The Murder of Vincenzo Civitano – 1909

Vincenzo Civitano 1868 – 1909

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.

Discovering who had murdered Vincenzo has become an obsession for me. One may ask, what will it really accomplish in learning who he was or even who really cares at this point? I can’t answer except to say this is part of Vincenzo’s story, my families story and it is not complete without this detail.

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.

example of record of cases

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

Giuditta (Julia) Civitano ~ My Great Aunt

Julia was born today, June 18th, 1909. She was the sister to my grandfather Frank Civitano.

Today I remember and celebrate her birthday.

Both Julia and Frank were born in New York City to Vincenzo Civitano and Nicoletta Marvulli. Just 4 months after Julia was born, her father Vincenzo was murdered, stabbed in the streets of the city over what was believed a ‘ice route’ dispute.

Julia with her brother Frank 

Julia&Frank copyIn this photo Frank and Julia (late teens or very early 20’s) are attendants in a wedding party. If any family members knows who wedding this might have been, has a wedding photo to match Julia’s dress, we would love to hear from you.


Frank and Julia 

GrandpaFrank:sisterJulia copy

You can read more about Julia by clicking here 


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?




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…..