OH OH/PA - Kingsbury Run Murders, Cleveland OH/New Castle PA, 1930's

Discussion in 'Serial Killers' started by Dexter Mills, Oct 10, 2005.

  1. Dexter Mills

    Dexter Mills New Member

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    Hello, everyone. This is my first post on this forum. I wanted to take a moment to greet you all and say I’m glad to be here.

    My first post is in regards to the unsolved Kingsbury Run killings in Cleveland in the 1930’s. This case has fascinated me since I was a child. The mystery, since the perpetrator was never caught, and the unnerving level of violence present in the murders. I’ve posted a couple link below in case anyone is unfamiliar with the case.

    http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/unsolved/kingsbury/index_1.html

    Here’s a good fictional account of the case as well.

    http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/unsolved/diary/index_1.html

    The best resource on the case IMO is “In The Wake Of The Butcher” by James Jessen Badal. He reaches no conclusion about who the Butcher may have been but present several possibilities and lets the reader make their own choice. It was while reading his book that I first became aware of the killings that took place in and around New Castle, Pennsylvania during the same period. The similarities are quite peculiar.

    The Cleveland cases featured expert decapitation and dismemberment, in some occasions while the victim may have been conscious. All victims were from the lower rungs of society. Indeed, only two were ever identified, Edward Andrassy and Florence Polillo. The others were given numbers and nicknames (the Tattooed Man) in lieu of names. The series lasted roughly between 1934 and 1938.

    In 1921, an elderly woman was attacked in her West Pittsburg, Pennsylvania home and virtually beheaded. Her house was next to some railroad tracks that ran through an empty, swampy no-mans-land. Two years later, pieces of a young girl’s body were found in a nearby river. Over the years, headless and chopped up bodies would turn up in what New Castle locals called the “Murder Swamp.” On one occasion, two victims has been arranged in grotesque positions at the edge of the swamp, with their heads partially buried nearby. By 1934, public furor reached a fevered pitch, and a large search party scoured the area for clues. The grisly killings stopped, but then, vivisected corpses began turning up in Cleveland.

    Between 1939 and 1942, more bodies were found in and around the Murder Swamp in New Castle. An especially frightening case was when three bodies were found in abandoned railroad cars near McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania in May 1940. Three men beheaded. Only one identified, James Nicholson, a minor criminal and occasional male prostitute. One of the victims had the word “NAZI” carved into his flesh. The heads were never recovered. The final victim in the New Castle series was found in the fall of 1942 besides some railroad tracks, decapitated and unidentified, like so many others.
    The one piece of the puzzle that doesn’t fit is Robert Robertson, a derelict was beheaded in Cleveland in the summer of 1950. The victim and murder meet the criteria of the previous crimes. Where was the killer for almost a decade? Was the same person responsible?

    Cleveland detective Peter Merylo, chief investigator on the case, became convinced that the same individual was responsible for both series of killings. With the exception of one butchery in the summer of 1936, they dovetailed perfectly. Merylo believed the killer rode the trains, either as a worker or a hobo, and performed the murders in empty railroad cars.

    The similarities between the Cleveland and New Castle cases are numerous;

    1- Expert decapitation and dissection.

    2- Victims from lower rungs of society.

    3- Bodies found near railroad tracks and out of the way places.

    4- Kingsbury Run and the Murder Swamp are near carbon copies of each other.

    5- Some victims heads buried (New Castle in 1920’s, Victim No.1 and Andrassy in Cle.)

    6- Some victims tossed in pieces into river (New Castle, 1923, Victim No.9, 1937, Cle.)

    7- Body parts covered by outdated newspapers in numerous cases in both locales.

    8- In both places, the killer arranged some victims in macabre displays (See point 5)

    9- Female victims in both cases completely dismembered and casually tossed away.

    Much is made of Eliot Ness’s secret interrogation of a top suspect in Cleveland, who was in all probability, Dr. Francis Sweeney. He is detailed in the links I provided. The question remains, if Sweeney was the Kingsbury Run butcher, who committed the New Castle murders? Is it possible the doctor did them? Extremely unlikely. He had no known connection to New Castle, PA or the surrounding area, and was in medical school in St. Louis and in practice in Cleveland through the first series. It is possible two different men, unknown to each other, had the same specific psychosis, which entailed such gruesome murder?

    The interrogation and surveillance of Sweeney persuades me that Eliot Ness and the rest of the investigators were grasping at straws, fixating on the best possible suspect, a disturbed doctor who lived near Kingsbury Run who probably got great enjoyment out of playing cat-and-mouse with the police for his own twisted reasons. Indeed, he sent strange postcards to Ness for years while a patient in various mental facilities.

    Notably, Eliot Ness and Peter Merylo did not get along, probably due to the latter’s belief that all murders in Ohio and Pennsylvania were done by the same person. Ness and other poo-poohed these theories (as does Crime Library author Marilyn Bardsley.)

    My personal opinion is that the Kingsbury Run and New Castle murders were indeed committed by the same person, a person who was not Dr. Francis Sweeney. There are just too many similarities to disabuse the notion for me. What happened to the killer? A man with this warped a pathology doesn’t decide to stop. He won’t stop until he’s locked up or dead. Given the late 1942 cut-off date, it’s possible he enlisted in the armed forces and was killed in World War II. Possibly he was locked away in prison or an institution.

    The clue to his identity may lie with the very first elderly woman, killed in West Pittsburg back in 1921. Did the killer know her? She was murdered in her home, (none of the other victims would be found in a private residence) which suggests she knew the killer. Her head was not quite removed from her head, it hung on by a strand of flesh. This suggests her killer was a novice who had not removed a human head before. I’d personally like to know more about her, and about the New Castle murders in general. The only information I’ve found on them is in Badal’s book.
    In summation, I think that we have a person who was extremely disturbed and dangerous, who killed far more often than people realize (a body count in the mid-20’s in Ohio and Pennsylvania,) and who got away due to the fact that he was before his time, and law enforcement was familiar with the type of criminal we now call the serial killer.

    I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on this subject, or if anyone knows anything more about the murders in and around New Castle, PA between 1921 and 1942. Thank you for reading.

     
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  3. Marilynilpa

    Marilynilpa New Member

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    Wow, what an interesting mystery! I have heard about the Cleveland killings, but not those in New Castle, PA (which is near where I live, Pittsburgh, PA).

    I am going to read up on these cases and do a little research to see what I can find about them. Very intriguing!

    Edited to add: I have searched for this on NewspaperArchives.com and came up with a lot of information. It appears as many as 24 murders are attributed to the "Kingsbury Slayer" a/k/a the Mad Butcher. I will try to follow up on each murder, which will take a while, but please check back here periodically as I will post what I find out.

    I do know that most of the bodies were found near railroad tracks, which is why is has been speculated the killer might have been a drifter riding the rails. I'm not sure if I agree with that, but will have to investigate more.
     
  4. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    Welcome to the forum. Your post is very interesting and your theory is an intriguing one. I had posted a thread some time back about the unidentified Tatooed Man found in Cleveland, and included some info on Elliott Ness (the same G-man who formed the Untouchables earlier) who was at the time Cleveland's Chief of Public Safety. You provide some very interesting food for thought.
     
  5. Marilynilpa

    Marilynilpa New Member

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    As usual, I am intrigued by an old mystery! The newspapers at the time ran several stories about these deaths, as they made for sensational headlines.

    I've read your other thread about Elliott Ness, and found that to be very interesting. I believe there is also something about this on the Crime Library website, I'll have to look to see what that link is.

    It certainly seems these murders are all connected, at least the manner of death seems to be the same. But again, since the stories received so much coverage, it's possible there was a copycat out there.

    I don't live all that far from New Castle, PA, and may take a drive there some weekend soon to look at this "murder swamp".
     
  6. Dexter Mills

    Dexter Mills New Member

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    Dear Richard and Marilyn, thanks for your comments! I also read the thread on the "Tattooed Man." Out of all the unidentified Kingsbury Run victims, he is the most enigmatic. The tattoos, his head was recovered, etc. But with all that to work with, he still remains anonymous. It's certainly possible that the two sets of murders were done by different people, but my gut tells me otherwise. I've never been to New Castle before, and it's tough for me to travel due to work, etc. This winter, however, I'm spending a month with family in Detroit, and I plan on making a trip there. It's not terribly far away (400 miles) and I plan on investigating much more fully. If you find out anything else, I'd like to say thanks in advance!
     
  7. Marilynilpa

    Marilynilpa New Member

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    I pulled up a lot of articles about these "torso murders" last night. I was interested to read that some people feel the Black Dahlia murder is linked to these torso murders. However, that seems to be a minority opinion, and from what I can tell there is no evidence to really connect the two.

    A conservative estimate of "torso murders" is 24, with some people speculating there could have been as many as 40.

    There have also been at least three books written about this subject. I'm going to see if they are still in print and, if they are, I'll order them and see what those authors have to say.

    Thanks for posting this most intriguing mystery!
     
  8. Marilynilpa

    Marilynilpa New Member

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  9. camracrazy

    camracrazy New Member

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    That article was interesting. It was from 2003, so they should have the results by now. Was there ever a followup article?
     
  10. camracrazy

    camracrazy New Member

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  11. camracrazy

    camracrazy New Member

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  12. Marilynilpa

    Marilynilpa New Member

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    Thanks for your follow-up, I got interrupted before I had a chance to look into the DNA testing.

    I'm researching newspaper articles about the "torso murders" in New Castle, PA. These murder victims appear to lack the chemical preservative found on the skin of some of the Cleveland victims. It also appears that in at least one of the New Castle murders, that of an unidentified female, an attempt was made to burn the body. The word "Nazi" was carved into the back of one of the two male murder victims found in New Castle. At least preliminarily, it looks like the New Castle murders may have been committed by someone else.

    But I'm early into this research, so who knows what further delving will unearth?
     
  13. camracrazy

    camracrazy New Member

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    I got the book : "In the Wake of the Butcher: Cleveland's Torso Murders"
    at the library yesterday. I haven't read it yet, but skimming through it I noticed in the "Suspects" section they talk about The Kentucky Butcher. It doesn't give the man's name, but says he was from Maysville, Kentucky, and commited a murder there that was very similar to the Kingsland Run murders. This man had relatives in Cleveland and was in the city at the time of the murders. Any way we could find out his name?
     
  14. Marilynilpa

    Marilynilpa New Member

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    I'm rushed for time right now, but next week I can do some research on NewspaperArchive.com. If I put in "Kentucky Butcher", I'm sure something will come up with his name on it. I'll post that info here next week, unless someone does it before I get around to it!
     
  15. camracrazy

    camracrazy New Member

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    I am about halfway finished with the book, and noticed something interesting. Martin L. Sweeney, a Democratic congressman from Cleveland's Twentieth District, was openly critical of Eliot Ness and Mayor Burton (who was aparently a Republican). He made a speech against them on March 6, 1937 in front of the League of Independent Voters accusing both men of wasting time with other police matters when they should be putting the whole force on the torso murders. He and Dr Francis Edward Sweeney (Eliot Ness's prime suspect) were cousins. I wonder if Ness targeted Dr. Sweeney because of the bad publicity his cousin Martin was spreading around, or if Martin and Francis were somehow in on the murders together to gain some kind of political advantage?
     
  16. Nore

    Nore New Member

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    -----------
    Hi, I just sent an email to Investigators at Newsnet5..I asked if they knew of any plans to update this case.It was originally shown on Akron channel45.Maybe they can find something out.I am hoping.I do remember either reading or seeing something on tv about this case a while back, could have been the program with Robert Stack as host~(senior moment~forgot name~ I watch it all the time).LOL Anyway I do remember it being said they suspected someone from a wealthy family.From the conditions of the bodies they suspected it could have been a Doctor or a Med. student.I was only 2years old when this started.
     
  17. Marilynilpa

    Marilynilpa New Member

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    I could only find one reference in a newspaper to the "Kentucky Butcher" pertaining to a murder.

    TRIED FOR SLAYING FRIEND



    Kentucky Butcher-Preacher Charged with Murder of a Fellow Business Man



    Augusta, Ky., April 26, 1920 – Thomas Marksberry, a youthful butcher who often preached from the pulpit at religious services, will be placed on trial this week charged with the murder of Jesse Glenn, a young business man and one of the best friends, who called at Marksberry’s home with several hundred dollars in his pocket-book.



    The dismembered torso of Glenn was discovered buried in a coffee sack near Marksberry’s home, several days after his mysterious disappearance. Search of Marksberry’s house disclosed garments belonging to Glenn and it was learned that Marksberry had sold two dogs and firearms belonging to him.

    I haven't had a chance to do a search for the name Thomas Marksberry, but will do so tomorrow.

    It doesn't appear this fellow is connected to the Cleveland and/or New Castle torso murders, but I'll know more when I look into it further.

    FYI, in the 60's and early 70's there was a pro wrestler who went by the name of the Kentucky Butcher. I found numerous articles about him, but just the above article about the murderer.
     
  18. Richard

    Richard Well-Known Member

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    What was the year that this took place?

    I was thinking that the case of the Murders in Cleveland have an interesting parallel in more recent times:

    -- Elliott Ness, the former leader of "The Untouchables", spent his later years as Clevelend's Director of Public Safety, trying to solve this series of baffling murders.

    -- In the 1990's Robert Stack, who portrayed Elliot Ness in the 1960's TV Show "The Untouchables", spent his later days trying to solve many equally baffling "Unsolved Mysteries".
     
  19. Marilynilpa

    Marilynilpa New Member

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    Sorry, the year was 1920. I'll go back and edit my post.
     
  20. Marilynilpa

    Marilynilpa New Member

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    I ran across an interesting article about the "torso murders". The link to that article is http://www.prairieghosts.com/torso.html. The article includes both the Cleveland murders and the New Castle, PA murders.
     
  21. outofthedark

    outofthedark Lyle Stevik's FB Hostess

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