Production company plans to turn ‘Cleveland Torso Murders’ into scripted series

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CLEVELAND (WJW) -- It's one of the most intriguing unsolved crimes in U.S. history, and now the tale of the Cleveland Torso Murders could be coming to your television screen.

The decapitated bodies of 13 people were found in the late 1930s in the area known as Kingsbury Run, extending from Cleveland’s Flats to the near east side. It was a dangerous shantytown at a time when Cleveland was among the nation’s largest cities and on the rise.

The murders led to the largest investigation in Cleveland police history, but it never led to an arrest, and the case stained the career of public safety director Eliot Ness, who was brought to Cleveland to rein in crime.

“To me, this is the greatest true crime story that hasn't been told,” said Matt Waldeck, a producer and president of Cleveland-based Zodiac Features.

“The Torso Murders as a subject has attracted over the last 20 years some of the top filmmakers in the industry," he said.

The company, which produced the thriller ‘I See You,’ filmed locally in 2018, is developing a true crime podcast, docuseries and scripted series based on the Torso Murders.

“The city was really held hostage by the killer,” he said.

The company has obtained the rights to a trilogy of books on the murders written by Dr. James Jessen Badal and has now recovered never-before-seen archives from the family of the case’s lead investigator, detective Peter Merylo.

“We think that's really the missing piece to the Torso Murder tale,” Waldeck said.

Waldeck said Merylo's memoir is the only firsthand account of the investigation after all official police records were lost or destroyed.

The archive also includes photos, a map, handwritten notes and an audio clip of Merylo interrogating a witness who claimed he saw someone carrying a basket filled with remains.

The case continues to captivate true crime enthusiasts, and Waldeck said the unearthed material will be new to viewers.

“There was just no period at the end of the Torso Murder sentence,” he said.

Waldeck said production of the podcast will begin in the next few months, and his company is actively seeking a studio to pick up the scripted series, which he hopes to film in Northeast Ohio.

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