Small-time true crime from New Castle, Pa.

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  • Tony Moses
  • Joseph Pacelli
  • James Owens
  • Minny_TVO
  • Meyer Shussett
  • William Jaynes
  • Harry Curry
  • Gerald McCluskey

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Albert White, “Burglary and Receiving Stolen Goods”, 30 January 1941

albert white

At the age of nineteen, while he was awaiting trial on charges of forgery and automobile theft, Albert White sawed through the steel bars of his cell using hacksaw blades that his mother smuggled into jail in a roll of butter. He was recaptured a week later and sent to the Ohio state reformatory for two to twenty years.

A young man named Frank Hardman was sent to the reformatory around the same time, serving a similar sentence for theft. When Frank was convicted, his wife, Dorothy, went to live on his parents’ farm on Red hill in Beaver County, twenty miles south-west of New Castle. The arrangement turned out poorly. Less than a year after her arrival, Dorothy brought charges against her husband’s father, Frank Sr, saying he had been abusive and had threatened to kill her and his wife. The court ordered him to keep away from his family for two years. He went to stay with his brother in Tennessee.

Shortly after his arrival at his brother’s farm, Frank Sr wrote to the Beaver County justice of the peace: “l am told that Dorthy and the old lady are keeping a lot of men laying around there day and night. Now, I am not gowing to be run out of my home for them to run a disorderly house. I bought that home and paid for it and I am going to tell you Dorthy has been the nigger in the woodpile. Rosa and I were getting along good until Dorthy cam there and then hell broke loose. I am not gowing to be down here for long. I am cumming home and I am going to find out why I haf to leave my home and giv up my bead to another man.”

A few days later, Frank Sr turned up at the farm. He pleaded with his wife to take him back. She refused. He sat down to lunch with the family, and ate with his arm around her. He pulled out a bottle of liquor and offered her and Dorothy a drink, telling them it might be their last.

A car drove up to the farm, driven by two young men whom Dorothy knew. She went out to sit with them. Frank Sr followed her. He drew a .38 pistol and shot all three, then turned and shot his wife point-blank in the head. He ran into an orchard, put the barrel of the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

He died instantly; the others lived. Dorothy and the two men had been only slightly wounded. Frank’s wife recovered, over time, as far as was possible.

Albert and Frank junior were paroled the same year, after serving their minimum sentences. Frank introduced Albert to Dorothy. Before long, Dorothy had broken off with Frank and taken up with Albert.

Two years later, when Albert was awaiting trial in New Castle following a burglary that he had committed with Ernest McDole, Dorothy smuggled hacksaw blades into the jail. The sheriff heard from another prisoner that Albert was planning an escape. He stationed himself on the roof of the jail and watched through the skylight as Albert began to saw through the bolt on the cell door. Albert was forced to admit where the hacksaw blades had come from and Dorothy was arrested the next time she came to visit. She was given a thirty-day sentence. There is no further record of her life.

Albert was sent to the Western penitentiary for three to six years, and was returned to the Ohio reformatory to serve a two-year sentence for breaking his parole. He was released around the time of his thirtieth birthday.

A few years later, he got a job at the Rockwell-Standard Axle plant in New Castle. He was still there in 1974, when he was mentioned in the local paper as one of the company’s longest-serving employees. There is no further record of his life.

Sources: New Castle News: (13 December 1938, “Shoots Four Then Suicides”; 17 Jan 1941, “Deputies Trap Man In House”; 18 Jan 1941, ”On Court House Hill”; 23 Jan 1941, “On Court House Hill”; 3 March 1941, “Enter Pleas To Burglary Charge”; 8 March 1941, “Charge Woman Took Saws To Jail Prisoner”; 5 April 1941, “Granary Robbers Are Sentenced”; 25 October 1943, “Former Sheriff Ingham Named To Take Post”; 27 June 1974, “We Salute Our Employees”); Lima News, 4 May 1936, “Fugitive Trio Is Hunted In Three States”; Sandusky Star Journal (9 May 1936, “Arrested At Canton”; Sandusky Star Journal, 22 June 1936, “Four Held When Hacksaws In Butter”); Massilon Evening Independent, 24 June 1936, “Jailbreaker Given Prison Sentence”; Pittsburgh Press (13 December 1938, “Farmer Shoots 4, Then Kills Self”; 14 December 1938, “Scant Hope Darlington Woman Will Survive”; 15 December 1938, “Mrs Hardman is Unchanged”); Beaver County Times, 10 September 1981, “Obituaries”.

Tony Moses, “Disorderly Conduct”, 10 February 1958

Tony Moses

The February of 1958 was the coldest on record, and the northern lights, visible as far south as Florida, appeared as a bright orange glow behind New Castle’s north hill the night that Tony Moses was arrested for disorderly conduct. There is no record of the details of the incident or any subsequent penalty.

In 1961, Tony’s brother, Louis, and three other men were arrested as they tried to break open a safe in the office of Gaylord’s department store in Shenango township. Louis was released on bail and offered a reduced sentence if he would appear as a witness against the others. A week later, two teenage hunters found his body in the basement of a burned-out farmhouse south of Pittsburgh. He had four bullets in his head. The other men—all connected in some way to Youngstown gambling interests—were jailed for the attempted robbery, but not for any other crime.

The following year, Tony and another brother, Sam, rented a building on East Washington street, just down from the court house. They hung a sign above the door that said, “Future Sports Club” and set about turning it into a well-equipped illegal casino, with help from unidentified partners in Youngstown. The police who raided the place that October found gaming tables—for poker, roulette and dice—ticker-tape machines and a fully stocked bar in the lounge room. The case was abandoned when it was discovered that the raid had been conducted without a warrant.

In January, 1977, when Tony was sixty, he was arrested on charges of prostitution and statutory rape. There were two girls, both thirteen years old. They had run away from home—Baltimore, for one, and a house on Franklin avenue, for the other—and met an old man named John Gabriel and a young man named Kevin Giffin, who gave them food and shelter for a few days before putting them to work. On the night the girls met Tony, Gabriel bought them supper at McDonald’s. When they had eaten, he said, “I got a gentleman waiting, and I don’t want to hear nothing about it.” They drove to the south side, where they picked up Tony, then went out to the Holiday Inn on route 422 west of town. Tony got a room and Gabriel left to meet someone. He told them not to have sex before he got back.

Tony and the girls took a shower together. They lay on the bed and talked. Gabriel got back and the girls both had sex with each of the men. Tony gave them $15; Gabriel gave them $10.

A week later, the New Castle girl was picked up by the police, walking the streets alone. They took her home. Her sister went through her suitcase and found a letter that she had written to Kevin Giffin, threatening to tell the police what he had done. Tony was arrested shortly after, along with Giffin and Gabriel, and a city councilman who was eventually released when only one of the girls could identify him.

Tony admitted having sex with the girls but claimed he hadn’t known how young they were. The judge said he had observed the girls as they gave evidence and that it was inconceivable that any grown man could look at them and see anything other than children.

Tony pled guilty to two counts of corrupting the morals of a minor and was given a six to twelve-month sentence in the county jail. He was released after sixty days. His petition for parole noted that he had a job waiting for him at the Adams construction company.

There is no further record of Tony until his death, in 1998, at the age of eighty-two.

Sources: New Castle News (11 February 1958, “Northern Lights Plainly Visible”; 13 November 1961, “Moses Released On Bond; Three Others Apply”; 25 November 1961, “Louis Moses’ Body Found With Four Bullets In Head”; 9 December 1961, “13 Scheduled For Trial Here In County Court”; 16 December 1961, “Safe Attempt Gets Ohio Men 7-15 Years”; 12 October 1962, “Federal Officials Called Into Probe Of Gambling Den”; 26 March 1963, “Gambling Charge Presents Problem”; 22 January 1977, “Three Face Sex-Related Charges”; 26 January 1977, “Sex Case Leads To City Official”; 11 February 1977, “13-year-old Pegs Suspect In Sex Case”; 8 June 1977, “Three Men Sentenced In Prostitution Affair”; 15 February, “Girl Waivers In Identifying Sex Suspect”; 29 July 1977, “Judge Rejects Giffin Petition To Revise Plea”; 2 September 1977, “Sex Case Defendant Paroled”); Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 27 November 1961, “District ‘Gangland’ Killing Probed”. 

Joseph Pacelli, “Burglary”, 8 November 1940

Joseph Pacelli

When he was sixteen, Joseph Pacelli and three of his friends from the south side worked for two weeks to construct a diving helmet. They used an old hot water tank for the head piece, to which they attached an inner tube valve and several yards of hose. They made a window in the front of the helmet and attached steel pipes to its base so it would be heavy enough to sink. They installed a telephone mouth and ear set, connected to seven dry cells, which the diver could use to talk to the boys on the surface who would supply him with air using an automobile pump. Joseph demonstrated the apparatus for a reporter from the New Castle News, staying submerged in Big Run creek for five minutes.

Four years later, Joseph was arrested—along with David Bullano, the brother of Frank Bullano—for robbing Smokey’s poolroom, the Blue Bird shoeshine parlor, the Canteen saloon and an Atlantic avenue gas station. The total sum stolen was $28. He was sent to Huntingdon reformatory. There is no further record of his life.

Sources: New Castle News (26 July 1936, “South Side Boys Make Diver’s Helmet”; 11 November 1940, “Trio Pleads Guilty To Recent Robberies”; 14 December 1940, “Court Imposes Sentences Upon Many Offenders).

James Owens, “Bad Checks”, 5 August 1939

James Owens

James Owens, from Boston, walked into New Castle police station on a Saturday night to report his girlfriend missing. Her name was Della Nugent. He said they’d gone different ways when they were shopping and she hadn’t shown up where they’d arranged to meet. The police told him she’d been arrested that afternoon for passing bad checks. James, who was found to be carrying fake ID in the name of James O’Conners, was arrested on the same charge.

There is no further record of the case, of James or of Della.

Source: New Castle News, 7 August 1939, “Held On Suspicion”

Hubert Lykins, “Drunk”, 6 December 1958

Hubert Lykins

Around three thousand Americans fought in the 1944 campaign against the Japanese in Burma. By the end, all but two were either dead or had been hospitalised with wounds, cerebral malaria, amoebic dysentery or scrub typhus. Hubert Lykins’ brother, Edwin, was a signalman supporting the jungle warfare unit known as Merrill’s Marauders. He died the day after the final engagement of the campaign.

Hubert was never drafted. He worked as a molder in the New Castle Foundry and got married a few years after the war. In 1958, when he was arrested for causing a disturbance in Moravia street and fined $10 for drunk and disorderly behavior, his son, Danny, was eleven. Eight years later, in the mountains south of Da Nang, Danny was shot in the chest while searching for the body of a fellow soldier who had been killed the day before. He died instantly. He had been in Vietnam for a month.

Danny was the second soldier from New Castle to die in the war. George Threats, a former New Castle High basketball star, had been killed by shrapnel in Cu Chi the month before. The county commissioners voted to give the families $75 each towards the cost of the funerals.

Hubert, a member of the Loyal Order of the Moose and the Penn-Ohio Country Music Club, died in 1988, at the age of sixty-six.

Sources: New Castle News (13 Jan 1958, “Man Fined $10 On Disorderly Charge”; 28 July 1966, “City man killed In Viet”; 29 August 1966, “Cpl Daniel Lykins Killed In Action Against Viet Cong”; 31 August 1966, “Atop Court House Hill”); Carlislevietnamveterans.com; 5307thrangers.com

“Mugshot”

Minny_TVO

News! Small Town Noir is featured in the award-winning documentary “Mugshot”, to be broadcast on TVO on Wednesday September 24 (that’s tomorrow, at time of writing) at 9pm — also on Thursday, September 25 at 9pm and Sunday September 28 at 11pm. As far as I know, you have to be in Canada to watch TVO, but I could be wrong.  I expect it will be on in the US at some point…

I had a great time shooting the interviews on location in New Castle the winter before last, working with the incredibly passionate and dedicated film-makers Dennis Mohr and Andrew Watt. I would have been happy enough if all that it had meant was a free trip to New Castle, but it ended up being much more than that. I got to meet locals with connections to the people in my collection, explore places I couldn’t have got access to on my own and discuss — at length — ideas around mugshot photography, crime and criminality, collecting, history, celebrity and every other issue that somehow clusters around these strange little pictures.

My favourite part of the shoot came very early one morning, in a bar on North Mercer street. I was sitting on a barstool, recording and re-recording the story of Martin Fobes and his role in the death of a young girl one night in 1948. We were supposed to have the place to ourselves but it turned out that the bar is used by homeless men and alcoholics who want somewhere to drink when they wake up, outside legal opening times. Every so often, there would be a knock on the back door and the barman would usher people in and whisper to them to sit quietly behind the camera. We ended up with a bunch of disreputable-looking guys at the far end of the bar, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. Towards the end of the interview, they began to chime in with comments every time the director said cut. “Sounds like he did it,” they’d say, or “He killed that girl, you convinced me!”  After we’d finished, I sat with them as they flicked through my box of mug shots, looking for people whose families they knew. They were fascinated. I passed around a bundle of printouts of posts from the website, and they read extracts to each other when they found someone they recognised. We all had a great time.

I’ve never done a proper public reading of anything I’ve written, but I doubt that any audience would match that one.

Anyway. “Mugshot”. On TVO. This week.

I’ll close with this, from the production notes:

“Mugshot” Feature Documentary – Directed by Dennis Mohr

“I recognize in thieves, traitors and murders, in the ruthless and cunning, a deep beauty – a sunken beauty.” Jean Genet

“Mugshot” is a feature documentary investigating the cultural significance of the mugshot. Originally a law enforcement tool, the mugshot has deviated from its fundamental purpose as a source of criminal identification. It has been sensationalized through celebritydom, exploited by the leniency of freedom of information, and has captivated the attention of the art world. Mugshot explores the personal stories of those whose lives have been affected by this iconic photograph.

Mugshot gathers a motley crew of writers, artists and collectors whose lives have been transformed by the strange power of the mug shot. Once disregarded as photographic evidence of a crime, these tiny moments of history are now highly valued by many.

Cultural and legal differences are exposed as we travel between Canada and the United States and see how these precious photos are used in historical archives, art and in tabloid culture.

CREDITS:

Directed by Dennis Mohr
Produced by Charlotte Engel, Marja Perrin and Dennis Mohr
Cinematography by Andrew Watt
Edited by Rob Ruzic
Music by Bob Wiseman

Copyright: 2014

MUGSHOT NEWS:

“Mugshot” will premier on TVO on September 24 at 9 pm ET
Repeating: Sept. 25 at 9 pm ET and Sept. 28 at 11 pm ET

“Mugshot” premiered at Hot Docs International Documentary festival in April 2014

“Mugshot” won Best Arts & Culture Documentary at the Yorkton Film Festival

“Mugshot” is invited to the Hot Springs Festival in Hot Springs, Arkansas in Oct. 2014.

Meyer Shussett, “Suspicion”, 14 January 1933

Meyer Shussett

Meyer Shussett was a fifty-two-year-old salesman from Pittsburgh who had lost a lot of money in the depression. He took a train to New Castle on a January weekend in 1933 and spent Saturday night walking from bar to bar with boxes of counterfeit Pollock cigars, which he sold cheap until he was arrested by a patrolman. The mayor fined him $20.

Later—after the depression, after the war—he managed a variety store in Pittsburgh. One morning in 1951, he had just opened the store when a man walked in and asked for a T-shirt. When Meyer turned to get a box down from the shelf, the man hit him on the head with a brick. After finding only a few dollars in the register, the man hit him with the brick again and left the store.

Meyer went home. His family took him to the hospital, where he was given fourteen stitches to close his wounds.

There is no further record of his life.

Sources: New Castle News (16 January 1933, “Pittsburgh Man Pays Heavy Fine”; 9 October 1951, “Thug Uses Brick”); Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9 October 1951, “Thug Beats Up Storekeeper”.
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