Number of victims: 12 - 20
Date of murders: 1935 - 1938
Method of murder: Stabbing
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
One of the most enigmatic killers in American history, the “Mad Butcher” murdered at least 12 people in Cleveland, Ohio between 1935 and 1938. The victims, both male and female, were mostly from the ramshackle shanty towns that sprung up on the outskirts of Cleveland during the Depression era. Most were never identified, due to the extreme mutilations inflicted on the bodies.
All of the victims were beheaded and in many cases, the decapitation was the actual cause of death. In addition, the Butcher often cut the torso in two along the sternum. Most of the male victims were castrated, although it is unclear whether this was done before or after death.
Needless to say, the spate of horrific murders caused an uproar. Desperate to catch the killer, city authorities turned to Eliot Ness, the man who had brought Al Capone to justice. Ness was appointed to the position of Public Safety Director of Cleveland and immediately kicked the investigation into a higher gear, leading to the arrest of one of the chief suspects in the case, Dr. Francis E. Sweeney.
However, there was never enough evidence to pin the murders on Sweeney (or any other suspect for that matter). Ness eventually resorted to ordering the demolition and burning of the Kingsbury Run, the shanty town from which the killer had taken most of his victims. That stemmed the flow of murders, although the Mad Butcher was never caught. Some believe that an additional eight murders - committed between 1938 and 1950 - were his handiwork.
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