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Episode 114

The Cleveland Torso Murders

November 1, 2021   Tags: , ,
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This week Billy and Paul look into the unsolved Cleveland torso murders from the 1930's. A killer or killers killed 12 victims between from 1935 to 1938. Only three of the victims have their identities known. 

The First Murders:
On September 23rd, 1935, two teenagers were at the bottom of Jackass Hill near East 49th Street. It was at the dead end that the two boys came upon a decapitated body. The victim was nude except for socks and was covered “sparsely” in thicket. 

The man had been castrated. He was also drained of blood and cleaned. The victim’s wrist showed signs of rope burn. And he was decapitated.

The victim was identified as 28-year-old Edward Andrassy. Edward had been arrested in the past for having a concealed weapon, that;s how he was identified--with his booking fingerprints. 

Edward often hung out at the Roaring Third--the area with bars near Kingsbury Run. He had a reputation of being a bit of a  troublemaker. The Cleveland Police Museum described him as a “snotty punk.” It’s said he liked marijuana, porn and adultery.

It was the last that law enforcement thought may have been motive. Just a few weeks before the murder, a man had threatened Edward. Supposedly Edward had been paying attention to the man’s wife. Edward stayed home for a few days. Then he was last seen on September 19th. 

But Edward Andrassy wasn’t the only victim discovered on the 23rd. When law enforcement arrived to collect Edward’s body, they located an unidentified man at the same location. John Doe 1 had also been decapitated, castrated and drained of blood. 

This man’s autopsy showed a chemical preservative had turned his skin red, tough and leathery. The coroner estimated he had been dead for three to four weeks. His age was estimated to be about 40-years-old.  

In shallow graves--10 feet from the bodies--both men’s heads were buried. According to The Times Recorder, the men were decapitated by an ax or a butcher knife. After locating their heads, police were able to create a mask of John Doe’s face in hopes that he could be identified.

The 1936 Murders:
It would be four months before pieces of other bodies would begin to turn up in the area. On January 26, 1936, a woman was walking next to the Hart Manufacturing building on Central Avenue near East 20th Street. There were two half-bushel baskets. Inside the baskets was a half of a woman’s body. A torso, upper legs, right arm and hand were wrapped in newspapers dated January 25th. 

Less than two weeks later, most of the woman’s body was recovered from a trash pile in a vacant lot at 1419 Orange Avenue. Her head was still missing. After all the remains were discovered, law enforcement was able to identify the victim--42-year-old Florence Genevieve Polillo. 

Florence was a waitress and barmaid. She’d also been arrested for sex work--which is how she was identified via her fingerprints which were on file. The coroner noted she’d been dead between two and four days when the first set of remains were found. Along with the newspapers, chicken feathers were found on her body.

Four months after Florence’s murder, another victim would killed in Kinsbury Run. On June 5th, two boys were walking near the East 55th Street bridge. Beneath a tree in a gully, they found a man’s head wrapped in a pair of pants. 

The following day, law enforcement located the rest of the man’s body. It was nude and had been left in front of the Nickel Plate Railroad police building. Like the first two victims, the blood had been drained and the body was cleaned. 

Police were hopeful the man could be identified. He had six tattoos, which included a butterfly and the comic strip character Jiggs. He was thought to have been around 25 years old. The coroner estimated his time of death just two days before his body was recovered. 

The victim became known as the tattooed man or John Doe 2. A mask was also made of this victim. 

It was after John Doe 2 that authorities began to believe the deaths were connected. Just over a month later, yet another victim was discovered. On July 22nd, a girl was walking in the woods near Big Creek and Clinton Road and came across the body of a nude man. 10 feet from the body was a bloody coat and blue polo shirt. Along with the clothes was the man’s head. Unlike with the previous victims, blood was present on the ground. 

He was only identified by the name of John Doe 3. The coroner estimated the victim to be about 40-years-old. The time of death was thought to be two months prior to the discovery.

Less than two months later, near East 27th Street another torso was found. On September 10th, a transient was trying to hop the train when he saw a man’s torso in a sewer. 

As a crowd of nearly 600 people gathered, a diver went into the sewer to search for more body parts. He returned with the victim’s lower torso and both legs. The coroner noted a “lack of hesitation” marks on this body. He guessed the killer was “strong, confident, and familiar with human anatomy,” noting specifically the head had been cut with one bold, clean stroke.

The victim’s identity is unknown. He is John Doe 4. He was estimated to be in his late 20’s. The coroner also said he’d been dead for about two days.






The 1937 and 1938 Murders:

On February 23rd, 1937, a woman’s torso washed up on the shore of Bratenahl near Lake Shore Boulevard. In May the bottom half of the woman washed up near East 30th Street. This victim is thought to be in her mid-twenties and wasn’t identified. 

The month after Jane Doe 1’s body was discovered, a teenage boy found a human skull under the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge. Beside the skull was a bag with skeletal remains. The remains were missing an arm and both legs. The entire bag was covered with lime. 

Initially this victim was listed as Jane Doe 2. But reportedly dental records IDed her as 40-year-old Rose Wallace. 

In the summer of 1937, the Cleveland area saw labor strikes in the Flats. The National Guard was called in to keep order. On July 6th, 1937, a guardsman was by the West 3rd Street Bridge when he saw a body.

Law enforcement pulled the body from the river. The head was missing. This victim was gutted and his heart ripped out. His arms and legs had been cut off. His torso was sliced in two.   

This victim was also not identified. He became known as John Doe 5. The coroner said he was in his mid-to-late 30’s. He weighed between 180 to 200 lbs. It was thought he’d only been dead for two days. 

It would be nine months before the killer would knowingly strike again. On April 8th 1938, a man was walking along the Cuyahoga River when he noticed the lower half of a woman’s leg. 

A month later, a burlap bag was taken out of the river. Inside was the woman’s torso. During the autopsy, the coroner found drugs in the victim’s system. Again the victim wasn’t identified. Jane Doe 3 was petite--about 5’2”. She was between 25 and 30-years-old.

The last two victims were found just three months later. On August 16th, 1938, scrap collectors were going through a dump area at East 9th and Lakeside. At the site, they came across the remains of a woman in her mid-30’s. She had light brown hair and was around 120 pounds. The remains were in four parts--her head, upper torso and dismembered arms and legs. 

The torso was under stones, wrapped in butcher’s paper, a blue suit and a torn quilt. The head was a few feet away, also wrapped in paper. The arms and legs were in cardboard food boxes.

When law enforcement arrived, they began to search for other parts of the woman’s body. Instead they found another victim. 200 feet from the unidentified woman, was a man’s remains. His head was in a tin can. His bones were wrapped in paper.






ASSIGNMENT:

From 1935 to 1938, what most consider to be a serial killer murdered twelve people. All of the victims were decapitated. Some were drained of blood, cleaned and castrated. Others were not. Seven of the victims were men, five were women. Only three of the victims have been identified. 

If you have any information on these cases--even theories, please contact us.

CODE OF CONDUCT: 

1. Do not name names publicly. Send everything to the police or to this page and we will forward to the police. 
2. Do not post side by side photos.
3. Do not contact any family members. 
4. Do not doxx each other and be civil. We all want the same thing. 

As tips come in, Jensen and Holes will work to verify them. If they look good, we will publish them here to try and get us closer to their names.

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