On October 12, 1909 a death certificate was issued for my great grandfather Vincenzo Civitano. Written with the name James Civilano, cause of death – stab wound to the chest – homicide. Two months later, on Dec. 8th his records arrived at the coroners office with his correct given name Vincenzo Civitano. (James is the common nickname for Vincenzo)
With the help of cousin Peter Marino along the way, I have been working for many years on trying to discover the name of his assailant. With so little details passed down, Vincenzo’s murder has been slow in piecing together. My Uncle Joseph, his grandson, has only a hazy memory of facts. The assailant was of Italian decent, the confrontation resulting in is death was possibly over ice/coal delivery routes, his wife, Nicoletta Marvulli remained in New York long enough to provide testimony in the trail which resulted in the assailant being convicted and being sentenced to prison. Nicoletta then returned to Grumo Appula, where they had immigrated from with her two children, Francesco (Frank) 2 years and Giuditta (Julia) abt 9 mths.
Back in 2016/17 Peter headed over to the Municipal Archives in Manhattan to comb through the records of criminal cases, with time restraints and a painstakingly long process, he had no luck. First let me explain that the records for criminal cases are listed under the assailants name. There is no data base with the victims name with the assailant listed. The records are listed alphabetically, all criminal case records grouped together, assault, larceny, homicide, abortion, theft, robbery etc… You can not just look at records for ‘homicide’. With no luck back then, we, I, pretty much put this avenue to rest.
My great grandmother Nicoletta remained in New York to provide testimony in the trial. Why? What would have been her input? or has this detail morphed over the years. Had she simply remained to be present at the trial just to discover the outcome before returning to Italy to resume her life?
According to the 1910 census taken in April, at some point after Vincenzo’s death, Nicoletta 30, Frank 2, and Giuditta 9/10 moved from 250 W. 26th St and was living with her cousin Giuditta (Civitano) Simone. Giuditta was married to Vito Simone. With them was their children, daughter Mary 2, and Rocco 9/12. There are a few things interesting about this I may have or not noticed/remembered. Having thought she moved in with them, Nicoletta is listed as head of household with the Simone family listed as brother and sister in law with niece and nephew. (Giuditta was actually a 1st cousin to both Nicoletta and her late husband Vincenzo) Had they moved in with her? Nicoletta was working – listed retail merchant – coal wood – employee. Vito was listed – retail merchant – coal wood – owner. Clearly she was working for him. Nicoletta was also listed as Nicoletta Marvulli, her maiden name.
In late April (this year)I emailed the Municipal Archives inquiring on a direction in trying to find the assailant. They reinforced what I already knew and suggested sending me a file with all the criminal cases for the year 1909 to go through. Below is an example of what the down load looked like. And yes the email download records were as tiny as you see. It says: Anderson, Chester Arthur, under his name says deceased Edward Ray ‘offense’ and under that is says homicide.
They files were listed A – K and L – Z, 900 plus pages with 16 entries per page, some pages blanks and you have a rough idea of the amount of files I had to comb through. It took me days and the need for a magnifying glass. I am so sad to report, I did not find Vincenzo listed. Writing back to the archives I decided to comb through 1910 records thinking perhaps the trial was later considering Nicoletta had remained in New York. I am now in the process of looking at dates – an arrest for assault possibly a few days prior to his death date of the 12th, thinking he may have been attacked and did not pass until the 12th.
I am pleased to say that I have had a wonderful response from the Archive staff. In fact ‘Cristina Stubbe’ has contacted me after I reported I have had no luck and am stumped, to let me know she is going through the 1909 and 1910 boxes of records for me to see if she can locate anything that way. Along with that she suggested writing to the Manhattan District Attorney (which I have done) to see if they have records from back then. I have written to the ‘records access officer’ under the FOIL heading, Freedom Of Information Law and hope to hear something positive back from them.
Once again, my fingers are crossed and I am hopeful that I will eventually be able to answer the question
Who killed my Great Grandfather Vincenzo Civitano