Hunt For a Killer Part 1

The question ‘who killed Vincenzo Civitano?’ has remained one of my top family research projects for a number of years now. Murdered on 12 Oct. 1909 in NYC, the name of his assailant is still a mystery but one I am determined to solve.

Initially, myself and my cousin Peter Marino gave it a true gallant try back in 2017 with little head way. Put to rest, I have now taken that 2nd/3rd/4th look at this mystery.

On Monday, June 24th I wrote to NARA (national archives and records administration) and received a reply the very next day; 25th.

Dear Ms. Sabin, I received your email seeking information regarding the homicide of Vincenzo Civitano. The National Archives at New York City holds records of the US federal government and its agencies with offices in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, including the federal courts. However, murder is rarely a federal crime, so we would not hold any records related to Vincenzo Civitano’s death or the subsequent trial. You might try the New York City Municipal Archives as they hold records of the New York City courts, as well as some NYC police records. Court cases are filed under the defendant’s name, so you will, most likely, need to know the name of the person tried for the murder to find court records. I would suggest searching newspaper databases to locate information about this crime and trial. Newspaper databases are available free of charge in most public libraries and can provide information about the crime, as well as any arrest made and the court where the case was held. Best,Kelly

I was not surprised with the reply as Peter and I worked with an archivist at the NYC  Municipal Archives, via the net, prior with little information surfacing. I knew already that court documents were filed under the defendant’s name, which is what we don’t have and what we are trying to find but I confirmed that the records I am hoping to find are housed at the Municipal Archives. In searching for records, the one thing I have learned is that it never hurts, in fact it helps to inquire a number of times. The archivist you reach could provide additional information and have more knowledge in what your looking for. They may even dig deeper to help you….you just never know.

With a reminder to post for help on one of the wonderful FB genealogy pages, I posted on New York City Genealogy “Looking for help with a newspaper look up for the year 1909 – Homicide murder of Vincent/Vincenzo Civitano in Manhattan. His death certificate actually reads James Civilano. My goal is try and discover the name of his assailant. This is a case that did go to trial, with a conviction and time was served. Have had no luck locating a record at the municipal archives when in Manhattan a few years back. Court cases are listed under the defendants name and that is my unknown. Any and all help, ideas and suggestions appreciated. TY Sharon in WA state.” 

Many members chimed in with suggestions and ideas as well as doing some of their own sluething for me, with no luck. While I was familiar with most of the suggestions and have visited them often, one stood out – the last one. A quick look and I thought I might have struck gold. This site is a wealth of information for all court cases in New York County and if you are doing any research in this area I highly suggest you add this to your site lists for research., (, (New York State Historic Newspapers), (Fulton, (Lower Manhattan Historical Association) (Criminal Transcripts N.Y. County Collection)

With my luck the searchable index was and still is down for maintenance but I was able to get into the ‘long list of 3,369 transcripts’

From the site

“The Lloyd Sealy Library’s The Trial Transcripts of the County of New York 1883 – 1927 collection includes the verbatim typewritten proceedings of 3,326 court cases, held in various courts of New York County, which included Manhattan and The Bronx until 1914. Specifically the transcripts originate from:

  1. Court of General Sessions 1886-1927 transcripts #1-3106B
  2. Supreme Court of New York County 1896 – 1922 – transcripts #3107-3267
  3. Court of Oyer and Terminer  1886 -1895 – transcripts #3268-3296
  4. Tribunals in Police Court, City Magistrates Court, Sheriffs Office, Coroner’s Office 1883 – 1907, 1926 -transcripts #3297-3323
  5. Unspecified Courts 1905, 1914, 1918 – transcripts # 3324-3326
  6. Incomplete transcripts and unidentifed pages, undated – reels 423-424
  7. Appeals Bureau of the New York City Criminal Court, Stenographer’s Minutes through 1929 – reel 425

all of the above are searchable on our index – except reels 423-425.” 

As with most lists, scrolling for me seems to be difficult in that moving down on the pages I tend to miss a few entries the scrolling is choppy. Undetered, I began looking for murder cases. The first trial date was: Trial #1082 1886/11/22 Defendant: Arthur J. McQuade, Sex: M; Charge: Perjury; with the judge and stenographer # and link to view the full text

So I set off on my task of looking for a case in my time frame. With the murder date of Oct. 12, 1909 and knowing that his wife Nicoletta had remained in New York to testify before she left with her two small children for Italy, she was still here and on the 1910 April census, I began looking for anything pertaining to murder/homicide between those dates – In this post I am highlighting the first 3 cases I found.

TRIAL #1123
Date: 1910/3/21; Reels(s): 148.
Defendant(s): Philip J. Lender, Sex: M; Philip Lender, Sex: M;
Charge(s): Murder (1st degree);
Judge: Thomas C. T. Crain;
Defense Attorney(s): Samuel Feldman; Nathaniel Levy; Bernard L. Mittnick;
Prosecuting Attorney(s): Robert C. McCormick; Henry A. Stickney;
Note(s): Indicted as Philip Lender.
Stenographer Number: 1134; Page(s): 339 p.
Court: Court of General Sessions

This case has possibilities and warrents further investigation. Philip J. Lender (1878 Germany) married Margaret Graynor on July 24, 1898 in NYC. I first found them in the 1900 c with son Phillip Jr. 1 yr and Sallie just born. Philip (22) was as plumber. The date for trial was 3/21/1910 and my guess at this point, by reason of insanity, he was sentenced to Matteawan State Hospital, Insane Asylum,  Beacon City, New York, where I found him on the 1910 April 28th census as a patient where he remained until his death on Jan 23, 1940. He was 62. I am not ruling him out as the assailant. I found one researcher on Ancestry who has this family in their tree with little to no information on him but I will reach out to see if I can learn anything further.
TRIAL #1112
Date: 1910/3/7; Reels(s): 147.
Defendant(s): Vincent Stabile, Sex: M;
Charge(s): Murder (1st degree);
Judge: Thomas C. T. Crain;
Defense Attorney(s): Augustin Derby; Herman Joseph;
Prosecuting Attorney(s): Hart; McCormick;
Stenographer Number: 1157; Page(s): 763 p.
Court: Court of General Sessions

Research led to discovering that Vincent Stabile (22) was a college student who shot and killed a man named John Mcgrath. It would be easy to go down many rabbit holes with this research and I had to resist the temptation but from New York Times Archives  

“Vincent L. Stabile, a City College student, who shot and killed John McGrath on Sept. 25, 1909, is now a free man. Stabile spent a year and eight months in the Tombs with a charge of murder hanging over his head. He owed his release from the Tombs last week to a point of law raised in his behalf by ex-District Attorney Jerome.” 

TRIAL #1132
Date: 1910/4/4; Reels(s): 149.
Defendant(s): Attillo Simone, Sex: M;
Charge(s): Murder (1st degree);
Judge: Warren W. Foster;
Defense Attorney(s): Caesar B. F. Barra;
Prosecuting Attorney(s): Henry A. Stickney;
Note(s): Recessed.
Stenographer Number: 1175; Page(s): 248 p.
Court: Court of General Sessions

This case caught my eye right away as I have a number of Simone family members in this time period. In fact Vincenzo’s wife, Nicoletta at the time of his death moved in with Vincenzo’s niece Giuditta/Julia Civitano and her husband Vito Simone and their family. Julia’s sister Rosa was married to Vito’s brother Domenico Simone.

It has always been a thought of the possibilty of the assailant been a family member because the family lore is that it was a ice route dispute that led to the killing. Had I stumbled on a connection with this? Sadly no, as the case involved Attillo using a gun to shot his victim. Further research led to these men having two different fathers, which is not to say that their fathers weren’t brothers, but I did not go any further research this.

The rabbit hole did open up when I spotted a case on bigamy for an Ike Lipschitz held on Dec. 17, 1909. While a very common name, I have a number of men on my Jewish side with this name. Add this to my to do list 🙂

The hunt for the killer of Vincenzo Civitano continues…..







A Very Special Remembrance of Julia Bianca nee Civitano and the Death of Vincenzo Civitano Revisited

Remembering Julia Bianca nee Civitano 

29 August 1929 – 24 June 2018 


May we never forget and always take time to remember those we hold close to our hearts with love and affection. Julia was a 2nd cousin 1x removed and I had the great blessing of meeting her. She was a remarkable woman and is truly missed by those who knew and loved her. To her immediate family ~ all my love.


Revisiting the homicide of my great grandfather Vincenzo Civitano, the year was 1909 and ice was a commodity very much in demand. Our families business was the ice and coal delivery in those early years and following through the decades until refridgeration became common place. Family lore is that Vincenzo was killed over a delivery route dispute. There was a trial and the assailant went to prison. By 1923 after serving his sentence he had been released. We know this because my grandfather, his son Frank, at the age of 15, had returned from Italy in 1923 to avenge his death. He was talked out of it by his benefactor and Uncle, Frank Civitano (Julia Bianca’s father) who sponsored Frank and his sister Julia’s return from Italy where they were living with their mother Nicoletta and her 2nd husband Nicholas Grisondi in Grumo Appula, Italy.

icemanattruck                 Photo: New York Public Library

Back in August of 2017 I initiated an email conversation with a clerk at the New York City government records/archives dept. I was looking for help and direction in locating court documents for death/murder for Vincenzo. With the help of Peter Marino, Julia’s grandson we had been working this case for many years. Peter made a huge effort, visiting the archives and following the directions of the archiviest we were working with but with no avail in locating any records. In fact we had been turned over to another department; the interlibrary loans dept. in the hopes of ordering further microfilm to wade through. That connection went unanswered as they never responded to my attempts to correspond. I gave up at that point, putting the search on hold.

Here we are once again, the 1 year anniversary of Julia’s passing and I have re initiated a conversation with New York NARA (national archives and records administration) I thought it might be interesting and fun to follow this process through the blog.

June 24th initial inquiry contact made to be directed to the dept. where I can be helped.

Hello – I hope you can help me or direct me to the correct dept. 
I am requesting records and documents pertaining to a court action that occured in the year 1909 – 1910 in Manhattan This is the case of the homicide of my great grandfather
Vincenzo Civitano death certificate recorded under James Civitano #29785
date of death 12 Oct. 1909 Manhattan. Coroner Peter P. Acretelli took charge of the body from New York Hospital on 12 Oct. 1909 – certified penetrating stab wound of the chest Date Received: 8 Dec. 1909 under Vincent Civitano no. 4991 4th quarter I am trying to learn the identity of the assailant. As family, we know that there had been a trial in which his wife Nicoletta Civitano had testified at. The assailant was convicted and sent to prison and was released after time served. Can you help me with this? 
Thank you 


The National Archives at New York City is open to the public at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at One Bowling Green. 

Your request has been received and will be assigned to an archivist for processing. We strive to respond to inquiries within 10 business days, but it may take longer depending on the complexity of the request. 

Our research rooms are open Monday through Friday, 10am to 5pm. Access to microfilm and genealogical research on public computers is available during regular business hours and does not require an appointment.

Appointments are necessary to view original records. Researchers must submit a detailed request ahead of time for specific documents and make an appointment to access them. If you wish to make an appointment, please call 212-401-1620 to speak with an archivist.

I have come so far and made great head way with the help of Peter. This brick wall is one that haunts and taunts me continually. I know the answer is out there, it is a mystery I am determined to solve. With some time to rest under my belt, it is time to take another crack at it.

Remembering Vincent Civitano

I know my birth father through the stories told to me about him.

I know him by studing the pictures I have acquired through the years.

I know him by the mannerism and expressions of my brothers and his brother.

I know him by researching and writing about his family, my family, the family that has come before us from the simple peasant village of Grumo Appula, in the Puglia region of Italy.

As I remember him on this anniversary of his passing, those of us who knew him intimately, remember the boy and man he was and the gap left in our lives with his passing.

Vincent Anthony Civitano 

24 April 1934 – 20 June 1990

I know him by seeing myself in him

Birthfather&Me copy

This photo of Vincent was taken in about 1953/54. He is about 19 or 20, serving in the Army in the Korean War. The photo of myself, high school graduation, 1971 and I am 18. This was one of the very first photo’s I received after I found my birth family in 2004. I saw myself in him immediatly. Below is a picture with the two of us transposed on each other.


Birthfathertranspose2 copy

Vincent was the son of Frank Civitano and Catherine Langellotti. Vincent joined his sister, Nicoletta (4) born in 1930. Living at 1114 Metcalf Ave, Bronx, his father Frank was working as an ice proprietor and later delivering coal in those early years. Many of our family members began in the ice and coal business which provided a stable and steady income for their families.


Vincent was preceded in death by his father in 1982.  His son, my brother, Vincent Jr. joined them both in 1996.


As it is with genealogy, we look back into our past to move forward and through life celebrating and remembering those who have gone before in a effort to make sense and understand our present.

Today I remember and celebrate you

Vincent Anthony Civitano