Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kingsbury Run Murders or Cleveland Torso Murders

The Horror Ends

Ness had difficulty reconciling the smooth-talking, highly intelligent surgeon with the homicidal maniac that he had come to know as the "Mad Butcher." "It seems incredible to me that someone with his brains and education could be the monster we're looking for. Let me go in and talk to him for a half-hour or so. Afterwards, I'd like Leonard to retest him just to make sure.

Ness went into the bedroom, closed the door and sat on the bed opposite the doctor.

"Well?" Sweeney asked. "Are you satisfied now?" A huge grin spread across his face. He stood up and looked out of the window.

"Yes," Ness said thoughtfully. "I think you're the killer."

Sitting on the bed, Ness became even more aware of the man's hulking size.

Sweeney's bulk covered most of the window. He whirled around toward Ness and sneered. "You think?" He advanced towards Ness, who steeled himself for an attack. He leaned down and put his face a few inches from Ness. "Then prove it!" he hissed.

Shaken, Ness got up from the bed and opened the door. "Cowles," he called. No one answered. "Grossman?" he called louder. Still no one answered. His words seemed to echo in the empty parlor. He was alone with this madman.

Sweeney smiled knowingly. "Looks like they all went to lunch."

Ness went to the phone quickly, tracked down his colleagues in the coffee shop, and suggested that Cowles get back to the suite immediately. Years later, Ness would confess to his wife that never in all of his dangerous career had he ever felt as threatened as he did when he was alone with Dr. Sweeney.

That afternoon, Dr. Keeler retested Sweeney several times, always with the same result. The men were left with the conclusion that Sweeney was the killer, but they only had circumstantial evidence. Ness was certain that he could never get a conviction with what they had on Sweeney, especially with his high-profile cousin involved. Ness realized that he could always choose to have the doctor followed constantly, but the physician had already shown that he could evade the surveillance

What exactly happened next is shrouded in mystery to this day. The only thing that is clear is that Dr. Sweeney admitted himself to the Sandusky veterans' hospital two days after the interrogation. From August 25, 1938 until his death in 1965, Sweeney went from one hospital to another, both state mental hospitals and veterans' hospitals, in various parts of the country. He was not a prisoner and could leave the hospital voluntarily for days and months at a time. However, at least in the Sandusky hospital, there was a note attached to his records insisting that if the doctor ever left the hospital grounds that the hospital was to immediately notify the police in Sandusky and Cleveland. In October of 1955, Dr. Sweeney was committed to the Dayton veteran's hospital for the remaining decade of his life. Still, he was free to wander around the neighborhood, writing prescriptions for himself and his friends, until the hospital campaigned with the local pharmacists to cut off his drug supply.

What is unknown is why Dr. Sweeney admitted himself to the hospital and why he voluntarily stayed institutionalized for the most of the rest of his life. Did Congressman Martin L. Sweeney get involved and work out some kind of deal with Ness? Did Sweeney's sisters urge him to get help and spare him and them all the humiliation of an eventual arrest and trial? Did Sweeney feel that the police were too close and put an end to his killing spree? Or was this man, who Eliot Ness firmly believed to be the Mad Butcher, really an innocent nut who got his kicks from playing with the police?

As Frank Sweeney's alcoholism worsened, his sense of humor became more bizarre. One of his family members speculated that he hid his natural melancholy with his humor. When he was at the veteran's hospital in Dayton, Ohio, he sent a series of strange and incomprehensible, jeering postcards to Eliot Ness. Despite Frank's bizarre postcards, his siblings never believed that Frank was capable of violence. They saw him as a tragic figure who had everything within his grasp and then lost it all, a brilliant man, destroyed by alcoholism and his own demons.

The serial killings officially stopped in 1938. The last victim, the so-called Victim Ten, was killed in April of 1938 even though remains of so-called Victims Eleven and Twelve were found in mid-August of that year.

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