Saturday, October 29, 2016

Mystery Murderer : The Torso Killer of Cleveland

For this Halloween Weekend, I  bring forward a story of unsolved murders, just so that you will have trouble sleeping this weekend...Bha  hah  ha  hah  ha!

You have heard of Elliot Ness...the FBI agent who, with the help of his posse, finally brought down Alphonse Capone.  It took a charge of tax evasion, but whatever worked, he took it.

In later days, Mr. Ness was working in Cleveland, Ohio.  There was a serial killer, leaving torsos around. At least 12 dismembered bodies were recovered. It all started with the lower half of a woman's torso that washed up on the shore of Lake Erie in 1934. This body, plus all the following dismembered bodies were completely drained of blood.

Doctor Francis Sweeney was thought to be the murderer, but it could not be proven.
He hung around a local funeral home...what a creep.  He also spent quite some time behind the walls of mental institutions.  It is said that he wrote postcards and letters to Elliott Ness and J. Edgar Hoover....taunting them about the murders that had not been solved. Dr. Sweeney was a veteran of World War I, where he was busy preforming amputations and general medical duties.  When questioned by polygraph, he failed....but that could not be used against him.  I think it just raised more suspicion. He committed himself to institutional care, and later died in a veterans home.

Death masks of some victims,

There were reportedly 12 to 20 bodies believed to be involved with this unknown murderer from 1935-1938. Only three of the victims could be positively identified.  They were considered drifters, part of the working poor of the area.  Decapitation was to cause of death for almost half of the persons.

Where were the bodies, or rather, torsos found?  A number of places were mentioned in an article found in Wikipedia ...lake shore, railroad boxcar, swamps, ...

Elliott Ness was the Public Safety Director of Cleveland, according to many articles.  He was really stumped with these cases.

There have been some books written about this horrible circumstance in Cleveland, here are some that I found :

In the Wake of the Butcher, by James Jessen Badal, 2001 Kent State University Press

Butcher's Dozen, by Max Allen Collins, 1988 Bantam Books

Nemisis: The Final Case of Elliot Ness, by William Burnhardt

A map showing the locations of each victim's remains can be found on  Google, searching "Cleveland Torso Murders Map".

Get a good night's sleep...if you can.  This guy may still be out there somewhere, in the dark, outside your door, waiting to catch you off guard.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Chester Gets The Chair : The Murder of Grace Brown

Oh, How lovely is Love......until someone gets an itch to leave....and it starts to get ugly...VERY ugly.

This is the case of Miss Grace Brown who was beat on the head with a tennis racket, then dumped into the lake.  Yes, her lover did it.  He ran off into the woods so that he could meet up with "the other woman".  What a guy!

Miss Brown was expecting a child, belonging to Mr. Chester Gillette.  He never denied that he was the father. But, you see, he had another woman on the side, or rather, Grace was the woman on the side....Chester was supposed to marry another woman.  He just used Grace for his days of lust.

Chester invited young Grace to accompany him on a romantic boat ride on Big Moose Lake, located in the Adirondacks on a lovely day in July of 1906. They said that he had a tennis racket with him, although that was never proven.  He drifted out to a lonely, secluded area of the lake.  Then, he beat her about the head and dumped her into the water where she lost her life, and that of the child she was carrying.  A tennis racket was found floating in the water near the area where her body was found.

Young Chester arrived in the New York area from Seattle Washington around 1904.  He was to join his uncle in the shirt manufacturing business. Supposedly he was very good looking, had plenty of money to spend and was quite a hit with all of the young single ladies of the area. Why he even taught Sunday school classes!  What a perfect catch for any young lass.

Young, 20 year old, Grace Brown, worked in the shirt factory belonging to the Gillette family.  Chester spied her right away, and she was quite smitten with him.  He gave her what seemed to be constant attention, and she gave him her full trust.

In the summer of 1906, Grace abruptly left her position at the factory.  With no explanation to her friends, she left everyone wondering what she was up to. Her parents noticed that something was different about her.  When they noticed that she had frequent correspondence with the young Gillette, they started to ask questions.  She broke the news....she was engaged to be married to Chester, or so she thought.  She began to sew herself a new wardrobe.

One day, Grace went back to the shirt factory, but not to work there.  She met with Chester.  He announced to everyone that he was going on a very short vacation in the mountain region.  Grace went ahead of him to meet up with him at the hotel, reported to be named the Glenmore Hotel.
Two days later, her body was found on the shore of Big Moose Lake, by fishermen.   The boat was found upturned, floating in the hidden cove area.

Big Moose Lake, New York,

After questioning many of the people of the lake area, it was determined that Grace had been accompanied by a young man, whose description fit Chester Gillette. He was found sitting in front of a nearby summer resort hotel.  When approached by the police, he did not seem surprised at all about the finding of Grace's body.  He explained that his hat fell into the water, and when he went to reach for it, the boat had overturned and Grace went into the water.  He said he lost site of her  and swam to the shore. He was asked why he had not tried to save her or report the accident.  It was time to change his explanation. He said Grace was distraught and jumped into the water voluntarily. They handed him his tennis racket splotched with blood.  He had no explanation for that.

After his days in court, Chester was found guilty on December 6, 1906.  He was to be sentenced to death, by the electric chair, in January of 1906.  However, a stay was granted on an appeal filed in October of 1907. The Court of Appeals proved to be an unreliable deal for him, as they decided to uphold the original case findings of his responsibility for the death of young Grace.

The Glenmore Hotel,

The Prosecution set about to bury Gillette with the many damning letters that Grace had written to him. She wrote that she was concerned about him neglecting her of late. He was asked when he first learned of her pregnancy.  Chester replied that he could not remember. It was revealed that he had not paid his hotel bill while staying at the nearby hotel where he had registered under the name of Charles Gordon, and that his bank account seemed to be depleted. Apparently, he had not paid for the boat that he rented either.  When questioned about these unpaid costs, he shrugged his shoulders, stating that he didn't seem worried about that.

Other evidence that seemed to "screw" Chester :
 -he had carried a photo of Miss Harriet Benedict, a young, lovely woman who worked at the shirt factory.
-Chester said he wanted to protect young Grace from gossip, so he registered under the assumed name of Mr. Gordon and wife.
-Although it was a hot day in July, Chester brought along an overcoat, umbrella and a tennis racket with him on the boat ride with Grace.  These were very odd things to take on that day when there was not a cloud in the sky. He claimed to have left them on the shore before boarding the boat.
- A guest at the hotel swore that he had introduced himself as Carl Graham and his companion, Grace.
-He also claimed to have bathed and changed his complete set of clothing after having walked through the woods, and sat on the porch of the hotel to read a book, never thinking to stop to report the accident on the lake.
-He changed his story, and said that he and Grace were reaching for water lilies when she jumped into the water.
-He sent a message to Cortland, where the shirt factory was, to ask for $5 to be sent back to him to pay for his room and board
-Two young women testified that they had an engagement to meet with Chester at Seventh Lake on the evening that Grace had died.
-Letters from Grace to Chester were read before the courtroom, with statements from Grace that she was afraid that Chester would not come to her in her  condition, and she was in a depressed mood.
-Frances Brown, sister of Grace, testified that Grace confided that she had high hopes that she would be married to Chester during their "Vacation" together.

In February of 1908, it was decided that Chester Gillette was indeed guilty of the murder of Miss Grace Brown and her unborn child. The sentence was due to be carried out in the week of March 30, 1908.

On March 30, 1908, Chester was lead to the electric chair, Auburn prison, He was interred the next day at Soule Cemetery, with members of his family present.  A number of persons who were curious watched from a distance. The grave is unmarked.

Grace M. Brown was buried in Valley View Cemetery, Chenango County, New York. It is said by visitors that she haunts the lake area to this day.

The story of this horrible murder at Moose Lake inspired the novel "An American Tragedy" by Theodore Dreiser. and the Academy Award winning movie "A Place in the Sun".

The reports of this case can be found in newspaper archives across the nation and internationally.