Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kingsbury Run Murders or Cleveland Torso Murders

Dr. Francis Sweeney

Dr. Francis Edward Sweeney was born in 1894 into an impoverished Irish family who lived on the East Side of Cleveland at the edge of Kingsbury Run. Tragedy marked Frank's early life. His father had been badly injured in an accident and his mother had died of a stroke when he was nine, leaving him and his several siblings to eke out a most frugal existence.

Despite the family's poverty, Frank was determined to make a success of himself. His very high intelligence and strong work ethic allowed Frank to work his way through undergraduate work, pharmacy school and medical school, all the while holding down full-time jobs. His classmates in medical school elected him vice president of his sophomore class and his professors recommended him without reservation.

After decades of exhausting effort, he graduated from medical school in St. Louis in 1928 and became a surgical resident at St. Alexis hospital in the Kingsbury Run area. His siblings remembered him as a man who was almost completely absorbed in science and medicine. Even so, he would stop what he was doing and immediately attend to a family member who was injured or sick. His concern for the health of his siblings and their children endeared him to them. They all respected his intelligence and medical expertise.

Sweeney's expertise as a surgical resident allowed him to become a protégé of the highly respected teaching physician, Dr. Carl Hamann. Sweeney seemed to have a very promising career ahead of him. He had a dark-haired Slavic beauty for a wife and two young sons. The many years of hardship and deprivation were becoming distant memories him and his young family.

Unfortunately for Frank, just at the eve of his hard-earned achievement, destructive pressures were building inside of him. Overwork and a hereditary tendency towards alcoholism and psychosis began taking an obvious toll on his health. He was admitted to City Hospital for alcoholism, but the treatment was unsuccessful. The drinking worsened and his marriage and career began to disintegrate. He was violent and abusive at home and the hospital severed its relationship with him. Eventually, his wife filed for divorce in 1936, seeking custody of the children and an order restraining him from "visiting, interfering, or molesting her."

According to his wife, Dr. Sweeney had begun to drink continuously two years after their marriage in July of 1927 and remained in a state of habitual drunkenness until their separation in September of 1934. Cowles took particular note of timing of Sweeney's deterioration which seemed to reach a climax just about the time that the Lady of the Lake, the probable first victim in the murder series, washed up on the shores of Lake Erie on September 5, 1934.

Some of Sweeney's problems may have been genetic; others caused by an injury during World War I and some by overwork. Alcoholism ran in Frank's family and had gripped both Frank and his father. Mental illness was also a factor. His father spent the last years of his life in an asylum suffering from what was loosely termed "psychosis." He received a severe head injury in France during World War I and was subsequently awarded a partial disability pension.

Other facts made Sweeney a compelling suspect as far as Cowles was concerned. Dr. Sweeney was born, raised and spent most of his life in the Kingsbury Run area. He knew that savage ravine intimately from his boyhood explorations. Dr. Sweeney was a large and strong man, certainly powerful enough to carry Edward Andrassy and his unidentified companion down the steep, rugged embankment of Jackass Hill in Kingsbury Run. Clearly Dr. Sweeney had the medical knowledge to perform so many expert decapitations and dismemberments. Finally, Dr. Sweeney's alleged bisexuality could possibly explain why The Mad Butcher chose men and women victims, whereas most sex crimes were directed at one sex or the other.

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