Edward Leonski – The Brownout Strangler of World War II


Edward Leonski

Serial killer Eddie Leonski — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

Edward Leonski was a serial killer who committed his crimes in Australia, although he himself was American.

Edward Leonski is known as the “Brownout Strangler”, given Melbourne’s wartime status of keeping low lighting

Born in New York, Edward Leonski grew up in an abusive, alcoholic family, and one of his brothers was committed to a mental institution. He was called up for the US Army in February 1941 and arrived in Melbourne on February 2, 1942.

Murders

On May 3, 1942, Ivy Violet McLeod, 40, was found dead in Albert Park, Melbourne. She had been beaten and strangled, and because she was found to be in possession of her purse it was evident that robbery was not the motive.

Just six days later, 31-year-old Pauline Thompson was strangled to death after a night out. She was last seen in the company of a young man who was described as having an American accent. Gladys Hosking, 40, was the next victim, murdered on May 18 while walking late at night near Melbourne University.

A witness said that, on the night of the killing, a disheveled American man had approached him asking for directions, seemingly out of breath and covered with mud. This description matched the individual Pauline Thompson was seen with on the night of her murder, as well as the descriptions given by several women who had survived recent attacks.

These survivors, and other witnesses, were able to pick 23-year-old Edward Leonski out of a line-up of American servicemen who were stationed in the city during World War II. A Private in the 52nd Signal Battallion, Edward Leonski was arrested and charged with three murders.

Trial and Execution of Edward Leonski

Edward Leonski confessed to the crimes and was convicted and sentenced to death at a United States Army general court-martial on July 17, 1942. General Douglas MacArthur confirmed the sentence on October 14, 1942 and a Board of Review upheld the findings and sentence on October 28, 1942. General Court-Martial Order 1 promulgated Leonski’s death sentence on November 1, 1942.

In a departure from normal procedure, on November 4, 1942, MacArthur personally signed the order of execution (in future executions, this administrative task would be entrusted to his Chief of Staff, Richard Sutherland). Edward Leonski was hanged at Pentridge Prison on November 9, 1942, only the second American serviceman to be executed during World War II.

Leonski’s counsel, Ira C. Rothgerber, attempted to win an external review, even from the U.S. Supreme Court, but was unable to do so. Rothgerber kept the issue alive after the war, and Leonski’s case contributed to the development of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Edward Leonski was temporarily interred at several cemeteries in Australia. His remains were eventually permanently interred in Section 9, Row B, Site 8 at Schofield Barracks Post Cemetery, in a portion of the facility reserved for general prisoners who had died in military custody.

credit murderopedia / wikipedia

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