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.

https://www.newspapers.com, (Newspapers.com) 

http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org, (New York State Historic Newspapers)

https://fultonsearch.org, (Fulton History.org)

https://lmha-nyc.org, (Lower Manhattan Historical Association)

https://www.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/special-collections/trial-transcripts (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…..

 

 

 

 

  

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3 thoughts on “Hunt For a Killer Part 1

  1. What a find that database is. Wow. Do you know where Vincenzo was murdered? Are the records arranged by borough/court? I see that these records only include NY and Bronx counties. Was the murder in one of those boroughs? Are there separate records for Brooklyn?

    Good luck, Sharon! Don’t give up!

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