Hunt For A Killer: Is the Horse and Harness Theft Connected?

In my continued search for the killer of my great grandfather Vincenzo Civitano, I came across something very interesting that could play a role in the reason for the death of Vincenzo.

Born in Grumo Appula, Italy in 1868 Vincenzo immigrated to New York City on June 19, 1903. Traveling with him was his nephew, his brothers son, Francesco b. 1884.

Like Vincenzo, in those early years Francesco was also in the family ice and coal delivery business. Had they started out together in those early years of 1903 – 1909?

Family lore records that Vincenzo was stabbed to death due to an argument over ice delivery routes. His death is documented but the assailant is unknown. There was a trial and the assailant did jail time. All records for the trial were recorded under the assailants name which has been the problem in locating the trial transcript. As I continue to look for clues and information, I turned once again to I came a cross an article that I found interesting and possibly connected with a stitch of imagination.

1The Standard Union (Brooklyn, New York) · 6 Jun 1910, Mon · Page 4

In the first column a little below midway down “Shapiro was convicted for stealing two horses and harness the property of Frank Civitano, valued at $500, on March 31, 1909. 

Finding this article raises a number of questions for me. Again, family lore was that Vincenzo was stabbed over an argument regarding ice delivery routes. It would have to be quite an argument to result in his murder.

Shapiro was being sentenced for the horse and harness theft that occurred on March 31st, 1909.

Vincenzo was murdered on October 12, 1909.

We  know that Vincenzo’s wife Nicoletta had remained in New York to testify in the trail before she could return to Italy with her two small children. Nicoletta was still here on April 18th, 1910, the time of the census which was just a few weeks before the sentencing trial of Morris Shapiro on June 6th. Was this just a coincidence?

I am not suggesting that Morris Shapiro was the murderer but what if Vincenzo’s homicide was a carry over from the theft incident of Frank Civitano’s property. What if the gang was trying to hamper Frank from doing business, that is if the horse and harness was for the delivery business. Is it possible that the ‘argument’ was a result of gang activity trying to take over the ice/coal delivery business that our family was involved in? Had the ‘Abe Lewis Gang’ wanted their delivery routes?

It’s a far out there reach I know and just questions, just, what ifs?




~ Julia and Angelina Civitano ~ Cousin Connection

Recently I shared the photo below. In the middle is my Great Aunt Julia Civitano married to Nicholas Forese (1930). At the time of the posting, the other two women were unknown to me. Additionally, I had posted that I felt there was a strong resemblance between Julia and the taller woman on the right. 

Cousin Peter Marino to the rescue with an identification ~ always thankful to Peter for his continued help and collaboration with our family history. 

This is Angelina Civitano born November 1, 1909 ~ New York City. She was the oldest daughter of Francesco Civitano and Rose Di’Armiento. Angelina was sister to Peter’s grandmother, Julia. 

Cousin Connection

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Angelina, the oldest child of Francesco and Rose was joined by siblings Mary (1911), Louis John (1912), Helen (1914), Dominic John (1920), John Robert (1922) and Julia (1929)

Another favorite family photo ~ Parents Rose and Frank on the left, Lena standing in the back with her husband Salvatore (aka Sam) Vizzo – their two daughters Roseann Galati and Marion, sister Helen & her son Frankie Hardina, Peter’s grandmother Julia, their sister Mary and her husband Tony Gentile along with my grandmother Kate and grandfather Frank Civitano the Iceman.


Family Ties 


Remembering Maria Forese and asking Why?

Maria Forese #2 was born on August 23rd, 1919 in the Bronx, New York. She was the daughter of Michele (Michael) Forese and Rose DiSantis both from Grumo Appula, Italy.

Maria Forese 2

Maria Forese.jpg

On May 9th, 1911 Rose, traveling under her maiden name of DiSanits left Grumo Appula and arrived in New York joining her husband Michael who had come ahead of her. Traveling with her was daughter Maria 1 b. 1898, son Nicholas 1 (Nicola) b. 1902 and son Nicholas 2 (Nicola) b. 1909. I am labeling them with a #1 and #2 to make it easier. There had been another son b. 1900 also named Nicholas (Nicola) but he passed away in the same year, 1900, in Italy.

Maria 2 was born on the 23rd of May 1912 in the Bronx, New York. When she was 4 years old she and her siblings welcomed a baby sister name Angelina (Angela) born on June 8, 1916, Bronx. Their happiness was short-lived when baby Angela passed away on the 22nd of June, 1917 of bronchial pneumonia.

In my last post, I wrote about Julia Forese nee Civitano, the sister of my grandfather Frank Civitano who married Nicholas Forese 1. It is her husband that this story attaches too. Nicholas Forese was the husband of my great aunt.

Beautiful little Maria 2 was the sister to the two Nicholas’s and sister Maria 1 born in 1898.

The interweaving of the Civitano, Forese, Simone, D’Armiento families of Grumo Appula is a tapestry of families all intermarried and connected. It is almost impossible to unravel and make sense of, but I will try. While Nicholas 1 married a Civitano member so also had Nicholas 2.

Nicholas 2 married a woman named Angelina Simone and if that name sounds familiar to followers of this blog and our family, this Angelina is the daughter of Vito Simone and Giuditta Civitano, the God-parents of Julia Forese nee Civitano the wife of Nicholas Forese 1 that I am writing about.

Tragically, little Maria died on May 31, 1919, when she was only 6 years old, 9 months and 8 days. It was her cause of death that made her passing even more horrifying. According to the death certificate, the cause of death was shock: 2nd-degree burns of back and (?) ‘the contributing causes were’: clothes set fire by match – homicide. Had she been playing with matches? The word homicide indicates a deliberate act, murder, killing of another by another and the word was used. But who? I could find no record of this using

Death Certificate of Maria Forese

Death Certificate - Maria Forese.jpg

The question is now, who, how, why had this happened. I don’t have an answer and most likely we will never know.

Tragedy strikes again

Eight months later on January 1, 1920, Rose Forese, mother of Maria and Angelina deceased, died from ‘hydatid cysts of lungs, liver and other scleroderma visceral’. Hydatid cysts are caused by a tapeworm infection, caused by contaminated animal feces.

Death Certificate of Rose Forese

Death Certificate - Rosa Forese p.1

Rose Forese nee DiSantis left behind her husband Michele/Michael Forese (47) and her two sons Nicholas 1 (18) and Nicholas 2 (12) and Maria 1 (22)

Rose is buried at St. Raymonds Cemetery along with sweet Maria and her infant daughter Angelina  (Section 12, Range 16, Grave 62)

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Source: Find A Grave

Sweet Precious Maria 

Maria Forese

The Story of Giuditta/Julia Civitano

The year was 1923, June 7th, when Francesco Civitano (my grandfather at age 15) returned from Italy to New York. Two years following on May 2nd, 1925 Giuditta/Julia (15), his sister, returned to New York also. Both had been born here. Francesco on November 8th, 1907 and Julia on the 18th of July, 1909.

Julia’s birth certificate 


Their parents were Vincenzo Civitano and Nicoletta Marvulli both of Grumo Appula, Bari, Puglia, Italy. At the time of Julia’s birth, the family was living at 337 W. 26th St.

On August 15th, 1909 Julia was baptized at St. Clare Church. Her God-parents were Vito Simone and Giuditta Civitano.

Julia’s Baptismal record 



Tragically, Vincenzo was murdered on October 12, 1909, shortly after Julia had been born leaving his wife Nicoletta with the 2 small children.

Family lore says that Nicoletta remained in New York to testify in the trial that was to follow. She and her children Frank (2) and Julia  (9/12), moved in with Vincenzo’s 1st cousin, Giuditta Civitano (daughter of Francesco and Angelina Civitano) and her husband Vito Simone (the God-parents) They also had 2 children, Mary (2) and Vito Rocco (9/12), the same ages as Nicoletta’s children.

I found them in all in the 1910 c living at 250 W. 29th St., and I can’t imagine that the small tenement apartment was large enough to support this group of seven comfortably. It had to have been a very tight squeeze. Nicoletta was using her maiden name of Marvulli, and the children were listed with the Marvulli name as well. I found that curious and am not sure why that would have been. Nicoletta was working as a retail merchant in the coal and wood industry. Vito was also working in the coal and wood industry. I imagine both out of the same shop. Giuditta was at home with the four children.

Whether still waiting for the trial or it had already happened, the heartache that encompassed Nicoletta must have been insurmountable. She spoke only Italian and had been in the U.S. for just three years. She had left her mother Rose D’Armiento back in Italy, herself a widow. The census indicates Nicoletta had 6 children born and only the 2 were living, and now she had to work to help support them along with coping with the death of her husband. Her decision on what to do next, remain or return to her home in Grumo Appula must have been difficult as so many of the family had now arrived and made their home here in New York. Return she did, with Frank and Julia in tow. I have no records for when they returned exactly but we know that once she was back home she went on to marry a man named Nicholas Gisondi.

Nicoletta and Nicholas

Nicoletta&Gisondi copy        Photo courtesy of Ann Elmindorf

We know from my grandfather Frank that one of the motivating factors for returning to New York was to avenge his father’s death. Word had gotten back to the family in Italy that the murderer of Vincenzo had served his required sentence and had been released.

* I have been working on identifying the assailant/murder of Vincenzo for some time now. It is believed again from information gleaned from the family that an argument leading up to Vincenzo’s death was business-related, possibly due to an infringement on ice delivery routes. My thought alone: because so many of our family members were in this business, and because Nicoletta had to remain to testify, and because they were aware of his release from prison, is it possible the assailant could have been a family member?

Luckily Franks Uncle, his namesake, and benefactor, Francesco (Frank) Civitano, married to Rose D’Armiento, had talked him out of the vendetta that motivated his return. It was this Uncle that sponsored Frank and Julia’s return to the states and who they lived with. *In an attempt to clarify another duplicate name (this can get very confusing)  Rose D’Armiento married to the benefactor Frank was the niece of Rose D’Armiento who was Nicoletta’s mother.

Julia’s passport for her return




In 1925 at the home of Frank and Rose Civitano, 160 19th Ave., the house was full. Frank 42, was the owner/store (not indicated of what) Rose 36, tended house filled with their children Anna 16, Mary 15, Louis 13, Helen 10, Dominick 5, John 4, my grandfather Frank 18, working as a factory porter and sister Julia 16. With the exception of Dominick and John still at home, the others were listed as in school. Not yet born was their daughter Julia who would be born in 1929.

Julia (middle) at the beach ~ date unknown ~ I just love this photo, the pearls ’round Julia’s neck, the heels on her friend on the left but the girl on the right intrigues me as she and Julia seem to resemble each other to me.

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On March 30, 1930, at St. Dominic Church, Julia Civitano married Nicholas Forese, son of Michele Forese and Maria DeSantis both of Grumo Appula, Italy.


Julia Civitano and Nicholas Forese

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It was not long after they were married that their first daughter, Rose Mary, 1931 was born. Second child, son Micheal John joined the family, 1933 followed by Nicolette Rose in 1938.  By 1940 the family was living at 1819 Wallace Ave., Bronx. Nicholas (37) was working as a laborer in the building trade and Julia (30) was home caring for her children. The census reports that both of them only had up to a 4th-grade education.  Rose was 9, Michael 6 and Nicoletta 2. I think it is interesting to note that while this census reports only a 4th-grade education we did see that in 1925 at the age of 16 Julia was attending school.

This August, I had the delightful pleasure of a visit from my brother Frank (from New York).  Joining us were our two 2nd cousins, granddaughters of Julia Forese nee Civitano, sister to our grandfather Frank Civitano, Ann and Isabella. It was my first time meeting them. Frank and Ann had met years ago before her parents moved the family to California in 1972. Isabella had never met either of us. Ann is the daughter of Rose and Isabella the daughter of Nicoletta.




Myself, Ann, Isabella & Frank

We had great fun and lively discussions going over our family history. The connection we all felt was amazing.

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In the photo below,  Julia, her mother (our shared great grandmother) Nicoletta, and Julia’s two daughters Rose and Nicoletta

JuliaNicolettaRoseNicoletta copy

Julia passed away on the 14th of October 2004 and is buried alongside her husband Nicholas at Holy Cross Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. Buried along with her parents is their daughter Nicoletta.


Nicholas and Julia’s son Micheal John passed away on October 7, 2003, in Grapevine, Texas and most recently we said goodbye to their daughter Rose Mary on November 21, 2018, Los Angeles, California.


May their memories bring many blessings