Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kingsbury Run Murders or Cleveland Torso Murders

Flo Polillo

Flo Polillo
Flo Polillo

The Bertillon department came back with the identity of the murdered woman. Florence Saudy Polillo, age 42. She was a moderately stout woman with dyed reddish hair and a fair complexion. Her pleasant features reflected her Irish-American heritage.

Detectives Orley May and his partner Emil Musil did much of the investigation into Flo Polillo's life. She had been arrested a couple of times in Cleveland and Washington, D.C., for prostitution which was why the police had her fingerprints on file.

As May and Musil made their rounds from her landlady to friends and acquaintances, a sad sordid story emerged. Flo was a friendly woman, liked by most people who knew her. Her landlady liked her very much, remarking that Flo had been very kind to her three daughters. Flo had a very extensive doll collection in her modest room and let her landlady's girls play with the dolls frequently.

But Flo had a serious drinking problem and she became aggressive and combative when she had too much to drink. For whatever reason, she drifted into relationships that were abusive, ending up on crutches and with swollen, blackened eyes from the beatings she took at the hands of her lovers.

It hadn't always been that way. In fact, she had a decent husband once. He drove from Buffalo, N.Y., to Cleveland to give a statement to police. Andrew Polillo was a forty-year-old respectable man employed as a mail handler for the U.S. Postal System. They were married in the early 1920's and stayed together for six years. Then Flo started to drink heavily and left Andrew to "get herself straightened out." Instead she drifted from man to man, resorting to temporary waitressing jobs and prostitution to earn a living.

In Cleveland, her associates were at the very bottom of society whorehouse madams, prostitutes, bootleggers, pimps, drug addicts and tavern keepers. All of them knew her, most of them liked her, but none of them had any idea what happened to her the weekend she died.

The meager forensic evidence found with her body was just as silent as her friends were on the circumstances of her death. The police traced the burlap bags in which her body was found, but nothing of value came from that avenue of investigation.

On February 7, 1936, the rest of Flo's body, with the exception of her head, was found behind a vacant house, scattered haphazardly against a fence. The cold spell had kept the body parts remarkably well preserved. It was from this upper torso and thorax that Dr. Pearse announced his chilling discovery. Flo Polillo was decapitated. The muscles in her neck were retracted which meant that the severing of her head was the cause of death.

Like the investigations of the Lady of the Lake, Edward Andrassy and his unidentified companion, the flurry of police activity surrounding Flo Polillo's murder soon died down as the clues and leads dried up. Certainly a few officials speculated that three, and a possible fourth, decapitation deaths was very unusual over an 18-month period, but nobody officially tied these murders together as the work of one killer.

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