Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Connecticut’s “Mad Dog” Killer

Joseph Taborsky
Sentenced to death and set free to kill again
by Robert A. Waters

Joseph Taborksy could never quite get it right. A hardened criminal with a cocky attitude, he even got a second chance after being sentenced to death.  Walking out of prison on a technicality, “Mad Dog” Taborsky informed the press that he was done with crime. 
Even as a youngster, Joe was an incorrigible little brat. His first recorded crime was the theft of a bicycle.  Released with no time served, he pilfered another bike.  He eventually served a few months in a reform school for theft, but it didn’t help.  Throughout his teens, Taborsky, a part-time boxer, learned to bob and weave through the justice system, escaping punishment time and again.

Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1926, Joe came from a middle-class family.  His father, a door-to-door salesman, worked hard to keep his family afloat while Joe’s mother kept house.  In addition to Juvie Joe, there was Albert, dull of intellect and certifiably insane.

At 18, while serving a short sentence in the local jail, Joe escaped.  After being re-captured, he finally did hard time—three years in the state penitentiary.  Upon his release, he fled to Seattle, Washington.  True to his nature, Joe began burgling houses and, in 1947, served a short sentence for his crimes.  Returning to Connecticut, the career criminal did a six-month stint in the Hartford City Jail for carrying an illegal weapon.  In the next few years, he racked up arrests for burglary, robbery, and other offenses.  In most of those cases, he avoided prison.

Then, according to the North Adams Transcript, Joe hit the big time.  “In January 1951, [Joseph] Taborsky arrived on the public scene with a spectacular burst of notoriety. His mother, Mrs. Esther M. Taborsky, called police and said her son Albert would like to talk to officers. Albert said he and Joe parked near a liquor store one day and Joe got out with a gun. When he returned, Joe said: ‘The guy jumped me and I had to shoot him.’ The store operator turned out to be Louis I. Wolfson, whose murder police had been trying to solve for months. A month later, Joe was found guilty of first degree murder and his execution was set for Nov. 7, 1951.” Albert pleaded guilty, testified against his brother, and drew a life sentence. 

In 1955, Joe received a stroke of luck that might have turned his life around.  During his incarceration, Albert had been committed to an insane asylum.  Because of this, Joe’s attorneys appealed his death sentence, alleging that a crazy man’s testimony couldn’t be used in court.  The justices agreed.  Suddenly, the prison doors swung open and a grinning Joseph Taborsky was released once again to prey on society.

On December 15, 1956, cops found Edward J. Jurpiewski and Daniel J. Janowski murdered in their rural service station. Then Samuel H. Cohn was killed in his liquor store.  Next, Bernard J. Speyer and his wife, Ruth, died.  They happened to walk into a shoe store as it was being robbed.  Finally, the bandits stuck up a pharmacy and killed John M. Rosenthal.  Most of Taborsky’s victims were forced to kneel on the floor, then shot in the head.

With the bodies piling up, cops finally got a break.  The shoe store owner had been beaten but survived—he told detectives that the killer had pretended to be a customer and asked for size 12 shoes.  Investigators looked through their crime files and came up with the name of only one offender who wore that size shoe.  Joseph Taborsky.    

“Mad Dog” and his partner, Arthur “Meatball” Culombe, confessed to murdering six people.  In total, their deadly heists netted only a few hundred dollars.  At trial, Culombe, called a “mental defective” and “moron,” got life in prison.  Taborsky was once again sentenced to death.

This time the sentence would be carried out. On May 17, 1960, Taborsky was strapped into Connecticut’s electric chair.  As the switch was thrown, his body snapped back, then he went limp.

He donated his remains to Yale Medical School and his eyes to a New York eye bank.  If he hoped to make up for the number of ruined lives that followed in his murderous wake, he failed.  Nothing could atone for the innocent victims he killed.


The Blind Juggler said...

Have you read the book by Gerald Deumeusy "Ten Weeks of Terror"? He was the Hartford Courant reporter who coined the phrase "Mad Dog Killers" back in 1957. He wrote the self-published book back in 2002. It is an interesting read.

The man standing to Taborsky's left in that picture is Arthur "Meatball" Culombe.

Pókemon Universe said...

Those poor dead people... God bless their souls.

Unknown said...

Hi Robert. Thank you for your informative and interesting article. I came by your writing since my mom was friend's with Joseph's sister Ester in High School. My mom will be 94 in a few weeks. She often thinks of Ester. She knows that at one time, Ester worked for the Salvation Army and wondered if she was still alive. Since bad things have happened in our family, she thinks of her since she was kind and how most people would have avoided her given the circumstances of her brother. (The idea of connection must mean she is bad also, if her brother was bad news.)
Just wondering. Since there was no mention of a sister in your article.... did you know that Ester existed?
Kate Smith, West Hartford, Ct almost 53 years old.

Robert A. Waters said...

Thanks for your comments. I did not know that Ester existed. Good luck to you and your family. Robert

The Blind Juggler said...

I was wondering if you ever researched Arthur Culombe's family? Or do you know anything else about his past?

I started genealogical research after my mother passed away in 2004. She never discussed her upbringing and rarely discussed her family members. After some research, I have learned that my mother was Arthur's youngest daughter, making Arthur my maternal grandfather. I knew my mother had a rough early life in Hartford, and our family moved to Georgia in 1981 when I was just 6 years old (after my grandfather passed away in prison I presume) and I assume my mother just wanted to get on with her life in a new state. One of my earliest memories was spending every Sunday with at my mother's friends' house in Ellington, and that family would babysit us while my mother was gone. I never asked why we always spent the day at that house, until I learned that it was a few miles from the prison Arthur was incarcerated. Now I understand why she was upset when she returned to pick us up. For almost her entire life, she only has memories of her father in prison. She was 5 when he was arrested.

I can tell you that the correct spelling of Arthur's last name is Colombe, not Culombe. I pulled his birth certificate from Fall River, and found other genealogical records to support this. Since he was illiterate, Arthur probably couldn't spell it correctly when he was arrested.

I know what my grandfather and Joseph did was horrible. They killed 9 people in cold blood. I'm also interested in learning any theories about either of their mental illnesses or causes of limited mental capacities.