Famous Criminals That Prove Cleveland is the Serial Killer Capital of America

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It’s been a matter of criminal curiosity that Cleveland has the highest number of serial killers per capita in any city anywhere in the world. They are also largely world famous for some of their hideous acts. What is it about Cleveland that means it attracts so many bloodthirsty people determined to make a name for themselves? Perhaps there is something in the water. Here is a reminder of ten of the most famous mass murderers.

1. John Demjanjuk (Ivan The Terrible)

At the time of his death in 2012 he had no actual criminal conviction. Posing as a survivor of Nazi Concentration Camps, he fled to USA after the war having claimed to have been drafted into the Red Army. However, a number of survivors identified him as ‘Ivan the Terrible’, a cruel and vicious camp guard at Sobibor. Various trials convicted and then overturned his conviction and he went to the grave with nobody really knowing his true identity ‘ it is likely that he was the camp guard.

2. Ed Edwards

This is the tale of a man who the extent of his murders is not fully known and probably never will be.. Arrested in the early 1950s for petty crime, he escaped from jail in 1955 and wasn’t caught for another six years. After serving his time, he was released and between the mid 1970s and 1990s, he killed five people. The middle two were known as ‘The Sweetheart Murders’ and it would be many years before he was convicted. He may also have been responsible for other murders in Ohio but others were sent to jail and Edwards died in 2011.

3. Gary Heidnik

Born in Ohio, Heidnik he kidnapped, tortured, raped six women and kept them in his basement. He had a troubled life, was an introvert and loner who didn’t mix with his classmates. He lurched from crisis to crisis, dropping out of nursing school and then getting divorced after his wife caught him in bed with three women and reported persistent abuse. He was charged on multiple accounts of violence and rape and was arrested for the crimes that he would eventually be executed for.

4. Ariel Castro

Between 2002 and 2004, Ariel Castro abducted three women between the ages of 14 and 21 and kept them locked in his basement until one of them escaped with her six year old daughter in 2013. She returned with Police officers and the other two were rescued. In spring 2013, he was charged with multiple counts of abduction and aggravated murder (for aborting foetuses the girls carried as a result of his raping them). He was sentenced to life in prison plus 1000 years but just one month into his sentence he committed suicide.

5. Robert Berdella

Though he carried out his murders in Missouri, he was born near Cleveland. He showed few signs as a problem child, a model student with high grades until he was caught multiple times torturing animals. He later went on to drug and rape a male friend before killing him. This pattern continued until he had drugged, raped and asphyxiated six men between 1984 and 1987. He died in prison in 1992 shortly after writing to a minister to complain that he was being denied his heart medication.

6. Michael Madison

Though only suspected at this time while the trial is ongoing, Madison is alleged to have killed three people ‘ all young black women ‘ and burying their bodies in and around his house. He was arrested and charged in July 2013 after a brief standoff at his mother’s house. Madison subsequently entered a not guilty plea and prosecutors are presently seeking the death penalty. The case has drawn comparisons with several other cases on this list, particularly Ariel Castro.

7. Jeffrey Dahmer

The most famous serial killer on this list has a number of nicknames including The Milwaukee Cannibal. Though not from Ohio (born and died in Wisconsin) he committed all of his murders in the state and had lived there most of his life. He was convicted of the rape, murder and cannibalism of at least seventeen young men. Additionally, other charges included child molestation and necrophilia. Though diagnosed with BPD, he was proclaimed legally sane at his trial and given 16 life sentence terms. He was beaten up in prison and died of his injuries.

8. Richard Eberling

Richard Eberling was already a convict serving time for murder when he was accused of killing the wife of Doctor Sam Sheppard. Sheppard was initially convicted of the crime but later released. Eberling’s initial crime was after he got involved romantically with one Ethel May Durkin whom he later killed after forging her will. Eberling boasted in prison to the crime of killing Sheppard’s wife and later wrote a letter to the Doctor stating that he would reveal all at the right time.

9. Cleveland Torso Murderer (or The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run)

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This person was never identified but in the 1930s, they were responsible for the deaths of at least 12 people in and around Cleveland; recent analysis shows that there may have been potentially more than that. Most victims were drifters, except for a small handful who were identified, and all suffered the same fate: dismembered, beheaded and in some cases the torso was cut in half. There was a mix of male and female victims and in each case the male was castrated.

10. Anthony Sowell (The Cleveland Strangler)

Before he became a notorious serial killer, he showed signs of what was to be. He attacked a pregnant woman, bound her and gagged her but released her. He was charged with attempted kidnapping, rape and attempted rape. He served 15 years for the crime and was released in 2005. He dated the niece of the city mayor for a while and after they broke up, she complained of the foul smell. Sowell blamed it on a nearby sausage factory. He was arrested following a violent assault on an acquaintance in his home and that’s where the police discovered the first two bodies of eleven around his house. He is now in prison appealing against his death penalty.


It seems that Cleveland does have an unusually large number of serial killers associated with it, the above list were either born in and around Cleveland, lived there or killed there. Some of them represent some of the most notorious killers in criminal history and are known all over the world. Is Cleveland the serial killer capital of the world?

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