Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kingsbury Run Murders or Cleveland Torso Murders

Enter Detective Peter Merylo

Detective Peter Merylo
Detective Peter Merylo

After this sixth victim, Ness allocated unprecedented resources to finding the killer. Among the many patrolmen and homicide detectives working on the case, the name of Peter Merylo is most often remembered as the key police figure. Merylo, a very intelligent but eccentric policeman with the ability to speak a number of European languages, began his career as a motorcycle cop. He was a short, stocky man who had the tenacity of a pit bull. Once an idea fixed itself in Merylo's mind, he worked it through to the end, even if it took eighty hours a week.

Homosexuality was illegal in Cleveland in the 1930's and Detective Merylo made a personal crusade out of ferreting out "perverts" and putting them behind bars. Allegedly, he had filled up a whole wing of the jail with the gay men. According to some of the police officials of that time, Merylo would hang around bars that had homosexual clientele and then follow two men who left the bar together. When they reached their destination, he would wait for awhile and then, when he felt that the men were in compromising situations, he would force his way into the residence or hotel and arrest them. Eventually, judges got wind of Merylo's enthusiastic techniques and were reluctant to try his cases.

Merylo did everything within his power to get assigned to the Kingsbury Run case full time. His persistence paid off and he was virtually dedicated to the case for years. He and his partner Martin Zalewski were making a career of the Mad Butcher. Nobody on the police force doubted Merylo's zeal in tracking down every potential suspect and clue. However, his methods, which included parading up and down Kingsbury Run in his longjohns in the moonlight to "bait" the killer, were a source of controversy and snide remarks.

No screwball escaped Merylo's scrutiny. Of the estimated ten thousand suspects who were interrogated in the four-year murder investigation, the weirdest were saved for Merylo. There was the "Chicken Freak," who hired naked prostitutes to behead chickens while he masturbated, and the "Voodoo doctor" with the "death ray," and the crazed giant who roamed Kingsbury Run with a large butcher knife. All these characters were hunted down, captured and given to Merylo to question. Some were criminals, others mental defectives, and still others were simply eccentric, down-at-the-heels vagrants.

With his round-the-clock adventures with the city's crazies, Merylo was a popular source for the newspaper reporters. The dedicated detective never felt constrained by protocol to have his remarks reviewed in advance by the higher ups in the police department. Consequently, Merylo's opinions were often published as though they represented the official police position, when often it was not the case. One official believed that Merylo was allowed to speculate to reporters so that his colorful stories and theories would distract the press from the lack of progress.

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