True Crime Scranton

Mysterious Shooting at “Murderers’ Corner”

A notorious intersection in the Bulls Head section of Scranton reinforces its reputation as "Murders' Corner".

On April 1, 1922, Dominick Ferlaino and Anthony Morrocco were walking home from an evening out in downtown Scranton. When they got close to their homes in Bulls Head, they were ambushed by a gunman near the corner of Wood Street and Diamond Avenue. Shots were fired and Ferlaino was taken to the Scranton State hospital with bullet wounds to the chest.

Morrocco was uninjured in the shooting but was detained by police. After searching Morrocco, he was found to have a revolver with two bullets missing from the chamber. Morrocco claimed the shots were aimed at the fleeing suspect as he ran away from the scene.

Ferlaino, 34, an immigrant from San Mango D’Aquino, Catanzaro, Calabria, Italy, was brought to the Scranton State hospital where he would die of his injuries a couple of days later. He left behind a wife and five children, including a newborn baby girl.

Initially, rumors swirled that Peter Trunzo, aka Peter Tunis, was the primary suspect – but Trunzo, 24, was nowhere to be found. Police were initially hesitant to name Trunzo, aka “Greenhorn Pete” as the suspect for he had just arrived in the US a few months ago and couldn’t speak any English.

At first, investigators were also convinced that it was NOT the work of The Black Hand, nor Morrocco, so Ferlaino’s traveling companion was released on bail.

Within a day Trunzo was named the primary suspect and was now wanted in connection with the slaying. It was believed that he was unaware of how the Black Hand worked in the US and was used by the Black Hand to kill Ferlaino.

Trunzo immigrated to the US in November 1921 from the same hometown as Ferlaino – San Mango D’Aquino. He left his wife and two children in Italy while he traveled to America, likely to earn money to bring them over later.

The search continued for ten days until investigators received a tip that he would be arriving in the city via train. The problem was, they didn’t have a good description of Trunzo. Detective Cartusciello waited for the train at the Lackawanna station and surveilled all of the incoming passengers. He had a hunch he identified his man. He followed the suspect to a lunchroom at Lackawanna and Adams, perhaps Tony Hardings, and sat down beside the man at the counter. The man struggled to communicate with the waiter so the undercover detective helped to translate and struck up a conversation with the unknowing suspect.

Now, fairly certain he had his man, Cartusciello asked the man where he was headed – “Farr St” he replied, but he didn’t know how to get there. Cartusciello gave the man directions and told him which streetcar to get on. Then the detective and his partner followed the streetcar.

The man exited the car and headed up North Main Ave towards Bulls Head. That’s when the detectives nabbed him.

The man tried to conceal his identity but quickly changed his tune. He fessed up and claimed he was coming back to Scranton to surrender to police and had admitted to killing Ferlaino.

In custody, Trunzo said that he and Dominick Viteriso (aka Dominick Vitrus) were walking along Diamond Ave when they came across five men. Trunzo said he greeted the men but did not get a reply. Further up the street, he claimed someone in the group said they were going to “throw me in the river.”

“Greenhorn Pete”

When they arrived at the intersection of Wood St, he stopped to say goodnight to Viteriso. That’s when, he says, Ferlaino and Morrocco were now approaching them while the three other men stayed back. He went on to say that Ferlaino asked what he was doing in the neighborhood and told him he wasn’t supposed to be on this street. Trunzo said “All right. I’m going home.” That’s when Ferlaino responded, “Well, I haven’t killed you, but I’m going to do it now”. That’s when Trunzo noticed that Ferlaino had his hand in his pocket with “something sticking out.”

Trunzo said he felt Ferlaino had a gun so he feared for his life and fired a single shot that struck Ferlaino in the chest, just below the heart.

Detectives believe that Trunzo’s story is questionable – noting that they did find a gun on Morrocco with two empty chambers, but they leaned towards believing Morrocco’s story that he fired the shots at Trunzo as he ran away. I can’t find a statement from Viteriso.

One article stated that this corner – Wood St and Diamond Ave – has been the scene of at least six different murders over the years, giving it the nickname “Murderers’ Corner.”

Back in these days, the judicial system wasted no time bringing the accused to trial. Just over one month after the shooting, Peter Trunzo is indicted for murder. He pleads not guilty and the trial is set to start on Monday, May 9, 1922.

On Monday afternoon, after the jurors were selected and the trial was set to begin, Trunzo’s attorneys work with the District Attorney and agree to a plea deal. Trunzo changes his plea to guilty in exchange for the charges to be lowered to voluntary manslaughter.

Trunzo, a veteran of World War I, fighting for the Allied Powers with Italy, is said to be relieved with the plea. It later came out that the two men argued because Trunzo had allegedly previously attacked a relative of Ferlaino with a knife. When they came together again that night, tensions escalated.

Trunzo was sentenced to pay a fine of $100 and ordered to serve five to eight years in jail. He would be sent to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.

In early December 1923, Trunzo’s attorneys petitioned for his release to the Board of Pardons.

Trunzo’s time in Eastern was short-lived. After serving less than twenty months, on December 22, 1923, he was granted a pardon and released from jail. I can’t find any information as to why a pardon was granted, but he was among twenty-six inmates to receive a pardon that day.

As a side note, Pasquale Tunis/Trunzo was involved in a deadly confrontation a few years after this incident. I covered that in my “Double Murder in Bulls Head” post. While I have to believe these two men are related, I can’t find any direct connection – though they may be 2nd or 3rd cousins. There were, and continue to be, several Tunis and Trunzo families living in the area to this day.

As always, if you are related to any of these individuals, I always say “your ancestor’s past does not dictate your future.”

If you have any family legends that you’d like me to investigate, let me know and I’ll do my best to uncover the details.

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