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Infamous serial 'torso killer' that police never caught

Infamous serial 'torso killer' that police never caught

The Cleveland Torso Murderer was never caught, and is probably way worse than Jack the Ripper

We’ve all heard of Jack the Ripper, but how about a killer from the Great Depression era in the United States who is potentially even more prolific and had a method of killing that was even more gruesome.

This killer had a few names – the ‘Cleveland Torso Killer', the ‘American Demon’, and the ‘Butcher of Kingsbury Run’ to name a few.

However, the real name of the culprit has evaded police – including the famous detective Eliot Ness, who took down Al Capone – and the mystery still continues to this day.

It started in September 1934, when a beachcomber found a ‘rotting slab of human flesh’ next to Lake Erie. The woman’s torso had been dismembered; legs removed at the knees.

Two weeks before, what seemed to be a human vertebrae and some ribs had been found on another beach. And soon, more reports starting coming in.

Police searched high and low for human remains.
Wikimedia Commons

A boater swore he’d seen a head floating in the lake, whereas fisherman reported reeling in chunks of flesh, and a swimmer saw a hand beneath the waves.

These were just sightings though, circumstantial evidence where hard evidence was thin on the ground.

Then, in an area inhabited by homeless people known as a ‘hobo jungle’, two corpses turned up, headless and castrated. Then, more evidence emerged.

A book about the killer revealed that ‘a clump of tangled flesh found near one of the bodies proved to be the severed genitals of both men’.

One was identified as Edward Andrassy by his fingerprints, a suspected drug dealer and supposed pornography creator, known to the police as a ‘snotty punk’.

Edward Andrassy was the first victim identified.
Wikimedia Commons

The police started investigating sex workers, but discovered that there were simply too many people with ‘bizarre sexual tendencies’ to investigate them all.

“That line of inquiry generated a distressingly large pool of candidates,” they said.

In the end, there were 12 killings attributed to the butcher, and the method of killings – if such a thing can be quantified – were almost certainly more brutal.

The coroner also revealed the gory detail that he believed that the dismemberments and decapitations took place whilst the victims were still alive.

Whilst the killer murdered both men and women, many Cleveland citizens consoled themselves with the fact that he appeared to be targeting the lower rungs of society as homeless men, prostitutes, and criminals were mostly his victims.

The police tried everything to stop the deaths, even sending a police officer running naked through the streets to try to draw the killer out.

Plaster-cased death masks of some of the victims at the Cleveland Police Museum.
Wikimedia Commons

Three men discovered parcels filled with body parts in the dump, which could have been some of the last victims of the killer.

Police brought in all sorts of people they deemed capable, but instead of catching any murders, they largely ended up victimising innocent gay men.

In the end, there was no action from the ‘Butcher’ after 1938, leading to rumours that the case was secretly solved.

Press theories included a mysterious ‘Dr X’ who was a ‘discredited physician with a history of mental problems’ although that was difficult to prove.

Dr X was later identified as Francis Edward Sweeney, a pharmacist and doctor with a history of heavy drinking, domestic violence, and low professional competency.

Ness became convinced he had his man, taking him in for two weeks of questioning, but was concerned as Sweeney had connections to a powerful Cleveland family. He didn’t manage to get anywhere.

Sweeney was then taken to a mental institution where he remained for the rest of his life. However, a guilty party has never been formally identified.

When Ness was asked what happened in later years during a Cleveland mayoral run, he said: “That case…has been solved.”

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Featured Image Credit: gargantuen - Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)/FBI/CPD

Topics: US News, Crime, True crime