Small-time true crime from New Castle, Pa.

Anthony Naples, “Murder”, 10 May 1937

Anthony Naples

Anthony Naples had been a sickly child until he was eight or nine, and his mother told people he was always a good boy who did whatever she told him. In May, 1937, when he was eleven years old, he took his father’s pistol to school. At lunchtime, in a field opposite the school on Pollock avenue, he shot a colored classmate, Robert McDowell, in the face. Robert died in hospital half an hour later. Police found Anthony hiding under his bed at home.

Anthony said he and Robert had been playing cowboys and Indians. He thought the gun was loaded with blanks. He aimed at Robert’s legs, not his head. It had been an accident.

The police kept at him until he told them Robert had hit him the previous two days at school, and he had used the gun to stop him doing it again. He told a psychiatrist that he was the leader of a gang that tried to keep the colored folks in line. The psychiatrist said that Anthony was emotionally deficient and was likely to do something similar again, if released.

In court, Anthony said the police had mixed him up with their questions. He went back to his cowboys and Indians story.

The jury found him guilty of manslaughter, and he was sentenced to six to twelve years’ supervisory custody. Throughout the trial, he had seemingly been unaware of the trouble he was in. When the verdict was delivered, he broke down. His mother sat with him for fifteen minutes, trying to stop him crying, before he was led from the court room.

He was sent to the Elmwood home for boys, in Erie. When it burned down a year later, he went to the Huntingdon reformatory. He was paroled on his eighteenth birthday and moved back in with his parents. A few years later, he was arrested for peeping in windows on Williams street. Just after he turned thirty, he spent three months in the workhouse for stealing and selling a $900 accordion.

Anthony was still living with his mother at the beginning of 1966, when he fell seriously ill. He died in the second week of January. He was forty years old.

Note: The picture of Anthony is scanned not from an original mug shot but from a photographic reproduction that was circulated by a press agency in 1937. The lines on the profile picture show where the picture was cropped for publication.

Click here to see a picture of Anthony taken after he arrived at the Elmwood home for boys in 1937. (Picture kindly supplied by New Castle local historian Mike Colella.)

Sources: New Castle News (11 May 1937, “Colored Boy Fatally Shot”; 12 May 1937, “Prefer Charge After Shooting”; 9 June 1937, “Ten-Year-Old Boy Must Face Trial In Court”; 15 June 1937, “Boy Faces Court Jury On Murder Charge”; 16 June 1937, “Jury Hears Boy’s Defense”; 17 June 1937, “Manslaughter Verdict In Boy’s Trial”; 12 August 1938, “Homes Sought For Seventy-Five Boys”; 12 February 1949, “Suspect Youth Of Being ‘Peeper’”; 9 December 1955, “Grand Jury In Final Return”; 23 August 1956, “Naples Arrested, Ending Long Search By Local Officers”; 29 August 1956, “Judge Powers Sentences 7 To Jail Terms”; 13 December 1956, “Naples Is Paroled From Workhouse”; 17 January 1966, “Deaths Of The Day”).

7 responses

  1. Jake

    Good gravy, that’s a helluva story. What a haunting mugshot. Thanks for everything you do, I’ve really been enjoying the blog after discovering it on Slate’s The Vault roundup.

    January 3, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    • Thanks, Jake! I guess I owe Slate some thanks for sending a huge amount of people my way. Thanks, Slate!

      January 3, 2014 at 5:59 pm

  2. Mike V.

    I don’t know what’s more disturbing to me right now–this tragic tale, or the neighboring story in the Daytona Beach Morning Journal about the 32-year-old man and his 12-year-old bride, whose marriage had just been upheld as legal! “It Takes All Kinds of Children to Make a World”, indeed!

    February 7, 2014 at 8:24 pm

  3. Joanna

    Thank you for your interest in New Castle! I am 26 and have lived here my whole life. My grandfather is soon to be 102 years old and saw a lot of these first hand. He owned a gas station by the police station.

    April 9, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    • Wow – he would have known some of the people I’ve been writing about, no doubt. It’s amazing to me to think of the things he will have seen in his life in New Castle.

      April 9, 2014 at 4:40 pm

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