On September 5, 1934, while walking along Lake Erie beach near his Cleveland home, Frank LaGassie made a gruesome discovery. Partially buried was the lower half of a woman's torso, legs amputated at the knees. This "Lady of the Lake," as she was dubbed by the police and the press, was the first in a terrifying series of decapitation murders that haunted Cleveland for the next few years. From 1934 to 1938, the "Torso Killer" left the corpses of at least twelve victims in and around the Kingshury Run area of Cleveland. A frightened city turned to its safety director, the legendary Eliot Ness, who focused more energy and manpower on this investigation than any previous police action in Cleveland. But the killer was never arrested, or even officially identified. In the Wake of the Butcher: Cleveland's Torso Murders is the first detailed, book-length examination of these horrific crimes. Where previous examinations of the Kingsbury Run murders have relied almost exclusively on contemporary newspaper coverage, this compelling account is based on police reports, autopsy protocols, personal interviews with the descendants of victims and investigators, and unpublished manuscripts. Illustrated with maps, rare crime scene and morgue photographs, and newspaper photos, this carefully researched true crime study offers a detailed account of one of the most sensational unsolved murder cases in the nation's history. Badal presents his evidence carefully, allowing the grucsome facts to speak for themselves. Along the way be dispels some long-held rumors about the crimes and confirms others - such as the legend of Ness's "secret suspect." In the Wake of the Butcher presents its compelling case and leaves readers to come to their own conclusions about these notorious Cleveland murders.
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James Badal is assistant professor of English at Cuyahogs Community College in Cleveland. A writer on the arts, primarily music, he has published articles in numerous Cleveland newspapers and magazines as well as national journals. He was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Cleveland Police Historical Society in 2000.From Library Journal:
"Floating down the river, chunk by chunk by chunk/ Arms and legs and torsos, hunk by hunk by hunk!" goes the jingle that terrorized Cleveland from 1934 to 1938, when 12 known victims were found dismembered. The book's protagonist is Chief Investigator Peter Merylo, who was assigned to this case in 1936, stayed on it until he retired in 1943, and continued to maintain an interest in it until his death in 1958. Unlike today, policemen then were allowed to keep case files they worked on during their career. Hence, the files were in the possession of Merylo's daughter, who made them available to Badal (English, Cuyahoga Community Coll.). Elliot Ness, the man who put Capone and his men behind bars, was separately assigned to the case but could not crack it, which tarnished his reputation and started a downward tailspin from which he never recovered. The culprit was never apprehended, but Badal provides the readers with possible suspects without ever concluding who the real killer was. This is a well-researched book on a subject that remains a haunting mystery in Cleveland to this day. Readers should beware, however, as it contains very graphic photographs. For all true-crime collections. Michael Sawyer, Northwestern Regional Lib., Elkin, NC
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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