Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kingsbury Run Murders or Cleveland Torso Murders

A Brief Respite

In March, Gerber produced a summary of the seven victims. Oddly enough 1934's Lady of the Lake, was still not included in the official victim count. Like his predecessor Arthur Pearse, Gerber was convinced that all of the murders were committed by one individual. He considered the dissection of the corpses and the missing hands and heads a means for the killer to easily transport the body and to foil identification. After all, the last victim to be identified was Victim Three, Flo Polillo.

The killer was a right-handed man using a heavy, sharp knife. His knowledge of anatomy was clear. For the first time, the notion of a surgeon, medical student, male nurse or veterinarian was emphasized as well as a butcher or hunter. Gerber found the sex factor in the crimes difficult to evaluate and unique in the history of such crimes. The Mad Butcher appeared to be the first sexual psychopath on record at that time to murder members of both sexes.

Ness took an unprecedented step and contacted his newspaper friends with a special plea. Armed with advice from several important forensic psychiatrists, he urged the newspapers to significantly tone down the sensationalism about the recent murder. The carnival like atmosphere whipped up in the front-page headlines in 1936 was feeding the warped ego of this maniac, encouraging him to kill again. Not only that, the media-driven hysteria of the previous year had resulted in most of the police department chasing down worthless tips from well-meaning citizens. For months, it seemed to the police department that everybody knew the identity of the Mad Butcher: someone's eccentric cousin, the man next door, the guy down the street that kills chickens, etc.

The editors agreed to cooperate and began to abridge their coverage, beginning with Dr. Gerber's report. Gerber, a man with a sizeable ego himself, was furious with Ness for suppressing publicity. This was the beginning of a feud between the coroner's office and the safety director's office that only worsened with time.

Russell Lawer finds Victim 8 under bridge
Russell Lawer finds Victim 8 under bridge

The police and coroner had a brief respite until June 6, 1937 when a teenager named Russell Lawer had been watching the Coast Guard boats on the Cuyahoga River. On his way home, he made a gruesome discovery about 400 feet west of Stone's Levee under the fifth span of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge. Lying in a rotting burlap bag, along with a newspaper from June of the previous year, was the partial skeleton of a woman who had been dead approximately one year.

Gerber described Victim Eight as a tiny woman, no more than five feet tall with small, delicate bones. Even though her arms and legs were missing, there was a skull with extensive dental work: "On examination there is an extremely wide nasal aperture. The alveolar ridges are quite prominent with considerable prognathism. The texture of the bone here is quite fine. Due to this, the wide nasal aperture and the prominent alveolar prognathism together with the penchant for gold crowns prominently displayed on the teeth suggest the victim to be a Negro...In addition, there is a mass of black hair in a wig-like arrangement. This hair is kinky and curly with an occasional rusty hairpin. This type of hair suggests that belonging to a colored female."

There was "considerable hacking and cutting of the 3rd, 4th and 5th cervical vertebrae, but it was impossible to tell from the skeleton whether decapitation was the cause of death. The body had been treated with quicklime, which left very little flesh on the bones and had eroded much of the cartilage.

The skeleton had been wrapped in a piece of newspaper that carried an advertisement for a certain performance at the Palace Theater in June of 1936. Detective Orley May contacted the manager at the theater. The manager confirmed that the Nils T. Grantlund girls performed a review at the theatre in June of 1936 and that they were playing in New York City at the time this victim was discovered. He did not recall any of the girls missing from the company while they were in Cleveland.

The police were sent a letter referencing a long-dead dentist and proposing that the victim was a prostitute named Rose Wallace. After a lengthy investigation of Rose Wallace's life and her August 1936 disappearance, both Dr. Gerber and Sergeant Hogan rejected the identification. Detective Merylo however firmly believed the victim to be Rose.

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