Mad Butcher of Fayette County
Between 1962-1964, Fayette County, WV had their own Mad Butcher on their hands. Seven people, including Army Sergeant James Lee Haynes, had gone missing. Three of those people would later be found hacked to bits and scattered along the side of the highway. Like the Mad Butcher in Cleveland, no killer was ever convicted of the murders. In an uncanny turn of events, one man was implicated in the crime, but he had himself committed to a mental institution until his death.
This case is severely lacking in credible information, but it would appear that these murders are only similar to Cleveland’s Mad Butcher murders in name alone. Though some have connected the two cases, there is no evidence supporting any link between the crimes, based on what little information is available.
The Black Dahlia Connection
Chief of Police Matowitz:
You can rest easy now, as I have come to sunny California for the winter. I felt bad operating on those people, but science must advance. I shall astound the medical profession, a man with only a D.C. What did their lives mean in comparison to hundreds of sick and disease-twisted bodies? Just laboratory guinea pigs found on any public street. No one missed them when I failed. My last case was successful. I know now the feeling of Pasteur, Thoreau and other pioneers. Right now I have a volunteer who will absolutely prove my theory. They call me mad and a butcher, but the truth will out. I have failed but once here. The body has not been found and never will be, but the head, minus the features, is buried on Century Boulevard, between Western and Crenshaw. I feel it my duty to dispose of the bodies as I do. It is God’s will not to let them suffer.
– Letter to the Cleveland Press January 1939
Perhaps the most interesting case linked to the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run is the murder of Elizabeth Short, better known as “the Black Dahlia”. In January of 1947, Short’s mutilated body had been discovered lying in an empty lot in LA. Large slits were made to the corners of the young woman’s mouth, referred to as a Glasgow smile or a Chelsea Grin, and her body had been sliced in half with surgical precision. There was also evidence that she had been sexually abused and tortured before her death.
It would seem that the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run and the murder of the Black Dahlia would have no connection what-so-ever, if it hadn’t been for an interesting note sent to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, claiming that the Butcher had moved to “sunny California” in order to revive his career. Some have speculated that if Sweeney was the killer, as Ness believed, then he would be able to leave the mental institution he committed himself to at any time, making it entirely possible that he fled to California for a period before returning to Ohio and settling into the Dayton VA hospital he later died at in the 1950s.
Other experts believe that both the Mad Butcher and the Black Dahlia’s killer could be linked to another man, Jack Anderson Wilson. Wilson was originally a butcher from Canton, Ohio. According to William T. Rasmussen’s Corroborating Evidence: The Black Dahlia Murder, Rasmussen claims that not only was Wilson a sexual deviant and serial killer, but he had been popping up in areas where similar murders occurred including the Cleveland torso murders, as well as a Chicago murder involving a 6-year-old who was kidnapped from her bedroom, strangled, dismembered, and discarded in a sewage drain.
According to witnesses, a woman resembling Elizabeth Short was in Chicago reporting on the murder. Some have alleged that Short was a bit of a true crime buff and that she may have went to California in order to follow Wilson, resulting her murder for “knowing too much”.
This theory seems to make a lot of vague connections between speculative evidence and dismisses the possibility that the murderer responsible for Short’s death could have heard about the torso murders – considering it was national news at the time – and decided to pull off a copy cat murder in the same vein. It also dismisses the fact that Short was so poor she resorted to prostitution in order to make ends meet, making it highly unlikely that she was using all of her available funds in order to follow a killer across the country, when she could hardly afford proper dental work for her eroding teeth prior to her murder.
Wilson was originally named by another author, John Gilmore in his book Severed. It is believed that Rasmussen began his research based on Gilmore’s book, but failed to note that Gilmore’s book is full of inconsistencies. One researcher on the Black Dahlia case called Gilmore’s book “25% mistakes and 50% fiction, full of people who do not exist and things that never happened”.
While Rasmussen offers a compelling and interesting theory, it is in this writer’s opinion that he is trying desperately to link two cases that were more than likely completely unrelated.
The Torso Murders, though never solved, eventually became just another part of Cleveland’s grisly history. Eleven years had past since the final decapitated body was discovered and investigators were no closer to identifying the killer than they were on day one. Ness moved on to Washington to work on the war effort after resigning as Safety Director, eventually returning to Cleveland in 1947 to run as mayor. He lost and decided to retire in Pennsylvania, where he would later die in 1957.
Little mention had been made of the killer outside of true crime and amateur sleuth circles until the death of a man named Robert Robinson ended in one final suspect being linked to this bizarre case. briefly mentioned in Steven Nickel’s book Torso: The Story of Eliot Ness and the Search for a Psycopathic Killer, he is known only as “The Sunbather”.
A few steel mill workers noticed that every day a heavyset man, approximately in his late 40s or early 50s, would remove his shirt and lie out on the rooftop on a nearby building in order to sunbathe. When the remains Robert Robinson’s dismembered body were disposed of outside of a nearby building the sunbather was never seen again. Nickel and other experts chalk the sunbather’s disappearance up as a strange coincidence. Furthermore, even if the Sunbather was responsible for Robinson’s death, there is no evidence to support that the Mad Butcher was actively killing after 1941, making the man a copycat at best.
It is safe to say that we will probably never know who the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run really was or what his motive for murdering people in such a grisly fashion was. Perhaps Ness was right all along and Dr. Sweeney had murdered all those people and if it wasn’t, then what would make the Butcher suddenly lose interest in killing? Questions which we will never really know the answer to. The Torso Murders, like Eliot Ness, is just another story from Cleveland’s rich and colorful history. One that will take you down a deep dark rabbit hole and make you begin to wonder if perhaps it had even happened at all.