These are, arguably, some of the most gruesome serial murders ever. In 1935 a killer began to terrorize Cleveland, Ohio; body parts were showing up all over the place. The first official dismembered victim was discovered by some kids playing in a field; within the next few years, at least 12 more victims were found.
Only 3 of the Cleveland murder victims were ever positively identified; it is not easy to ID a headless corpse, which was especially true back then. That said, we know that this killer didn’t seem to have a type, he murdered men and women alike; he hadn’t cared much about race, both black and white became victims, and ages varied vastly. The only thing they seemed to have had in common was that they had all been down on their luck; the victims were often homeless, had addiction issues, some were sex workers, and it seems most had not been in contact with their family. They were the type of people least likely to be reported missing.
The male corpses were usually discovered without their genitals, they’d been removed. Each of the victims had been chopped up, some cut completely in half. This killer got off on torture, most of his victims had been very much alive during their dismemberment; some died from decapitation. When his victim was dead, the killer would hide his or her parts around the city like some sort of deranged Easter egg hunt. Multiple had been treated with a chemical to preserve the remains, though others were badly decomposed upon discovery.
General consensus is that these murders had not been confined to Cleveland. Approximately 30 similar killings happened around Pittsburgh and Youngstown from the ’20’s through the ’50’s; matter of fact, the infamous “lady of the lake” is believed to have been the killer’s very first victim. A woman’s lower torso had been discovered, her thighs were still attached but below the knees were removed; this washed ashore upon Lake Erie in September of 1934. More parts were discovered later, though her head was never found. The fact that this woman’s corpse had chemical burns means this very likely an early victim, the MO was the same. An even better known case which some believe to have been connected is that of the Black Dahlia.
Of course there were quite a few suspects. Elliott Ness, who had been involved in the case, believed a man named Frank Dolezal to be responsible. Frank had confessed at one point, though he later claimed the confession had been coerced. And, considering the methods police would’ve used on a suspected serial killer of this magnitude back then? It’s probably safe to say it was. On August 24, 1939, Frank was found hanging in his cell. An apparent suicide, except the man had somehow suffered some broken ribs. You know, hanging doesn’t usually cause that.
Today it is theorized that this was likely the work of multiple killers; a partnership would explain why the victims differed so vastly- or possibly even a group of killers.
We likely will never know for sure, sadly it seems most of the official records have been lost. Though we know there are at least 12 victims, some believe the body count to be as high as 100.
*If you do not wish to see corpses, now would be the time to discontinue your scrolling…
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