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Edward Joseph Leonski (December 12, 1917 – November 9, 1942) was an Americanmarker spree killer who committed his crimes in Australia. Leonski is known as the "Brownout Strangler", given Melbourne's wartime status of keeping low lighting (not as stringent as a wartime blackout).

Early life

Born in New Yorkmarker, 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 U.S. Army in February 1941 and arrived in Melbourne on February 2, 1942.


On May 3, 1942, Ivy Violet McLeod, 40, was found dead in Albert Park, Melbournemarker. 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 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 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 24-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 Battalion, Leonski was arrested and charged with three murders.

Trial and execution

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). Leonski was hanged at Pentridge Prisonmarker 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.marker Supreme Courtmarker, 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).

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.

Fictional portrayals

The 1986 film Death of a Soldier is based on Leonski.

External links


Australian Dictionary of Biography Online [102711]

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