Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kingsbury Run Murders or Cleveland Torso Murders

The Beginning

Kingsbury Run cuts across the east side of Cleveland like a jagged wound, ripped into the rugged terrain as if God himself had tried to disembowel the city. At some points it is nearly sixty feet deep, a barren wasteland covered with patches of wild grass, yellowed newspapers, weeds, empty tin cans and the occasional battered hull of an old car left to rust beneath the sun. Perched upon the brink of the ravine, narrow frame houses huddle close together and keep a silent watch on the area.

Angling toward downtown, the Run empties out into the cold, oily waters of the Cuyahoga River. There, dingy banks sprout a concrete and metal forest of drawbridges, storage tanks, and blackened factory buildings that flourish in the yellow sulfurous fumes and the fiery glow of the blast furnaces.

Kingsbury Run is like an open sore, festering with refuse and decay. Yet, among the old tires and empty wine bottles exists a small city of nomadic men, swept into the ravine by the wave of Depression that surged across the country in the 1930's. Their squat cardboard and tin shacks dot the ominous landscape. Small campfires penetrate the darkness, illuminating the rugged and desperate ugliness of the Run. The men lay sleeping, their heads against the cool earth, oblivious to the haunting wail of passing freight trains.

Two men lay quietly in the grass, not far from one another, beneath the curling smoke that veils the stars, unaware of the great impact their presence will have upon the city.

When the sun rose above the horizon, streaks of golden light filtered through cracks in the makeshift walls of the shanties. Hairy arms stretched toward the lightened sky, forcing moist air into yawning mouths. Above the Run, the grinding sound of early morning traffic contrasted with the melodic chirping of birds and the playful voices of children on their way to school. The two men still slept. The warm September air caressed them lightly. Olive green grasshoppers bounced lazily through the high waving grass, while other winged creatures fluttered and coasted on the soft breeze flowing into the ravine.

Later that afternoon two young boys, laughing loudly beneath the clear sky, stumbled through the weed-choked grass to the foot of a steep embankment called Jackass Hill. One of them saw something sticking out from the weeds and went to investigate. He gasped at the hideous sight and soon the two frightened boys streaked back up the narrow path. They scrambled on their hands and knees to the top of the ridge and ran into a man who stopped them in their flight.

"Hey! Hey there! What's the big hurry? You almost ran me down." The tall man saw the fear in their eyes. "What's the matter? What're you two boys up to?"

One of them gasped for breath and somehow found his tongue. "There's a man down thereand hehe hasn't got any head!"

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