Read Though Murder Has No Tongue Online

Authors: James Jessen Badal

Though Murder Has No Tongue

BOOK: Though Murder Has No Tongue
2.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



Has No



The Black Squirrel Books imprint includes new nonfiction for the general reader as well as reprints of valuable studies of Ohio and its people, including historical writings, literary studies, biographies, and literature.

© 2010 by The Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio 44242


ISBN 978-1-60635-062-1

Manufactured in the United States of America

Frontispiece: August 24, 1939: one of two photographs taken of Frank Dolezal's corpse lying in a corridor in the county jail. The unknown photographer who snapped this picture obviously had a better eye for gloomy atmosphere than “crime scene” documentation. Courtesy of the Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data are available at the Library of Congress.

British Library Cataloging-in-Publication are available.

14 13 12 11 10    5 4 3 2 1

For veteran Cleveland newspaper reporter
Doris O'Donnell Beaufait:
for her friendship, encouragement, and
unswerving devotion to the truth

For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ.
—William Shakespeare,
act II, scene II, lines 521–22.

First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius.
Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature?
What does he do, this man you seek?
—Hannibal Lecter in
The Silence of the Lambs
by Thomas Harris




Part 1: Chaos

1 The Maelstrom

2 The Bricklayer, the Cop, and the Private Eye

3 History through a Glass Darkly

4 Violent Death on a Hot Afternoon

Part 2: Revelations

5 An Interlude: Mary Dolezal

6 Behind the Veil

7 CSI Mercyhurst and Beyond

Part 3: Reckoning

8 All in the Family

9 Conspiracy and Cover-up

10 Fearful Symmetries and Damning Coincidences

11 Conclusions, Fragments, and Loose Ends

Epilogue: The Tragic Story of Anna and Joseph Nigrin

Afterword: Gaylord Sundheim
by Cathleen A. Cerny, M.D.

Appendix: Chronology and Summary of Historical Documents Regarding Francis Sweeney, M.D.
by Cathleen A. Cerny, M.D.




birth pangs associated with this book were especially protracted and difficult. The Kent State University Press published my book
In the Wake of the Butcher: Cleveland's Torso Murders
in spring 2001: the product of ten grueling years of digging into the city's most notorious unsolved cold case; a string of murder-dismemberments from the 1930s—rivaling Jack the Ripper's rampage through Whitechapel in sheer gruesome brutality—a case that has enjoyed legendary status in the city for over seventy years. As the publication date neared, I wrestled with the nagging fear that some new piece of significant information—something that could alter the whole fabric of the book—would come to light before
ever hit the bookstore shelves. And, indeed, such a scenario almost occurred. As I chiseled away at the final set of revisions and corrections, Marjorie Merylo Dentz (daughter of Peter Merylo, the lead detective on the case) came upon an old box containing several hundred pages of her father's papers that had lain undiscovered in the family garage for years. Thankfully, she unearthed that treasure trove while I was still tinkering and rewriting; the inclusion of all that material added fifty pages to the book.

In the years since
took its bloody bow, I have continued to speak formally about the murders to various groups. Inevitably, on such occasions, the children and grandchildren of those touched by the murders come forward to share a precious piece of family lore—some tidbit handed down from one generation to the next with a seriousness and devotion approaching reverence. Many thank me for acknowledging the role, however minor it may have been, that a near relative played in Cleveland's most agonizingly prolonged murder spree; some have, quite frankly, taken issue with the portrait of a father, an uncle, or a grandfather that I had fashioned from the surviving case documents. Though invariably interesting and often colorful, none of this “new information” altered my thinking about the case or added substantially to what I had already written. As a member of the board of trustees of the Cleveland Police Historical Society, however, I
enjoy relatively easy access to historical police case records, personnel and documents at the Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office, and the artifacts that surviving family members of recently deceased former officers donate to the police museum. As attics are cleared out, old file drawers emptied, and the contents of long-forgotten trunks examined, new pieces of the old Kingsbury Run murder puzzle turn up at the museum's door: personal manuscripts, memoirs, never-before-seen photographs, stray official documents, hastily scrawled notes, and the like. Bit by bit, in a constant trickle, they continue to appear. At the very least, some of this material substantially fleshed out aspects of the case; suddenly pencil drawings morphed into full-color oil paintings. At best, some of the newly discovered documents heralded revelations about the killings, the investigation into them, and the political background against which this all occurred—some of them rather startling.

My eighth-grade American history teacher first opened my eyes to the ghosts of Kingsbury Run; and they were my constant, occasionally obtrusive, companions all through those years devoted to researching and writing
In the Wake of the Butcher.
During the time I spent on
Twilight of Innocence: The Disappearance of Beverly Potts
(Kent State University Press, 2005), they hovered quietly and patiently in the background. But when my book on Cleveland's most famous missing child lay behind me, those specters from the brutal past moved silently closer. What more could they possibly want from me? Though the intriguing prospect of an expanded edition of
began to loom, both the KSU Press and I resisted the idea; putting those consumers deeply interested in the case, who had already shelled out for
into the position of having to buy a second book—much of which would be merely a repeat of the first—seemed unfair. But would it be possible to write a second book about Kingsbury Run and its aftermath, a companion volume to
that would deal more fully with certain aspects of the case, such as the political situation in Cleveland at the time, but could also stand on its own without being overly repetitious? For three years or so, the answer seemed to be “No!” But by 2005, some newly found material of major importance changed all that.
Though Murder Has No Tongue: The Lost Victim of Cleveland's Mad Butcher
now became a real possibility. But digging into any cold case, especially a very old one, poses difficulties—obstacles that range anywhere from mildly troublesome to virtually insurmountable. Imagine a bratty child of seven or eight on a luxury cruise ship with his parents! To keep junior occupied while they do others things, Mom and Dad have fixed him up with a puzzle from the ship's stock of games and other diversions. Unfortunately, the puzzle's difficulties place it far beyond the child's abilities; so after some frustrating and unsuccessful attempts to fit pieces together, he
loses patience and chucks the whole thing overboard, box and all. Several weeks later, the pieces begin to wash up on the beach. Though many of them are more or less intact, others have been faded by the sun, badly warped by the water, or nibbled on by various forms of marine life. And, of course, many of the pieces have been swallowed up by the sea, never to make it to shore. The box with the picture of the completed puzzle on the cover has been so badly damaged by the elements that the beachcomber who gathers up all this debris can get only a general, overall impression of the image. It is, perhaps, a landscape, a portrait, a still life of a fruit bowl. Beyond that, it is hard to discern the nature of some of the details: too much has been lost; too much has been damaged. Far too often, a cold case is that faded, damaged image on that waterlogged box cover. The overall image is there, but some—perhaps, many—of the important details are simply missing. The newspaper articles, police reports, autopsy protocols, records of witness testimony, inquest and trial transcripts (assuming there was a trial), and other sorts of public documents often add up to an incomplete picture, occasionally a very incomplete picture. Isolated facts in the story of a major crime may be well documented and, therefore, beyond dispute. We know without a doubt that certain events took place, that certain things were said; but the tissue that connects these actions and utterances may sometimes be difficult to see clearly and the motivations behind them virtually impossible to discern. Some of these surviving puzzle pieces may be so compellingly lurid in their own right—even in isolation—that the urge to turn the whole puzzle into the contemporary equivalent of a yellow journalistic wallow becomes almost irresistible.

Essentially, these were the issues with which I had to contend while researching and writing
Though Murder Has No Tongue.
On the one hand, the events were luridly sensational and the political circumstances surrounding them potentially downright explosive; on the other hand, this was history—legitimate historical questions, woven into the fabric of Cleveland's most infamous series of murders—that needed to be addressed objectively and without bias. I did not undertake this project lightly. In
I had managed to deal with some of the hot-potato issues associated with the Kingsbury Run killings and the investigation into them with a certain delicacy and finesse without backing away from them entirely—at least, so I thought; but these controversial and unpleasant realities would undoubtedly have to be faced far more squarely and openly in a new book. The inferences that could be potentially drawn from the surviving hard evidence, all the attendant anecdotes, and the legends associated with the case could add up to some very serious allegations. The buds of these allegations have been an integral part
of the Kingsbury Run story for decades. But they have never fully flowered or been explored in depth except in my private conversations and brainstorming sessions with members of my research team. And when reasonably hard evidence is lacking, all sorts of wild and unsupportable notions rush in to fill the void. Rather than let these assumptions fester unchallenged and unexplored, perhaps it would be best—I reasoned—to gather up as many of the recoverable puzzle pieces as I could and see what the completed picture actually looked like, at least to the degree that this even remained possible. I have, therefore, done my best to accept the inevitable limitations of coldcase research and tried to avoid the traps; I have stressed the verifiable facts but have remained cautious and conservative in my interpretation of them. Not all the recovered puzzle pieces will fit. As John Douglas observes in
The Cases That Haunt Us,
every crime has its anomalies; an investigator may not like them, but he learns to live with them.

BOOK: Though Murder Has No Tongue
2.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

One Day It Will Happen by Vanessa Mars
Agent Hill: Reboot by James Hunt
Mortal Friends by Jane Stanton Hitchcock
His Mating Mark by Alicia White
Love Lessons by Margaret Daley
The Lamplighter's Love by Delphine Dryden
Birth of a Warrior by Michael Ford