear in his instructions. There was to be absolutely no suggestion to the newspapers that they were looking for one murderer and absolutely no further information whatsoever while the convention was going on, otherwise visitors would be afraid to step outside their hotel rooms. After the effort Mayor Burton had gone to getting the convention to Cleveland, he would be furious if some lunatic spoiled it.
"Jim, I want you to do everything in your power to catch this maniac," he instructed Hogan. "Cowles, I know you'll put the crime lab at Jim's disposal."

Dead End

Ness had no intention of getting involved any further in this murder case. That was Hogan's job and he was holding Hogan responsible for results. Ferreting out corruption in the police force had a much higher priority than finding a nut that murdered petty criminals and nobodies.
With the body of the latest victim in such good condition, plus the six unique tattoos, Hogan was cautiously optimistic about learning his identity. While some detectives checked fingerprint files and recent missing person reports, others took the young man's photo to tattoo parlors and sailor hangouts. The face and tattoos received even more exposure on display at the morgue. Two thousand people looked at him the first night and thousands more after that. Detectives put in countless hours of footwork checking out the laundry marks and tracing the clothing they found. A death mask, along with photographs of his face and tattoos, was exhibited to the seven million visitors who came to the Great Lakes Expo over the next two years. In spite of all that effort, the "Tattooed Man" remained nameless.
Ness's men had better luck with the Republican National Convention. His security arrangements were superb and the convention successfully concluded with the Republican candidate Alfred Landon, the governor of Kansas, chosen to run against Roosevelt.
Shortly after the convention was over, the city was swept up in the glamour of the Great Lakes Exposition, which was a combination of world's fair and super amusement park. After the misery of the Depression years, it was a magnificent diversion offered at a modest price where even the poor could enjoy the spectacular shows put on by celebrities like Esther Williams, Sally Rand, Billy Rose, and Johnny Weismuller. There was even a police exhibit designed by Eliot Ness showing the latest methods in fighting crime, along with the death mask of the "Tattooed Man."

The Fifth Victim

The police department was still fruitlessly working on the murder of the Tattooed Man when on July 22, 1936, a call came in to the homicide detectives about another murder. Detective Orley May reported that Sergeant Hogan went over to the Big Creek area on the southwest side of the city where a teenage girl stumbled upon the headless corpse of a white man near a hobo camp.
"(The dead man) was lying on his stomach in the nude, and the head was partly wrapped up in his clothing about fifteen feet north of the body. It appeared that the body had been lying at this point for at least two months and was very badly decomposed."
The police conducted a thorough search of the area and found the man's head, which was little more than a skull at that point. Close by was a pile of cheaply made, bloodstained clothes, which the man had been wearing. The pathologist discovered a large quantity of dried blood that had seeped into the ground beneath the man's body, indicating he was killed right there.
Coroner Pearse noted that "the body was in an advanced state of decomposition with skin and flesh denuded in large areas. Rodents, maggots, and the process of decomposition had removed portions of the internal viscera. The head had been separated from the body at the junction of the second and third cervical vertebrae, the ends of which bones showed no evidence of fracture."
The expert decapitation had become almost a signature of this particular killer, but this murder was somewhat different. For the first time, the murderer had gone way across town from Kingsbury Run, and instead of transporting the victim had killed him in the place he was discovered. The dead man, a small fellow about forty years old, had been laying on the ground between two and three months, indicating he died before the "Tattooed Man."
Hogan then had no choice but to agree that these decapitation murders were the work of one man, but he had no intention of sharing this belated insight with the journalistic community. Advanced decomposition made fingerprinting impossible, so the police had only his clothes to trace him. Hogan was not optimistic. The victim's long hair, his poor clothing, and the location of the body near a hobo camp suggested he was one of the many hobos who rode in and out of the city on the nearby railroad tracks.
Hogan did his best to conduct his investigation without attracting too much attention from the newspapers, but his success was limited. The story had already captured the imagination of aspiring fiction writers on the newspaper staffs. "Is there somewhere in the county a madman whose strange god is the guillotine? Or has some fantastic chemistry of the civilized mind converted him into a human butcher? Does he imagine himself a legal executioner of the French Revolution or a religious zealot saving the human race with an ax?" was representative of the rhetoric that had started to appear very prominently in all of the city's three newspapers.
These early seeds of hysteria didn't take root because there were many more exciting things going on in the city at that time than the death of a few losers and minor criminals. In quick succession, Ness and his men conducted ten more high-profile gambling raids. The newspapers couldn't get enough of it. Almost every story carried more bad news for mob vice operations. Police protection of gangsters was crumbling and the mobs were considering moving out of Cleveland as long as Ness was there.


In mid-September of 1936, the American Legion Convention was just a few days away, providing a nice finale to a bustling summer after the Republican convention and the Great Lakes Expo. Cleveland was starting to fancy itself as having a great future as a convention town when the bold headlines in the afternoon papers reminded everybody that a grisly serial killer was still on the loose.
The spotlight was once again on Kingsbury Run where on September 10, a hobo sat near E. 37th Street waiting for an eastbound freight. There in an oily, coffee-colored stagnant pool, he saw two halves of a human torso floating in the water.
Detective Orley May responded accompanied by Detective Emil Musil. "We learned that the torso was discovered by Jerry Harris of St. Louis and who was sitting on the pier alongside the creek, who noticed the two pieces of the torso, who then notified the police. The torso was then removed from the creek and was sent to the County Morgue. A search was immediately begun alongside of the creek and the weeds for the balance of the body. The fire rescue squad was then called and the creek was dragged with grappling hooks with a view of recovering the remainder of the body in the outlet of this creek which comes out of a tunnel at this point, at which point the body was dumped over and small portions of flesh were found on a ledge where the torso struck when it was thrown over the edge into the creek. We were unable to recover any portions of the body with the grappling hooks so we proceeded in using ceiling hooks and we recovered two legs below the knee. We then continued to search further...and recovered the right thigh. I then searched the woods and picked up a gray felt hat, rather dirty, which appeared to have blood spots on the top and a small black band which had the label Laudy's Smart Shop, Bellevue, Ohio. A blue work shirt was found wrapped in newspaper along the bank of the creek where the body was thrown into the creek. The shirt was covered with blood."

Police drag pool for Victim Five
Police drag pool for Victim Five
Hundreds of morbidly curious spectators crowded around to watch the cops drag the pool for the victim's head. Hogan could feel the hysteria growing among the people who lived in small, clapboard homes perched on the rim of Kingsbury Run. If the afternoon papers were any indicators, he and Ness would never be able to keep a low profile on this latest murder. The papers had already found a name for this fiend: The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.
Later that day, Hogan talked to the coroner who confirmed that death occurred a day or two earlier by expert decapitation. The victim this time was a white man between 25 and 30 years old, medium height and muscular build with traces of light brown hair on his body. That night, the sergeant and twelve of his detectives stayed up very late trying unsuccessfully to match the victim's description with missing persons files.

Ness Takes Charge

The next morning, the gruesome discovery was still the major front-page story when divers descended into the murky depths of pool, looking for the head and hands that might give some hope of identifying the young man. The number of spectators had multiplied from the day before, standing for hours watching the hunt. After two hours of high-pressure flushing by fire hoses failed to bring up any other parts of the body, Hogan called in the Coast Guards to use their special equipment to drag every inch of the rubbish-covered bottom of the pool.
Hogan was ready to kick himself for saying to a reporter that he thought the murderer lived somewhere in or around Kingsbury Run. As if the unfortunate people who lived around there didn't have enough to worry about with this "Mad Butcher" using their backyard as a cemetery. Now after reading that Hogan thought the killer lived among them, they were afraid to go outside. The population of large dogs was rising rapidly.
The following morning, an irritable Eliot Ness pulled himself away from his research into police corruption and got personally involved in the Kingsbury Run case. The timing of this latest murder was horrible. Ness had been rushing to put the finishing touches on his evidence for Frank Cullitan to effect the largest graft prosecution in the city's history. He wasn't pleased to have to interrupt this crucial work because of some crazy butcher. Unfortunately, he couldn't ignore the case any more. It had become too big to delegate to Hogan alone.
Once again, Ness went over every detail of the case, personally interviewing several of the detectives who had been working on it. Then he ordered a clean up of the section in Kingsbury Run where the bodies had been found. Every hobo in that area was brought in and questioned, warned about the killer and urged to find somewhere else to live.
Twenty detectives were permanently assigned to the case until it was solved, although with the meager clues, it wasn't at all clear what twenty full-time detectives were going to do after they interviewed all the bums in the area. But in no time, the twenty detectives had plenty to do, simply because everybody in the city seemed to have his own idea of who the killer was. Detectives were inundated with calls about the strange behavior of neighbors, relatives, and co-workers. Anybody who kept unusual hours, carried large packages out of his house, or kept a knife in his pocket was fair game, not to mention every butcher, physician, male nurse, mortician, and hunter. The worst of it all was that Eliot Ness said every tip, no matter how trivial it sounded, must be followed up. The detectives estimated it would take months, maybe years, to finish.
Following up tips was not the only thing the detectives did. They repeatedly scoured the records of the state hospital for the insane, as well as followed and watched recently discharged patients.

Examining Every Lead

Detective Orley May reported on a tip that was typical of the thousands of tips the police department were given: "Detective Musil and I received information from a person who does not want her identity revealed and who stated that while she was in the Workhouse, a woman by the name of Helen O'Leary who was the former wife of a man who was shot and killed several years ago and who since got married to Gas House O'Malley, a stage hand, told her that she knew a man that killed Florence Polillo. She asked him who it was and she said 'You know, his name is Jack Wilson.' We learned from our informer that Jack Wilson was a former butcher and worked for Sam who operated a grocery store and meat market on St. Clair Avenue, and that he is always known to carry a large butcher knife. Informant also stated that this Wilson is a Sodomist, and that he has committed Sodomy on a number of persons known by this informant, and it is thought that the person who has been committing these decapitated (sic) murders in Kingsbury Run may be killing them for the purpose of committing Sodomy on the victims, and would be a good suspect in the above murder."
They also tried some unorthodox methods, which must have been terribly funny to observe. Detectives dressed as hobos hid in the bushes of Kingsbury Run, looking for suspicious characters. Other detectives hung around gay bars and steam baths, trying to get leads on homosexual men with sadistic tendencies. It's hard to imagine any of the detectives posing convincingly as either a hobo or a homosexual, but they did try. At least one detective was beaten up by someone who saw through his disguise.
The head of the federal narcotic bureau in Cleveland told the detectives that it was most likely a marijuana addict committed the murders. "There's a plentiful supply of this deadly weed growing wild around the railroad tracks in Kingsbury Run. Both the desire for a thrill and a homicidal obsession are easily induced by the loco weed cigarettes."
A few days after the murder, The Cleveland News offered a $1000 reward, quite a sizable amount for those days, for information leading to the conviction of the Kingsbury Run murderer. The Cleveland City Council was also voting on a resolution to offer a similar reward.

Imagination Runs Wild

There is something in the mystery of an unsolved series of murders that stimulates the imagination. One of the best examples of this is Jack the Ripper, who after killing a mere five London prostitutes, a novice by today's standards of serial killers, inspired numerous books, movies and theories about his identity. Had the Ripper been captured, he may have been a great deal less interesting that his fearful legend.
On a smaller scale, the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run inspired the same type of imaginative speculation. The newspapers in the Midwest became obsessed with the cleverness of the killer. The lack of clues left by the killer was not accidental. There was never a coin, a key, or a scrap of paper to incriminate him. Nor were there any bloody fingerprints on the bodies.
It seemed to the detectives that the killer was playing a game with them. Leaving so many of the bodies in the same area, especially when the railroad police, hobos and Kingsbury Run inhabitants had been on the lookout for strange happenings since the first double murder a year earlier. When the body of the "Tattooed Man" was placed so close to the office of the Nickel Plate Railroad police, was the killer was thumbing his nose at them? It was clear that the murderer was very smart, possibly smarter than the detectives working on the case were.
The newspapers let their imaginations run wild when they speculated about the motives of this unusual killer. One imaginative theory was the murderer was a wealthy doctor who killed people from the lower classes for sport. Then there was the religious zealot notion, which had the murderer ridding the world of prostitutes and homosexuals because "God told him to." One popular theory proposed that the killer was an otherwise normal person who killed only during occasional lapses into madness.
Typical of the language that saturated the newspapers at the time was this editorial in The Cleveland News: " Of all the horrible nightmares come to life, the most shuddering is the fiend who decapitates his victims in the dark, dank recesses of Kingsbury Run. That a man of this nature should be permitted to work his crazed vengeance upon six people in a city the size of Cleveland should be the city's shame. No Edgar Allan Poe in his deepest, opium-maddened dream could conceive horror so painstakingly worked out..." If nothing else, the Mad Butcher gave quite a number of reporters an unprecedented opportunity to wax eloquent.

A Profile Emerges

Even though Eliot Ness did not have available to him the body of knowledge that today's law enforcement agencies have about serial killers, he knew that this murderer was no ordinary one. It was time to bring together a group of experts to share information so he invited Coroner Pearse and Dr. Reuben Strauss, the pathologist who had performed many of the autopsies of the victims, County Prosecutor Cullitan, Police Chief Matowitz, Lieutenant Cowles, Inspector Joseph Sweeney, Sergeant Hogan and several outside medical consultants.
After a number of hours, the group agreed on what they knew about this killer:
One man working alone murdered all six victims. The Lady of the Lake, who was most likely an earlier victim of the same serial killer, was not included in official count because the murder happened in 1934, a full year before the death of Andrassy.
This killer, while clearly psychopathic, was probably not obviously insane. There was disagreement as to whether to killer was a male homosexual, considering the genital mutilation of the corpses. Some of the non-genital mutilation may have been done to thwart identification or make it easier to transport the body. Other mutilations seemed to have no clear purpose.
While they all agreed that the killer had some knowledge of anatomy, the medical experts felt there was no evidence to establish that the murderer was necessarily a physician. After all, a butcher or hunter would recognize anatomical landmarks almost as well as a surgeon.
The murderer was both large and strong. The experts had pretty well discounted that any female could be a suspect in this murder series. The nature of the wounds, plus the fact that at least three of the male victims were carried a considerable distance, argued for a very large man.
The murderer was very likely to be a resident of the Kingsbury Run area. With the exception of the fifth victim who was found on the West Side, all of the victims were found in Kingsbury Run or the Near East Side.
Considering how untidy it is to decapitate a living person with the jugular vein spurting blood in all directions, the experts agreed that the killer had some kind of private place where the victims were dispatched and later cleaned up. Theories ranged from a butcher shop, a doctor's office or even a home where unsuspecting victims were lured by the promise of food or shelter.
The killer selected his victims from the lowest rungs of society. Whether that selection fulfilled some need to eliminate the "undesirables" of the city or just that there were so many from that social stratum in ready supply was not determined.
Most of the experts believed that it was no accident that of the six victims, only two were identified and those were among the earlier ones, Andrassy and Polillo. To the veteran homicide officials, it indicated that the murderer was getting smarter. Heads and hands were either gone or too decomposed for identification purposes. Even when highly distinguishing marks appeared on the body, such as the "Tattooed Man," nobody came forward to claim these victims as missing persons. The evidence was building that the more recent victims were being selected for anonymity.

Police search under 65th Street bridge
Police search under 65th Street bridge
Another unique characteristic of these crimes was the choice of Kingsbury Run as the graveyard. Four out of six victims were found in that godforsaken ravine. The "Tattooed Man," was placed embarrassingly close to the Nickel Plate Railroad police office as though the killer was playing a joke on them. Then, in September of 1936, when every hobo and railroad detective was in a state of heightened alarm, the killer again selected the Run for his next victim. The killer seemed to be taking unbelievable risks to humiliate the police.

Enter Detective Peter Merylo

Detective Peter Merylo
Detective Peter Merylo
After this sixth victim, Ness allocated unprecedented resources to finding the killer. Among the many patrolmen and homicide detectives working on the case, the name of Peter Merylo is most often remembered as the key police figure. Merylo, a very intelligent but eccentric policeman with the ability to speak a number of European languages, began his career as a motorcycle cop. He was a short, stocky man who had the tenacity of a pit bull. Once an idea fixed itself in Merylo's mind, he worked it through to the end, even if it took eighty hours a week.
Homosexuality was illegal in Cleveland in the 1930's and Detective Merylo made a personal crusade out of ferreting out "perverts" and putting them behind bars. Allegedly, he had filled up a whole wing of the jail with the gay men. According to some of the police officials of that time, Merylo would hang around bars that had homosexual clientele and then follow two men who left the bar together. When they reached their destination, he would wait for awhile and then, when he felt that the men were in compromising situations, he would force his way into the residence or hotel and arrest them. Eventually, judges got wind of Merylo's enthusiastic techniques and were reluctant to try his cases.
Merylo did everything within his power to get assigned to the Kingsbury Run case full time. His persistence paid off and he was virtually dedicated to the case for years. He and his partner Martin Zalewski were making a career of the Mad Butcher. Nobody on the police force doubted Merylo's zeal in tracking down every potential suspect and clue. However, his methods, which included parading up and down Kingsbury Run in his longjohns in the moonlight to "bait" the killer, were a source of controversy and snide remarks.
No screwball escaped Merylo's scrutiny. Of the estimated ten thousand suspects who were interrogated in the four-year murder investigation, the weirdest were saved for Merylo. There was the "Chicken Freak," who hired naked prostitutes to behead chickens while he masturbated, and the "Voodoo doctor" with the "death ray," and the crazed giant who roamed Kingsbury Run with a large butcher knife. All these characters were hunted down, captured and given to Merylo to question. Some were criminals, others mental defectives, and still others were simply eccentric, down-at-the-heels vagrants.
With his round-the-clock adventures with the city's crazies, Merylo was a popular source for the newspaper reporters. The dedicated detective never felt constrained by protocol to have his remarks reviewed in advance by the higher ups in the police department. Consequently, Merylo's opinions were often published as though they represented the official police position, when often it was not the case. One official believed that Merylo was allowed to speculate to reporters so that his colorful stories and theories would distract the press from the lack of progress.

Three More Victims

Spot where Victim 7 found on beach
Spot where Victim 7 found on beach
Just as Eliot Ness was starting to feel that the police department and the city's major organized criminals were getting under control, the Mad Butcher's handiwork surfaced again on February 23, 1937. This time it was a virtual repeat of the Lady of the Lake murder back in 1934. The upper portion of Victim Seven was found washed up on the beach at 156th Street, almost the same place where portions of the Lady of the Lake had been found.
Like the others, she was headless. Her arms had been amputated and the torso bisected. While the torso was taken to the morgue, Detectives Merylo and Zalewski followed what looked like a trail of blood and questioned the residents in the area. As in the 1934 murder, the question remained: was she dumped in Lake Erie where she washed up on the beach or did her body float from Kingsbury Run into the Cuyahoga River and then into the lake? More than two months later, the lower portion of the woman's torso was found floating off East 30th Street, much closer to the mouth of the Cuyahoga River.
This was the first victim seen by the newly elected Coroner Samuel Gerber. In the November 1936 election, the new coroner was voted into office on Roosevelt's coattails. Uniquely qualified, Gerber had degrees in medicine and law. The Kingsbury Run murders offered him a special challenge intellectually and he devoted countless hours to reviewing the details of the case. The reward was a flattering amount of newspaper attention, which like all publicly elected officials he began to relish.
When the upper portion of the torso was found, the woman had only been dead two to four days and had been in the water not more than three. The headless woman was between 25 and 35 years old, weighed approximately 100 to 120 pounds, had a light complexion and medium brown hair. The only other things that they knew about her were that she lived in the city, given the dirt in her lungs and moderate emphysema, that she had been pregnant at least once. Despite a thorough investigation, this was all they would ever know of the woman who became known as Victim Seven.
While her legs were removed with two "clean sweeping" strokes of a heavy knife and the arms were removed with the murderer's usual skill, the bisection of the torso showed multiple hesitation marks. Unlike most of the other victims, death did not appear to be caused by decapitation. The blood clots in the heart indicated that the decapitation was post-mortem. The arms, legs, head and clothing were never found. Nor was her identity ever discovered.
Perhaps as a joke, the killer added a new touch with this victim. He had inserted a pants pocket inside the woman's rectum. The rectum had been stretched to accommodate this foreign object.

A Brief Respite

In March, Gerber produced a summary of the seven victims. Oddly enough 1934's Lady of the Lake, was still not included in the official victim count. Like his predecessor Arthur Pearse, Gerber was convinced that all of the murders were committed by one individual. He considered the dissection of the corpses and the missing hands and heads a means for the killer to easily transport the body and to foil identification. After all, the last victim to be identified was Victim Three, Flo Polillo.
The killer was a right-handed man using a heavy, sharp knife. His knowledge of anatomy was clear. For the first time, the notion of a surgeon, medical student, male nurse or veterinarian was emphasized as well as a butcher or hunter. Gerber found the sex factor in the crimes difficult to evaluate and unique in the history of such crimes. The Mad Butcher appeared to be the first sexual psychopath on record at that time to murder members of both sexes.
Ness took an unprecedented step and contacted his newspaper friends with a special plea. Armed with advice from several important forensic psychiatrists, he urged the newspapers to significantly tone down the sensationalism about the recent murder. The carnival like atmosphere whipped up in the front-page headlines in 1936 was feeding the warped ego of this maniac, encouraging him to kill again. Not only that, the media-driven hysteria of the previous year had resulted in most of the police department chasing down worthless tips from well-meaning citizens. For months, it seemed to the police department that everybody knew the identity of the Mad Butcher: someone's eccentric cousin, the man next door, the guy down the street that kills chickens, etc.
The editors agreed to cooperate and began to abridge their coverage, beginning with Dr. Gerber's report. Gerber, a man with a sizeable ego himself, was furious with Ness for suppressing publicity. This was the beginning of a feud between the coroner's office and the safety director's office that only worsened with time.

Russell Lawer finds Victim 8 under bridge
Russell Lawer finds Victim 8 under bridge
The police and coroner had a brief respite until June 6, 1937 when a teenager named Russell Lawer had been watching the Coast Guard boats on the Cuyahoga River. On his way home, he made a gruesome discovery about 400 feet west of Stone's Levee under the fifth span of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge. Lying in a rotting burlap bag, along with a newspaper from June of the previous year, was the partial skeleton of a woman who had been dead approximately one year.
Gerber described Victim Eight as a tiny woman, no more than five feet tall with small, delicate bones. Even though her arms and legs were missing, there was a skull with extensive dental work: "On examination there is an extremely wide nasal aperture. The alveolar ridges are quite prominent with considerable prognathism. The texture of the bone here is quite fine. Due to this, the wide nasal aperture and the prominent alveolar prognathism together with the penchant for gold crowns prominently displayed on the teeth suggest the victim to be a Negro...In addition, there is a mass of black hair in a wig-like arrangement. This hair is kinky and curly with an occasional rusty hairpin. This type of hair suggests that belonging to a colored female."
There was "considerable hacking and cutting of the 3rd, 4th and 5th cervical vertebrae, but it was impossible to tell from the skeleton whether decapitation was the cause of death. The body had been treated with quicklime, which left very little flesh on the bones and had eroded much of the cartilage.
The skeleton had been wrapped in a piece of newspaper that carried an advertisement for a certain performance at the Palace Theater in June of 1936. Detective Orley May contacted the manager at the theater. The manager confirmed that the Nils T. Grantlund girls performed a review at the theatre in June of 1936 and that they were playing in New York City at the time this victim was discovered. He did not recall any of the girls missing from the company while they were in Cleveland.
The police were sent a letter referencing a long-dead dentist and proposing that the victim was a prostitute named Rose Wallace. After a lengthy investigation of Rose Wallace's life and her August 1936 disappearance, both Dr. Gerber and Sergeant Hogan rejected the identification. Detective Merylo however firmly believed the victim to be Rose.

The Mad Butcher Strikes Again

Determined to force his way back into the spotlight, the Mad Butcher struck again a month after the woman's skeleton was found. So there could be no doubt about his identity, the killer chose Kingsbury Run once again. On July 6, 1937, the upper portion of a man's torso, plus his two thighs, floated in the Cuyahoga River just below Kingsbury Run. For the next week, pieces of the victim floated downstream. Just about everything was retrieved except for the head.
This man, who was never identified, was approximately five foot eight and approximately 150 pounds. He had well groomed fingernails and was about forty years of age. He had been dead a couple of days when the first parts of his body were found.
Decapitation was the cause of death and the bore the signature of the Mad Butcher, but there was something new this time. Some of the surgery was very sloppy and some was very skillful. For the first time, the killer had removed all of the abdominal organs and heart, none of which were ever found.
Ever since Dr. Gerber had suggested that the Kingsbury Run murderer could be a medic, the police began to focus on doctors. In fact, all the area physicians, medical students and male nurses were checked out. Special surveillance was warranted for doctors that had a history of eccentricity or a weakness for illicit sex, drugs or booze or any suspicion of homosexual activity.
One of these physicians was a Dr. Frank E. Sweeney, who seemed to fit the profile of the murderer they were seeking. He was physically very tall, large and strong. Sweeney had grown up in the Kingsbury Run area and at various times had his office there. He had a serious problem with alcohol that caused his separation from his wife and sons and the loss of his surgical residency at St. Alexis, a hospital very close to Kingsbury Run. Furthermore, he was rumored to be bisexual and had a very violent temper when he drank. Eventually in 1937, the police abandoned Dr. Sweeney as a suspect because he was frequently out of town at a veteran's hospital in Sandusky when a fresh victim was discovered. While Dr. Sweeney was no relation to the highly respected police officer Joseph Sweeney, he was a first cousin to a flamboyant U.S. Congressman Martin L. Sweeney.
Martin L. Sweeney and Sheriff Martin O'Donnell were the leaders of a powerful political machine within the city and county. In March of 1937, Sweeney unleashed his oratorical fury at Mayor Burton and "his alter ego, Eliot Ness," who, they claimed, spent all their efforts persecuting cops that took $25 bribes from bootleggers years ago, when major crimes like the Kingsbury Run murders went unstopped. Late that summer with the mayor election a few months away, Congressman Sweeney continued to exhort Democrats to work together to "send back to Washington the prohibition agent who is now safety director."
The year 1937 brought with it 3 more decapitated bodies, which, after extensive investigation were known only as Victims Seven, Eight and Nine. Police morale was at a low point and citizen unrest was running high. After consulting with experts, Ness persuaded the city's newspapers to give the crimes minimal publicity. He reasoned that publicity was encouraging the murderer to continue his killing.
With the muted publicity following the three 1937 victims, the police were free to follow legitimate leads rather than waste their time following up thousands of worthless tips. Based upon Dr. Gerber's new analysis, they investigated much more thoroughly physicians, medical students, and male nurses. Gerber saw evidence of the killer's medical training that his predecessor had not.
1937 was exciting enough without the media-induced hysteria of the Kingsbury Run murders. There were huge labor strikes and riots in the summer, which swelled quickly beyond the resources of Eliot Ness and the police department. The Ohio National Guard was called, ready with tear gas, guns and clubs. Hundreds were injured in the fights. For most of the year, Ness devoted his efforts on labor racketeers and did not personally spend much time on the serial murder case.

Cat and Mouse

While Ness was riding high on the coattails of his victory against the labor racketeers, Detectives Peter Merylo and Martin Zalewski, Orley May and Emil Musil and many others continued their tireless and frustrating search for The Mad Butcher. Many months had passed since the body of the ninth victim had been found and the trail was clearly cold. Nonetheless, the men continued to interrogate hundreds of suspects.
Once they exhausted the leads generated by the ninth victim, the detectives decided to concentrate more closely on the only two victims who had been identified Edward Andrassy and Florence Polillo. Perhaps, both of these homicides had not been investigated as thoroughly as they should have been, but then in 1935 and early 1936, nobody had understood that there was a serial killer at work.
The detectives retraced all of the leads and suspects from the earlier murders, but ended up with nothing but a few photos of Edward Andrassy and an ocean of sordid stories about the lives of Andrassy and Polillo.

David Cowles later in his career
David Cowles later in his career
In mid-March of 1938, something happened that would have a quiet, but lasting impact on the case. In Sandusky, a couple hours' drive west of Cleveland, a dog found the severed leg of a man. Police began an immediate search of the swampy area where the leg was found. Lieutenant David Cowles of the Cleveland Police Department went personally to Sandusky to see if there was any connection between this leg and The Mad Butcher.
Cowles, the brilliant self-educated forensic expert, remembered that one of the Cleveland surgeons who closely fit the profile of The Mad Butcher was eliminated as a suspect because he was always at a veteran's hospital in Sandusky when the Cleveland murders occurred. On a hunch, Cowles visited the Sandusky Soldiers and Sailors Home and started talking to people there.
Cowles ascertained that Dr. Frank Sweeney had voluntarily admitted himself several times to the veteran's hospital to treat his alcoholism. Some of these visits overlapped the times when The Mad Butcher was at work in Cleveland. At first sight, it seemed as though his hospitalizations provided a perfect alibi for Dr. Sweeney.

Dr. Frank Sweeney
Dr. Frank Sweeney
Cowles, however, was a persistent man. He wanted to know how closely patients were watched. The answer was that a surgeon who voluntarily sought help for his drinking problem was not really "watched" at all. It was, after all, a hospital, not a prison and security was almost nonexistent for patients. Also, at various times, particularly holidays and weekends, the hospital was crowded with visitors. Ambulatory patients like Dr. Sweeney could pretty well come and go as they pleased. It was not unusual for an individual suffering from alcoholism to succumb to his needs, get his hands on some liquor and disappear for a day or two on a binge. So, Cowles concluded, it was very possible for Dr. Sweeney to leave the veterans hospital and travel by car or train into Cleveland, commit the murders and return to the hospital without his short absence being noticed.

A Strong Suspect

Cowles also found that the Ohio Penitentiary Honor Farm shared some of the facilities with the veterans hospital. Eventually, Cowles found his way to Alex Archaki, a convicted burglar who was serving out the rest of his sentence on the prison honor farm. Archaki had developed a symbiotic relationship with Dr. Sweeney. Archaki, through his various connections, kept Dr. Sweeney supplied with liquor throughout his visits to Sandusky, while Dr. Sweeney reciprocated by writing prescriptions for barbiturates and other sought after drugs. Archaki had something even more interesting for Cowles: the former burglar was convinced that Sweeney was The Mad Butcher.
Archaki had first met Sweeney a couple of years earlier at a bar in downtown Cleveland. Archaki was alone was he was approached by Sweeney, who he described as a well-dressed, good-looking extrovert. Sweeney bought him drinks and asked a lot of personal questions. Where was Archaki from? Did he have any family in the city? Was he married? At the time, Archaki thought the questions were unusual. Later on, in retrospect, Archaki wondered if Sweeney was qualifying him as a potential victim. After all, it seemed a deliberate act on the part of The Mad Butcher to make sure that most of his later victims were unidentified, probably men and women from out of town and with no close friends or relatives in the area.
As Cowles probed, Archaki told him that he noticed that Sweeney's unexplained absences from the hospital coincided with the estimated times of death for several victims. Archaki was positive. Whenever Sweeney was missing for a day or so, a fresh body in Cleveland would turn up shortly after his return to the hospital in Sandusky.
In late March, shortly after Cowles' visit to the hospital, the police in Sandusky determined that the severed leg found by the dog was the result of legitimate surgery and not the work of The Mad Butcher. Nevertheless, Cowles was energized by the trip. For the first time, he felt he had a really strong suspect.

Congressman Martin L. Sweeney
Congressman Martin L. Sweeney
When he got back to Cleveland, he arranged for a very discreet investigation of Dr. Sweeney. While the doctor came from a very poor family, he was first cousin to Congressman Martin L. Sweeney, a very colorful and controversial political powerhouse in the local Democratic Party. Always an outspoken critic of the Mayor Burton's Republican administration, Congressman Martin L. Sweeney frequently took aim in the press at Eliot Ness, a man he characterized as being obsessed with terrorizing cops who took small bribes during Prohibition while ignoring the insane killer who walked the streets of Cleveland.

Dr. Francis Sweeney

Dr. Francis Edward Sweeney was born in 1894 into an impoverished Irish family who lived on the East Side of Cleveland at the edge of Kingsbury Run. Tragedy marked Frank's early life. His father had been badly injured in an accident and his mother had died of a stroke when he was nine, leaving him and his several siblings to eke out a most frugal existence.
Despite the family's poverty, Frank was determined to make a success of himself. His very high intelligence and strong work ethic allowed Frank to work his way through undergraduate work, pharmacy school and medical school, all the while holding down full-time jobs. His classmates in medical school elected him vice president of his sophomore class and his professors recommended him without reservation.
After decades of exhausting effort, he graduated from medical school in St. Louis in 1928 and became a surgical resident at St. Alexis hospital in the Kingsbury Run area. His siblings remembered him as a man who was almost completely absorbed in science and medicine. Even so, he would stop what he was doing and immediately attend to a family member who was injured or sick. His concern for the health of his siblings and their children endeared him to them. They all respected his intelligence and medical expertise.
Sweeney's expertise as a surgical resident allowed him to become a prot�g� of the highly respected teaching physician, Dr. Carl Hamann. Sweeney seemed to have a very promising career ahead of him. He had a dark-haired Slavic beauty for a wife and two young sons. The many years of hardship and deprivation were becoming distant memories him and his young family.
Unfortunately for Frank, just at the eve of his hard-earned achievement, destructive pressures were building inside of him. Overwork and a hereditary tendency towards alcoholism and psychosis began taking an obvious toll on his health. He was admitted to City Hospital for alcoholism, but the treatment was unsuccessful. The drinking worsened and his marriage and career began to disintegrate. He was violent and abusive at home and the hospital severed its relationship with him. Eventually, his wife filed for divorce in 1936, seeking custody of the children and an order restraining him from "visiting, interfering, or molesting her."
According to his wife, Dr. Sweeney had begun to drink continuously two years after their marriage in July of 1927 and remained in a state of habitual drunkenness until their separation in September of 1934. Cowles took particular note of timing of Sweeney's deterioration which seemed to reach a climax just about the time that the Lady of the Lake, the probable first victim in the murder series, washed up on the shores of Lake Erie on September 5, 1934.
Some of Sweeney's problems may have been genetic; others caused by an injury during World War I and some by overwork. Alcoholism ran in Frank's family and had gripped both Frank and his father. Mental illness was also a factor. His father spent the last years of his life in an asylum suffering from what was loosely termed "psychosis." He received a severe head injury in France during World War I and was subsequently awarded a partial disability pension.
Other facts made Sweeney a compelling suspect as far as Cowles was concerned. Dr. Sweeney was born, raised and spent most of his life in the Kingsbury Run area. He knew that savage ravine intimately from his boyhood explorations. Dr. Sweeney was a large and strong man, certainly powerful enough to carry Edward Andrassy and his unidentified companion down the steep, rugged embankment of Jackass Hill in Kingsbury Run. Clearly Dr. Sweeney had the medical knowledge to perform so many expert decapitations and dismemberments. Finally, Dr. Sweeney's alleged bisexuality could possibly explain why The Mad Butcher chose men and women victims, whereas most sex crimes were directed at one sex or the other.

The Pressure Rises

Just as Cowles was completing his investigation of Dr. Sweeney, the news broke that a woman's leg had been fished out of the Cuyahoga River on April 8, 1938. Cowles, Ness and the entire police department, wished that this small fragment of bone and tissue did not represent a new victim. Perhaps it was the result of a boating accident, hospital refuse like in Sandusky, or even the remnants of an earlier victim.
Their hopes were dashed when Coroner Gerber announced that the woman's shin was just a few days old. A nasty dispute erupted between Ness and the coroner. Ness was annoyed that Gerber seemed to be building himself a national reputation on the publicity he was generating over these decapitation murders. Gerber had inspired even more publicity than Ness on this subject and the public hung on every word as gospel.
Ness insisted on an independent evaluation of the time of death. Infuriated, Gerber refused. Gerber answered only to the taxpayers who elected him and not to the Cleveland Police Department, which had failed to find the killer.

Victim in burlap bags pulled from river
Victim in burlap bags pulled from river
A month later, Gerber was proven right. Two burlap bags containing a woman's nude bisected torso; thighs and foot were hauled out of the Cuyahoga River. Her head and arms were never found.
Gerber estimated the dead woman was between 25 and 30 years old, approximately 5 feet 3 inches tall, and about 120 pounds. Her hair was light brown. Very little could be told about this unknown woman except that she was flat chested, had once had a cesarean birth, had sustained a bilateral laceration of the cervix from an additional birth or an abortion, and had her appendix removed. The autopsy showed no presence of hypnotic or narcotic drugs in the tissues. The cause of death was probably from decapitation.
Once again, a squad of detectives went into action. Not unexpectedly, this woman, like almost all of the victims, was never identified. Preventing identification was obviously important to the killer. Usually the heads and hands, the most obvious means of identification, were missing from the rest of the bodies. Police theorized that heads and hands were either buried somewhere or had been dumped in Lake Erie and weighted down with rocks.
The burlap bags that held the body yielded no worthwhile results. After awhile, as in the previous murders, the detectives were all eventually reassigned to other cases, leaving Detective Merylo to continue the search.
Unfortunately in the 1930's the phenomenon of serial killers was very poorly understood. Not realizing that serial killers usually chose strangers as their victims, the police used a traditional approach to solving homicides. Looking for motives and opportunity among the victim's acquaintances solved many homicides, but rarely worked with serial killers. Neither Ness nor Gerber realized that the organized and highly intelligent serial killer was almost impossible to catch with the forensic knowledge and technology available in those times. Scotland Yard and numerous police experts from around the world had volunteered their views on the crimes, but nothing seemed to be working.


Cowles held out a glimmer of hope with his new suspect, Dr. Sweeney. Cowles was by nature a cautious man and he fully understood that any investigation of a congressman's physician cousin must be exceptionally discreet. The last thing his boss needed was the flamboyant orator Martin L. Sweeney finding out that the police suspected his relative of being The Mad Butcher. It would look to everybody as though Ness was exacting political vengeance for Congressman Sweeney's attacks on the Burton administration. Ness already felt plenty of heat from the mayor for not solving these serious crimes. No additional political liabilities would be tolerated.
Surveillance of Dr. Sweeney required someone smart and trustworthy, who could be counted on to keep his mouth shut about who he was following and why. Thomas Whalen, a promising young rookie cop, was one of the men chosen to follow the doctor wherever he went.
The young rookie was no match for the brilliant Dr. Sweeney. One day, the doctor was shopping in a large department store while Whalen watched from a distance. He followed Sweeney down the length of the store until he made an abrupt right turn near the elevators and disappeared from Whalen's sight. When Whalen turned right, Dr. Sweeney was waiting for him.
Shocked and embarrassed, Whalen said nothing and started to walk away. But Dr. Sweeney smiled, introduced himself and asked Whalen his name. "If we're going to be together so often, we might as well be acquainted."
Whalen, completely nonplussed, told him his name and continued to follow Sweeney at a suitable distance. It really did not matter whether Sweeney knew he was being followed as long as he could be kept under surveillance. Unfortunately, Sweeney was able to slip away from Whalen and one of the other policemen assigned to follow him.
Whalen came to appreciate Sweeney's perverse sense of humor when he followed the doctor to an all black bar. Whalen took a seat at the far end of the bar from Sweeney. The crowd, unused to two white strangers, stared suspiciously at Whalen and Sweeney. All evening long, Sweeney sent down mugs of beer to Whalen at the other end of the bar.
While Whalen and his colleagues did their best to keep Dr. Sweeney under surveillance, the police searched every inch of his office and rooms. The police even monitored his mail.

Public Outcry

Despite the growing public pressure to capture The Mad Butcher, Ness refused to personally engage himself in the case. Instead, he continued with the programs that he had initiated years before: modernizing the police and fire departments, cleaning up crime and generally making Cleveland a much safer place to live.
Just when the public uproar around the April 1938 victim had subsided, a dismembered body was accidentally found at a dump at the end of East Ninth Street. Men combing the dump for bits of scrap metal came across the body of a woman wrapped in rags, brown paper and cardboard. Uncharacteristically, the head and hands were found with the rest of the body.
As police were combing the area for more forensic evidence, a bystander found more bones nearby and called over the police. Detective Sergeant James Hogan picked up a large tin can nearby to carry the bones. As he looked down into the large can, a skull gaped back at him from inside!
Immediately the police started to search the area in the remaining daylight. The skeletal remains of a man were scattered around; some of which had been wrapped in brown paper.

Hogan view dump site for Victims 11 and 12
Hogan view dump site for Victims 11 and 12
Gerber estimated that the woman had been a Caucasian between 30 and 40 years old, about 5 feet 4 inches tall, and weighing approximately 120-125 pounds. While much of her viscera had decomposed, the skin on her back seemed well preserved. She was dismembered by large, sharp knife. Gerber guessed that she had died sometime between mid-February and mid-April, possibly before Victim Ten in early April. Gerber thought that her remains had only been at the dump for a few weeks. The cause of death was undetermined, but was considered a probable homicide.
Police were initially excited when they were able to lift a fingerprint of her left thumb, but the hope faded when they were unable to find a match in their files.
The skull and the bones found a couple of hundred feet away from the woman's remains were those of a white man between 30 and 40 years of age. He was estimated to have been between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing approximately 135 to 150 pounds. His hair was long, coarse and dark brown in color. He also was dismembered with a long, sharp knife. Again, the cause of death was undetermined, but considered a probable homicide.

Dr. Gerber (in white coat) views remains
Dr. Gerber (in white coat) views remains
If these two individuals were in fact Victims Eleven and Twelve of the Mad Butcher, then he had changed his operating style. Leaving heads and hands was uncharacteristic of the victims found since 1936. Also, the dump was a place that the serial killer had not used before. When Kingsbury Run became overrun with police and railroad detectives, The Mad Butcher used the Cuyahoga River as his next favorite cemetery. Also, these two bodies were really found by accident. The Butcher, for the most part, made sure that his victims were found either out in the open in Kingsbury Run or floating in the Cuyahoga River. Ness and Cowles had doubts about whether these two bodies were even homicides, let alone the victims of The Mad Butcher.
Mutilation of a corpse, whether as a prank or by a necrophiliac, is not a particularly unusual occurrence. It was not even considered a particularly serious crime in Ohio. These bodies presented enough deviations from the Butcher's standard operating mode to bring into question whether they were really homicides at all. On an anonymous tip, the police department investigated a man who operated an embalming college, but charges were never brought and the man quickly moved his business out of town.

A Desperate Move

Regardless of whether the two new bodies were the work of The Mad Butcher or not, the people of Cleveland believed they were. The public and political pressure of these unsolved murders erupted in a torrent of criticism of Ness and the police department. The newspapers demanded an end to ghoulish crimes that had tarnished the city's reputation just as it was slowly recovering from the Depression.
Ness was desperate. He needed to show results quickly and visibly. He conferred with his boss Mayor Burton and key members of his police department. He then made a mistake in judgment that would haunt him for almost a decade.

Eliot Ness interrogates vagrants
Eliot Ness interrogates vagrants
The night of August 18, 1938, two days after the bodies were found at the dump, Ness led a huge midnight raid on the city's shantytowns, the villages of dilapidated shacks that had grown up since the Depression. Ness and his men started behind Public Square and then moved deeper into the Flats area near the Cuyahoga River and finally over to Kingsbury Run.
With sirens screaming, Ness and his men stormed the hobo jungles, chasing down and capturing the terrified vagrants. Most were taken down to the police station, fingerprinted and sent off to the workhouse, while police combed the rubble for any signs of The Mad Butcher. Finally, the police torched the shanties so that the men could not go back to their hovels.

Ness orders burning of shantytown
Ness orders burning of shantytown
A couple of days later the Cleveland Press criticizing him sharply for rousting the bums out of their hovels and burning down their shanties: "That such Shantytowns exist is a sorrowful reflection upon the state of society. The throwing into jail of men broken by experience and the burning of their wretched places of habitation will not solve the economic problem. Nor is it likely to lead to the solution of the most macabre mystery in Cleveland's history."

The Interrogation of Sweeny

The city was in an uproar. The pressure on Eliot Ness to resolve the murders was so intense that he pulled his chief suspect, the alcoholic Dr. Frank Sweeney into a secret interrogation in a suite at the Cleveland Hotel at Public Square. Lt. Cowles made it quite clear to Sweeney that if he did not cooperate with this discreet interrogation that he would be hauled down to the station with all the reporters in tow. Dr. Sweeney, in deference to his immediate family, chose the route of discreet inquiry.
After drying out for three days in the luxurious hotel suite, a comparatively sober, amused and confident Dr. Sweeney was interrogated by four men: Eliot Ness, Dr. Royal Grossman, the court psychiatrist, Lieutenant David Cowles, and Dr. Leonard Keeler, one of the inventors of the polygraph who had come with his equipment from Chicago at Ness's request.
Secrecy was critical because Dr. Sweeney's first cousin, the powerful and outspoken Congressman Martin L. Sweeney, could not be tipped off about this investigation. Also, Ness had to treat this suspect very carefully because at any moment, Dr. Sweeney could call in the congressman and the interrogation would end."
On Tuesday morning August 23 Dr. Francis E. Sweeney was dressed smartly in a freshly pressed suit, a crisp white shirt and a tasteful tie, complements of the hotel cleaning service. The tall, powerfully built man in his mid forties seemed rested and calm. The dark frames of his glasses gave a scholarly look to his attractive Irish features. Frank Sweeney looked very much the part of the confidant, successful surgeon he might have one day become.
He introduced himself cordially to the serious looking men who had come to interrogate him. While Keeler excused himself to the second bedroom to set up the polygraph equipment, Ness, Grossman and Cowles sat with Dr. Sweeney in the comfortable parlor.

Dr. Royal Grossman
Dr. Royal Grossman
For the next two hours, Cowles and Grossman did most of the questioning. Ness listened closely. Sweeney was clearly playing with them, cracking jokes, and answering their questions vaguely. Ness could see that they were getting nowhere and went into the bedroom to check on Keeler.
Keeler was ready for Sweeney, so the doctor was escorted into the bedroom where he was fitted with the polygraph sensors. Only Ness stayed with Dr. Keeler as the polygraph was administered.
Cowles had prepared Keeler with a list of questions to which Keeler added his own. Ness had already been briefed on the workings of the polygraph and knew what to look for as the test was being given.
Keeler's questions began innocuously." Was his name Dr. Francis Edward Sweeney? Was he born in Ohio? Did he have two sons, Francis and James?" The machine registered the truthfulness of Sweeney's answers.
The questions quickly became more specific. "Had he ever met Edward Andrassy? Did he kill Edward Andrassy? Had he ever met Florence Polillo? Did he kill Florence Polillo?" Ness watched closely as the polygraph recorded its response to Sweeney's denials.
When he was finished, Dr. Keeler thanked Sweeney and asked him to stay where he was for a few minutes. Keeler and Ness left the room, closing the door behind them and went into the parlor where Grossman and Cowles were waiting.
"Looks like he's your guy," Keeler said confidently.
Ness agreed. "What do you think?" he asked Grossman.
"I believe we have a classic psychopath here with the likelihood of some schizophrenia. His father spent the last three years of his life locked up, a violent schizoid personality aggravated by chronic alcoholism.

The Horror Ends

Ness had difficulty reconciling the smooth-talking, highly intelligent surgeon with the homicidal maniac that he had come to know as the "Mad Butcher." "It seems incredible to me that someone with his brains and education could be the monster we're looking for. Let me go in and talk to him for a half-hour or so. Afterwards, I'd like Leonard to retest him just to make sure.
Ness went into the bedroom, closed the door and sat on the bed opposite the doctor.
"Well?" Sweeney asked. "Are you satisfied now?" A huge grin spread across his face. He stood up and looked out of the window.
"Yes," Ness said thoughtfully. "I think you're the killer."
Sitting on the bed, Ness became even more aware of the man's hulking size.
Sweeney's bulk covered most of the window. He whirled around toward Ness and sneered. "You think?" He advanced towards Ness, who steeled himself for an attack. He leaned down and put his face a few inches from Ness. "Then prove it!" he hissed.
Shaken, Ness got up from the bed and opened the door. "Cowles," he called. No one answered. "Grossman?" he called louder. Still no one answered. His words seemed to echo in the empty parlor. He was alone with this madman.
Sweeney smiled knowingly. "Looks like they all went to lunch."
Ness went to the phone quickly, tracked down his colleagues in the coffee shop, and suggested that Cowles get back to the suite immediately. Years later, Ness would confess to his wife that never in all of his dangerous career had he ever felt as threatened as he did when he was alone with Dr. Sweeney.
That afternoon, Dr. Keeler retested Sweeney several times, always with the same result. The men were left with the conclusion that Sweeney was the killer, but they only had circumstantial evidence. Ness was certain that he could never get a conviction with what they had on Sweeney, especially with his high-profile cousin involved. Ness realized that he could always choose to have the doctor followed constantly, but the physician had already shown that he could evade the surveillance
What exactly happened next is shrouded in mystery to this day. The only thing that is clear is that Dr. Sweeney admitted himself to the Sandusky veterans' hospital two days after the interrogation. From August 25, 1938 until his death in 1965, Sweeney went from one hospital to another, both state mental hospitals and veterans' hospitals, in various parts of the country. He was not a prisoner and could leave the hospital voluntarily for days and months at a time. However, at least in the Sandusky hospital, there was a note attached to his records insisting that if the doctor ever left the hospital grounds that the hospital was to immediately notify the police in Sandusky and Cleveland. In October of 1955, Dr. Sweeney was committed to the Dayton veteran's hospital for the remaining decade of his life. Still, he was free to wander around the neighborhood, writing prescriptions for himself and his friends, until the hospital campaigned with the local pharmacists to cut off his drug supply.
What is unknown is why Dr. Sweeney admitted himself to the hospital and why he voluntarily stayed institutionalized for the most of the rest of his life. Did Congressman Martin L. Sweeney get involved and work out some kind of deal with Ness? Did Sweeney's sisters urge him to get help and spare him and them all the humiliation of an eventual arrest and trial? Did Sweeney feel that the police were too close and put an end to his killing spree? Or was this man, who Eliot Ness firmly believed to be the Mad Butcher, really an innocent nut who got his kicks from playing with the police?
As Frank Sweeney's alcoholism worsened, his sense of humor became more bizarre. One of his family members speculated that he hid his natural melancholy with his humor. When he was at the veteran's hospital in Dayton, Ohio, he sent a series of strange and incomprehensible, jeering postcards to Eliot Ness. Despite Frank's bizarre postcards, his siblings never believed that Frank was capable of violence. They saw him as a tragic figure who had everything within his grasp and then lost it all, a brilliant man, destroyed by alcoholism and his own demons.
The serial killings officially stopped in 1938. The last victim, the so-called Victim Ten, was killed in April of 1938 even though remains of so-called Victims Eleven and Twelve were found in mid-August of that year.

The Case Lives On

Despite some superficial similarities to other murders in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York State, as well as the Black Dahlia murder in California years later, the Kingsbury Run murders came to an official end in 1938. Cleveland police officials examined the forensic evidence of these other murders outside Cleveland, but there was never anything of substance to prove that the Cleveland serial killer was responsible for murders anywhere else. If Dr. Gerber, who distinguished himself across the country from the work he did on this case, did not accept the forensic evidence then from the similar murders outside Cleveland, then it is hard to justify including it today.
Even though the murders officially ended in 1938, the hunt for the killer continued. Detective Peter Merylo made a career out of hunting the killer and was eager to tie similar murders to the same person. In retrospect, he was merely one of many people who became obsessed with the case, including this writer.
On a more serious note, Sheriff Martin L. O'Donnell, allied to the Sweeney family by the marriage of his son to Congressman Martin L. Sweeney's daughter, proposed his own solution to the case. O'Donnell, the man who succeeded "Honest John" Sulzman as sheriff of Cuyahoga County, hired a private detective to investigate the murders.
While it is not clear when Martin L. Sweeney found out, he was eventually aware that his cousin had been a suspect in the Kingsbury Run murders. One individual close to Ness suggested that Martin L. Sweeney persuaded O'Donnell to find a plausible suspect for the murders to deflect rumors swirling around Dr. Sweeney. It is conceivable that together O'Donnell and Martin L Sweeney developed the plan that turned into the "Dolezal case."

Frank Dolezal between Sheriff's deputies
Frank Dolezal between Sheriff's deputies
A few months after Dr. Sweeney had himself admitted into the Sandusky veteran's hospital, Sheriff O'Donnell hired a private detective, Pat Lyons, to investigate the Kingsbury Run murders. After many months, Lyons focused on a middle-aged alcoholic named Frank Dolezal. Supposedly Lyons had found a tavern that had been frequented by Andrassy and Polillo. Dolezal was another patron of this particular saloon.
The sheriff had his men search a room, which Dolezal had previously rented and they found stains on the floor and on a knife. Lyons had his chemist brother analyze the stains and the results came back that they were human blood.
Meanwhile, Cleveland Detective Peter Merylo got wind of this investigation of a Dolezal, a suspect that Merylo had already investigated and rejected. O'Donnell wanted to move fast before the Cleveland police could interfere with his suspect, so he had Dolezal arrested July 5, 1939. After a rough night with the sheriff's jailer Michael Kilbane, Dolezal "confessed" to the murder of Flo Polillo. Kilbane had a reputation for cruelty, so "Gentleman" Harry Brown, not Kilbane, officially took the confession.

Dolezal (left) with Officials
Dolezal (left) with Officials
Claiming that he and Flo had a fight, Dolezal said she went at him with a butcher knife. To defend himself, he hit her and she fell against a bathtub. Assuming that she was dead, he cut her up and carried part of her to the alley in which she was found. Her head and other parts of her body he supposedly dumped into Lake Erie.
There was other "evidence" against Dolezal. Lyons had heard that a young woman who was also an alcoholic had a suspicious encounter with Dolezal. Lyons took a bottle of cheap whiskey when he went to interview the woman. There was still some whiskey left when she claimed that Dolezal had come at her with a knife and she jumped out of a second story window to escape him. Miraculously, she had only broken the heel on her shoe in this daring escape.

1 comment:

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