In the Wake of the Butcher
Cleveland’s Torso Murders
courtesy of our partner, Atlas Books
On September 5, 1934, 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 a least twelve victims in and around the Kingsbury 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 that 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. 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based on police reports, autopsy protocols, personal interviews with the descendants of victims and investigators, and unpublished manuscripts.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.
James Jessen Badal is assistant professor of English and journalism at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland. He was elected to the board of trustees of the Cleveland Police Historical Society in 2000. He is the author of Twilight of Innocence: The Disappearance of Beverly Potts (Kent State University Press, 2005).
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