Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kingsbury Run Murders or Cleveland Torso Murders

A Single Killer?

By Sunday, the day before the convention was to start, stories of a psychopathic maniac on the loose were in every newspaper. Ness quietly met with Sergeant James Hogan, his newly appointed head of the Homicide Division, and David Cowles, the head of the crime lab. Ness wanted Hogan, the tall, white-haired veteran police detective, to give him the background on these decapitation murders that were filling the newspapers. Ness had already spoken to the coroner who mentioned four, possibly even five, decapitation murders going back as far as 1934.

Ness wanted to know if Hogan thought all the cases, including the Lady of the Lake and Flo Polillo, were connected. The veteran policeman was reluctant to voice too strong an opinion, in case Ness had an entirely different one.

The deaths of the three men found in Kingsbury Run seemed different, Hogan said. They had all been laid out where they were sure to be discovered in a day or two. There was a different pattern to the mutilations, too. Except for the emasculation of Andrassy and his companion, the bodies were whole from the neck down. But the two women, Hogan pointed out, Florence Polillo and the Lady of the Lake had been dismembered as well as decapitated and their bodies were not found in Kingsbury Run.

Then there was the issue of motive. Police science in the 1930's dictated that to solve a murder you tracked down everybody who had a motive for the killing until you had the person with the means and opportunity. The motives proposed for the Kingsbury Run double murder, whether it was jealousy, revenge or sexual deviation did not fit well if the victims were female.

Ness seemed lost in thought for several minutes, remembering the opinion that David Cowles had shared before Hogan had arrived. Cowles was convinced it was a single killer, but hadn't been able to get Hogan to agree. Hogan sat quietly, waiting for his boss to speak. "Jim, you've got a real problem on your hands," Ness concluded. "The same guy did them all. Too much similarity to be coincidental. Death by decapitation. The expert hand with a knife. Bodies all cleaned up and neat. I can't tell you why he kills women one way and men another, but it's the same man, I guarantee you."

Hogan had more sense than to argue with him. He didn't know the "Boy Wonder" well enough to know if he tolerated disagreement from subordinates. Hogan asked him if there was anything special he wanted done, now that he had come to the conclusion about a single murderer.

Ness was very clear in his instructions. There was to be absolutely no suggestion to the newspapers that they were looking for one murderer and absolutely no further information whatsoever while the convention was going on, otherwise visitors would be afraid to step outside their hotel rooms. After the effort Mayor Burton had gone to getting the convention to Cleveland, he would be furious if some lunatic spoiled it.

"Jim, I want you to do everything in your power to catch this maniac," he instructed Hogan. "Cowles, I know you'll put the crime lab at Jim's disposal."

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