March 23: The Mad Dog Murders Begin


Hartford’s Joseph Taborsky had already acquired a long rap sheet for stealing, robbery, and other petty offenses by his early 20s. On March 23, 1950, he decided to “celebrate” his 25th birthday with a crime-ridden night on the town, 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 Joseph 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 lived on death row for over four years until, following his younger brother’s commitment to a mental health hospital, the state Supreme Court threw out the murder case and revoked Taborsky’s death sentence. After 52 months on death row, Joseph Taborsky suddenly found himself a free man, and when pressed for a comment after his release from prison, he vowed to live a reformed life. “You can’t beat the law,” he said to a Hartford Courant reporter. “From now on, I’m not even going to get a parking ticket.”

Taborsky’s reform was short lived. Together with a new partner in crime, Arthur Culombe, Joseph went on another violent crime spree in December 1956, robbing businesses and brutally assaulting or murdering their owners in towns from North Haven to New Britain to Coventry. For 10 weeks, the entire state was gripped by fear, with citizens refusing to venture out of their homes at night, and stores closing 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 victims’ murders, nearly all of which involved execution-style shots to the victim’s heads. One survivor, a shoe store owner who had lived through being shot in the neck, told police his assailant had requested a pair of size 12 shoes. This proved to be a small but vital lead, because, after being cross-referenced against a list of ex-convicts, the shoe-clue led police right to Joseph Taborsky and his partner Arthur Culombe. Culombe readily confessed to being Taborsky’s accomplice, but insisted Taborsky and Taborsky alone had committed all the actual murders.

In June of 1957, Joseph Taborsky received the unique distinction of being the only criminal in Connecticut history to be sentenced to death twice, after a jury convicted him of multiple counts of first-degree murder. This death sentence was carried out two and a half years later, making “Mad Dog” Taborsky the last person in state history to die by state-ordered electrocution. A twice-condemned man first stepped onto the dark and violent path that led him to the electric chair, 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