Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kingsbury Run Murders or Cleveland Torso Murders

The Tattooed Man

That Friday morning before the convention began, two young boys had set off to go fishing and took a shortcut through Kingsbury Run. They saw a pair of pants rolled up under a bush and when they poked at the bundle with their fishing pole, a man's head rolled out. Terrified, they ran back to the older boy's house and waited all day until his mother came home and called the police.

Later that afternoon, the police found the head and began a search for the man's body. The next morning they found the naked, headless corpse, almost directly in front of the Nickel Plate police office, hidden in some sumac bushes. Whoever had put it there seemed to be playing a grim joke on the railroad police, whose job it was to keep the area secure.

The Tattooed Man
The Tattooed Man

The victim had been a tall, slender man with a sensitive, handsome face, estimated to be in his mid-twenties. There were six distinctive tattoos on his body, which suggested he might have been a sailor: a cupid superimposed on an anchor; a dove under the words "Helen-Paul;" a butterfly; the cartoon figure "Jiggs"; an arrow through a heart and a standard of flags; and the initials "W.C.G." A pile of expensive bloodstained clothing was found near the body. On the pair of undershorts was a laundry mark indicating the owner's initials were J.D.

Even though he was found in the heart of the hobo country, the young man was probably not one of them. Unlike the hobos, he was clean-shaven, well nourished, and very well dressed in almost new clothing. As the police investigated, it seemed likely the man was killed somewhere else and brought to Kingsbury Run. For one thing, there was no evidence of blood soaked into the ground near the places where the head and body were laying. The body had been drained of blood and washed clean, an impossible task in that area of Kingsbury Run.

Coroner Pearse became distinctly uncomfortable when he examined the victim. Apparently, the man had been killed by act of decapitation itself, just like the prostitute murdered in January of 1936, two men found in Kingsbury Run the year before, and perhaps even that woman who washed up on the lakeshore back in 1934. Death by decapitation was a most difficult thing to do and very, very rare in the history of crime. Pearse saw a terrifying pattern emerging, even though the police wanted to ignore it.

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