When he was eight years old, William Fabian nearly burned to death. “The boy’s clothes had been soaked in gasoline by playmates, who then set them afire”, the newspaper said. A passer-by heard him screaming for help and beat the flames out, saving him from “almost certain death as a ‘human torch’”. William was taken to hospital with severe burns, and the two boys who had been with him—Benjamin Byro and Walter Krausm, both six years older than William—were arrested. They explained that they had not set William on fire; they had been playing with matches, setting fire to a pool of gasoline, and William had been standing too close to the flames. The police released them the next day.
William didn’t learn to keep away from older boys. In 1942, when he was sixteen, his best friend, John Linonis, was nineteen. John had a car, and the two boys spent winter evenings cruising through towns in Lawrence county, looking for darkened homes to burgle. They would pull up at likely looking targets, knock on the door and break in if no one answered. In New Castle, they stole money and jewellery from E B Hawkins on Moody avenue; a watch from Attorney J W Rhodes on Highland avenue; and jewellery from J A Gilkey on Rhodes place. They threw some of the loot into the Shenango river and pawned the rest in Youngstown. Altogether, they stole thousands of dollars-worth of valuables, from which they made only a few hundred dollars.
They were arrested in Franklin and were sent to New Castle to be charged there, too. They made full confessions, and the police sat them in the back of a patrol car and drove them around town so they could point out the houses they had hit.
Their co-operation evidently earned them no concessions. John Linonis was sentenced to ten to twenty years in the Western penitentiary; William was sent to Huntingdon reform school for an indeterminate period.
Postscript: William Fabian appears to be no relation to the William Henry Fabian who stole five bags of corn in 1940.Sources: New Castle News (4 April, 1934, “Sharon Youth Is Severely Burned”; 30 Jan, 1942, “Youths Confess Three Robberies”); Titusville Herald, 6 May 1942, “Severe Sentence Pronounced On Boy Burglar”;