Thriller Thursday – Confessed Killer Tells Police He Cut Her Throat

Victim and Confessed Killer

ST. LOUIS POST DISPATCH, THURSDAY, JULY 28, 1938.
Husband Admits Killing Wife in Family Quarrel
Salvatore Patti Tells Police He Cut Her Throat in Lot at 11th and Howard Streets
Row Began Over Her Daughter
He Then Accused Woman of Associating With Other Men — He says she hit him with brick

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Salvatore Patti, a railroad laborer, 1419 Blair avenue, confessed today he had killed his wife, Mrs. Lucille Patti, in a vacant lot at the southwest corner of Eleventh and Howard streets where her body was found shortly before last midnight.

Her throat had been cut, and she had been stabbed in several places. Patti said he killed her during a family quarrel with a curved bladed knife of a type usually used in trimming linoleum. He signed a statement at the Carr Street Police Station, relating the circumstances of the killing.

The quarrel began, Patti said, when Mrs. Patti accused him of causing her daughter by a previous marriage, Josephine Gahr, 21 years old, to leave their home last month. During the argument, Patti said, he accused his wife of associating with other men.

While the argument continued, Patti said, he and his wife walked to the home of Josephine Gahr at 2124 North Eleventh Street, but started to return to their own home when they found no one there.

Hit With Brick, He Says,

As they neared the vacant lot, Patti said, his wife struck him with a brick, and threatened to turn him over to the police.

“I pushed her and she fell down,” Patti statement continued, “I was half drunk and I used the knife to cut her, I had the knife in my pocket. I don’t know how many times I cut her.”

After returning to his home, Patti went out again, ostensibly to search for his wife. Her son-in-law, Nathan DiBello, and her 16 year old son, Joseph Gahr, who resides at DiBello’s home, 1321 North Fourteenth Street, were with him when Patti, passing the lot, called attention to his wife’s body.

Two Knives in Possession

Patti was arrested when police found two knives in his possession, an ordinary pocket knife and the linoleum knife. The linoleum knife was stained and after chemical tests a police department research officer reported the stain was caused by blood.

Miss Josephine Gahr told police she observed her mother and Patti quarreling as they walked by her home last night. Hoping they would not call at her home, she said, she turned out the lights and watched them through a screen door. Miss Gahr said she left her mother’s home last month because Patti had forced his attentions on her. Patti she said, had suggested that they marry, telling her “We can get rid of your mother easy enough.”

Neighbor Heard Quarrel

Patti at first told police he had been alone at his home from 7 o’clock last night until about 9:30 o’clock when he went to search for his wife, who had gone to visit her daughters. However, a neighbor told police he had heard the pair quarreling at their home until about 8:30 o’clock when they went out together.

Patti, 33 years old, told police he entered this country illegally in 1929, coming from Italy as a sailor. He and Mrs. Patti were married about five years ago after she had divorced her first husband. She was 38 years old.

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Death Certificate of Lucille Gahr Russo AKA Lucille Patti

The principal cause of death:  “Stab wound of neck through larynx and jugular vein, suffered when stabbed with knife in the hands of one Salvatore Patti in lot 75 feet south of Howard Street, West of 11th Street, about 11:30 P.M., July 27, 1938.  Homicide.”  Died En route to City Hospital #1.

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In one way this traumatic event was the culmination of a very unhappy time in the family; in another, the sadness never really ended.  Lucy was my paternal grandfather’s sister and her first husband was my grandmother’s brother.  Their move to St. Louis and subsequent divorce was very hard on everyone.  The relationship with Salvatore Patti, an illegal immigrant from Italy, was most undoubtedly a very tumultuous one for Lucy and very difficult for her children.  Supposedly, Patti was deported to Italy and was hanged there for another murder.

The story was written in one of the national magazines of the day; no one can remember which one, perhaps Life, perhaps True Confessions.  I have never been able to find it, but I have heard from different family members that the magazines were hidden away, and finally thrown out.

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4 thoughts on “Thriller Thursday – Confessed Killer Tells Police He Cut Her Throat

  1. Pingback: Follow Friday: Friday the 13th Thrillers | Sifting Through The Past

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