AP NEWS

Family Of Hazleton Girl Killed 55 Years Ago Waits For Justice

April 1, 2019

In the 55 years since their sister’s death, they haven’t sought punishment or revenge, only justice.

“It’s never been about the hatred,” Ron Chiverella said of the man who abducted his sister as she walked the six blocks to school the morning of March 18, 1964, in Hazleton.

It has always been about affording 9-year-old Marise Chiverella the rights she was entitled to — the rights that were ripped away when she was brutally slain.

Marise was found physically and sexually assaulted, strangled to death and placed in a defunct coal stripping pit in Hazle Twp., where locals dumped garbage.

Her family doesn’t dwell on the inhumanity Marise endured, though; instead, they focus on Marise herself — the gentle soul with bright blue eyes and dark hair, who cared more for others than herself.

That compels them not to give up on their conviction to one day identify the man who attacked her.

“My sister had human rights, to live, become a mother, have children,” Ron Chiverella of Camp Hill said. Now 71, he is the oldest of the five children born to the late Carmen and Mary Chiverella.

Police never stopped their efforts to find Marise’s killer, reviewing the crime at least annually. This year, new advances in DNA technology provided a break in the case.

DNA was able to predict what Marise’s assailant could have looked like. It gave investigators a clue about the man they’ve been searching for all this time.

Composites of that person were released to the public March 20 in the hope someone recognizes him.

Fearing her story and the suspect’s composites may get lost in the shuffle of the news cycle, the four Chiverella siblings got together recently to talk about Marise, the case and how they coped.

Someone knows the suspect or may have information that could identify him, sister Carmen Marie Radtke of Mountain Top said as the family pleaded to the public to study and share the pictures.

“It’s the last chance,” Radtke said.

Barry Chiverella of Wilkes-Barre and David Chiverella of Mountain Top hoped the composites would be shared throughout the country because it’s possible someone outside of greater Hazleton might recognize the suspect.

Even someone who remembers a miniscule detail needs to speak up, Marise’s only sister said. It may seem like a small piece of information but it could have a significant impact.

“Don’t keep it to yourself, share it,” she said.

Marise

“(Marise) had beautiful big, blue eyes and she was always smiling,” Carmen Marie said.

She was born on Thanksgiving Day 1954 in Waterloo, New York, to Carmen, originally from Wilkes-Barre, and Mary, a Hazleton native. The family moved back to Hazleton after staying in New York for a few years.

At home in the northwest section of Hazleton, Marise, the Chiverellas’ second youngest child, played school and tinkered on the organ her parents bought her at Sears.

It was there she’d compose songs with big brother, Ron, seated in front of it.

Her mother worked at a knitting mill in downtown Hazleton and her father owned a neighborhood grocery store, called The Little Market, next to their home.

It was a demanding job requiring long hours that involved picking up supplies in the morning and bookkeeping at night in addition to tending to the store between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., seven days a week.

Sundays, though, were always a special occasion. Mornings were spent attending Mass at St. Joseph’s or Most Precious Blood church.

Carmen would shut down the store for an hour around lunchtime and Mary would labor in the kitchen to prepare a special meal.

It was the only time during the week the entire family could sit together.

Devoutly religious, Marise would talk about becoming a nun. In fact, the day she was abducted she left for school early, uncharacteristically choosing to walk alone without her siblings, so she could drop off two cans of fruit to her classroom before daily Mass. The fruit was a gift to her nun, who was celebrating a feast day.

When it was discovered she didn’t make it to school that morning or home for lunch, her father went looking for her, scouring the area as police conducted their own search. While he searched for Marise around St. Joseph’s Church an unaware passerby mentioned to Carmen that they found the “Chiverella girl” dead.

Mary was at work the morning Marise was killed and maybe it was mother’s intuition but Ron said she was overcome with a horrible sense of anxiety before she even knew what happened.

Ron recalled coming home from high school that day and walking into the tragedy that befell them.

The agony didn’t end after she was buried.

Each night he went to sleep thinking maybe the next day they would find her attacker.

“It’s like taking a part of yourself away,” Barry said of the loss.

David was just 7 years old at the time and though his siblings will tell him he often played with Marise, he was too young to remember — another misfortune of her dying so young. He does, however, remember coming home from school to “chaos” the day Marise was killed.

“I mostly remember the hurt it caused,” David said.

The family found comfort within their home and from people in the community who offered gestures in the time following Marise’s death.

Barry remembered the number of people at her funeral, coming to pay their final respects to petite Marise, who was dressed in her communion gown.

“It seemed like it never ended,” he said of the line of young and old who came to say goodbye that day.

Schoolchildren at St. Joseph’s Memorial School, where Marise attended class, sent handmade cards to the family, who kept them all these years. One of them reads, “Marise was my best friend. I am sorry for you too. I know she is a little angel in heaven. I know she is smiling at you now.”

Lessons taught to the children by their parents helped them cope with the loss, and so did counseling in the 1980s and 1990s. Back in the 1960s it wasn’t very common to express feelings and counseling wasn’t as accessible as it is today, Ron said.

In particular, both parents’ religious beliefs and Mary’s dynamic personality and her resistance to letting the tragedies in life consume her, helped the children cope.

The children knew their parents were in agony over Marise’s death, though they never talked about it nor showed rage for the man who took their daughter away. Though they mourned their daughter’s death, they had a great concern that it didn’t happen again to another family, Radtke said.

A day never passed that their mother didn’t think of Marise, but instead of dwelling on it, she’d remember the happy times and celebrate the nine years she had with her daughter.

Somehow in the passing years Mary managed to reach a difficult place for any parent of a crime victim — she admitted that she forgave her daughter’s killer.

It wasn’t a total surprise to her children. Mary and Carmen had taught their sons and daughters to love everyone all of their lives.

But even with all that, there was something missing, Ron said.

“I just never got to say goodbye,” he said.

DNA

Leads were developed, suspects were questioned and evidence was cultivated during an extensive investigation that ensued the day Marise’s body was found in the Milnesville section of Hazle Twp.

Years later, DNA obtained from the crime scene was examined, though a match for her killer was never found in police databases.

But, the role of DNA evidence in the case wasn’t done yet.

Composite pictures of the suspect were drawn up by Parabon NanoLabs in Reston, Virginia, by a process called phenotyping. The lab was able to draw the suspect’s face based on his DNA using new technology.

It was the first time the family was able to look Marise’s potential killer in the eyes.

It was also one step closer to naming him.

At first glance Marise’s four siblings focused in on the composite age progressions, questioning if they recognized the man.

Though they found some recognizable characteristics, there was nothing strong enough to lead police to the suspect. State police Lt. Devon Brutosky, who’s stationed at the Hazleton barracks, said some leads came in since the composites were released but nothing concrete has been developed.

For now, the siblings hope someone in the public can name the suspect. They and law enforcement also hope the technology can benefit other families of cold case victims.

The lab work cost about $5,000. The Chiverella family contributed one-third of the cost, as did the Pennsylvania Homicide Investigators Association and the Vidocq Society. The Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office also contributed to the age-progression composites.

Thomas McAndrew, now a detective at the Lehigh County district attorney’s office, worked on the Chiverella case for 26 years while stationed at the Hazleton barracks.

The use of DNA technology for solving cold cases may be expensive, he said, but it’s also invaluable.

In 2018, DNA technology and genealogy research led to an arrest in the December 1992 murder of Christy Mirack, a teacher, in Lancaster County.

Unfortunately, McAndrew said, there’s no money budgeted for extra expenses on cold cases in the nation and with 250,000 unsolved murders in the country since 1980, law enforcement is calling for more resources and funding to become available.

Ron Chiverella, too, wondered how many families across the country were stymied by the cost of DNA research but could benefit from that evidence closing their loved ones’ cold cases. He thought of police, too, halted in their desire to solve cases by a lack of funding.

He remembered the willingness and persistence of troopers over the years to solve his sister’s case. Over the years and still today, troopers keep in touch with his family.

“From day one, they’ve always been there through this journey. I know that the state police walked along with us,” Ron said.

It was always a comfort to their family that they cared enough to not give up, he said.

Contact the writer:

achristman@standardspeaker.com; 570-501-3584