Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Butcher victims Edward Andrassy and Florence Polillo

Real Name: Unrevealed, "The Butcher of Kingsbury Run," aka The Cleveland Torso Murderer
Case: Murder
Date: August 1935 to January 1938, January 15, 1947
Location: Cleveland, Ohio - Los Angeles, California


Details: The Butcher of Kingsbury Run was an unidentified serial killer who killed and dismembered at least twelve victims from among the homeless of Cleveland, Ohio, many of whom remain unidentified to this day. The murderer always beheaded and dismembered his victims, sometimes cutting the body in half. The case was investigated by Eliot Ness, then the Public Safety Director of Cleveland before entering the FBI.

Eliot ness1

Eliot Ness

The first two bodies were discovered in September 1935 in Kingsbury Run, which was a low-class area filled with prostitutes and homeless people. This case was initially dismissed as a routine double homicide. However, by the summer of 1936, three more mutilated bodies were found. When another body was found that fall, the city became frightened of a serial killer at large.
The total number of victims was confirmed to be twelve, but some suspected at least eighteen other murders in Cleveland might have been connected. The killer targeted society's outcasts, killing both men and women. Unfortunately, only two of the victims were identified: Edward Andrassy and Florence Polillo. All of the victims had been decapitated; in some cases, this occurred while they were still alive. Five were found in bodies of water, drained of their blood.
Ness devoted a large amount of time to investigate the case. However, it was much different than his Prohibition-era investigations. He made a possible profile of the assailant. He believed that the killer was a strong male that had medical knowledge. Ness avoided the need for warrants to search homes by pairing police detectives with fire officials. However, no evidence was found in any of the searched homes. He questioned and put surveillance on several different hospital and medical employees. Once again, he was unable to turn up a suspect.
In August 1938, the last two bodies were found, one in a garbage dump just a few hundred yards from Ness's office. It appeared as if the killer was taunting him. The citizens of Cleveland, of course were frightened of the killer at large. After the last murders, Ness rounded up dozens of transients in Kingsbury Run, hoping to find the killer. He even ordered the shantytown burned to the ground. However, this was unsuccessful and turned the public opinion away from him.
Ness later resigned from his position as Public Safety Director, but he never forgot about the unsolved murders. He died of a heart attack in 1957.
Suspects: Two men are disputed to be the real identity of the Butcher. One is Frank Dolezal, a Cleveland resident who was arrested in connection of the murder of Florence Polillo, a Butcher victim. He died under suspicious circumstances in the Cuyahoga County Jail.
Another suspect is Dr. Francis Sweeney, who institutionalized himself in 1938 after the last of the official Butcher victims. Ness had interviewed Sweeney, but believed he would never get a successful prosecution since Sweeney was the cousin of a political rival. Harassing Ness and his family with postcards until well into the 1950s, Sweeney passed away in a Dayton Veteran's Hospital in 1964.
Extra Notes: This segment first ran on Unsolved Mysteries in the February 20, 1991 episode.
Robert Stack, the host of Unsolved Mysteries, portrayed Eliot Ness in the TV series, "The Untouchables."
Results: Unsolved. Recent speculation suggests the Butcher may have traveled west and was the murderer of Elizabeth Short of the "Black Dahlia Murder Case." However, the theory has not been confirmed.