THE CLEVELAND TORSO MURDERS
By Tim Lambert
Between 1935 and 1938 there were a series of unsolved murders in Cleveland, Ohio. There were at least twelve victims. Some of them were identified. The torso murderer always cut the heads off his victims.
On 5 September 1934 a female torso was found on the shore of Lake Erie. The head was missing and it was never found. The body had been treated with a chemical. The dead woman was never identified but she was dubbed 'The Lady of the Lake'. She may have been the first victim of the Cleveland Torso murderer.
In the city of Cleveland, Ohio was a ravine called Kingsbury Run. During the Depression of the 1930s it was wasteland with weeds and bushes but also with shanty towns. On 23 September 1935 two boys found a mans body in Kingsbury Run. The body was naked and its head was missing. When the police arrived they found there were actually two bodies. Both victims had their heads cut off. Both men had also been emasculated.
One victim was an middle aged man who had been dead for at least three weeks. His skin was discolored by some chemical. He was never identified. The other victim was a younger man who had been dead for about two days. From his fingerprints he was identified as Edward Andrassy aged 29.
Edward Andrassy left home on 19 September 1935 without saying where he was going. After that he disappeared until he was found in Kingsbury Run on 23 September. The police investigation failed to catch the torso murderer.
Then on 26 January 1936 a woman found parts of a woman's body in baskets in East Twentieth Street near Kingsbury Run in Cleveland. The woman's head was missing. Fingerprints were taken from her hand and she was identified as a 41 year old prostitute named Florence Polillo. She had been dead between two and four days. Other parts of her body were found on 7 February. The pathologist was able to say the cause of death was decapitation.
On 5 June 1936 two boys found a human head wrapped in a pair of pants in Kingsbury Run. The body was later found in bushes about a quarter of a mile away. The victim was a young man with tattoos but he was never identified. On 22 July 1936 another victim was found in the west side of Cleveland. A man had been decapitated and his head was lying near his body. The man was never identified. (This was the depression era when many men wandered the country in search of work living in makeshift homes. Such men could be very hard to identify if they were murdered). On 10 September 1936 part of the body of a man cut in two was found in Kingsbury Run. Again the victim was a young man killed by decapitation. The head and the lower body were missing. He was never identified. The Cleveland torso murders were now making headlines across the world.
The next victim of the Cleveland torso murderer was a woman. Part of her body was found on the shore of Lake Erie on 23 February 1937. Like the other victims she had been decapitated. Her head was never found. On 6 June 1937 a partial skeleton of a woman was found under the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge. She had been dead about a year. Her identity is not certain but she may have been Rose Wallace.
On 6 July 1937 part of the body of a man was found floating in the Cuyahoga River. He was never identified. Then on 8 April 1938 a woman's leg was found floating in the Cuyahoga River. Police later found other parts of her body but not her head. She too was never identified. Finally on 16 August 1938 two bodies, a male and female were found on a dump on East Ninth Street.
The Cleveland Torso Murders Stop
The police were unable to to catch the Cleveland torso murder. The killer was choosing his victims from among vagrants and down-and-outs. So finally the police, led by Eliot Ness made a mass raid on the shanty towns. Hundreds of vagrants were arrested. The police then burned down their hovels so they could not return. The Cleveland torso murders then stopped.
Two men were arrested in 1939. On 5 July 1939 a man named Frank Dolezal was arrested for the murder of Flo Polillo. He confessed to killing her but he later withdrew his confession. Dolezal was never brought to trial. He died in jail on 24 August 1939 in suspicious circumstances. A doctor named Frank Sweeney was interrogated but there was not enough evidence to prosecute him. The Cleveland torso murders are still unsolved.
Earle Nelson, the Gorilla Murderer
Elizabeth Short, The Black Dahlia