Cleveland Torso Killer



Throughout the 1930's an unknown killer murdered 12 people in Cleveland.

It first started in September 1935 when the bodies of two decapitated men were found in a rundown area of Cleveland.  Both bodies had been mutilated and decapitated.  The work of this sadist suggested a homosexual - not when other corpses turned up that were female.

Over the next 3 years the Torso Killer claimed 12 victims - all vagrants and poor people, male and female.  The victims were killed and cut up before being transported to the crime scene where they were dumped, in some cases the decapitated head was never found.

Elliot Ness was in charge of the investigation.  In August 1938 so desperate was Ness to stop the murders that he ordered police to raid the run-down area near Kingsbury run where most of the victims had been taken from; hundreds of vagrants were arrested and the place was burned down, then the murders stopped.

The men who topped the list as the possible murderers were Frank Dolezal and a man called Sundheim.  Frank Dolezal lived in the run-down area and was known to threaten people with knives when drunk.  Dolezal was arrested and he confessed to the murders, but his confession was found to be full of inaccuracies and errors.  In April 1939 Dolezal hanged himself, an autopsy on his body revealed that he had been beaten, possibly to obtain a forced false confession.

The other suspect was Sundheim, a man who fit the perfect profile of the murderer - had psychiatric problems; was a big man (which would explain a size 12 shoeprint found at one of the crime scenes); had studied medicine (skill needed to mutilate his vitims); had his own car and lived in his own house in a well-off area (it was suggested the killer took his victims home where he would dismember the bodies and transport them in his car to the dumping ground).

Sunheim was a good suspect; when Elliot Ness told Sundheim that he thought he was the killer, Sunheim replied with - 'Prove it'.  Soon after Sundheim committed himself to a mental institution.  If there was evidence that could convict Sundheim, he could just plead insanity anyway.  Two years later Sundheim died.

The exact identity of the killer is unknown, Sundheim is still the best but unproven suspect.  Eight years later, the Black Dahlia murder was committed; so similar to the Cleveland Torso Killers methods that it was thought to be committed by the Torso Killer himself, but the time period of eight years made it most unlikely.  The Torso Killer case and the Black Dahlia case are both unsolved.



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Modus Operandi - Serial Killers