Leonski, Edward Joseph., the “Brownout Strangler”

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Leonski, Edward Joseph, the "Brownout Strangler".
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Leonski, Edward Joseph.,born 12-12-1917 in Kenvil, New Jersy into a Polish- American family. Leonski grew up in an abusive alcoholic family. One of his brothers was committed to a mental institution.  According to a psychologist who interviewed Leonski during his trial, his mother had been overprotective and controlling. Leonski had been bullied by other neighborhood kids and called a mama’s boy. Accordingly, the psychologist ruled that Leonski’s crimes were born of his resentment and hatred of his mother and thus constituted “symbolic matricide .Leonski worked for a time as a delivery boy. He was called up for the U.S. Army  in February 1941 and arrived in Melbourne, Australia, on 02-02-1942, after the United States  had entered  World War II.

On 03-05-1942, Ivy Violet McLeod, 40, was found dead in Albert Park, Melbourne.  She had been beaten and Stranghed, and because she was found to be in possession of her purse it was evident that  robbery was not the motive. Six days later 31-year-old Pauline Thompson was strangled 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 home from work at the Chemistry Library at  Melbourne University. A witness said that, on the night of the killing, a disheveled American man had approached her asking for directions, seemingly out of breath and covered with mud. This description matched the individual 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 24-year-old Leonski out of a line-up of American servicemen  who were stationed in Melbourne. Leonski, a private in the 52nd Signal Battalion , was arrested and charged with three murders. 

Although Leonski’s crimes were committed on Australian soil, the trial was conducted under American military law.  Leonski confessed to the crimes and was convicted and  sentenced to death at a general court-martial on 17-07-1942. Gen.eral Douglas MacArthur  confirmed the sentence on October 14, and a Board of Review upheld the findings and sentence on October 28. General Court-Martial Order 1 promulgated Leonski’s death sentence on November 1. In a departure from normal procedure, on November 4, MacArthur personally signed the order of execution (in subsequent executions this administrative task was entrusted to MacArthur’s Chief of Staff Major General Richard Sutherland. Leonski was hanged at Pentridge Prison on  09-11-1942, age 24.

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

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 on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii. His grave is located in a section of the facility reserved for prisoners who died in military custody. There were six graves of war criminals, and the other five were, Robert R Peardon, Garlon Mickles, Louis E Garbus, Cornelius Thomas and Jesse D Boston.



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