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Chicago Police use body of murder victim to extract a confession

City Hall, Chicago, IL
City Hall, Chicago, IL
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OK, before everyone gets bent out of shape and Mayor Daley sends me hate mail, I have to admit that this happened over 100 years ago. That's even before Commander Burge! So let Superintendent Weis and the city attorneys know that they can breathe a sigh of relief!

It still is true, however, and still is kinda creepy so here's the scoop.

In mid November of 1904, a body was pulled from Lake Michigan near what they called the "foot of Bryan Ave. near Rogers Park." Bryan Avenue near the lakefront is now Jarvis Avenue, and the body would have actually been near where Jarvis Beach Park is now.

The body was stabbed multiple times and had its skull crushed. The only identifying item found on the person of the victim was a pass issued by Joseph De Leonardy of the Grand Trunk Railway. It was for passage from Chicago to Buffalo, N.Y.  Inspector Shippy of the Chicago P.D. (yes, that is his real name) learned from Mr. De Leonardy that the man's name was Natali Sclafini (or Sclafani), he was Italian and that he had saved a considerable amount of money since he started working in Chicago and planned to visit his family back in Italy. Inspector Shippy also learned that he had been occupying a room at an Italian lodging house at 415 N. Clark St.

The police originally surmised that the man was murdered in the downtown area and that the body was taken via current to the Rogers Park neighborhood. Later, a man named John Minning, a motorman on an Evanston Ave. electric car, had seen a horse cart being driven down Devon toward the lake with a tarp in the back. There were two men in the vehicle. Minning then said that he saw the cart being driven away from the area of the lake with the tarp moved around. He saw the cart on Monday the 14th and the body was discovered on Tuesday, November 15th.

Based on the lodging place and the excellent description of the wagon, the police were able to arrest four individuals: Joseph Renzino of 95 Polk St. whose horse and cart were allegedly used to transport the body of Scalini, Joseph Lombardo who also was a roomer at the Italian hotel and allegedly drove the cart, Phillip Domingo of 153 Milton Avenue who was identified as being in the cart during transport of Scalini's body, and Charles Renzino, the proprietor of the hotel who allegedly altered the hotel register to attempt to throw the police off the trail. Four others were taken and held as witnesses and/or possible suspects: Frank Bell who occupied a room next to Scalini, John Justine, the waiter and porter for the saloon, Joyce Toppin, a porter in the saloon who heard a struggle in Scalini's room, and Peter Miro, a roomer at the hotel.

Shippy first attempted to see if the horse would instinctively follow the last path it took to the possible dumping site of the body, but the horse would not cooperate. Shippy was a fan of Sherlock Holmes and decided on an interrogation technique that was a tad unorthodox. He decided that he was going to dig up the body of Scalini and pose it so that a finger would be pointing at each of the suspects in order to coerce one or all of them into a confession!

According to reports, four detectives set out for Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois and had the grave dug up and the body removed to the cemetery vault (more than likely the chapel or mausoleum). They sat the body in a chair and somehow posed it so that the index finger of the hand was outstretched as if to be accusing.

They led one suspect in after another and there was not very much of a reaction until Shippy called to have Peter Miro enter. Miro refused. He begged, pleaded, cried not to be taken into the gloomy room containing the grotesquely posed figure. Detectives forced him to sit across from the dead Scalini with the right arm stretched out and stiff finger pointing at him. His knees shook, he shuddered and covered his eyes but there was no screaming confession, only screaming.

The detectives, who were obviously disappointed in the results of their plan, loaded up all of the witnesses/suspects and transported them back to the lockup. 

The suspects were kept in custody until February 13, 1905 when all were released due to lack of evidence. 

But what about Scalini? He was buried in a pauper's or unmarked charity grave at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, known as the resting place of "Sinners and Saints" due to the fact that you have Cardinals interred there as well as organized crime figures such as Al Capone and Frank Nitti. If ever there was the start of a ghost story, this would be it. You have a man separated from his family in a country far away who was on the verge of reuniting with them after working hard and saving money, such as the story of many of our early 20th-century immigrants. You have a grotesque murder and robbery where the victim's head was crushed and his body dumped in the dark, frigid, November Lake Michigan waters. You also have the fact that the body was treated in what most people would consider a highly disrespectful manner, and after all that, there is still no justice brought to the perpetrators.

I haven't heard any ghost stories of a dark figure roaming the grounds or mausoleums of Mt. Carmel pointing at people with its right hand outstretched still trying to extract justice, but then again I haven't heard all of the stories, have you?


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