The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run


Cleveland Killer Never Caught

On January 26, 1936 the body of Florence Polillo was found dismembered in the Kingsbury Run area of Cleveland, Ohio.  The woman’s head was in a basket and other parts of her body were wrapped in burlap sacks.  She was the third person to be found in the neighborhood killed in the same manner. 

Cleveland Police knew they had a serial killer on their hands.  The victims so far had all been homeless or vagrant individuals.  In fact, Florence was one of the few victims that they ever positively identified.  The country was in the throes of the Great Depression and shantytowns littered the poor area known as Kingsbury Run.  There were plenty of down-on-their-luck hobos to victimize without raising the attention of anyone who cared. 

The Cleveland Police did act to combat the rash of killings.  Ove the next two years they would interview and interrogate over 9,000 transients and possible perps.  The media dubbed it “The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run” case, and it became the largest investigation in Cleveland Police history.

By 1938 the number of victims that were found and associated with the Mad Butcher had grown to twelve.  There were probably many more, but no one was looking for these poor souls.  Only two of the victims were ever identified, the rest were just Jane or John Doe’s. 

The Cleveland Police focused on two suspects, Frank Dolezal and Francis Sweeney.  It is almost certain that neither one was the true perp, but the police locked up Frank Dolezal in August of 1939.  Dolezal never got a chance to clear his name.  He was found hung to death in his cell in an apparent suicide.  The murders did stop once Dolezal was out of the picture.   

Sweeney was a well to do doctor and WWI veteran with some mental health issues.  He seemed like a pretty good candidate for the serial killer moniker, but a case could not be made.  Sweeney eventually was committed to a mental institution.  He died in 1964 and the murders remain unsolved to this day. 


Christopher Flanagan


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