The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run
Kingsbury Run stretches from the area of Kinsman Rd., within the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, into the Cuyahoga River, which runs into the Flats of Cleveland. It acts as a storm drainage system for overflow of the Cuyahoga River, as well neighboring suburbs. When the stock market crashed and many people found themselves penniless and without employment, the area became a popular haunt for hobos, runaways, drunkards, and junkies. Between 1935 and 1938, the area would become known less for its landscape of homeless camps and more renowned for the mutilated and dismembered corpses that began to litter the grounds all too frequently.
On September 23, 1935, two boys playing softball in the area of Jackass Hill – the portion of Kingsbury Run where East 49th Street meets Praha Avenue – made a terrible discovery. The body of a nude man, later identified Edward Andrassy, had been found. The man had been decapitated and his genitals had been removed. Several yards away another man was found in a similar state. Both men had their bodies treated with the same chemical agent as the woman’s torso found floating in Lake Erie a year prior, turning their skin the same reddish color and taking on a leathery texture. In spite of the similarities between the two bodies found near Jackass Hill and the Lady of the Lake, no connections were made between the cases until much later.
In January of 1936, another body appeared. Florence Polillo, a known barmaid who moonlighted as a prostitute, was partially stuffed into a basket and left near the Hart Manufacturing building on Central Avenue. Ten days later, the rest of her would be recovered, with the exception of her head, from an empty lot on Orange Avenue. Her cause of death was determined to be decapitation, as was the case in the two bodies found dumped near Jackass Hill. It was becoming clear to Cleveland Police that they had a serial killer on their hands.
The case of the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run was the first case to be immediately recognized as a the work of a serial killer within the United States. At the time, police were ill equipped to deal with crimes of this nature. Very little existed in terms of forensics and DNA testing. Only the victims who had their finger prints, provided they were able to recover their hands, within the Cleveland police’s records were able to be positively identified. Most of the Mad Butcher’s victims were drifters and as a result went unidentified. No one ever witnessed the murderer dumping the victims’ remains and with no suspects the body count continued to rise.
Three more decapitated bodies would be found in 1936. None of the victims would ever be identified. One man was nicknamed “The Tattooed Man”, since what remained of his body bore six distinctive tattoos. A death mask of the man would be made and shown at The Great Lakes Expo that year, but no one ever came forward to claim to the body or reported any knowledge of the man’s identity.
In 1937 the Mad Butcher would claim three more unidentified female victims. The first to be found, Jane Doe V, was discovered within the same area the Lady of the Lake had been uncovered nearly three years prior. Jane Doe VI –found dismembered in a burlap bag beneath the Lorain-Carnegie bridge– is believed to be a woman named Rose Wallace, but discrepancies between the perceived time of death and Rose Wallace’s disappearance raises questions on whether or not that is the woman’s true identity. Jane Doe VII was found decapitated and floating near the banks of the Flats, an area known today for its concert clubs and restaurants. Her head was never recovered.
By 1938, Ness, along with the Cleveland police force, was met with great criticism for their failure to produce a suspect in the case. With still no leads or a suspect in custody, the murderer racked up three more kills before disappearing as mysteriously as he came.