The Mad Butcher and the Grizzly Cleveland Torso Murders

Mad Butcher

On September 23, 1935, in the rural area of Cleveland, Ohio two bodies were discovered in the bushes. The killer left the bodies beheaded and emasculated. The police launched a preliminary investigation when they discovered both heads.

The bodies showed signs of chemical treatments, which turned the skin red and leathery. This was only the beginning of the Cleveland torso murders, the work of one of America’s most brutal serial killers in history. The media dubbed him the “Mad Butcher.”

Image Credit: Flickr/ CC2.0 by gargantuen.

Police could not find any blood at the scene, so they concluded that the bodies were transported to the scene and murdered somewhere else. Edward Andrassy is the identity of one of the victims. Police eventually learned that he was a petty criminal. The other body was unidentified.

Law enforcement discovered a female body in early 1936, leading them to become more involved in the case.

Her murder was similar to the two men. The killer went from killing males to killing females. Flo Polillo is the female victim. Polillo was a known patron of the bars in the area.

The well known Eliot Ness entered the investigation. He was Cleveland’s chief of Public Safety. He added himself to the growing number of law enforcement working on the case.

Eliot Ness, Cleveland Chief of Public Safety (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A male body covered in tattoos is discovered by police. Police ended up posting the coroner reports and the victim’s death mask at the Great Lakes Exposition. However, nobody knew the tattooed man, leaving his identity unknown even to today.

Three months later, a partial body was discovered with a hat nearby that police identified as one given to a homeless man. This strengthened the belief that the Cleveland torso murders involved only people from the lowest levels of society.

There was a slight pause in the murders, although the police continued the investigation at a frantic pace. The Mad Butcher remained at large.

Police later reported that The Mad Butcher took six more lives before the last victim emerged in the Fall of 1938. There is still an argument over how many murders the Mad Butcher committed.

Death masks and photos of victims of the Cleveland torso murders. Cleveland Police Museum. CC2.0 gargantuen.

Kingsbury Run Shantytown

Kingsbury Run emerged as a result of the Great Depression. The area eventually became home for the homeless and downtrodden individuals, who ended up setting up makeshift residences. A number of the murders surfaced in the Kingsbury Run.

Eliot Ness raided Kingsbury Run, evicting 300 individuals and burned down nearly 100 shanty homes.

Possible Suspects

Police hit one dead end after another, as they hunted the Mad Butcher. Police believed they may have found their man, by the name Frank Dolezal who frequented a bar that several of the victims also patronized. People ended up describing Dolezal as threatening when drunk and prone to anger.

Police arrested Dolezal and confessed to one murder. Dolezal hung himself before police were able to completely question him about the unsolved murders. An autopsy discovered suspicious injuries including several broken ribs, which acquaintances of the man claim he didn’t have when the police took him into custody. The jury considered the confession to have been forced and is now worthless.

Dr. Francis Sweeney, is a second suspect. Ness oversaw the pursuit of the doctor, who served as a military doctor in WWI. During his time in the war, he conducted amputations of wounded soldiers. He later developed mental illness. Police brought him in, and the doctor failed a lie detector test.

Ness believed he had the man and continued to press the doctor. However, Sweeney was related to the U.S. Representative, Martin Sweeney, which complicated Ness’ work. Sweeney ended up committing himself to a mental hospital, which kept him away from Ness and his investigation. Sweeney could have ended up with an insanity defense.

The Cleveland Torso Murders Stop

The murders eventually appeared to have stopped once the doctor went into the mental hospital. Cleveland police continued the investigation, but no convictions were made and the murders continue to be classified as a cold case. However, it’s possible in the future thanks to new evidence and technology, the police may eventually identify the Mad Butcher.