On the night of April 25, 1916, Dometrio “Daniel” Morabito is drinking with several others at Mellow’s Saloon near the corner of Monroe & Main St in Archbald. Shortly after 8:00pm, Morabito left the saloon and headed for home.
It was a short walk to his place on Chestnut St, where he was supposed to get ready to go to work that evening. As he passed under the Wayne Ave railroad overpass, known then as a “subway”, a man jumped out from the brush and fired two shots into the husband and father of four. Morabito stumbled for about 100 feet before passing out where he laid in the street just blocks from his home until another man found him laying barely conscious.
Morabito was quickly brought to a nearby Barber shop owned by Robert McHale, the brother of the town’s Police Chief’s James N. McHale. Dr. Patrick McDonald was called to attend to Morabito, but as soon as he arrived, he called for an ambulance to move the victim to the hospital due to the severity of his injuries. Morabito was conscious long enough to state that “Dominick Delfino shot me” – a statement heard by a couple of people.
While at the hospital, Detective Reese interviewed Morabito, who repeatedly exclaimed, “Delfino shot me for nothing”. Within a couple of hours of being transported to the State Hospital, Morabito succumbed to the bullet wounds in his chest and neck at 3:30am.
The 28-year-old Morabito had immigrated to the US from Mosoroffa, Italy, a small village in the mountains just east of Reggio Calabria in the province of Calabria. The area described best as the “toe of the boot”. He arrived here in April 1905, just shy of his 17th birthday. He returned to Italy to get married to Carmela Monarchio in May 1910. The two returned to the US in September 1910.
Based on the timing, it appears that Carmela got pregnant in the US and returned to Italy to have their first child. Their daughter Angelina was born in Italy in May, 1911. On May 23, 1912, Carmela and Angelina returned to the US to be reunited with Dometrio in Archbald. There, they had two more daughters and a son before Dometrio’s tragic death.
The police quickly caught up to Dominick Delfino, the man Morabito claimed to be his assassin, at a store owned by Tony Pitea and placed him under arrest. He initially denied any involvement in the shooting. But his story quickly changed and he admitted to the killing.
It was recalled that Delfino had recently been treated for a gash on his face – a slice that went from his upper lip to his chin. When asked about it at the time it had happened, he said he had fallen from a bike. A typical response for any incident where the victim was afraid to name their assailants.
Now, after being pressed during the investigation, he claimed that it was Morabito that had slashed him – that Morabito had repeatedly requested money from him. He claimed the dead man was a member of the Black Hand Society – an Italian criminal gang that extorted other Italians, essentially, the precursor to what we more commonly know today as the Mafia. The two had known each other and had been friends for about three years. Delfino boarded with Morabito before he was kicked out for being too friendly with the police.
Still, it didn’t matter why Delfino killed Morabito – he had just admitted to it. He was charged with 1st degree murder due to the ambush-style killing. The 26-year-old killer was in this country only four years. He now lived along Salem Rd in a boarding house owned by Thomas Platico. He came to this country with a couple of cousins, Santo Delfino and Dominick Aricchi, and were said to be going to Delfino’s cousin in Archbald. Now, still single with most of his family still in Italy, Delfino was facing the electric chair.
Delfino “Lawyers up”
After securing an attorney, Delfino recanted his confession and his attorneys, Clarence Balentine and Edward T. Philbin pushed to have the confession stricken from the record.
During the trial, the prosecution had to rely on Morabito’s dying words coupled with what was called a “train of circumstantial evidence”. They contended that the peculiar make of bullets taken from Morabito’s body came from the empty box matching the brand that was found in Delfino’s apartment. They added that Delfino was “paying attentions” to Morabito’s wife and that Delfino had emptied his bank account recently – hinting that he may be ready to make an escape. The District Attorney, George Maxey, urged the jury to convict Delfino to rid the city of this “assassin” and “guilty wretch” and “end the reign of blood that is drenching Lackawanna County”.
The defense countered with the fact that there we no witnesses to the actual shooting and they painted Morabito as the villain. They countered that the timing could not work because they had witnesses testify that Delfino was in Pitea’s Store around the alleged time of the shooting. They also brought up Morabito’s reputation claiming him to have a “troublesome disposition”.
The prosecution wasn’t buying it. In fact, in cross-examining one witness who testified that the timing supported Delfino’s defense, the prosecutor blew a hole through his credibility. The witness was asked how long he was on the stand to testify. He responded with “about four minutes”. Later, the prosecutor called another witness, Detective Mitchell. When asked to confirm the amount of time the witness had testified, Mitchell confirmed that it was actually fifteen minutes – proving that witnesses aren’t good judges of time.
After the case went to the jury, the entire jury, led by the DA and the Delfino’s attorney, were transported to the scene to determine, first-hand, if Delfino could have possibly made the trip from Pitea’s store on Main St, over to the D&H “subway” and back to the store within 12-minutes – the estimated time that was unaccounted.
The only options for the jury were either guilty of 1st degree murder or full acquittal. With no in between, the group of 12 men was challenged. Throughout the process, it was reported that loud yelling and screaming could be heard from the jury room. Adding to the urgency to come to a decision was the fact that it was approaching Thanksgiving. The Judge had already granted evening hours for testimony in the hopes that the deliberations could end in time to allow the men to have Thanksgiving at home. Instead, arrangements were now being made to have dinner at the nearby Holland Hotel. Since this was prior to the recent change in date, Thanksgiving was actually held on November 30th.
The verdict is in!
After deliberating for two days, the verdict comes back on the evening of December 1, 1916. Guilty! Delfino will pay the ultimate price for his crime.
Lackawanna County was established in 1878. Since that time, only six men have been sentenced to death. All of them hung from the gallows. The last man to hang for his crime was John Chimelewski of Dickson City in 1914. He was convicted of killing Carbondale Police Officer, William McAndrew. If the Delifino verdict doesn’t get overturned in an appeal, he will be electrocuted at Rockview in Centre County, Pa.
A bright spot during a very difficult time for Mrs. Morabita came when the District Attorney, George Maxey, provided the widow with $200 to help her now fatherless family. The money was raised through the community after the DA suggested a fund be created for the widow and mother of four.
Chief mchale supports delfino
Shortly after the verdict was returned, all hell broke loose.
During the request for a new trial, which was supported by Chief McHale, many more details about the murder investigation and history of these men came into view. McHale went on to say that he believed that Delfino was an innocent man and he was about to be executed – based largely on circumstantial evidence that doesn’t support the verdict. He said many details were either held back during the trial or that the prosecution actually led the witnesses to make statements that would support a conviction of Delfino. For example, the owners of Pitea’s store where Delfino was found said that the DA asked them to say that Delfino was out of the store longer than they had originally stated. Mrs. Pitea responded “I tell the truth. When I die I go to God not to you”.
McHale also said that Delfino had previously emptied his bank account on multiple occasions – something that many Italians would do – sort of a way to ensure the money was there. On that specific day, he took out all of his money, about $200 and sent $51.50 to Italy – saying his brother-in-law had been wounded in the war and the family needed the money.
Oh, and that empty box of shells that matched the bullets used in the shooting that was found in Delfino’s room? It was supposedly discovered by Daniel Tradesco, not Tony Tedesco. And the box was not discovered in Delfino’s room as originally reported. Tedesco is the court interpreter and Tradesco was helping detectives with the investigation. DA Maxey later said he simply got the two individuals mixed up and didn’t call Tradesco to testify. Clearly, there are at least two sides to this story.
It was also learned that Delfino had previously been a target. There was the slashing that was already known, but about nine months prior, his home was burned to the ground – a home he built presumably with money from a lawsuit against the railway company for a motorcycle accident he had. And the tracks he worked on in the mines were torn up. All of these targets were supposedly because he was known to be friendly with McHale and sharing information with him about the secretive Black Hand.
Not only were Delfino and McHale friendly, but it was said that the two men were working together to combat the Black Hand and they were set to meet at Pitea’s store the evening of the murder. Delfino was ordered to join a meeting of the Black Hand on that night and to pay the $100 “fee” to join the notorious gang. The meeting with McHale was scheduled so that Delfino could provide the $100 to McHale, who would mark the money before Delfino would give it up to the Black Hand as an extortion payment. After the money was exchanged, McHale had planned to raid the meeting to arrest the individuals and would return the marked money to Delfino. The plan was set in motion.
McHale got to Pitea’s store on Main St at 7:20pm and called out Delfino. Before he could get the money and determine the location of the meeting, he was distracted by a couple of Italian men across the street that he thought looked suspicious. He was watching the men, then followed them down the street and into Mellow’s Saloon. After searching them for weapons and finding nothing, McHale was on his way back to the store at about 8:15pm. That’s when he had heard that a man was shot near the subway. He rushed to the scene and that’s when Morabito told him that he thought the shooter was Delfino. The key word being he “thought” it was Delfino.
Mellow’s Saloon was located at 379 Main St and Pitea’s store was just up the street at 419 Main St – which would be on the route that Morabito would take to get to his home on Chestnut St. It was alleged by the prosecution that as Delfino saw Motabito coming, he made his way to the subway and waited. He shot Morabito twice, then placed the gun on a train that was parked on the tracks – thinking the train would leave and the gun would never be found. Delfino then made his way back the Pitea’s store where McHale caught up with a calm Delfino who was smoking a cigarette – and gave no indication that he had ever left.
With McHale distracted by the two other men, he couldn’t confirm that Delfino was in fact at Pitea’s the entire time. Even so, others testified that Delfino did leave the store for a short period of time – so the focus was on the estimated 12 minutes he was said to be gone and if he could make it to the subway, shoot Morabito and return to the store without anyone seeing him.
One of the witnesses for the prosecution, Thomas Platico, with whom Delfino resided, testified that he saw Delfino on the street between 7:30-7:45pm – heading for the footbridge on Salem St. That helped to paint Delfino in the area at the time of the shooting and on his way home to get his gun. After the trial, McHale approached Platico on the street and shook his fist, threatening to punch him, saying that he wants Platico to tell the Judge that the DA, George Maxey, coerced him into making that statement. Platico did not back down. He filed an affidavit in court that Maxey had told him to only tell the truth.
Maxey was not happy with McHale. The two argued violently over the verdict. Maxey later charged that McHale accepted $300 from Delfino as a bribe to help exonerate him. McHale had stated he was going to arrest Maxey for slander. McHale had used Delfino in the past in the fight against the Black Hand, but Delfino wasn’t always innocent either. In fact, three years earlier, McHale had prosecuted Delfino for carrying a concealed weapon.
Delfino awaits his Appeal
Delfino was sitting in jail, waiting for his attorneys to work their magic. In late December, news surfaced that he was seriously ill. He’s said to incur several epileptic fits throughout the day. Both the Sheriff and the Warden confirmed his status with the Sheriff willing to bet that “he will never live to be seated in the electric chair.” They added that he has taken the conviction very hard and maintains his innocence.
The very next day, it was determined that Delfino was not dying – that his fits were due to hysteria over his impending death.
After months of legal battles, on May 18, 1917, a judge upheld the verdict and sentenced Delfino to death. In his ruling, Judge Mosher of Sunbury stated “You, Dominick Delfino, be taken to the Western Penitentiary in Centre County and there suffer death by the proper authorities causing to pass through your body a sufficient number of currents of electricity to cause your death. And may God have mercy on your soul.” But the fight is not over yet for Delfino. His team vows to take the matter to the Supreme Court.
Within a month, the State Supreme Court had agreed to hear the case with a ruling expected by the end of the year.
Around the same time, George Maxey is seeking re-election for the County DA. He takes out a full-page ad in the Scranton Republic touting his successes, including the Delfino conviction. Judge Mosher submitted a testimonial letter of support that is printed in the ad. The ad opens up stating “The Scranton Times, the notorious Democratic party organ, in its malignant zeal to keep me off the Republican ticket because its editor and owner know that I will defeat the Democratic candidate this November as I did in November, 1913, attacks me in yesterday’s issue for the political advertisement I had in the August number of the Argus, the publication of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, in which I declared that there would be no Captain Dreyfuss, or Leo Frank, or Florence Maybrick convictions in this county while I was public prosecutor. This is about the third or fourth attack this discredited newspaper has made on me in this campaign.” The references to Dreyfuss, Frank and Maybrick refer to high-profile cases around the globe that were wrongful convictions.
While waiting on the decision of his fate, Delfino becomes a “wizard” in Checkers. He’s constantly playing the game and taking on the guards through the bars of his cell. The guards promise to set up a few matches with Herman Bonnert, from the County Recorder’s office. Bonnert is widely regarded as the best Checkers player in the area.
On January 7, 1918, the Supreme Court upheld the verdict and the end is near for Delfino. His only hope now is a pardon. With the Court dismissing all challenges, it’s unlikely there’s room for a pardon. Oddly, days pass before Delfino is informed of the Court’s decision. Imagine that.
Three weeks after finally learning of his fate, it’s reported that Delfino tells fellow prisoners, “They are going to write a new history about me.”
On February 4, 1918, at 3:00am in the dead of winter, Delfino escapes from the Lackawanna County Jail! He sawed his way through the bars of his cell, before beating jail keeper Thomas Josephs into submission with a wooden rocker from a rocking chair. He fires two shots into another jailer, Robert “Bob” Proudlock before holding off a third jailer, Isaac “Ike” Steinberg, as he made his escape.
The escape was daring and dramatic. The Keepers all put up a valiant fight, but Delfino was on a mission. He was able to extricate himself from the cell through an 8 1/2 x 11 opening in the bars. He then picked up the piece of wood that was used by the prisoners to stir the soap and water when washing the floors. A cell at the end of the hall was vacant so he waited there until the keeper came through. As soon as he did, Delfino pounced by striking Josephs in the head. Josephs fought back, until Delfino pulled a revolver and demanded the keys.
As Delfino was opening the door to the corridor, Josephs started to yell to Proudlock. Proudlock didn’t think much of the disturbance and came out without his weapon – and was met by Delfino and his revolver. The escapee ordered Proudlock through the first iron gate on their way to the main corridor. There, they came upon Steinberg. Delfino now ordered Steinberg to give him the keys to the main corridor, but Keeper Steinberg didn’t have them, nor did he know where they were. Delfino then turned to Proudlock and demanded the same.
Proudlock had the key on him, but he told Delfino that it was in the main office drawer – little did Delfino know that this where Proudlock’s gun was stored. Proudlock opened a drawer and grabbed his weapon and started to fire. Delfino returned fire and retreated to an office. In the firestorm, Proudlock was hit twice. At least five other bullets were found embedded in the walls and doors of the jail.
With Delfino cornered in an office, Proudlock tossed his weapon to Josephs, who was bleeding profusely from his head. Delfino saw the dazed Josephs and bull rushed him. As he did, Josephs took aim and pulled the trigger – only to hear a click. The revolver was empty.
Delfino yelled, “Now I’ve got you, you son of [a bitch]”, knowing his weapon was also empty. But he had a box of bullets. He started to reload the weapon and exclaimed “I’ll kill you.” Delfino made his escape as he opened fire on Josephs, but the keeper miraculously avoided getting hit.
He headed north on Washington Ave and before long disappeared. Proudlock gave chase on foot, while bleeding and without a weapon, but he became too weak and cut into Kelly’s Saloon on New York St to call police and other county authorities. He shouted to Delfino, who turned and fired another shot at Proudlock.
A neighbor living across the street from the jail, James Pretheroe, heard the commotion but was too ill to go outside. He heard Proudlock screaming, “Murder! Help! Police!” so he immediately called the city police and told them to send many men to the area.
It was learned that earlier in the day Delfino’s brother, Tony, and a cousin, Mary Cretilla, both from Archbald, visited Dominick. One of the Keepers, Henry Daenemark, said they had searched Tony, but did not search Mary. He claims he stood by while they visited and said nothing was passed to Dominick.
A couple of days before that, Delfino had other visitors – to deliver him some pasta. One of the visitors claimed to be his brother from Pittsburgh. On that visit, they were turned away, but the pasta was passed on to him, but not before it was supposedly checked for weapons by a maintenance man, Paul Koschinski.
As soon as he escaped, law enforcement from up to 100 miles away were alerted and instructed to capture the escapee – dead or alive – with a $500 bounty on his head. They were warned that he was desperate, armed and dangerous.
In the immediate aftermath, investigators believed that one of the guards on duty, either Josephs or Steinberg, might have been in on the job. Had one of them hit an emergency button, it would have alerted Proudlock of an issue in the jail. He could have locked down the facility and had a weapon ready. Josephs and Proudlock were brand new to the job. Both had been appointed just five weeks earlier when a new warden was named.
Investigators also questioned why the woman who visited Delfino wasn’t searched. There is supposed to be a matron on site at all times for this purpose.
One theory is that the tools he needed were passed first to another inmate before they passed them to Delfino. With intense scrutiny over Dominick, it would be easier to get them to another inmate.
Authorities picked up Tony Delfino and Mary Critella in Archbald and arrested them in connection with the escape. It was learned that Tony had purchased a box of bullets a few days prior. During the investigation, Tony and Mary told conflicting stories of where they went when they left the jail.
He’s on the run!
The investigation revealed that after leaving the jail, Delfino made his way to Throop Corners, where he knocked on the door of Thomas Price – begging him to let him in because he was cold. Price refused and Delfino asked for the nearest Italian family. His next stop was at the home of William Race, where Mrs. Race reluctantly let him in and offered him an overcoat. She told police that he was shaking so much he could hardly speak and his hands were blue and cold.
Delfino left the Race home and went a couple of more houses away and came upon the home of Paul Mintick. My guess is, he saw a light on in the home because Mintick was getting ready for work. Delfino changed his story this time. He said he just arrived in the city from New Jersey and was headed to Jessup in a taxi. The cab was hijacked by men who demanded they turn over all of their money. Delfino continued that he handed over $200, but he begged the men to allow him to keep some so they gave him $50 back. He told Mintick that he wanted to buy some clothes, but Mintick didn’t have any to sell. Mintick told officers that Delfino’s shirt and pants had blood stains on them – so that might have been the reason for the request of new clothes.
Officers searched hundreds of homes that could potentially house the man – including every Italian household in Archbald. While they initially believed that he took a car or motorcycle from the jail, they now believe he left on foot and headed north on Washington Ave before following the Dunmore Suburban Line tracks to Dunmore Corners. From there, he continued on until he came to the Price home.
It was also learned that Delfino confided in one of his checker-playing inmate friends, Leo Cawley. Cawley, who was in jail for an automobile theft, told investigators that Delfino had planned to “get” DA Maxey. When this was revealed, Maxey armed himself with a Colt revolver to fend off any attack. Delfino had also sold Cawley the suit he wore when he was arrested for $3. With the $50 he received from his brother on Sunday, Delfino had plenty of money to aid his run from the law.
Before his escape, Delfino was a model inmate. He was friendly with all of the other inmates (there were about 100 prisoners at the time) and many of the security guards. On the night of his escape, one of the jailers, Edward Wenzel, made his rounds and said goodnight to Delfino. When he did, Delfino insisted that they shake hands – with Delfino stating, “You know, maybe I die in the night.”
Days later and still no clue as to the whereabouts of Delfino. While there were hundreds of leads, all of them were fruitless. Many volunteers, encouraged by the reward, were signed up to assist in the search. Wanted flyers were sent through the newspapers and posted through the area. It was reported that law enforcement has run a fine-toothed comb through the entire valley and still, no sightings of Delfino. It’s also widely reported that this is the most sensational escape in Lackawanna County history.
Meanwhile, at Farview State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, an inmate has just escaped. The convicted murderer broke out of the facility, but was captured within 20 minutes. Officials there touted their escape response plans – seemingly taking a shot at the county prison.
False reports and sighting continued to come in. In one instance from as far away as Philadelphia. There, a man was brought into custody and believed to be Delfino. The man had two missing teeth and they thought it to be Delfino since he had two gold teeth and they thought he might have had them extracted so he could sell them. When they compared descriptions with DA Maxey, they confirmed that it wasn’t the man they were looking for.
On February 15, 1918, it’s now believed that Delfino and two other men boarded a train to Dover, NJ on the Thursday following the escape. Train records confirmed that two round-trip tickets were used – originating from Dover and arriving in Scranton the day before the escape. Another ticket was one-way from Scranton to Dover. A taxi cab driver in Dover recognizes the picture investigators showed him and he believes that he picked up the men at the train station and drove them to Mount Morris, NJ, an Italian settlement. Investigators searched over 50 homes in the town. While the search came up empty, they believe Delfino was in fact in this town and that two men from the town helped aid the escape.
As the investigation continued, it was learned that Delfino hosted quite a party on Christmas Eve in the prison’s “tonsorial parlor”. It was listed as a “coming out” party and had about 12 other inmates as guests. One of the changes as a result of the escape? No more parties in the “tonsorial parlor”. Yeah, I had to look it up. A tonsorial parlor is what we now know as a barber shop. In addition, there was to be no more fraternizing between inmates. They believed that the men became too friendly and didn’t alert the keepers to the plans.
With the trail going cold, the reward is increased to $1,000 – about $18,000 in today’s dollars. Still, authorities believe he will be found – even though jokes were starting to pour in about his escape.
Appeal brings new evidence to light
Yet, while Delfino is on the run, Delfino’s attorney’s again appeal to the Supreme Court asking for another hearing. It comes as no surprise that they declined to hear the case again. Uncovered in this appeal was an affidavit that said Lewis Rudge, a night watchman at a silk mill, saw Delfino shoot Morabito. He didn’t originally come forward for fear of retribution from Delfino’s friends. In addition, DA Maxey got two witnesses, whose testimony supported the defense, to change their statements. Dominick Panzira and Santo Fierno originally said they saw Delfino in the store at the time of the shooting. Their new statements say the time wasn’t correct and that they weren’t even sure if it was the correct day.
What’s a Gink?
Another development is that since Delfino didn’t complete his draft registration questionnaire, he is now officially listed as a deserter and a nationwide manhunt is now on. What’s worse? Being a called a deserter, a murderer or a gink?
March 1, 1918, Robert “Bob” Proudlock resigns from his post as Jail Keeper. He recovered from his bullet wounds, but still would rather return to the mines as a Fireboss – in spite of leaving the mines due to asthma. His $90 per month pay as a Keeper equates to about $9.37 per hour today. An associate of Proudlock’s claimed that Bob felt there were many problems at the jail and the warden had his hands full in dealing with it.
False Alarm Abound
Two months after his escape and another false alarm. Police in Palmerton arrest a man said to fit the description of Delfino – minus the scar on his face. The Chief in Palmerton knew of the escape and would visit the employment centers – monitoring the men who came in looking for work. This man matched the description to a tee. When questioned, he didn’t have any papers to identify himself. Like Delfino, he was not registered in the draft. He spoke English and Italian and was guarded and evasive when questioned. A dentist was brought in to check his teeth to see if there were any caps or replacements. Once the dentist confirmed they were all original, the man was set free.
One Year Anniversary of Escape
One year later and Delfino is nowhere to be found. It’s now believed that he left the country. In one report, it was believed that police had spotted him while trying to collect a paycheck at the shipbuilding yards on Hog Island, near Philadelphia. He was able to evade the police because of the crowd gathered on payday.
Eighteen months later and yet another tip. Delfino is said to be attending a double-wedding in Archbald. A man told investigators that he rode a streetcar with Delfino from Carbondale to Jermyn and saw him enter the home of Anthony Defazio on Main St, Archbald. Defazio’s home was under surveillance last year as he and Delfino are said to be close friends. Authorities descended on the weddings and thoroughly searched but did not find Dominick or his brother Tony.
In July, 1922, with still no sight of Dominick, his brother Tony Delfino finds himself in front of, now, Judge George Maxey for failing to pay child support to his wife. Judge Maxey, who was the DA that prosecuted Dominick, asks Tony the whereabouts of his brother. Tony just smiled. Tony tells the Judge that he makes $90 a week running a pool hall on Lackawanna Avenue in Scranton – and Maxey orders him to pay $90 per month to his ex-wife. Tony would later disappear.
Still no sight of Delfino in December 1922, but that didn’t keep his name out of the papers.
Finally, On November 12, 1923, after nearly six years on the run, Dominick Delfino is captured in mining town of Nelson, British Columbia. The remote town sits about 400 miles east of Vancouver and about 45 miles north of the US border with the state of Washington. Today, the population is only 10,000 people.
While on the run, Delfino was working under the aliases of George Renieri, Jack Lanieri and Giacoma “Jack” Coveno/Cavena. The officials in Vancouver believed that Delfino was suspected to be in the area as early as 1922. They got in touch with the Scranton officials to confirm his identity and on May 14, Canadian officials positively identified Delfino, but by this time, word had spread that he was close to capture and he disappeared. Now, they had to uncover his whereabouts – checking every city and town in British Columbia.
The two Scranton men who received high praise from Judge Maxey were Superintendent of Police Michael J. McHugh and Captain of Detective A.J. Reilly, who worked tirelessly in pursuit of Delfino. Maxey highlighted their “intelligence, skill and persistent energy” in tracking down what he called “the most cold-blooded and crafty villains this commonwealth has ever known.”
But it wasn’t over just yet. Delfino finally admitted to his identity and would only waive extradition back to the US if he was granted a new trial. The city officials made plans to travel to Vancouver to bring Delfino back. On the trip would be Captain Reilly, Captain Chris Rose and Daniel Williams, of the DA’s office. The extradition would be costly – over $1,200, and lengthy, with each way of the trip expected to take four to five days. On top of that, the reward money of $1,000 was due to Chief Constable Anderson and his team in Canada.
Within a day, Delfino changes his demand for a new trial and waives extradition, claiming he has new witnesses who will testify that it was not he who killed Morabito.
While detained and awaiting extradition, Delfino is said to be writing up his escapades as rumors swirled in Canada of his marksmanship. It was almost like he was a western gunslinger who they said was able to toss coins into the air and shoot out the center with each hand. Later it was determined that Delfino was fairly boastful and shared these stories with others while in Canada.
Delfino tells his side of the story
Delfino agreed to tell his side of the story to the Scranton Times.
“When I came from the old country to Scranton, the head of the Black Hand Society there wanted me to join the gang, but I had told him that I did not like to belong to such a gang. But a few months later when I started to work, he came around again and wanted me to buy him a suit. I told him I would not do such a thing. Four other Italians, working with me, were paying monthly into the Black Hand but I did not pay a nickel and the Black Hand got after me and told me that if I didn’t pay, I am going to get killed. They came after me four times.”
“One day I called the bluff and said that if they wanted anything I would go with them and see who would shoot the best.”
“Four of the New York Black Hand came to Scranton sometime later. We went into the “bush”. They had guns and I had a gun and a knife. They threw a cap into the air and we shot at it to see who was the best shot. I shot through the cap every time as I was an expert shot. A week after we did this shooting at about 4:00pm I was told that I was to be killed on the following Saturday and I had better look out.”
Delfino went on to add two accounts of him being followed by men who he believed were going to kill him. He tells how he turned from hunted to hunter and jumped the men and beat them up. He said when going to sleep after the second incident when his fellow companions asked him why doesn’t he just pay the Black Hand. He replied, “I am not afraid of any Black Hand.”
His story continued. “Shortly after this, I got caught and they slashed my face with a razor and I did not say anything to anybody as to who did it.” (It wasn’t Morabito, it was another man).
“When Morabito was killed, they blamed it on me and I was arrested on the 25th day of April 1916. All the Black Hand was against me until such time as I was convicted and sentenced to the electric chair.”
“After I was sentenced to the chair, the Black Hand came to my rescue because I did not give them away at my trial. I had my case three times appealed and three times dismissed. This Black Hand gang always paid for my attorney.”
He added that then he was in jail, he had his own gang from Albany help him to escape. It was them who supplied him with the saw, gun, ammunition and money.
“There were two men came to see me disguised as nuns and it was from them I got the gun, bullets, and money. They had to pass through three cells to see me, but everybody thought they were nuns” Defino claimed. This statement was challenged by the current and previous Wardens saying they don’t recall any nuns coming to see a prisoner, but that said a man and a woman, Delfino’s brother and female cousin did visit him the day before his escape.
He went on to say how he overpowered the guards before exiting the facility. Much of the story aligned with the account given by the guards, but Delfino definitely embellished some details.
He admitted that he walked about nine miles in the cold and snow – his ears and feet freezing because he didn’t have a hat and wore just slippers, a thin cotton shirt and pants. Before long, the says “I went to the home of an English family and they gave me a coat but had no shoes. I gave them $5 for the coat.”
Then he headed to a home of one of his old boarding friends. When he was close, he ran into his Godfather on his way to work. “He thought I was a ghost and dropped on his knees and asked me not to kill him” he stated. From there, he gathered $300 from his companions and went to a place “100 miles away.” He continued “from there I stole a ride on a freight which took me to Niagara Falls and across into Canada.”
After making his way to Toronto, he thought he could settle in. He was living in a boarding house on London St by the police precinct and worked in a nearby slaughter house. But there too, his picture was plastered up on posters so he knew he had to move again. Before he could, two detectives knocked on his door. “When asked if a man named Delfino lived there, I told them there was and I would go get him. I was disguised. I went to the back of the house and I saw that one of them went to watch the back door. I jumped out through a side window and went to another Italian home.”
He knew he had to leave quickly so he said he made his way to Sault St. Marie and started to work in a mine near there. Before long, “two of the Scranton police followed me there and stopped a friend of mine and said that he was Delfino because he had a slash mark on his face like mine. I heard them talking to him and running behind a house, I got away as soon as possible.” He believes this was as far as the Scranton team followed him, however, the Scranton police said none of their officers ever traveled to this town.
Later, it was learned that Delfino was in Sudbury, Ontario. He worked at Spanish River Paper and Pulp, Ontario, which is in between Sault St. Marie and Sudbury, so this might have been the location where police tracked him.
While there, he was walking along the railroad tracks when two military police picked him up. “I was carrying two automatic pistols at the time. They took me to the barracks and I told the commanding officer that I was an Italian and willing to fight for Canada, for I hated the Germans as much as they did.” The commanding officer apparently believed the story and released the fugitive – but not before Delfino got him to provide a letter in case he was stopped by any other police along the way. This gave him a “get out of jail card” that helped him get all the way to Calgary.
Delfino Returns to the States
After about six months, he returned to Scranton – with alleged intent to kill DA, now Judge, Maxey. He was disguised as a woman and made his way to Maxey’s home, presumably at 910 Clay Ave. Maxey was not at home, but his wife Lillian was there. Delfino had no grudge against her, so he left. He met up with some of his Italian friends, many of whom didn’t recognize his new look. He collected “a considerable amount of money” and went to Albany, NY where he met with one of the leaders of the Black Hand.
In a basement, “fifteen feet below ground, where thirty members in a meeting were discussing my case and saying how clever I was to escape. They wanted me to stay with them, but I said that I had to leave right away. I went to New Jersey and then again came to Canada.”
Back to Canada
Back in Calgary, he says he stayed for a long time and became friends with the police. “I saw my own photo in the detective office and asked one of the officers why they did not get that man and he told me that the man was not in these parts.” This, coupled with the fact that he did not have fingerprints on file and the photo was an old one before he disguised himself, gave him confidence that he was safe. It turns out his work in Calgary was that of a bootlegger. He admitted to selling alcohol – so much so that from the proceeds, he bought an automobile.
He was eventually arrested in Calgary for his “rum running” and the officials confiscated over $13,000 of alcohol. He gave up the automobile and said he went back to St. Catherine’s, Ontario. There, he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. Again, he didn’t worry, since there were no fingerprints on record.
His next stop was in Seattle, Washington, where, once again he befriended the police, even “walking talking, eating and drinking with some of them.” From there, he made his way to Spokane before making stops in various places in Idaho, including Bonners Ferry where his personal items remained after his capture.
When he entered into Canada this last time, he was stopped by immigration authorities because he didn’t have any papers. He was fined $50 and sentenced to 60 days in the Nelson jail. Again, he was undeterred and confident that no one knew his past so he just planned to wait out his time in jail.
But he was wrong. Detectives Ricci and Sinclair knew who he was – and the two were actively tracking him.
It was uncovered that while he was in jail in Nelson, Delfino wrote to a friend of his, Giuseppe “Joe” Calderini of Vancouver. He asked the man to pay the $150 owed to him so he can hire a lawyer. This was before police knew his true identity so the letter was likely an excuse to get his money sooner since he planned to wait out his time.
Calderini and Delfino men met in about 1920 and became close friends – to the point that Delfino actually disclosed his real identity to the fellow countryman. Calderini is known to own a questionable “resort”, which might have been called the Grand Court Hotel on Main St. in Vancouver that was a speakeasy. When Calderini received the letter, he informed Detective Ricci that the man in the Nelson jail was a wanted fugitive.
Ricci and Sinclair notified the authorities in Nelson to be very careful with Delfino and inform them of his past as they made their way to identify the wanted man.
Delfino told the two detectives “I dreamed a lot while in there [jail] and one night I would dream that I should run away. The night before you arrived, I dreamed of blood.” He added, “The day before your arrival I was put in the Nelson jail “condemned cell” on your wire and I knew I was caught.”
“I heard of Ricci when in Vancouver, where I stayed two nights at the Greycourt hotel and I left intending to never return.” He added that if he could have gotten away from the Nelson jail, his next move was “to Mexico, where I knew I would be safe.”
He ended his statement to the detectives with “I am all right where I am”
“I am all right where I am” – Delfino’s closing statement
George Maxey weighs in
After the capture, it was revealed that Judge Maxey had joined the hunt for Delfino. Maxey learned that Delfino had planned to kill him the Wednesday before his escape from jail. Delfino invited Maxey to join him for a conversation at the jail. The only thing that saved Maxey was that a physician was murdered that night and Maxey was called to duty. Since it’s believed that Delfino already had a revolver with him, it was deemed a credible threat. Even after Delfino’s escape, Maxey was told that Delfino returned to the city six months later in an attempt to take his life.
Maxey took another shot at Chief McHale when he said McHale “would be wise to make no more statements about the alleged innocence of Delfino.” He continued, adding “Morabito was a good citizen, industrious and law abiding and Delfino’s cowardly and cold-blooded crime made the woman a widow and four little children orphans. I raised the money to help clothe and feed these little children during the trial of their father’s assassin and I have helped them since.”
The return to scranton
On Wednesday, November 21, 1923, Delfino is set to make the trip back to Scranton, escorted by Daniel WIlliams of the DA’s Office and Captains A.J. Reilly and Chris Rose of the police department. The arrival was expected to be Sunday night or Monday morning. Before his trip, Delfino stated, “I’ll never go back to Scranton alive.” He told Detective Ricci that he would escape on the trip – that he could escape handcuffs and the only thing he feared was leg irons. He told Ricci to keep it quiet because if he evaded capture, it would make Ricci look better – having detained him for so long.
Before the trip began, Scranton officers searched Delfino once again for any weapons. While they didn’t find any guns, knives or other sharp instruments, they did find a handkerchief in his pocket that was filled with red pepper. It seems that Delfino had planned to use the spice to temporarily blind the officers. Of course, Delfino denied the allegations of the plan and just smiled at the officers when questioned about it.
The trip took longer than expected, with the group arriving in Scranton on Tuesday afternoon. The officers stated that there was no trouble during the trip and Delfino complied with all of their orders. After a quick photo on the steps of the jail, Delfino was led to his cell to await the date of his execution.
Back in prison
Back in the county jail, Delfino looked fit and healthy. He said his weight fluctuated over the last few years while on the run. He claims he weighed as much as 165 pounds before he got jailed in Nelson. Now, at 155, he blames the loss on the “mush for breakfast, lunch and dinner” while in the Nelson jail. “This is a good jail but Canada jails are a bad place” he said after finishing his first meal back in Scranton.
How good can it be if you’re housed on “Murderer’s Row”? Delfino is held captive in Cell 217. In Cell 214 is John Myma who is facing a death sentence for the murder of Wolf Glou. In Cell 215 is convicted murderer Pasquale Stallone. And in Cell 213 is Anthony Morella, who is expected to plead guilty of manslaughter. Quite a crew.
Now back in custody, the authorities have made several changes to ensure he doesn’t escape again. No visitors will be allowed in the jail while they wait for an execution date. He’s also put on “death watch” to ensure he doesn’t kill himself before the state executes him.
The one exception to the visitor policy was that of Keeper Bob Proudlock. He met with Delfino as soon as he was put in his cell. Now healed, Proudlock wanted to face Delfino one more time and talk about the escape. Delfino was apologetic and asked for Bob’s forgiveness. He said “You brave man, Bob and that’s why I not want to kill you the night I got out. I was desperate that night and would have done anything to get away.” Proudlock offered his forgiveness.
More details come to light
Delfino recanted a couple of statements that were published in his “first-hand account” to the Times. He claims he never did want to kill Maxey stating “Why should I want to kill Mr. Maxey? He is a gentleman.” He added that if he wanted to kill anyone, it would be the Archbald man who lied about him during the trial, but I can’t confirm who this is. He also is mad at Archbald Police Chief, James McHale, whom he believes let him down by arresting him and telling him to keep quiet. He also has negative words about his attorneys.
The other statement was that there were no nuns as originally claimed. He now says that it was two women who helped secure the tools for him. At this point, it’s hard to distinguish the truth from the lies, or at least the embellishments.
Delfino claims that at the time of his arrest, he was going by the alias, Jack Caneva, and that he also had used George Lanieri. Other details of his escape came into view as well. He said that after he picked up the coat at the Englishman’s house, he went to a wash house near a mine and put on a couple of pairs of overalls to help him look bigger. He painted his face with coal and dirt and topped his head with a cap to make him look like a miner.
On his way back to Archbald, he headed up the mountain near Mayfield to the old mines. There he camped out in a building and built a fire to keep warm. Later, he found a boy in town and gave him $5 to buy him some food. The boy returned with a bounty of food and received “four bits”, about 50 cents, for his efforts. Later, he met an acquaintance that he convinced to get him some peroxide and ammonia to die his hair and eyebrows.
Feeling like a new man, he made his way to Carbondale where he grabbed a taxi to take him to Forest City. The snow was too deep and forced them to stop in Richmondale, just short of his intended destination. Faced with a decision, Delfino decided to return to Carbondale and spent a couple of days near Hospital St – from what I can tell, was a largely Italian community and his brother Tony might have lived there at that time.
It was there he decided to hop a train to Oneonta, NY. With about $250 in his pocket, he boarded with an Italian family in town. He immediately went to a clothing store in town and bought “a nice suit, grey overcoat and a cap.” He said, “when I got back to the boarding house and look in the looking glass, I didn’t know myself.”
At the boarding house, one of the other boarders showed Delfino newspaper article about the escape – oblivious that he was showing them to the wanted man. Delfino claimed the man said “that Dominick must be a pretty clever guy.” To which Delfino replied, “Yes, that fellow is sure one smart fellow. Let’s have a drink on Dominick Delfino.”
He knew he had to get farther away since the local newspaper in Oneonta had shared the news of the escape. He boarded a passenger train to Albany, then transferred to one to Buffalo. On the ride, Delfino claims Ira Mitchell and Phil Rinsland passed him on the train while he was seated. They didn’t recognize Dominick, but Dominick said he didn’t even recognize himself with the changes he had made.
In Buffalo, Dominick spent a couple of days at a swank hotel before hopping a train to Niagara Falls. He claims he paid the conductor $10 to allow him to cross the border into Canada on board the freight train – and made his way to Toronto before continuing his freedom throughout Canada.
A somber thanksgiving
The last Thursday of November used to be celebrated as Thanksgiving Day (today it’s the fourth Thursday). On this day, Murderer’s Row fell silent. With no visitors allowed, Delfino and his counterparts Myma and Stallone (no mention of Morella) all remained stoic and silent – except for some small talk with the guards that were assigned to watch over Delfino 24 hours a day. The prisoners did receive a Thanksgiving feast that consisted of roast pork, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, bread and coffee. The same meal was served twice that day – and you could eat as much as you wanted.
Two guards and a safety razor
Something as simple as a shave takes on new level of complexity when dealing with a desperate convicted murderer.
Execution Date is estabalished
In early December, Governor Gifford Pinchot has ordered Delfino’s execution to occur during the week of January 7, 1924. No exact date will be decided and shared with Delfino until Judge Maxey approves. In the meantime, friends of Delfino raise money to hire a lawyer to represent their friend in front of the Board of Pardons. Delfino’s attorney asks the Governor for a delay so he can properly present to the Board. Their efforts succeed and on December 21, Governor Pinchot issues a stay that will delay the execution one month – setting the new date to the week of February 4 – ironically, six years from his escape.
In what will be Delfino’s last Christmas dinner, he and his Murderer’s Row associates will receive fresh ham, mashed potatoes and possibly sauerkraut, oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, coffee and bread. They’ll receive the same meal as all of the other prisoners. The only difference is the women will receive a box of candy and the men, cigars. The no visitor policy continues.
Dominick steadfastly denies he killed Morabito. During the Board of Pardons hearing, it’s expected that he will tell the Judge that two women heard a death-bed confession from the actual killer. He will also share a story of how he saved a woman from drowning as justification for the pardon. It seems that while he was on the run in Calgary, a woman fell into a canal east of the city. He jumped in and pulled the woman to safety – demonstrating that he’s not a bad person. “Do you think I’d work in the hospital during the flu”, a statement that was confirmed by officials at the Spanish River Pulp and Paper company. “Or that I would save a woman’s life if I was a bad man or if I had not a noble heart?” He added that the Godfather of Morabito also believes he is innocent – or he would have testified against him.
At a hearing in Philadelphia, affidavits were presented to the Supreme Court. The first asserts that Tony Cotronelli was the man that killed Morabito. Cotronelli died of the flu in October of 1918. The document was signed by Mrs. Amelia Tunelli of Jermyn and Mrs. Sarah Semononi of Archbald. The women state that Cotronelli was a boarder at the Tunelli home in Archbald. During his illness, Mrs. Tunelli acted as his nurse. At one point, Cotronelli called for Tunelli and told her he had a confession to make and that she needed to summon another witness.
After Mrs. Semononi arrived, Cotronelli told the two that he was the one to kill Morabito. He asked that they keep it a secret as long as Delfino, who was on the run at the time, remained free. If Delfino was ever captured, they were encouraged to tell the truth.
Years passed and Mrs. Tunelli lost her husband to the flu in 1921. That’s when she moved from Archbald to Jermyn. After Delfino was captured, Mrs. Tunelli told the story to one of Dominick’s friends, who in turn brought the information to Delfino’s attorney, Mr. Edward Philbin. That’s then the affidavits were secured.
Supporting the claim was the fact the revolver matching the caliber used in the shooting was found near the old White Oak breaker in Archbald. Cotronelli’s home is within a few blocks of the breaker, which is on the direct route from the scene of the crime.
The evidence was enough to convince the Supreme Court to issue a ruling that a new hearing is scheduled for January 16th. It also states that the execution is halted until the new case is resolved.
Delfino says that he was aware of a rumor that it was Cotronelli. He initially heard the story from a barber in Rochester when he was on the run. Delfino says that Morabito got into an argument with Cotronelli over money due to Morabito. The argument escalated into a bar fight. He adds that two men from New York came to Archbald a few days before the murder to meet with Morabito and Cotronelli. They were in town, but on the night of the murder, the men had disappeared. Delfino says he got his information from the brother of a man who he believes was the killer. The man had told his brother that he and Cotronelli “finished Morabito.”
All was looking good for Delfino – until the court date. During the trial, the new District Attorney Harold A. Scragg argued vehemently that the affidavits are questionable at best. He shared with the Judge that Mrs. Tunelli’s now deceased husband was Santo Fierno. The same Santo Fierno that filed an affidavit overturning his original statement on behalf of Delfino in the first trial. And Sarah Simioni, the woman who filed the second affidavit is married to Dominic Panzira. The same Dominic Panzira that together with Fierno changed his affidavit on Delfino’s behalf in the first trial. It’s also no coincidence that Panzira came from Catona, the same town in Calabria as Delfino.
Supreme Court Denies Request
Scruggs’ work to discredit the affidavits, coupled with his extensive review of Delfino’s record while on the run were enough. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State and denied the request for a new trial. Delfino’s final hope is to rely on a pardon from the State Pardon Board. In the meantime, Gov Pinchot grants another reprieve and pushes the execution date to the week of February 25th.
While Delfino awaits his execution, it’s reported that there are now eight murderers housed in the Lackawanna County Prison – the most in the history of the county dating back to 1878.
Yet again, Delfino gets relief. The Board could not hear his case due to the absence of a key member. The date for the new hearing is pushed out to March 5th, and the new execution date the week of March 10th – giving Delfino more time to live.
Confession and a plea for mercy
When Delfino was captured at Pitea’s store, he initially denied any involvement the murder. But before long, and under intense questioning, he admitted that he had killed Morabito. Once he secured his attorneys, he changed the story and said he never confessed to the murder.
Now, after denying it for eight years, Delfino flips again and admits to Detective Rose that it was he who fired the fatal shot into Morabito. But he did so in self-defense. He now begs for mercy as the Board of Appeals is about to hear his final plea. He claims that Chief McHale instructed him to remain quiet and don’t say a word – giving him the feeling that McHale had his back.
Much of what he tells Rose aligns with his original story he told the Times after he was caught in Vancouver. The only major difference is that he now says that one of the times the men attempted to kill him, he held his defense and fired the fatal shots into Morabito.
Detective Rose noted how his story has continuously changed and took the new confession with a grain of salt. It appears that his confession and plea for mercy had no impact on the request for a pardon. In fact, neither attorney was even aware of his revised statement. The board had denied his appeal and upheld the sentencing destroying his final hopes for salvation.
The end is near
On a Friday afternoon, the date of his execution is now set for the following Monday, March 10, 1924 at 7:15am. Six years after the murder of Demetrio Morabito, the man responsible for his death will pay the ultimate price. While the events are still not 100% clear, it would seem that if Delfino called for self-defense earlier in his defense, he might have been spared like so many before him.
Officials have not yet told Delfino of his date, but it’s believed that he has heard through others. The fact that he had called for Father Clement Cavaletti to join him on Saturday morning could lead one to believe he had known.
Father Cavaletti showed up early in the morning and Delfino was said to have “made peace with God.” He was then strip-searched, ensuring he had no weapons to aid an escape on his way to “the deathhouse” at Rockview in Centre County. As he was led out of the ward, the blinds on all of the jail cells were closed so the other men could not see him leaving. As he was about to exit, he shouted “Good Bye” to anyone would could hear his final words to his fellow inmates.
At the Warden’s office, Sheriff Jim Reap, the man who would escort him to Rockview, asked if he had any final statements. “Only that I must die in the electric chair for four men who tried to kill me” replied the doomed man. He then added “I want you to tell my brother to go back home to my father and mother in Italy. Tell him to stay with them all the time. Tell him to take care of them.” At this point, Delfino seemed truly saddened.
With some confusion still swirling around some of the events during his escape, Detective Rose asked Dominick if he had come back to Scranton to kill Judge Maxey. “I never came back here. That’s the truth” he said. Adding that if given the time he could prove it.
The trip to Rockview
Sheriff Reap and Captain Rose along with two state troopers, J.C. Mauk and Charles Cook were the guards assigned for the trip. They were joined by two newsmen and a handful of others. They hopped in cars outside of the jail in front of a group of onlookers and quickly made their way towards the city. No plans were disclosed on how they would transport the prisoner for fear that there would be an attempt to rescue him. They boarded a train in Luzerne County and headed west. Next stop? Bellefonte Station.
On board, Delfino was said to be jovial for most of the trip. Joking that if he was given a two-minute head start, they would never find him. Along the way, he sang “Paddle Your Own Canoe” and end the song saying, “If I had only paddled my own canoe:.” presumably a knock against those that betrayed him, including Joe Calderini, Chief McHale, and the men who testified against him.
Paddle your own canoe
I've travelled about a bit in my time And of troubles I've seen a few I found it better in every clime To paddle my own canoe My wants are small, I care not at all If my debts are paid when due I drive away life in the ocean of life While I paddle my own canoe. Then love your neighbour as yourself As the world you go travelling through And never sit down with a tear or a frown But paddle your own canoe. I have no wife to bother my life No lover to prove untrue But the whole day long with a laugh and a song I paddle my own canoe I rise with the lark and from daylight till dark I do what I have to do I'm careless of wealth if I've only my health To paddle my own canoe. It's all very well to depend on a friend That is if you've proved him true But you'll find it better by far in the end To paddle your own canoe To borrow is dearer by far than to buy A maxim tho' old still true You never will sigh if you only will try To paddle your own canoe. If a hurricane rise in the midday skies And the Sun is lost to view Move steadily by, with a steadfast eye And paddle your own canoe The daisies that grow in the bright green fields Are blooming so sweet for you So never sit down with a tear or a frown But paddle your own canoe.
The only time his mood changed is when he talked about his parents in Italy. He lamented that for six years he did not write to them for fear it would lead to his capture. “I used to send them $10 every month” he said as tears streamed down his face – the first time he showed emotion since his capture. Detective Rose passed him a handkerchief to wipe the tears. The two men had become friends in spite of being on opposite sides of the law.
At lunch, a “colored” man approached to take their order. Delfino, being the personable man he is, pepped up and said “What do you say if you take my place?” to which the waiter replied, “I prefer to stay as I is.” When Delfino asked his name, the porter replied, “My name is Wisdom.” Aptly, the waiter’s real name is J.Wisdom. Delfino replied “why they say if you go to heaven, you’ll be made the whitest man there.” Wisdom, having none of it said “Bur I don’t want to go just yet.”
Delfino replied, “See. Why is it everybody is told that heaven is the greatest place you could go, yet nobody wants to go?”
Why is it everybody is told that heaven is the greatest place you could go, yet nobody wants to go? – Dominick Delfino on his way to the electric chair
They would reach Bellefonte by 4:00pm, then transfer to cars that would take them the rest of the way. Before being turned over to the warden, Delfino thanked Detective Rose and Sherriff Reap for the way they treated him on the trip. He also thanked the newsmen and joked with them by saying “You boys will miss me I bet. I’ve been your best customer for a long time.”
The final chapter
At 7:05am, Delfino is led to the Electric Chair by Father Cavaletti. They are reciting prayers, “Oh blessed Virgin Mary, ask your divine Son to have mercy on me.” Sitting in the chair, he recites in Italian, “Jesus and Mary, I give you my heart and my soul.”
After receiving two shocks of 2,000 volts of electricity, his body is examined by the two physicians assigned. With no sign of heartbeat, they turned to the witnesses and at 7:11am said “We pronounce this man dead.”
Dominick was just the second man from Lackawanna County to die in the electric chair since hanging was abolished in 1915. The first man was Frank Palma, a murderer from the Bull’s Head section of Scranton that was tie to the Black Hand. Rockview was no stranger to electrocutions. Delfino was the 138th person to die in the chair in the facility that, no coincidence, opened in 1915.
Father Cavaletti recalled the time when Dominick and Morabito walked to the priest’s home in a snowstorm to summon the man to visit with Morabito’s daughter who was very ill. He claimed the men were “bosom friends” and could not believe that Dominick would do this to Morabito.
His services, led by Father Cavaletti, were held March 13th at the Italian Church of Assumption in Jessup, with burial in the Eynon Cemetery in Archbald. His procession included twenty-five automobiles full of Italians from around the valley. Included in the procession was his brother Tony, who three days later would be officially divorced from his wife. It’s reported that Tony would carry out his brother’s final wish and return to Italy in June, but I can’t confirm that.
Hundreds of men were said to pay their respects. Many of whom never met the man, but either out of love for a fellow countryman or morbid curiosity, they attended his services. There were flower arrangements from throughout the valley displayed by his “silver finished cypress” casket at the Margotta funeral home at 402 Church St in Jessup. One in particular was rather morbid. It showed the dial of a clock with the time set to 7:11 – the time of Dominick’s death.
The pallbearers for Dominick that laid him to rest were all Italians from Archabld: Pasquale Pascorino, Dominick Spinella, Dominick Barbieri, James Cadichia, Fortunato Patli and Michael Paselli.
What ever happened to…
Carmella Monarchio Morabito
Dometrio’s widow, suffered more loss less than a year after her husband’s death. That’s when her youngest daughter Annie, just over a year old, died of bronchitis in Dunmore in March 1917. Shortly after, she moved to Binghamton, perhaps to be closer to her two sisters. Her hard luck followed her when her first born, Aneglina, died at seven in 1918. Two months later, she remarried a shoemaker. Carrmella passed away at a relatively young 45 years old after a brief illness.
Patsy Stallone & John Myma
Less than two months later, Dominick’s fellow inmate on Murderer’s Row, John Myma is also executed at Rockview. Another guest on Murderer’s Row, Pasquale Stallone was spared and sentenced to 10-20 years in the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. Perhaps it was due to the letter the DA received. It threatened that if Stallone received the same fate, his house would be bombed. Stallone lived to be 82 years of age.
Archbald Police Captain James McHale
McHale had a career that included single-handedly capturing two escaped inmates from Farview State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in 1916.
He would leave his post as Chief and become a private detective in September 1926. Just three months later, he and another Detective, Oscar Chertok, are ordered by, none other than, Judge Maxey to relinquish their licenses. They are accused of conspiring to extort money from those skirting the liquor laws. The scheme had the two present search warrants at different businesses. If alcohol was found, they would issue an arrest. Prior to posting bail, they would offer up a cash settlement and in return, they would drop the charges.
He is convicted and sentenced by Judge Maxey. Upon his parole, he leaves the city and moves to Erie – likely to avoid confrontations with those he extorted.
District Attorney George Maxey
The DA that prosecuted Dominick and many others later became a Judge in Lackawanna County. He joined the State Supreme Court in 1930 and rose all the way to the Chief Justice from 1943 until his sudden death in 1950. He remained in Scranton although he passed away at his office in Pittsburgh.
Detective Chris Rose
Christian Rose joined the police department in 1901. In 1906 he became the first paid lifeguard in the city’s history and was assigned to “The Boom” – a popular swimming hole at the time along Roaring Brook (just south of the then Spruce St Bridge). Rose was promoted to Captain in 1923 and Superintendent in January 1926. In September of that year, after 25 years with Scranton PD, he went on to become a special officer at the First National Bank of Scranton where he served another 25 years before his retirement in 1952. While at the bank, Rose was said to have handled “billions of dollars” where “not one cent was ever reported lost or stolen.”
Vancouver Police Chief James Anderson
Chief Anderson received the $1,000 reward and was asked to share it among the team that was involved in the capture. Chief Anderson resigned from his role as Chief in January 1924, citing injuries from an auto accident, but also from the unjust criticism he and his department were receiving compounded by lack of funds. He went on to say that “the public can say whatever they wanted about the police, but the police were in no position to air their voices.” Sound familiar?
Vancouver Detective Joe Ricci
The man largely responsible for the capture of Delfino was the Italian detective, Joe Ricci. Ricci went on to help clean up the Black Hand Society’s operations in Vancouver. He earned the moniker, “Camera Eye” based on his “photogenic memory” and all of his arrests. He was dismissed from the force in 1929 – likely due to political turnover. In 1949, after twenty years away from police work, he returned to Police Headquarters. He became the official Interpreter for the city. On top of that, lady luck treated him and his wife well.
Attorney Edward Philbin
Part of Defino’s defense team, Attorney Philbin suffered his own tragedy with the loss of his young wife shortly after the murder of Morabito. She herself was a widow of one of the partners of Brown & McMullen, a prominent liquor wholesaler in North Scranton. Philbin continued his career in law before moving to New York City and joining a detective agency. He passed away there in 1935.
Attorney Clarence Balentine
The other part of Delfino’s team was Attorney Balentine. Balentine also served as defense counsel for Pasquale Stallone. He had a bit more success with the Old Forge triple-murderer, getting him a sentence of 10-20 years. The attorney had a private practice for 30 years before joining other partners in 1930. He passed away at 68 in 1937, days before he and a friend were set to sail to Europe.
The man who allegedly turned in his “friend” suffered backlash from his Italian countrymen in Vancouver. So much so that he had to leave Vancouver and head east. Giuseppe maintains that he never opened the envelope containing the letter from Delfino. He claims the letter was intercepted by someone named “Antonio”.
Anthony and Catherine Pitea (Pitha)
The couple that owned the store where Dominick met with Chief McHale stayed in the area until 1945. Tony also operated the Tony Pitha Coal Company in Carbondale. They moved to Philadelphia where Catherine died in 1957. Anthony died in 1965 aboard a ship that was sailing in the Ionian Sea, between Calabria and Greece.
After countless hours of researching old newspaper articles from around North America and scouring Google, I believe that Delfino’s final story was the true story – that he acted in self-defense. The Black Hand was notorious for extorting fellow countrymen. I want to believe that Dominick was trying to remain independent of the organization. I’ve read dozens of stories of intimidation of other Black Hand victims and the modus operandi aligns. Dominick tried to avoid the confrontations, but finally had had enough – after being the target on so many other occasions.
I also believe that Chief McHale failed him – but I don’t think that it was his intent. The two men were working together, with Delfino acting as an informant. It was likely that McHale was using Delfino to find the seedy characters in the town so he himself could extort them. I believe that McHale knew that Morabito was a Black Hander and felt he could get Delfino off without claiming self-defense. If he could, there would be no penalty. By not allowing him to talk, he gave up self-defense as justification.
During the trip from Vancouver back to Scranton, Delfino insisted his innocence, hoped for a new trial and believed that his story would make for a great movie or book. “Next year by this time we all be rich if somebody write that story for me” he told the officers. He shared his discontent with his friend Joe Calderini, saying he “passed the word out” and that “he get his, maybe soon, he be killed.”