Saturday, June 14, 2008

"There's No Such Thing as a Perfect Crime"

One of the most obvious fallacies ever foisted on long-suffering true crime readers is the notion that “there is no such thing as a perfect crime.” I heard that claim voiced again on television last night. While we can debate the meaning of a “perfect crime,” to me it is one in which the identity of the perpetrator is never learned and he or she is never brought to justice. [Photo of Elizabeth Short, the so-called “Black Dahlia”]

Listed below are just a few of the hundreds of thousands of perfect murders in America that were never solved. I haven't included any case from the 1970s on because some of them could still be solved.

Elizabeth Short, a.k.a. the Black Dahlia. This has been one of America’s most infamous unsolved cases ever since Short’s body was found January 15, 1947 in Leimart Park in Los Angeles. Her face had been sliced ear-to-ear in a grotesque smile. Her torso was cut in half, yet little if any blood was found. Cops believed she was murdered elsewhere and transported to the scene. Even though police worked the case hard, they never got any real leads. While books and movies have endeavored to convince us that the identity of the killer is known, the fact is that someone committed the perfect murder.

Virginia Brooks. On February 11, 1931, ten-year-old Virginia Brooks was abducted off the streets of San Diego while walking to school. On March 9, her body was found on the Fort Kearney military reservation. She’d been dismembered with an ax. Human hairs were grasped in her fingers, meaning that Virginia probably grappled with the killer. Unfortunately, her murderer was never found. (Police and newspapers were convinced that the killer was responsible for at least five additional unsolved murders in the area.)

Evelyn Hartley. On October 24, 1953, Evelyn was babysitting in her hometown of La Crosse, Wisconsin when she was abducted. Blood was found at various locations inside the house and furniture was knocked over, indicating that the 15-year-old had fought hard for her life. The baby she was watching lay undisturbed in her crib. It was apparent that someone had broken into the home through a basement window, attacked Evelyn, and dragged her out into the street to a waiting vehicle. While serial murderer and weirdo Ed Gein is usually mentioned in connection with the abduction, he always denied it and none of her remains or other connecting evidence was found in his home. No good suspect was ever identified and the horrific case has never been solved.

The Boy in the Box. On February 25, 1957, a college student found a cardboard box in a thicket in the northeast section of Philadelphia. Inside the box was the body of a young boy, estimated to be between four and six years old. The coroner stated that the boy had died of head injuries. Despite massive publicity throughout the years, he was never identified. This was almost certainly a case of abuse within a family but no one ever came forward. Against all odds, this case remains unsolved and someone got away with murder.

Rachel Taylor. On March 29, 1940, the mutilated body of the 17-year-old coed was found near the Pennsylvania State University campus. No real leads ever developed and her killer was never located.

Then there are the un-caught serial killers. The so-called Cincinnati Ripper allegedly murdered at least five women between 1904 and 1910. During the Depression, the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run committed as many as 16 perfect murders of men, women, and children. In 1918 and 1919, the Axeman of New Orleans hacked 11 people to death and was never caught (contrary to popular belief there is no record that he was tracked down and killed in California by the wife of one of his victims). In 1925, an unknown psychopath called the Toledo Clubber bashed in the heads of 11 women, killing five. The Zodiac Killer murdered at least six people in the late 1960s and was never apprehended.

The unfortunate victims in these and thousands of other unsolved murders deserved justice. But utopia does not exist, and while it is comforting to think that there are no “perfect crimes,” the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.


aliciacc75 said...

I've live in Toledo for 32 yrs. and yesterday was the first time I had heard of the Toledo Clubber. Where can I find more detailed info on these cases. I'm very interested in Criminology and why people do what they do so it's very odd for me to never have heard of these murders.

Robert A. Waters said...

Thanks for the comment. I originally found a few paragraphs about the Clubber in a book entitled, The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes by veteran true crime writer Michael Newton. Then I looked up several articles in old newspapers on My subscription costs $30 for a year and it has some great info for the researcher. If you want more info about the Clubber, email me at and I'll send you what I have. Robert

PCA said...

Fort Kearny was located in Kearney, NE. Virginia Brooks was found on the grounds of what then Camp Kearny(opened in 1917). The camp was fold into is now MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station)Miramar.