23 October 2010

Boston Murders 1888 - 1893

 Boston Daily Globe 1 June 1893 p.8

Lest one think things were quiet in ol' Beantown back in the day...

There have been 31 arrests for murder in Capt. Laurence Cain's district since 1888.  The bare announcement creates astonishment and incredulity in the minds of most people, while to one familiar with the situation the horrible catalogue is scarcely less surprising.

A natural impression on having the fact so stated is that such a record reflects seriously on the character of the inhabitants of the station 1 district, which embraces all the North and a portion of the West Ends.

But such a reflection, according to Capt. Cain, would not be justifiable, for the reason that a considerable percentage of the murders in that particular precinct were committed by outsiders.

Another condition is that some of the people arrested here for murder committed the crime elsewhere, and were at last driven to cover by the cleverness and vigilance of the officers of station 1.

The arrest and extradition of Ciriaco Venuto for the murder of his father-in-law, Francisco di Stasio, at Locusano, Italy, is a case in point.

The credit for that arrest belongs to Patrolman Rasatto and Special Officers Sullivan and Tryder, whose greatest difficulty in the case was the securing of witnesses.

A queer part of the affair was that the murderer and the complainants, his two brothers-in-law, had been next door neighbors on Everett ct. for months before the arrest.  The latter left Italy for the express purpose of hunting down Venuto, but were deterred from prompter action by the statements of acquaintances that they "could do nothing here because of the free American laws."

Notwithstanding the assertion that a considerable number of the persons arrested for murder by the officers of station 1 belong elsewhere, the fact remains that the North and West ends are now and have been regarded, for a generation or more, one of the worst sections of Boston for criminality.

The chief reason for this is the heterogeneous elements comprising the population.

Within the congested area between Washington st., Haymarket sq. and the water front are congregated the lower classes of many nations.

Italy, Russia, Portugal, Greece, German, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Egypt, Poland and other foreign countries have each furnished their respective quota, and all are there huddled together with a sprinkling of native Americans, in what is termed the permanent population.

According to Capt. Cains estimate there are in his district about 15,000 Italians, 12,000 Hebrews, 5000 Portuguese and 600 Greeks, together with minor colonies of Swedes, Norwegians and other nationalities.

Then, too, there is a large floating population, larger in fact than in any other section of the city, by reason of the shipping interests on one side and the proximity of the northern depots on the other.

The knowledge that another brutal murder had been committed at the North End but a few nights ago, as well as of the apparent frequency of such tragedies in that section, prompted the writer to interview Capt. Cain.

"It is true," said the captain, "the North End is a favorite resort of criminals, and we make more arrests for every crime in the calendar than  any other police division in the city.

"I find on investigation that we have had since 1888 no less than 31 arrests for murder.  Three or four of that number, however, ought not to be recorded in the regular category of murders, for they were undoubtedly accidental."

"I mean such cases, for example, as the killing of a person by an electric car, where we arrested the motorman for manslaughter."

"It is the popular belief that all crimes, as a general thing, in this disrict are committed by the people whose homes are either at the North or West End."

"Nothing could be farther from the truth, for the fact is that most of our trouble comes from outsiders.  The real North Enders, whose homes and families are here permanently, are, as a rule peaceable, law-abiding and industrious."

"The majority are traders, rather than brawlers, more intent upon making money in peaceful traffic, and hoarding it, than in disturbing the peace."

"I know that we have had a good many brutal murders, but I can point to scarcely a case since I have been captain at this station, in which murder was long deliberated.  The crimes, as a rule, are like that Italian affair of Monday night."

"It is not surprising that the bold assassin, shooting a man down in the street, thronged with people, as was his case, is allowed to pocket his weapon, press his way through the crowd and escape."

"The very suddenness of the assault, or rather of its consummation, holds the spectators spell-bound, and before they fully realize the situation the culprit is beyond their reach."

"Of course we sometimes have very strange cases, some of which present a mysterious side."

"In the middle of February, 1889, for example, there was posted in the station house a notice, sent out by the Italian government, charging one Giuseppe Ruffoni with a brutal murder."

"The crime in that case was committed in Italy, and was brought about it appears by love of a woman.  Ruffoni killed on of his countrymen with a  stiletto, and then escaped to the United States."

"One of my men found the murderer at the North End and his arrest followed, with the result that the Italian government declined to pay the cost of extradition, and so the murderer was set at liberty."

"Our next murder was on April 10 following.  Edward Fortier and Charles F. Gibbard had been drinking together in what was then Twig's saloon, at the corner of Hanover and Blackstone sts."

"They got into a dispute about Freemasonry and finally Gibbard ran out of the saloon.  Fortier drew a revolver and followed him and ended by shooting Gibbard through the heart.  The victim fell and death was instantaneous.  In that case our men caught the murderer within two blocks of the saloon.  He got a four years' sentence."

"Aug. 20 of that year we arrested James Kerrigan for killing Henry Wile on Hanover st.  Kerrigan, it appears, struck Wile a sledge-hammer blow with his fist, and the victim fell to the sidewalk dead.  Medical examination showed that death was caused by heart disease, probably super-induced by the blow.  Kerrigan was discharged by the court."

"Then on Nov. 30, 1889 we had the famous case of Giuseppe de Lucca for the murder of Edward Cunningham at Milton.  De Lucca got 15 years hard labor, and the sole credit for his apprehension belongs to station 1."

"We had two important murder cases in 1888.  The first was on Aug. 6, when Henry Von Buren, a German sailor, got into an altercation with a tough near the corner of Commercial and Richmond sts."

"It was late in the afternoon and the thoroughfare was crowded.  Henry Gray, an expressman, jumped off his wagon to interfere, and the sailor, unable to comprehend a word of English, took him for another assailant, pulled his revolver and fired.  The expressman lived but 15 minutes, and within 20 minutes the murderer was behind bars.  He was given three years in the State prison."

"Another case that year was the arrest of Giovanni Bedonero for the murder of a man named Bedonero, but no relation, at a town near Genoa, Italy."

"The assassin, it seems, was detected stealing fruit in Bedonero's orchard by the wife of his victim while the victim himself was in a tree picking fruit.  The wife declared aloud that she would tell the police, whereupon the thief ran toward here, and drawing a stiletto, drove in into her breast."

"He then attacked the husband, who meanwhile descended from the tree, and killed him.  Leaving both for dead, the assassin ran away."

"The wife recovered and the murderer was traced to Genoa and thence to New York, where all trace of him was lost."

"We had a good description of the man, and one of our men got a tip that he was coming to Boston.  Fifteen minutes after his arrival we had him here in the station.  He was extradited and was sentenced to imprisonment for life."

"The Taylor murder of Nov. 14, 1889, was remarkable from the fact that it was deliberately planned."

"Wilder Hutchins, the victim, kept a stable at 24 Fleet st., and Benjamin F. Taylor had worked for him sometime previous.  Hutchins had him arrested for stealing oats, and Taylor then threatened to be revenged.  He 'got even,' as he called it, by entering Hutchins' stable and shooting him.  Taylor got a life sentence."

"June 26, 1890, I think, furnishes the next case.  It was that of Jacob Bartimick, a Hebrew, who killed Michael Haley at 16 1/2 Cross st."

"Jacob kept a cobbler shop and Haley went in to get a shoe repaired.  The testimony showed that there was an argument about the price.  It ended by the cobbler picking up a big knife and driving it clear to the hilt in Haley's heart. The Hebrew's plea in court was that Haley attempted to rob him.  He received a seven year's sentence."

"For the murder of Lena Johnson in an alley off Fleet st., May 15, 1891, on the score of jealousy.  Frank Nelson, a Swedish sailor, was arrested by our men and given 15 years."

"Then came the arrest of Martin Connolly for killing John McDonough on Commercial st.  He pleaded self-defense, and was given only two years in the house of correction."

"The next was the murder of Joseph Taman by Genaro Balmondi at 345 North st. on Jan. 18, the following year.  The victim in this case was shot through the heart.  The murderer was at large for some time, but was finally caged by Patrolmen Wise and Farley.  Genaro got seven years."

"On March 15 of last year we arrested Fortunato Ornante on suspicion of murdering Gaitano Mattittano.  Everybody recalls the particulars of this case. It was the duel in Everett, in which Mattittano was killed and his body was found on the tracks of the Eastern railway."

"As usual in Italian murder cases, we found it impossible to get Italians to testify against a fellow countryman, and Ornante was acquitted."

"Last October, for the murder of Thomas Corcoran in New Haven, we arrested Giovanni Rosci and turned him over to the Connecticut authorities."

"Then on the 16th of the following month came the most brutal and horrible tragedy of all, the murder of his two children and the suicide of the murderer, by Giuseppe Patone, an Italian chestnut vendor, at 2 Thatcher ct."

"The neighbors missed Giuseppe and his two children, and finding his door locked notified me.  I sent an officer to investigate, and he found the children dead on the floor, with their throats cut, and their father lying unconscious on a cot nearby."

"He also had a ghastly gash in his throat, and was thought at first to be dead.  However, Officer Burr summoned an ambulance and Giuseppe was removed to the Massachusetts General Hospital under guard.  He died there a day or two afterwards."

"On Nov. 17 of last year we arrested John Caspar and Tapfield Seminusky for killing Ignace Volazus, but for lack of evidence they were discharged.  In this case the victim was hit by a stone and his skull broken."

"That," said Capt. Cain, "with the exception of last Sunday's tragedy, includes all the murders in my district from 1888 to the present time."

"It is a remarkable record, I admit.  You perceive, however, that we usually run the criminals to earth."

"That will be the result, I venture to say, in the case of Antonio Sacco.
I wonder what the Captain would have to say about the 2009 homicide rate?


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