John Assid, “Driving with out License”, 2 Feb 1945

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It came as a surprise to everyone when John Assid killed Ethel Brown and Assunta Monsey on Highland Avenue one February evening in 1945. He’d been sent off to war a couple of years before – very much against his will and only after he’d been captured by police when he tried to skip town rather than go to the army induction center – and he should on that day have been in Europe, fighting alongside the American troops who had breached the Siegfried line and were finally on their way through Germany to Berlin. Instead, he was behind the wheel of an overloaded coal truck that had driven into two middle-aged women who were waiting for a bus on the north hill.

The road was covered by a thin skin of snow, and high ridges of slush and ice were banked up in the gutters on either side. John Assid’s truck, travelling at only 25mph but carrying six tons of coal, swerved to pass a car waiting at an intersection and slid out of control, mounting the ice pack and skidding across the sidewalk, where it hit Ethel Brown and Assunta Monsey, dragging their bodies out onto Winter avenue.

John spent a week in the city jail before the inquest, at which the coroner’s jury found no evidence of reckless driving and recommended that no charges be brought. However, the police had discovered that he had gone AWOL from Fort Dix the previous September, and they handed him over to a couple of military policemen who drove up from Pittsburgh.

The army hung onto John until October 1946 – four years after the first time he ran away from them and almost two years after the second – before releasing him from service with an honourable discharge. He died in 2004, at the age of eighty-one.

(For more on John Assid, see Bernard Dickey’s mug shot.)

Sources: New Castle News (23 Nov 1942, “Ask Police To Seek Missing Boys”; 8 Feb 1945, “Coroner’s Jury Hears Evidence In Auto Deaths”; 9 Feb 1945, “Assid Turned Over To Army Police”; 28 Oct 1946, “Discharged From Army”)


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