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Investigations Around The Case Of Mad Butcher Of Kingsbury Run

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Throughout the mid 1930’s, Cleveland, Ohio faced a series of murders that sent chills down the nation’s spines as everyone watched the body count grow. Although, thirteen bodies Dowden 1Newspaper Article Talking of the Casewere found, dismembered and decapitated, the murders still remain unsolved as a result of a lack of hard evidence. However, many are convinced that the killer was identified, but never convicted. Cleveland may have been where these gruesome and mysterious murders took place, but it wasn’t the only place affected by them. All around the country, people sat by in horror as body after body was found and well-known safety director, Eliot Ness, detectives, and the Cleveland police seemed to be running around in circles. Although Cleveland overall was prospering and gaining in population, Cleveland’s Kingsbury Run at the time was facing a record high in unemployment. The killings were a terrifying, but effective distraction as many of the bodies were being recovered in the Roaring Third district, a rundown part of the city. The killer was quickly nicknamed “The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run” by the media as the story continued to spread. The killings, although still unsolved, still remain one of the most gruesome serial killing sprees in both Cleveland and American history.

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In all, thirteen bodies have been linked to the “Mad Butcher”, all of which were high-risk victims, working as sex workers and other odd jobs around the Roaring Third district. Out of all thirteen bodies, only three were identified, which hampered the investigation and made it difficult to link them in any way other than the methods of killing used on them. On September 5th, 1934, the first body later connected to “the Cleveland Torso Killings” was found on the edge of a lake by a young man walking the water’s edge. The “body” was in horrible condition as it was just the lower torso of a woman, cut off right above the knees. It was displayed on the its back, left to be discovered by the killer and the skin seemed to be coated in some sort of chemical that caused it to become red and leathery. The rest of the body Dowden 2was never found, so the woman’s identity remained unidentified and still does even today. She was dubbed the “Lady of the Lake” by the media based on her corpse being found on the shore of Lake Eerie, but it wasn’t until way later that authorities connected her to the “Mad Butcher”. On November 1, 1934 a homeless man by the name of Emil Fronek was approached while sitting on the side of the street. The man who approached, according to Fronek, was a doctor, who then offered him food back at his office, which Fronek believed was drugged as he became woozy after ingesting it.

Fronek’s story wasn’t taken seriously until it was later connected to one of Ness’ prime suspects. It wasn’t until a year after the “Lady of the Lake” discovery that the next victims of the killer were found, two in one day. The first of the two, was the body of Andrew W. Andrassy, naked all except his socks. He had been emasculated and decapitated, however his head was eventually recovered unlike many of the other victims. He had been treated to the same chemical treatment as the “Lady of the Lake” and his body was drained of blood, these similarities would later help detectives connect her body to the case. A couple of feet away was the third victim, a 42 year old, unidentified male labeled as John Doe #1 from then on. He was also decapitated and emasculated and through autopsies it was revealed that he had actually died before Andrew W. Andrassy. Over the next year, four more bodies were found in the Kingsbury Run area and detectives continued putting full effort in finding the killer. Despite the police’s efforts when it came to identifying the victims and distinct features, for example tattoos, all four of these bodies still remain unknown and unclaimed. Rose Wallace, the only African American victim, was found on June 6, 1937, in a burlap bag under the Lorain- Carnegie Bridge in “Hoboville”. Her body, although already partially decayed, was identified by her son, who had reported her missing a few days earlier. On the 6th and the 14th of July in 1937, two separate halves of a body were found floating in the Cuyahoga River, police connected it to the Dowden 3Discovery of the “Lady of the Lake” Safety Director Eliot Nesscase through the lack of a head; the body still remains unidentified. In 1938, there was three murders labeled as the work of the “Mad Butcher”, the first being another Jane Doe. Jane Doe #3 was the only victim to have drugs of any sort found in her system, police tried to use this information to their advantage, and it later played a part in one of the main suspects of the case.

Next, on August 16, 1938, the dead bodies of one male and one female were found, headless, outside Eliot Ness’ office window. They were displayed as if the killer was taunting Ness and his staff. The head of the female was never recovered, but the male’s was found in a trash can a few feet away. Although these two were the last two killings directly connected to the “Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run”, there are many speculated victims that could push the body count as high as twenty. With more and more bodies being added to the list, the mayor of Cleveland put heavy pressure on the authorities to catch the culprit, so some high ranking men were put on the case.

As one of the most mysterious cases in Cleveland history remained cold, more and more men got involved. One of the main figures pertaining to the case was the famous leader of Chicago’s “Untouchables”, and the newly appointed Safety Director of Cleveland. Eliot Ness was very well known across the United States for his efforts in bring down Al Capone and enforcing prohibition in Chicago, so him getting involved brought even more eyes to the case. His reputation however, was greatly influenced by decisions he made while working on solving the mystery. Alea Lytle writes about one of his most infamous Dowden 4Merylo as an invilant decisions, “In 1938, Cleveland safety director Eliot Ness ordered and conducted a raid of the area that resulted in the eviction of three-hundred squatters as well as the burning of at least 100 shanty homes”(2011). Most people saw this as a cruel and horrible misjudgement, but others countered that the killings did stop after the raid and claimed that his actions helped. As the case became more and more serious, detectives Peter Merylo and Martin Zelewski were assigned the case full time. The two detectives were well known throughout Chicago and the men dedicated a lot of their time while trying to catch the killer. It was very common for Merylo and Zelewski to dress up as homeless men and go undercover in the Run and the Roaring Third, questioning those who lived there and searching for clues that might help them in the case. They questioned many people throughout the spanse of the it, “By the time the case had run its course, the two had interviewed more than fifteen hundred people, the department as a whole more than five thousand”. The investigative interviews didn’t turn up anything, but it did become the biggest police search in Cleveland history. The case because of its size and infamy within the media, brought hundreds of people together to try and solve it. Despite all of the efforts made, they were never able to convict someone of the crime. But, that doesn’t mean they didn’t get close. In the “Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run” case, there were only two primary suspects that were looked into. The first, was a 52 year old bricklayer named Frank Dolezal, who was arrested on July 1939 for the murder of 4th victim, Florence Polillo. There were many suspicions thrown in his direction as it says in The Ghastly Cleveland Torso Murders, “Dolezal had actually lived with Polillo for a time. And he also knew victims Edward Andrassy Dowden 5and Rose Wallace”. When he was arrested, Dolezal actually confessed to the murder of Florence Polillo, but he later recanted his confession after he revealed that it had been beaten out of him. When looking at Dolezal’s written confession, the lead detective said, “This is the first time that I’ve known anyone to confess to a crime that didn’t know the details of the crime in which he was confessing”.

Based on the fact it was a mixture of confusing details that didn’t seem to match up. Even after the closer look at his confession raised many suspicions, Dolezal was still kept incarcerated. However, after only a month behind bars in August 1939, Dolezal was found dead in his jail cell by apparent suicide. With further investigation and his past claim of being beaten by police though, experts concluded that he didn’t die the way that was claimed. After his death, pretty much nobody believed Frank Dolezal was the “Mad Butcher”. The next suspect is the one many believe was in fact the killer. Dr. Francis E. Sweeney was a doctor whose office was only a little ways from the Roaring Third. As a doctor he would have the skills and the knowledge needed to perform the mutilations so meticulously. A few weeks after the final killings, Sweeney checked himself into a mental hospital and when no more murders occurred, it pointed towards him. He had a troubled home life, as he was abusive to his wife and two sons and a known alcoholic, he was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. In May of 1938, Ness secretly arrested Sweeney and took him to a rundown hotel where he kept him for about twelve days, during which he administered him a polygraph test; which he failed. However, because Ness didn’t follow the process in which he was supposed to and didn’t have a search warrant to perform the polygraph, he had to release Sweeney and keep the results of the polygraph a secret. Many also believe this was partially based on Sweeney’s connection to a well-known politician of the time. Not even three months after he released Sweeney, the final two bodies were found outside Ness’s office windows, as if Dowden 6. Dr. Francis E. SweeneyFrank Dolezal in handcuffsit was a taunt. For years after the case, Ness continued to receive postcards taunting him by signing Sweeney at the bottom but Ness couldn’t do anything about it. As mentioned earlier, Emil Fronek claimed that a doctor had once tried to drug him. A case expert named James Badal, would later make a connection that showed Sweeney practiced medicine in a building not far from where Fronek claimed the doctor had offered him food. Badal believed that Sweeney had been trying to lure Fronek to his office where he would’ve murdered him.

Further research on Badal’s part revealed that Sweeney had made a deal with a funeral home across the street to be able to “study” some of the dead bodies they received. One of the most supported theories was and is that Sweeney was using the funeral home as a location to take the bodies and cut them into pieces before he disposed of them in various spots around the area.

15 July 2020

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