The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run, a.k.a. The Cleveland Torso Murderer, is a still-unidentified serial killer and possible abductor who was active in Cleveland, Ohio during the 1930s.
Brief Case History
The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run remains unidentified to this day, as do the majority of his victims. However, the first canonical victim was found on September 23, 1935, and it was estimated that he had been killed three to four weeks earlier. The last two canonical victims were found on August 16, 1938. All of the victims had been at their dump sites for various periods of time before being found. The first outstanding suspect was Dr. Francis E. Sweeney, the alcoholic first cousin of Congressman Martin L. Sweeney. Though the authorities felt that he was a viable suspect, Congressman Sweeney found out about it and, it has been suspected, made a deal with the investigating sheriff to find a better suspect. At this point, Frank Dolezal, a 52-year-old Cleveland resident, was arrested. He confessed to having killed Flo Polillo, the third victim, in self-defense, but later recanted on the grounds that he had been beaten into confessing by the sheriff’s jailer. He died in custody in the Cuyahoga County jail six weeks after his arrest. As of today, the case remains unsolved.
The age and sex of all of the Butcher's victims varied, but they were typically drifters or people from the lower class of society. He would usually kill them by decapitating them, sometimes after tying them up, and then severely mutilate the body post-mortem, sometimes dismembering the arms and/or legs, cutting off the genitals and removing organs, and then burn the bodies, either by using oil as an accelerant or using acid or some chemical. It was believed by the investigators that, since decapitations are very messy, the killer performed the murders someplace private and then carried the bodies to their dump sites and burned them there. In some cases, the heads were never recovered, making it possible that the Butcher kept them as a trophy or for some other purpose.
A profile made by the original investigators said that the offender was a psychopath, though probably not obviously insane. He had some knowledge of anatomy, maybe having worked as a physician, butcher, or hunter, and the cuts showed that he would have been very skilled at cutting flesh. As decapitations are very messy, it was believed that he had access to some private space where the murders were performed. If this was correct, the fact that the bodies would then have been carried for a long distance indicated that the killer was probably very large and strong. The killer may also have been familiar with the Kingsbury Run area. It was also theorized that the choice of victims and gruesome mutilations were a way to ensure that the victims were never identified. If this was true, the killer would be profiled as an organized offender.
Note: The dates denote when the victims were discovered.
- September 23, 1935:
- An unidentified man (also castrated post-mortem; estimated time of death was 3-4 weeks earlier)
- Edward W. Andrassy (also castrated post-mortem like the previous victim; found close to the location of the above victim; estimated time of death was 2-3 days earlier)
- January 26: Florence Genevieve Polillo (dismembered post-mortem; her head was never found; estimated time of death was 2-4 days earlier)
- June 5: "The Tattooed Man" (unofficial given name; estimated time of death was two days earlier)
- July 22: An unidentified man (dismembered ante-mortem; estimated time of death was two months earlier)
- September 10: An unidentified man (his head was never found; estimated time of death was two days earlier)
- February 23: An unidentified woman (estimated time of death was 3-4 days earlier)
- June 6: An unidentified woman (possibly one Rose Wallace; removed a rib bone post-mortem; estimated time of death was one year earlier)
- July 6: An unidentified man (estimated time of death was 2-3 days earlier)
- April 8: An unidentified woman (estimated time of death was 3-5 days earlier)
- August 16:
- An unidentified woman (estimated time of death was 4-6 months earlier)
- An unidentified man (found close to the location of the above victim; estimated time of death was 7-9 months earlier)
- September 5, 1934: "The Lady of the Lake" (unofficial given name; was found on almost the same dump site as the first unidentified woman; not admitted to the official list despite the presence of the same preservative chemical used by the Mad Butcher, among other similarities with his murders)
- July 22, 1950: Robert Robertson (was found decapitated; estimated time of death was 6-8 weeks earlier; coroner Samuel Berger attributed the murder to the Mad Butcher)
- May 3, 1940: Three tramps (all were decapitated and dismembered; found in boxcars near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
- 1921-1934, 1939-1942: Numerous unidentified bodies (all were decapitated and dismembered; found in swamps located in Pennsylvania)
- Note: It has also been theorized that the Cleveland Torso murder case has some connection to the c. January 15, 1947, murder of Elizabeth Short, a.k.a. The Black Dahlia.
- Frank Dolezal
- Alcoholic Cleveland resident
- Was arrested on suspicion of killing Flo Polillo
- Confessed to killing Andrassy and Polillo, the latter in self-defense
- Recanted his confessions shortly before his suspicious death by hanging, saying he had been beaten into confessing by police officers
- After his death, it was found that he had six cracked ribs, which he, according to his friends, did not have when he was arrested
- "Gaylord Sundheim"
- Described by Ness as a homosexual premed student, member of a prominent Cleveland family
- Dr. Francis "Frank" E. Sweeney
- Named by Eliot Ness as the killer in 1938
- According to Ness, failed a polygraph test and avoided prosecution by committing himself to a mental hospital.
- Taunted Ness with obscene and menacing notes
- Served in World War I as a medic, discharged with a notation that he was "25% disabled"
- Discharged from practice after having been committed by his wife for treatment of alcoholism in 1933, divorced from her in 1936
- Found sane after two court-ordered psychiatric examinations in 1938
- Committed himself to a veteran hospital in August 1938, emerged briefly in 1939
- Died in 1964
- Identified by author James Badal as Ness' "Gaylord Sundheim" in 2002. Fitted Ness description of the latter (married to a nurse, related to a congressman), though Sundheim, according to Ness, died in the 1940s
On Criminal Minds
- Season Two
- "No Way Out" and "No Way Out II: The Evilution of Frank" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in the two-part season finale, the Butcher appears to have been an inspiration for its unsub, Frank Breitkopf - Both were prolific serial killers and abductors (possibly in the Butcher's case) who targeted both genders, tortured and killed via dismemberment, and only left partial and badly decomposed remains behind.
- Season Four
- "Zoe's Reprise" - The Butcher's first and so far only reference on Criminal Minds was in this episode. In it, the episode's unsub, Eric Ryan Olson, was revealed to have partially copied the Butcher as his first known copycat murder. When he did so, he lured the victim out of a local gay bar and shot him in a park, not being able to go through with the full decapitation and dismemberment process, presumably since it was his first murder and he wanted to get it over with quickly. In the episode, it was asserted by the BAU that the original Butcher would pick up his male victims at gay bars, which was enforced through a flashback (in which the Butcher is portrayed by Ken Hurst), though there is no solid evidence that he did so. However, since his first identified victim, Edward W. Andrassy was an alleged bisexual and had several homosexual friends, this could be a valid claim. Some of the original investigators would actually look for suspects in gay bars. The BAU and local police also incorrectly stated that the Butcher's victims were shot, dismembered, and mutilated while, in actuality, they were usually killed by decapitation.
- Season Ten
- "X" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, the Butcher appears to have been an inspiration for its unsub, Steven Parkett - Both were serial killers and abductors (possibly in the butcher's case) who killed their victims though dismemberment and decapitation (though through different means), disposed of their torsos in secluded locations, were both profiled with anatomical knowledge, and were given near-identical nicknames (also referred to as 'Torso Killers').
- Season Twelve
- "A Good Husband" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, the Butcher appears to have been an inspiration for its unsub, Mark Tolson - Both are killers and (possibly in the Butcher's case) abductors who dismembered their victims completely (with the torsos always being found first, though Tolson did it later and ante mortem). Also, Edward Andrassy being an alleged bisexual and having several homosexual friends, plus the police searching for suspects in gay bars, may have been used as references for Tolson's sexual orientation and selection of later victims. In addition to Tolson, there is an uncaught, fictional serial killer mentioned in the episode, the D.C. Torso Killer, who shares most of the nickname with the Butcher's other nickname, the "Cleveland Torso Murderer". Like the Butcher, this criminal targeted high-risk victims and was profiled to be using dismemberment as a forensic countermeasure to prevent the victims from being identified.
- Note: Also, Max Allan Collins, author of the three Criminal Minds novels, has written a series of novels about the activities of Elliot Ness, one of the Butcher investigators. The second of these books, Butcher's Dozen, is about the investigation of the Cleveland Torso Murders.