Saturday, March 1, 2014

Peter Statuto and the Law


When I began researching my great-great grandfather, Peter Statuto, some of the most surprising things I uncovered were his seemingly frequent run-ins with law enforcement during his life. For a “fruit dealer” from Lowell, he certainly lived an adventurous life. 

Peter Statuto arrived in the US from Italy in 1880. By 1889, according to the Lowell Sun, Peter was already facing charges in Worcester. The article in the Lowell Sun does not explain much, simply stating that Peter Statuto was arrested February 1899 for embezzlement of a wagon. Apparently, he was then bailed out and taken to Worcester to face trial.

Of course, it’s difficult to know the details of his crime. Embezzlement isn’t strictly theft. Still, an article in the Lowell Sun published only few days after the first reported that the case was heard before a judge and Peter was discharged. A man named William A. Hogan appeared in his defense.

Of course, the drama with the wagon appears to continue when Peter later accused a man named Charles McCarthy with larceny of a wagon in August of the same year. This must have been some wagon. Still, Charles McCarthy later appears as one of his employees as late as 1902. So, one must wonder how the matter of the wagon was settled. 

However, Peter’s biggest involvement with law enforcement came in April of 1902, when a former employee of his struck and killed one of his current employees. According to the Sun article, a man named Joseph Seymour, who had once worked for Peter Statuto, confronted a pair of Statuto’s delivery men while the two were at a local lunch room.

One of the employees, a man named Charles Elwell (or Elwood or Elward), first argued with Seymour. Then, the two men fought. Apparently, Elwell sent Seymour packing. However, Seymour returned to Statuto’s store the next morning, when he saw Elwell he said, “I’m going to fix you this morning for what happened last night.” Elwell agreed to fight the man again.
Joseph J. Seymour
The two made plans to walk down to an adjoining street and fight it out. However, Seymour demanded they wait for a couple of his friends, as Elwell was in the company of another man named Gallagher.

Apparently, as Elwell and Gallagher were talking on the curb, Seymour jumped from the steps of Statuto’s store and struck Elwell in the back of the head. Elwell fell unconscious to the ground, his friend attempted to break up the fight, but was struck by Seymour as well, who then escaped down the street. According to the article, police believed that Seymour had used brass knuckles in the fight, but Seymour denied it. Peter Statuto, who had witnessed the attack from inside his own store, rushed outside to help Elwell. He brought the man inside and splashed water on his face, but Elwell did not recover.

Seymour was arrested for assault and pled guilty to the charge. However, Elwell never regained consciousness and died the following morning. The charge was altered to assault with the intent to kill, which Seymour denied.

As one of the primary witnesses to the crime Peter Statuto was interviewed by a reporter from the Sun, which appeared in a new article the following day. He was also required to appear at the trial of Joseph Seymour.

An article that appeared in a June 1902 edition of the Boston Globe explains what happened to Seymour. According to the Globe Seymour was sentenced to serve from 4 ½ to 7 years in a state prison. The article goes further to say that Seymour became hysterical and needed to be escorted from the court room. From there, I’m not sure what happened to Seymour.
Seymour at his trial in Lowell
Peter Statuto, however, continued his business as a fruit salesman. His name is mentioned several more times within articles in the Lowell Sun, but only one more  time in relation to crime (that I could find). 

 According to the Sun, in February of 1909 a man named Philip Therien stole a watch and a chain, valued at $15. Mr. Therein was caught and admitted the theft. He even brought the police to where he had stashed the stolen items, which was in the basement of Peter Statuto’s store.

I thought this story was interesting for a couple reasons. First, Peter Statuto’s second wife was named Marie Therrien. It is more than likely that Marie Therrien and Philip Therein are related, as I’ve noticed newspapers were not super careful about the spelling of surnames in the early 1900’s.

Second, a man named Philip Therrien appears in the 1920 census, boarding with Peter Statuto’s daughter Amelia Gilman. This is interesting to me because the other person boarding with the Gilman family in 1920 was my mysterious great grandmother, Mary Rose Statuto, who was pregnant with my grandfather at the time. How exactly Philip Therein is connected to the family is therefore of interest to me.
Who exactly is Philip Therrien?
After reading about the adventures and misdeeds of my great-great grandfather, Peter Statuto, I feel like I have a better understanding of who he was. That is one of the things I enjoy most about this type of research. Of course, one of the best things about genealogy is that every record I acquire helps to paint a clearer picture of the origins of my family. With the addition of Peter Statuto’s records, our picture is now just a bit more colorful.

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