Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kingsbury Run Murders or Cleveland Torso Murders

Hysteria

In mid-September of 1936, the American Legion Convention was just a few days away, providing a nice finale to a bustling summer after the Republican convention and the Great Lakes Expo. Cleveland was starting to fancy itself as having a great future as a convention town when the bold headlines in the afternoon papers reminded everybody that a grisly serial killer was still on the loose.

The spotlight was once again on Kingsbury Run where on September 10, a hobo sat near E. 37th Street waiting for an eastbound freight. There in an oily, coffee-colored stagnant pool, he saw two halves of a human torso floating in the water.

Detective Orley May responded accompanied by Detective Emil Musil. "We learned that the torso was discovered by Jerry Harris of St. Louis and who was sitting on the pier alongside the creek, who noticed the two pieces of the torso, who then notified the police. The torso was then removed from the creek and was sent to the County Morgue. A search was immediately begun alongside of the creek and the weeds for the balance of the body. The fire rescue squad was then called and the creek was dragged with grappling hooks with a view of recovering the remainder of the body in the outlet of this creek which comes out of a tunnel at this point, at which point the body was dumped over and small portions of flesh were found on a ledge where the torso struck when it was thrown over the edge into the creek. We were unable to recover any portions of the body with the grappling hooks so we proceeded in using ceiling hooks and we recovered two legs below the knee. We then continued to search further...and recovered the right thigh. I then searched the woods and picked up a gray felt hat, rather dirty, which appeared to have blood spots on the top and a small black band which had the label Laudy's Smart Shop, Bellevue, Ohio. A blue work shirt was found wrapped in newspaper along the bank of the creek where the body was thrown into the creek. The shirt was covered with blood."

Police drag pool for Victim Five
Police drag pool for Victim Five

Hundreds of morbidly curious spectators crowded around to watch the cops drag the pool for the victim's head. Hogan could feel the hysteria growing among the people who lived in small, clapboard homes perched on the rim of Kingsbury Run. If the afternoon papers were any indicators, he and Ness would never be able to keep a low profile on this latest murder. The papers had already found a name for this fiend: The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.

Later that day, Hogan talked to the coroner who confirmed that death occurred a day or two earlier by expert decapitation. The victim this time was a white man between 25 and 30 years old, medium height and muscular build with traces of light brown hair on his body. That night, the sergeant and twelve of his detectives stayed up very late trying unsuccessfully to match the victim's description with missing persons files.

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