Categories: Crime and Punishment, East Hartford, Hartford, New Britain, West Hartford

Joseph Taborsky and the “Mad Dog Killings”

Joseph L. Taborsky, left, and Arthur Colombe, right, were linked to six murders and eight armed robberies. State police said one of the pair confessed, implicating the other, Feburary 1957 – © The Associated Press

Joseph “Mad Dog” Taborsky earned his nickname for the brutal methods he employed robbing and murdering his victims. In the mid-20th century, Taborsky went on a 10-week killing spree that made Connecticut residents think twice before leaving their homes. He remains the only convict in the state sentenced to death row…twice.

On March 23, 1950, Joe Taborsky decided to celebrate his 25th birthday by taking his younger brother Albert out to rob a local business. With Albert in the car, Taborsky robbed a West Hartford liquor store—shooting and killing its owner, Louis Wolfson.

Police had no leads in the case until Taborsky’s younger brother contacted police and confessed to the crime. On June 7, 1951, a court convicted the two brothers, sentencing Albert to life in prison and Joseph to die in the electric chair. Shortly before Joseph’s execution, however, Albert had a breakdown and authorities transferred him to a mental health facility.

Joseph Taborsky’s lawyers requested a new trial and, based on Albert’s instability, the courts decided his confession was not sufficient evidence to convict his brother. After 52 months on death row, Joseph Taborsky was a free man.

Release From Prison Brings New Killing Spree

Taborsky vowed to go straight, but within a year, shop owners and patrons around Hartford again had reason to fear for their lives. On December 15, 1956, Taborsky shot a Hartford tailor in the head and neck before killing an attendant and customer at a New Britain gas station. Eleven days later, Taborsky shot and killed liquor store owner Sam Cohn.

The rash of murders sent shockwaves through the surrounding community. People feared to venture from their homes and liquor stores (a frequent target of Taborsky’s) began closing at 8:00 pm, rather than their usual 11:00 pm, as a way to make themselves less vulnerable. Still, the so-called “Mad Dog Killings” continued.

On January 5, 1957, Taborsky entered an East Hartford shoe store and asked for a pair of size 12 shoes. He then promptly pistol-whipped the store owner before shooting customers Bernard and Ruth Speyer in the head—killing them both. A month later, police found pharmacist Jack Rosenthal murdered in his drug store, having died from a gunshot wound to the chest.

Police used the size-12 shoes as their primary lead and, checking the records of ex-cons in the state, moved quickly to pick up Taborsky. After initially denying any involvement in the murders, Taborsky eventually cracked, confessing to them all, including that of Louis Wolfson back in 1950.

Once again, the state sentenced Taborsky to die. This time, however, they carried out his execution, which occurred on May 17, 1960. Taborsky’s was the last execution in the state until the death of Michael Ross in 2005.

LEARN MORE

Documents

Bovsun, Mara. “The Mad Dog Killer.” NY Daily News. January 31, 2009, sec. Special to the News. Link.
Tuohy, Lynne. “When `Mad Dog’ Was Put to Death.” Hartford Courant. January 2, 2005. Link.

Books

Goodheart, Lawrence B. The Solemn Sentence of Death: Capital Punishment in Connecticut. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011.
Enjoyed reading this? Share it with friends »