G-Man Eliot Ness and the Kingsbury Run Torso Murders subject of documentary to premiere on PBS 45 & 49
Recently uncovered DNA evidence has reactivated the case of the 1930s Cleveland serial murders
Can Cleveland’s Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run — who might finally be exposed once and for all by means of DNA — claim the city’s best-known safety director as yet another victim?
Storytellers Media Group, Ltd., explores this and other mysteries in The Fourteenth Victim — Eliot Ness and the Torso Murders.
On the heels of his Chicago triumphs over Al Capone’s empire, America’s favorite G-Man was recruited in 1935 to be Cleveland’s safety director. A gifted leader, Ness set about cleaning up “the most dangerous city in America” and within three years Cleveland earned the National Safety Award.
For Ness, modernizing safety standards, toppling gangsters and ridding the city of organized crime and corruption was one thing; tracking down the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run was quite another. Also known as the Torso Killer, the Butcher appeared from nowhere when Ness took office, left 13 dismembered victims in his wake (the actual cause of death in most cases was decapitation) and slashed through newspaper headlines of the day. The mutilated bodies were found mostly in the area known as Kingsbury Run, a land depression that runs from The Flats to E. 55th Street.
The Fourteenth Victim chronicles Ness’s pursuit of the infamous killer, a case that remains open to this day. For three years, and even beyond, this shocking spectre scared the citizens of Cleveland to their core. The investigation is said to have been a defining episode that entangled Ness and profoundly affected him, perhaps even cutting short his life.
The documentary is based in part on the book In the Wake of the Butcher by James Jessen Badal, who argues convincingly that Ness knew who the killer was, but was unable to prove it. Evidence shows that this “secret suspect,” who Badal and others identify as Dr. Francis E. Sweeney, harassed Ness during his later life and possibly contributed to Ness’s untimely death at the age of 54.
During production of The Fourteenth Victim, breaking developments prompted Cleveland area authorities to reactivate the case. Within the next six weeks, DNA tests are expected to be run on trace evidence found on bizarre postcards sent to Ness in his latter years. This evidence may point ever more clearly toward Ness’s “secret suspect,” whose own audacity provided today’s investigators — via Eliot Ness himself — with the very evidence that could make a posthumous conviction possible. The documentary addresses the reappearance of this evidence, but DNA test results will not be known until at least mid-September 2003. If results from the Cuyahoga County Coroner and the Cleveland Police Department are released in time for the broadcast, an epilogue will be added to the documentary.
The Fourteenth Victim features interviews with authors Paul Heimel and James Badal, Cleveland historian Rebecca McFarland and well-known Cleveland artist and friend of Eliot Ness, Viktor Schreckengost.
Primary sources of photographs for The Fourteenth Victim were provided through a
partnership with the Cleveland Police Historical Society. Archival materials also came from Cleveland State University Special Collections, Cuyahoga County archives, Cleveland Public Library, Western Reserve Historical Society and private collections. Original music evoking the Ness era was created by composer Carl Michel and performed by The Carl Michel Group.
The Fourteenth Victim — Eliot Ness and the Torso Murders is a production of the
Cleveland-based Storytellers Media Group, Ltd. Producer/Editor: Mark Stone. Director of
Cinematography: David Brodowski.
For more information: http://www.storytellersmediagroup.com/The%20Fourteenth%20Victim.htm