March 23: The “Mad Dog” Murders


As a troubled teen, Hartford’s Joseph Taborsky had already acquired a long rap sheet for stealing, robbery, and other petty offenses by his early twenties.  On March 23, 1950, he decided to “celebrate” his twenty-fifth birthday with a crime-ridden night on the town, together with his younger brother, Albert.  Telling Albert they were going to “get some money,” the elder Taborsky drove to a West Hartford liquor store, where he robbed the owner and then shot him at point-blank range.

Joseph Taborsky addresses a crowd of reporters following his release from state prison on October 5, 1955. (Hartford Courant)

Months later, Albert turned himself in to police and offered a full confession in which he implicated his older brother in the West Hartford murder.  A jury quickly convicted both Taborsky brothers, and while Albert’s confession earned him a life sentence, Joseph was sentenced to death for first-degree murder.  Taborsky remained on death row for over four years until, following his younger brother’s commitment to an insane asylum, the state Supreme Court threw out the case against Taborsky and revoked his death sentence.  After 52 months on death row, Joseph Taborsky suddenly found himself a free man, and when pressed for comment after his release from prison, he vowed to live a reformed life.  “You can’t beat the law,” he said at the time to a Hartford Courant reporter. “From now on, I’m not even going to get a parking ticket.”

It didn’t take long for Taborsky to go back on his word.  Together with a new partner in crime, Arthur Culombe, Taborsky went on a violent crime spree in early December 1956, robbing businesses and either brutally assaulting or murdering their owners in several Connecticut communities, from North Haven to New Britain to Coventry.  For ten weeks, the entire state was gripped by terror, with citizens refusing to venture out of their homes at night, and stores closing their doors as soon as the sun went down.  Local newspapers nicknamed the unknown assailant “the Mad Dog” due to the senseless and brutal nature of the murders, nearly all of which involved execution-style shots to the victim’s head.  One victim, a shoe store owner who had survived being shot in the neck, told police that his assailant had requested a pair of size 12 shoes — a small but significant lead that, after being cross-referenced against a list of ex-convicts, led police right to Joseph Taborsky and his partner.  Culombe readily confessed to being an accomplice to the string of violent crimes, but maintained that the actual murders were the work of Taborsky himself.

In June of 1957, Joseph Taborsky earned the unique designation of being the only criminal in Connecticut history to be sentenced to death row twice, after a jury convicted him of multiple counts of first-degree murder.  The sentence was carried out two and a half years later, making “Mad Dog” Taborsky the last person in state history to die by the electric chair.  A twice-condemned man first traveled the dark path toward a life of violent crime, today in Connecticut history.

Further Reading

Lynne Tuohy, “When ‘Mad Dog’ Was Put to Death,Hartford Courant

Mara Bovsun, “The Mad Dog Killer,New York Daily News