Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kingsbury Run Murders or Cleveland Torso Murders

The Case Lives On

Despite some superficial similarities to other murders in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York State, as well as the Black Dahlia murder in California years later, the Kingsbury Run murders came to an official end in 1938. Cleveland police officials examined the forensic evidence of these other murders outside Cleveland, but there was never anything of substance to prove that the Cleveland serial killer was responsible for murders anywhere else. If Dr. Gerber, who distinguished himself across the country from the work he did on this case, did not accept the forensic evidence then from the similar murders outside Cleveland, then it is hard to justify including it today.

Even though the murders officially ended in 1938, the hunt for the killer continued. Detective Peter Merylo made a career out of hunting the killer and was eager to tie similar murders to the same person. In retrospect, he was merely one of many people who became obsessed with the case, including this writer.

On a more serious note, Sheriff Martin L. O'Donnell, allied to the Sweeney family by the marriage of his son to Congressman Martin L. Sweeney's daughter, proposed his own solution to the case. O'Donnell, the man who succeeded "Honest John" Sulzman as sheriff of Cuyahoga County, hired a private detective to investigate the murders.

While it is not clear when Martin L. Sweeney found out, he was eventually aware that his cousin had been a suspect in the Kingsbury Run murders. One individual close to Ness suggested that Martin L. Sweeney persuaded O'Donnell to find a plausible suspect for the murders to deflect rumors swirling around Dr. Sweeney. It is conceivable that together O'Donnell and Martin L Sweeney developed the plan that turned into the "Dolezal case."

Frank Dolezal between Sheriff's deputies
Frank Dolezal between Sheriff's deputies

A few months after Dr. Sweeney had himself admitted into the Sandusky veteran's hospital, Sheriff O'Donnell hired a private detective, Pat Lyons, to investigate the Kingsbury Run murders. After many months, Lyons focused on a middle-aged alcoholic named Frank Dolezal. Supposedly Lyons had found a tavern that had been frequented by Andrassy and Polillo. Dolezal was another patron of this particular saloon.

The sheriff had his men search a room, which Dolezal had previously rented and they found stains on the floor and on a knife. Lyons had his chemist brother analyze the stains and the results came back that they were human blood.

Meanwhile, Cleveland Detective Peter Merylo got wind of this investigation of a Dolezal, a suspect that Merylo had already investigated and rejected. O'Donnell wanted to move fast before the Cleveland police could interfere with his suspect, so he had Dolezal arrested July 5, 1939. After a rough night with the sheriff's jailer Michael Kilbane, Dolezal "confessed" to the murder of Flo Polillo. Kilbane had a reputation for cruelty, so "Gentleman" Harry Brown, not Kilbane, officially took the confession.

Dolezal (left) with Officials
Dolezal (left) with Officials

Claiming that he and Flo had a fight, Dolezal said she went at him with a butcher knife. To defend himself, he hit her and she fell against a bathtub. Assuming that she was dead, he cut her up and carried part of her to the alley in which she was found. Her head and other parts of her body he supposedly dumped into Lake Erie.

There was other "evidence" against Dolezal. Lyons had heard that a young woman who was also an alcoholic had a suspicious encounter with Dolezal. Lyons took a bottle of cheap whiskey when he went to interview the woman. There was still some whiskey left when she claimed that Dolezal had come at her with a knife and she jumped out of a second story window to escape him. Miraculously, she had only broken the heel on her shoe in this daring escape.

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