I will preface this blog post with the following statement: It may seem morbid. My apologies.
A good part of my childhood summer vacations were spent at my Grandparent’s house. After my Grandmother had triple bi-pass surgery in the early 90s, she was required to start walking more frequently. It was supposed to help reduce the swelling of the surgery done to her leg to harvest the veins inside. Ew, am I right? Anyway, in order to add more steps to her exercise routine, my Grandfather would drive her up to St. Mary’s cemetery in Hanover Township, drop her off where the road started and pick her up close to where my Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather were buried. I would go with her. It’s always better to take walks with company because there is someone to talk to. We’d take a variety of paths in the cemetery on our walks, but we’d always end up in the same place – by my Great Grandparents’ graves.
Every once in a while, we would walk by a particular grave and my Grandmother would purposely point it out.
“That’s the lady that was murdered” she would say.
I never really thought about it much, until recently when I was making a visit to the cemetery for some genealogical research. I stopped at the grave and looked it and remembered what my Grandmother had told me. Here’s a photo of said grave:
And a close-up:
The tombstone reads “She died rather than sacrifice her honor. May she rest in peace.” It seems to indicate something bad had happened to her prior to the murder, perhaps an assault or rape. I had a sick fascination to find out what happened to Jennie who was taken away from her family at the young age of 20, so I turned to Google and Ancestry.com. I didn’t think I’d find anything, but was shocked when I found a bunch of interesting information about what happened! First, the death certificate:
It’s kind of small, but the cause of death was listed as “From Gunshot wounds in the head. One bullet entering the brain from the right cheek, and one entering and leaving the skull and lodging in the scalp.” So my Grandmother was indeed right about the murder. I did the math, my Grandmother would only have been 7 at the time this happened. My Grandfather would have been 8. It must have been a big news story at the time for her to remember something about it. I decided to do a simple Google search to see what came back…
I found a listing in a page called “The Wilkes-Barre Almanac“:
One of the most horrible murders in the history of Luzerne County in a lonely spot near Pittston; two Wilkes- Barre girls, Edith Fonzo and Jennie Monica found along the road shot and stabbed, with signs the girls had struggled fiercely.
I also found an old Times Leader article from 2007:
When the bodies of Wilkes-Barre residents Jennie Monica and Edith Fonzo were found along a road in Jenkins Township on June 2, 1927, no one could have known that 80 years later the case would remain a mystery. The two young women had gone on a double date the night before, The Times Leader reported. The slayings remain among Luzerne County’s few unsolved murders.
And then I hit the jackpot when I stumbled across the American Mafia Yahoo Group page:
The bodies of Genevieve (Jennie) Monica, 19, and Edith Fonzo (or
Fonza), 20, were found at an abandoned mine near Pittston on the
morning of June 2, 1927. Police believed the women, who were cousins,
had been sexually assaulted. One of the women was shot to death. The
other was beaten with a club.
A Chrysler sedan reportedly used by the girls’ attacker(s) was found
abandoned in a “mine cave hole.” The car belonged to a 33-year-old
Pittston man named Carmel Marranca. Carmel said he lent the car to
his brother Samuel (married with two children) the previous evening.
Carmel reported the car stolen early on June 2.
Samuel could not be found immediately, and he became the prime
suspect. A few men, who said they were with him on June 1, told
authorities they saw Samuel and another man pick up the two women.
Those men said they left Samuel at about midnight, while he and the
other man were still in the car with the women. Edith Fonzo’s sister,
Vera, informed police that the women had a date to meet two men at an
amusement park at Rocky Glen that evening. State police combed
through the local Italian neighborhoods looking for the suspect.
Police records indicated that Samuel Marranca had also been a suspect
in a somewhat similar murder in November, 1926. Another 19-year-old
woman, Jennie Visato, was killed at that time.
By June 4, the newspapers reported that two men had been arrested in
Buffalo in connection with the murders. One of them was Samuel
Marranca. Police continued to search for a man named John Falcone.
Police also arrested 24-year-old Carmine Melletti on June 6, and
charged him with being an accessory.
Hold up…first let’s go back to Ancestry.com and look up Edith Fonzo, Jennie’s cousin…
It appears that Jennie’s mother and Edith’s mother’s were sisters which makes the cousin statement in the American Mafia board’s post true. The cause of death for Edith is listed as “Fracture of the Skull, caused by a blunt instrument. And gunshot wound. The bullet entering the left side of the neck and passing thru the neck to the surface of the right side. Murder.” That also matches up with the cause of death in the American Mafia’s board. I would have to say that post is accurate and take it to be fact.
My next stop was the Osterhout Library News Archive. You can search their database of several local newspaper online from anywhere. All you need is a library card number! The Times Leader article from 2007 says that the murders were still unsolved. Why would that be if people were charged (as stated in the American Mafia Board post)? Well first let’s start with the days immediately following the murder. The men did flee the area. An article from the Sunday Independent says that there was a man hunt that stretched across two states – PA and NY.
Of the three men wanted by authorities, Merletti seemed to be the dumb one of the group. He returned to Wilkes-Barre a few days after the murders took place. I would love to know why he thought that returning to the area would be a good idea after the brutal nature of this crime, but I digress… not the sharpest tool in the shed, apparently. The next part of my research was done at Newspapers.com.
Here’s a sensationalist article from the Scranton Republican at the beginning of the Merletti trial:
I found an article in the The Wilkes-Barre Record from September 17, 1927 that said that Merletti (spelled Merletto in this article) was acquitted of being an accessory after the fact, and Falcone and Marranca were never found.
I can’t imagine where John Falcone and Sam Marranca could have ended up. There was hardly a mention of them after this trial was over. Did the police give up and stop looking? It’s all so sad. Two young girls dead and no real justice for it. I will give pause every time I pass Jennie’s tombstone when I visit my Grandparents in St. Mary’s cemetery. I wonder if my Grandmother ever thought that I’d sit and research this much into a thing she said to me in passing. I never thought I would, but it was an interesting journey nonetheless.
Rest in peace Jennie and Edith.