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Cleveland's "Mad Butcher" was never caught

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On January 26, 1936 the third body of the so-called “Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run” was found in Cleveland. Kinsbury was a neighborhood where many of the victims were found.

Florence Polillo’s body had been chopped up and her head was never found. At the time the Mad Butcher was cedited with twelve murders between 1935 and 1938.

The murderer always beheaded and often dismembered his victims. 7 victims were male and 5 were female. The males were all castrated.

Over the years several suspects were associated with the murders. The two most common mentioned were Frank Dolezal and Dr. Francis Sweeney.

Dolezal was a 52 year old Cleveland resident who was arrested as a suspect in Florence Polillo’s murder and died under suspicious circumstances in the Cuyahooga County jail. After his death it was discovered that he had suffered six broken ribs- injuries his friends said he did not have when he was arrested by Sheriff Martin O’Donnell. Dolezall had confessed to Polillo’s murder, saying it was self defense. Before his death Dolezal recanted his confession saying he was beaten until he confessed. Most researchers believe that no evidence exists that Dolezal was involved in the murders.

Elliot Ness of “the Untouchable’s” fame was at the time Cleveland’s Safety Director. He personally interviewed Dr. Sweeney. Sweeney worked in a medical unit during World War I that conducted amputations in the field.

Sweeney is said to have “failed to pass” two polygraph tests, administered by polygraph expert Leonard Keeler, who told Ness he had his man. Ness felt there was little chance of successfully prosecuting Sweeney. Sweeney’s cousin was Congressman Martin Sweeney who was related by marriage to Sheriff O’Donnel. Dr. Sweeney committed himself to a mental institution shortly after the last official murders were discovered in 1938. Sweeney died in a veteran’s hospital in Dayton in 1964.

Some people close to the case, including Cleveland Detective Peter Merylo who was the lead investigator on the case, believed that there may have been 40 or more victim’s in the Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Youngstown areas between the 1920’s and 1950’s. It is strongly believed that Robert Robertson, whose body was found on July 22, 1950, was a victim of the “butcher.”

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