The Wasilewski grocery on the corner of Hamilton street and Carl street was destroyed in 1956 when a US Air Force training jet crashed into it. Nobody died. The crew had ejected after running out of fuel and the store was empty at the time. Several people in the neighbourhood were injured by flying glass and pieces of wreckage. The lot was cleared of rubble, but nothing was ever built there again.
Ten years earlier, at a quarter past ten on the night of 12th December 1946, two men wearing red, hooded masks walked through the doors of the store, pointing pistols at Rose Wasilewski, who was dusting a shelf, and her nine-year-old daughter, Donna, who was at the check-out counter. One stayed by the entrance while the other reached into the till and took $149 in notes, leaving the silver. John Wasilewski and his son, Eugene, who had been butchering meat in the back room, came into the front shop and shouted, “Get out of here!” The hooded men ran into the street and drove off in a car that they had stolen earlier from outside a nearby house. They abandoned it a few streets away and ran off in opposite directions.
Two weeks later, the Lawrence laundry on South Mill street was broken into by burglars who smashed open the safe and stole the 95 cents that it contained. It was the least successful robbery in a series of safe-cracking jobs that had had taken more than $7,000 that year. In March 1947, three months later, state police arrested a gang of seven men for the crimes. One of them, twenty-one-year-old Sammy Sams, confessed to breaking into the Lawrence laundry (along with Frank Largo, the brother of Ralph Largo) and later signed a separate confession in which he admitted to the Wasilewski hold-up but said that it had been the idea of his friend, Leonard D’Antonio, a foreman at Mellon-Stewart Construction, who had come to his house that night with two red hoods and told him that he knew a way they could make some money.
Leonard lived with his wife and children on Pollock avenue, in the home of his father-in-law, Frank Macchia, a New Castle police officer. He was arrested and taken to the state police barracks in Butler, where the confession was read to him. He said, “Sammy Sams must have quite an imagination,” and refused to say any more.
At the trial, Sams admitted his part in the string of robberies for which he had been arrested, but said that he had not written the confession implicating Leonard in the Wasilewski job and had signed it only after taking a beating from the state police. Nevertheless, the jury found both men guilty.
Leonard’s lawyers immediately asked for a retrial, which was eventually granted. (A similar request from Sams was denied, and he was sentenced to three to seven years in the Western penitentiary.) After Leonard had spent seven months in jail, but before the date on which his new trial was to begin, the case against him was dropped. Judge Braham criticised the state police’s investigation and the prosecution’s conduct and remarked on the general thinness of the evidence behind the conviction. Leonard was released the week before Christmas.
The following year, Leonard and his family moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a self-employed truck driver for twenty-eight years until 1975, when e died from a heart attack shortly after getting out of bed one Saturday morning. He was fifty-eight years old.Sources: New Castle News (1 Oct 1944, “D’Antonio-Macchia Nuptial Ceremony”; 13 Dec 1946, “Two Bandits Get $300 In Holdup”; 31 Dec 1946, “Lawrence Laundry Reported Robbed”; 24 March 1947, “Six Arraigned For Burglaries; Waive Hearings”; 25 March 1947, “Two More Charges Made In Robberies”; 26 March 1947, “Pleads Not Guilty To Robbery Charge”; 27 March 1947, “D’Antonio Held For Grand Jury”; 10 June 1947, “Start Defense In Robbery Case”; 11 June 1947, “Jury Gets Robbery Case About Noon”; 24 June 1947, “Sentence Seven In Safe-Cracking Robberies Here”; 5 Dec 1947, “Grant New Trial To Convicted Man”; 20 Dec 1947, “Dismiss Charges In D’Antonio Case”; 16 March 1948, “Court Adds Time To Sams Sentence”; 26 Sep 1967, “Macchias To Celebrate Their Golden Wedding”; 27 May 1975, “Deaths Of The Day”).
When Gayle Goad went to war in June, 1943, he was only sixteen—he added two years to his age at the recruiting station. He was sent to Europe to join General Patton’s Third Army, which killed a hundred and forty-four thousand Germans as it fought its way from Normandy to Bohemia, at a cost of over sixteen thousand of its own men. Gayle had served for no more than a few months before he told his officers that he was underage and asked to be sent home, but they saw no sense in losing a trained soldier. In a battle not long after he turned seventeen, Gayle was almost killed when his unit was pinned down by machine-gun fire from above. The bullets struck his gun, knocking it out of his hands. The man next to him was shot dead.
Gayle’s father, Hobert, a conductor on the B&O railroad, died while Gayle was overseas. Hobert’s father, and all the other Goads for the past two hundred years, had farmed tobacco in northern Virginia, on former swampland in the Rappahannock valley that Abraham Goad had bequeathed to his children in 1733, along with a small sum of cash and his Negro servant, Judith. Abraham had been over ninety when he died; Hobert was only forty-eight.
Hobert’s death brought Gayle back to New Castle, in January 1946. A few months later, on the night of his nineteenth birthday, he attacked Harry and Helen Fraschetti, the owners of an inn in Croton who had refused to sell him meat or liquor at three o’clock in the morning. He spent two days in jail before the Fraschettis took pity on him and withdrew the charges. Gayle was sent to the Aspinwall veterans hospital, where he spent thirteen months in psychiatric care. He fell in love with a female psychiatrist and followed her to the west coast when he was released. She did not share his feelings and Gayle returned to New Castle after a spell in Nevada, where he made a living by gambling.
On a Monday afternoon in 1953, Gayle was arrested on North Liberty street for driving an auto while intoxicated—the crime for which his mug shot was taken. He was sentenced to thirty days in jail, out in three if the $100 fine and costs were paid. He spent a great part of the following year in the company of a group of petty criminals—ex-soldiers and boys too young to have fought in the war—who broke into cars on the north hill and grocery stores across the city and tried unsuccessfully to rob a safe in a service station downtown. They were caught in February 1955, when their car broke down after they held up a gas station near Mount Jackson. Gayle fled, heading west, and was arrested in Arizona a week later. He pled guilty to robbing around $3,000-worth of merchandise and was sent to the Western penitentiary for one to two years. He was paroled after ten months.
Gayle got married in his early thirties, but it didn’t last. Gayle was difficult for anyone to be around. For the next twenty-five years, he was a professional gambler, moving constantly between the east and the west. He died in 1984 in a Las Vegas motel room. His body lay for six days before it was found. The funeral home used the $700 that was found in his wallet to pay for his cremation.
He was fifty-nine, according to his birth certificate, or sixty-one, according to the Army.Sources: New Castle News (19 June 1944,“Seventh Ward Personals”; 7 April 1945, “Seventh Ward Personals”; 21 Sep 1946, “Faces Charge After Morning Encounter”; 23 Sep 1946, “Withdraw Charges Against Gayle Goad”; 8 Sep 1953, “Under Arrest”; 4 Feb 1954, “Non-Support Court Held”; 1 Feb 1955, “Lengthy String Of Burglaries Thought Solved”; 7 Feb 1955, “Two Under Arrest”; 29 Nov 1955, “Goad Is Paroled”); Goad family website, mdnestor.com; email from Sheri Goad.
Samuel Doster was born in Indiana in 1925 and moved with his family to New Castle while he was a child. They lived in the only house on the 1000 block on West State street, which they shared with a number of others. His mother hosted Baptist prayer band meetings on Monday afternoons.
In 1941, when he was sixteen, Samuel was arrested for larceny. He was processed by the police, who took his mug shot and filed it away with his details, but was discharged without penalty. Two years later, he was drafted. He survived the war comfortably, spending the last year of his service in Hawaii. On his return to New Castle, he got married and went to work in the Johnson Bronze factory. Within months, his marriage was in trouble, and he moved out of the house soon after his first child was born.
Samuel spent time organising charity events for the YMCA and became active in his trade union. When a new auxiliary police force was set up, Samuel volunteered for that, too, and was eventually promoted to sergeant. By 1953, he had remarried. That summer, he and his new wife, Evelyn, were among the three thousand people who attended the annual Shenango Pottery picnic in Cascade park, where children were given free access to the rides, entertainment was provided by an employees’ talent show, and he and Evelyn won first prize in the waltz contest. The Korean war ended the next day. The sun shone all weekend.
On a Friday night in August 1962, Samuel and two friends went to the colored Elks club on Home street, arriving just after midnight. Around three o’clock, Samuel and John James, Jr, the son of a cruiser patrolman in Farrell, got into an argument about how many Negroes had been employed by Johnson Bronze during the war. A wager was made, and Samuel placed a $10 bill on the bar.
John James left the club while Samuel was talking to one of his friends. Samuel noticed that the $10 was missing and followed James into the street. James told him that the bartender had taken the money. Samuel went back in to check, but the bartender said he hadn’t seen it.
Samuel went back outside and stopped James getting into his car. He took him back inside the club and James pulled out a razor and grabbed a microphone, which he swung at Samuel. James ran out of the club, followed by Samuel, who chased him down Home street onto Moravia street and into the space between two buses that were parked at a service station, where they tumbled to the ground together.
Samuel opened his clasp knife and he and James grabbed for each other, falling into a bear hug from which James broke loose only after Samuel had stabbed him once in the shoulder and twice in the back.
James ran to the service station office, followed by Samuel. Both insisted that the police be called. A police cruiser took them to the hospital, where Samuel was released after being treated for a cut to his thumb. After dropping his knife into a mop bucket—“because”, he told police later, “I knew I was going to get into a world of trouble behind it”—he filed an aggravated assault charge against James, who was kept in the hospital for treatment.
James died the following afternoon. Samuel’s knife had severed an artery and James had been bleeding internally all night without anyone noticing. Samuel was at a dance in Cleveland with Evelyn when he heard the news. He returned to New Castle and turned himself in to the police, who replaced their mug shot of the sixteen-year-old Samuel with one of the thirty-six-year-old Samuel and wrote “Murder” on the file card, under the old charge of larceny.
Samuel was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to two to four years in the Western penitentiary. While he was inside, Evelyn divorced him. Upon his release, he moved in with his mother, back in the house where he had grown up. A year later, Evelyn took him to court to force him to pay child support.
Eventually, Samuel moved out of town. He died in Columbia, South Carolina, in 2000, at the age of seventy-four.Sources: New Castle News (31 April 1940, “Monday Prayer Band”; 1 Nov 1943, “City Board Names Selectees”; 27 May 1947, “Marriage Licenses”; 28 Oct 1947, “Young Woman Missing”; 15 Oct 1947 “Shenango Y Phalanx Card Party Saturday”; 9 March 1950, “Sixty not True Bills Returned”; 16 March 1953, “Auto Workers Local Announces Results Of Sunday Election”; 27 July 1953, “Pottery Picnic Attended By 3500 Persons”; 22 Feb 1956, “Ten Promoted By Auxiliary Police Group”; 5 Jan 1955, “Several Score Get Police Instructions”; 26 Nov 1962, “Murder Charge In Stab Death Of Farrell Man”; 21 June 1963, “Manslaughter Ruled By Jury In Doster Case”; 30 Jan 1964, “Samuel Doster Given 2-4 Year Prison Term”; 13 Jan 1966, “15 Divorces Granted By County Court”; 9 Sep 1967, “5 Defendants Plead Guilty”).
When he was nineteen, in 1930, Hugh Berger was the leader of a gang of youths who were arrested in Pittsburgh and charged with fifty-six counts of robbery, larceny, pointing firearms and carrying concealed weapons. Hugh spent ten years in the state penitentiary at Bellefonte. After his release in the spring of 1940, he ended up in New Castle, where he met two local men—Kalim George, who had just been paroled from the Western penitentiary following a three-to-six year sentence for sodomy, and James Ross, who had beaten an assault-and-robbery charge the year before. A new A&P supermarket had opened up on South Mercer street, and they decided to rob it.
Around four o’clock on a Sunday morning in August, Hugh and Kalim pried open a door into the furnace room at the rear of the A&P building, leaving James Ross outside as a lookout. They took $34 in quarters and dimes from the cash register and filled twelve sacks with food, cigarettes and candy. Just before dawn, as they were getting ready to leave, two police officers broke down the front door.
Hugh and Kalim ran to the rear of the store. One officer fired a shot and Kalim ducked behind a counter, where he hid until he was captured. Hugh stuffed his .32 revolver into a pile of canteloupes and hid under a table. He, too, was found and taken out to the street, where he saw James Ross handcuffed to a patrol car.
At the station, Hugh learned that the police had been tipped off about the robbery. He blamed Kalim. He told him that he would kill him with an ice pick when they got to jail. It turned out he was wrong. In court, Hugh got nine to nineteen years and Kalim got eight to sixteen years. James Ross was tried separately, and his sentence was not reported in the papers.
As soon as Hugh was admitted to the Western penitentiary, he wrote to the courthouse in New Castle requesting copies of the indictments brought against him, the true bills and grand jury subpoenas, the commitment from the city police jail to the county jail, the dispositions, the commitments to the penitentiary, the trial testimony and the claim of the A&P store. After studying the paperwork for two years, he found what seemed to be an inaccuracy. The indictment said that he had robbed a store that was owned by A&P but he had discovered that A&P merely occupied the building, which was owned by somebody else. Hugh wrote to the district attorney, saying that the error invalidated his conviction. The judge examined the evidence, announced that the arguments were “of the most captious and technical kind” and threw out the appeal.
Hugh was paroled in 1948 but, after another burglary conviction, he was sent back to the Western penitentiary to serve the rest of his sentence. He was over fifty when he was released, having spent only a few months out of jail since his arrest in 1930. He died in Pittsburgh in 1995, at the age of eighty-four.Sources: New Castle News (3 April 1937, “Sentences Are Passed In Court”; 14 Dec 1938, “Pardon Is Granted To C A Llewellyn”; 1 June 1939, “Welsh And Gibbons Bring Ross To City”; 19 Aug 1940, “Police Surprise Trio In Store Robbery; All Three Captured”; 19 Sep 1940, “On Court House Hill”; 20 Sep 1940, “Store Robbers Get Long Terms”; 20 Sep 1940, “On Court House Hill”; 5 Oct 1940, “On Court House Hill”; 2 Dec 1942, “On Court House Hill”; 27 Jan 1943, “On Court House Hill”; 2 March 1943, “On Court House Hill”; 2 Sep 1955, “Legal Notices”; 6 Sep 1955, “Berger Seeks Parole”); Pittsburgh Press (9 March 1930, “9 Face 56 Charges In Robbery Chain”).
Lloyd Hockenberry drifted into New Castle in the spring of 1956 and took a room in Flora Williams’ apartment on East Washington street, above Westell’s gun store. He was looking for work of some sort, but had trouble finding any. Three weeks later, Flora Williams noticed she was missing two wedding rings valued at $175 each, as well as a $100 bill. She called the police, and Lloyd was arrested when he returned to the apartment at half past two in the morning. He confessed and was given six to twelve months in the Lawrence County jail, but was out in time to marry Cora Lee Kelly in November, just after he turned twenty-seven.
By 1958, Lloyd had left Cora Lee and New Castle and was living with his sister in Mount Union, four hours to the east, near the farm where he had grown up. One afternoon, while passing time in a diner in the nearby town of Huntingdon, he met a sixteen-year-old girl called Anna Grace Carper who had stopped off on her way home from school. They left together and walked up Fifth street and on over Flagpole hill, a local necking spot.
It wasn’t the first time Anna Grace had spent some time alone with a much older man. When she was twelve, she had run away from home with a twenty-one-year-old ex-convict called David Beard. The affair lasted only two days, until police picked them up and charged Beard—Anna Grace’s aunt’s brother—with rape and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Lloyd and Anna Grace had sex in the woods overlooking the town, then Lloyd walked her back to her house and didn’t think of her again until the following year, when a constable appeared at his door to serve a warrant on him for fornication and bastardy.
Lloyd drove to Anna Grace’s home, but was sent away by her father who would accept no visitors on a Sunday. The next day, Lloyd was told by a court official that, nine months after he had met Anna Grace, she had given birth to a baby girl and had named him as the father, and that her family were seeking a financial contribution from him. Lloyd denied that he had ever had a date with Anna Grace and insisted that he had been in West Virginia looking for work when Anna Grace claimed to have met him. The jury took twenty-five minutes to find Lloyd guilty, and the judge ordered him to pay $30 a month support money, plus hospital and doctor’s bills.
Lloyd was jailed for non-payment a year later, and again the following year. By the time he married a woman named Shirley Watkins in 1962, he had added a term in the Alleghenny county workhouse to his total. He was given a further two months in the county jail in 1965, also for non-payment. Amid all this, Lloyd fathered three legitimate children and another illegitimate child.
By 1969, Lloyd had left Shirley, his children and Pennsylvania and was living in Maryland, where he found work as a truck driver and continued to refuse to pay any child support. There is no further record of his life.Sources: New Castle News (17 March 1956, “Huntington Man Admits Theft Of $450 In 3 Weeks”; 2 April 1956, “Three Weeks Civil Court Opens Today”; 10 May 1956; “Two Sent To Workhouse For Hardware Thefts”; 12 Dec 1961, “18 Divorces Granted Here”; 29 May 1962, ““Defendant Is Sent To Workhouse”); Huntingdon Daily News (3 Aug 1955, “Missing Girl Is Found By State Police”; 6 Aug 1955, “Young Man Is Held On Serious Charge”; 15 Sep 1960, “Criminal Court Term Is Concluded”; 22 Aug 1961, “Domestic Relations Cases Heard”; 15 Oct 1962, “Marriage Licenses”; 28 Sep 1965, “6 Adjudged In Contempt Of Court”; 9 Aug 2001, “Births”); Altoona Mirror (8 Sep 1966, “Six Sentenced In Blair Court”; 7 June 1966, “Grand Jury Okays Bills”; 5 Oct 1966, “5 Guilty”; 19 Aug 1969, “Grand Jury Back; 12 Guilty Pleas Heard By Jurist”); Flagpole hill necking spot anecdote on Edwards-Brandt family website.