1964 child murderer identified: The Marise Chiverella case

April 02, 2022

Marise Chiverella was last seen by a neighbor walking to school on the corner of Sherman Court and west Fourth Street on March 18, 1964. The third-grade student was walking the short six-block distance from her home on Alter Street, Hazleton to St. Joseph Memorial School on Laurel Street, when she was snatched from the side of the road, never to be seen alive again.        

The child's body was discovered just hours later at around 1pm by 38-year-old Arthur F. Robinson, who had driven out to an abandoned coal stripping pit where those in the surrounding areas would often come to dump their trash. Robinson was there to discard a container of ashes when he instead made a horrific discovery- the body of Marise Chiverella.

Robinson described the victim as fully clothed and bound and gagged without shoes. It would later be revealed that she was tied up with her own shoelaces.

Tins of canned food she had been taking to the church on her way to school were found with her body. He was so shocked by what he saw that he turned right around and sped home to call the police.

Marise’ wrists and ankles had been tied and her own scarf was found shoved into her mouth. Autopsy later revealed that she had been raped and strangled to death. An article in the Courier Times detailed that three dark coloured pubic hairs were found on the victim’s leg.

Despite their best efforts, police were unable to identify a suspect and the case went cold.

Marise Chiverella was survived by her three brothers, Ronald, 16, Barry, 11 and David, 7 and her sister, Carmen, 13. Her siblings never stopped seeking justice for their slain sister.

In March 2004, an article printed in the Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, Pennsylvania), reported on a theory put forward by a New York resident named Harold Paddock. Paddock believed his late ex-father-in-law was responsible for Chiverella's death as the man had committed similar murders with some common elements. Mary Theresa Simpson was snatched off the street in March 1954 and her body was discovered some days later in the woods. She too had died of strangulation and dirt had been shoved into her mouth, much like the scarf in the Chiverella case. Simpson was murdered in Elmira, NY and Chiverella was killed in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, which was about a five-hour journey in the sixties. Paddock reported his suspicions to both the FBI and Pennsylvania state police, but nothing came of it due to lack of evidence and no connection was ever made.

In 2007 a viable DNA sample was obtained from the victim’s jacket. A DNA profile of her killer was built and entered into DNA databases on a monthly basis in the hope that it would be matched to a future entry. In 2019, the killer’s DNA profile was uploaded to GED Match- a website for genetic genealogy research where users can upload their DNA file, analyse results, and compare DNA shared with others.

In 2019, composite sketches of what the perpetrator have looked like at the time of the crime and over the years, was generated through phenotyping prediction. Those viewing the image were told to concentrate on the eyes and mouth for accurate likeness as phenotyping does not account for environmental changes. It was predicted that Chiverella's killer had hazel eyes, fair skin and dark hair and was of Southern European or Middle Eastern roots.

The images were circulated locally as well as online, however nobody recognized the man in the composite sketch.

Last week, police were finally able to announce the identity of Chiverella's killer- an ex-barman named James Paul Forte who died in 1980.

The killer’s criminal record revealed that he had been arrested for sexual assault a decade after he raped and murdered Chiverella.

Eric Schubert, a twenty-year-old Elizabethtown College student, had offered his assistance to police two years earlier and worked hard tracing Chiverella's family tree. The DNA profile had determined the girl's killer was a distant relative, likely a sixth cousin, although the family had no acquaintance with the perpetrator. Forte would have been around 22 years old at the time of the crime.

In a press conference about the case, lead investigator, Col. Mark Baron, who appeared very emotional at the breakthrough said: "Even though it took nearly 58 years for this case to be solved, I think this should instil in the families of victims across the state and across the country a sense of hope, and that hope is that no matter how long it may take, we as law enforcement will never give up in trying to find the perpetrators of these heinous crimes that go on. God willing, in life or in death you will be found."

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