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Crime News

Police ID Man Who Raped And Killed 9-Year-Old Marise Chiverella In 1964

Marise Chiverella's murder was the oldest cold case in Pennsylvania and the fourth coldest case in America to be solved with genetic genealogy, authorities said. James Paul Forte was identified as her killer.

By Jax Miller
How To Use DNA To Crack A Case

Investigators with the Pennsylvania State Police have named the man responsible for the brutal 1964 murder of a 9-year-old child.

On Thursday, authorities announced James Paul Forte was the man who raped and killed Marise Ann Chiverella on her way to school in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, according to a press release sent to Oxygen.com. Forte, who was 22 at the time of the murder, died of natural causes in 1980, police said during a live press conference.

Troopers said Chiverella’s murder was the oldest cold case in Pennsylvania and the fourth oldest cold case in America to be solved by genetic genealogy.

Attending the emotional press conference were officials who helped carry the case through several generations and the Chiverella family, including Marise’s brother.

“Now that we know the individual, it gives us a sense of closure,” said Ronald Chiverella, according to ABC affiliate WNEP. “No full closure; we’ll never have that, but a sense of closure that we know the individual that did it and that the individual isn’t out committing the same crime and hurting other young girls like Marise.”

James Paul Forte Pa State Police

Forte lived six or seven blocks away from the Chiverellas, according to Lehigh Valley Live. Authorities stated relatives did not know Forte and believed the attack was random.

On March 18, 1964, Marise Chiverella left her Hazleton home early to deliver canned goods to a nun before attending class at St. Joseph’s Parochial School. Sometime during the half-mile walk, Chiverella disappeared. Loved ones sounded the alarm when she was marked absent from school and didn’t return home for lunch, as she regularly had.

That afternoon, Chiverella’s body was discovered two miles away in a strip-mining pit near the Hazleton Municipal Airport. Her wrists and ankles were bound by her own shoelaces and her scarf stuffed in her mouth. She was sexually assaulted and strangled to death.

Marise Ann Chiverella Pd

Pennsylvania State Police revealed Forte’s identity shortly after announcing they’d solved the 57-year-old murder through the use of DNA. In 2007, their DNA lab created a suspect profile from the killer’s semen found on Marise’s clothes. Investigators checked the sample against new entries in the database monthly ever since, as previously reported. In 2019, their persistence yielded a match to a distant relative of the suspect. For the next two years, authorities conducted numerous interviews and collected DNA samples from this family.

The samples helped narrow in on four suspects, but one of them caught investigators’ attention because of his criminal history. That person was James Paul Forte.

Police confirmed he was not part of the initial murder investigation.

With the assistance of the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, investigators exhumed Forte’s body and confirmed he was Chiverella’s killer.

“The DNA profile from James Paul Forte matches the DNA profile from the semen stain on Marise Chiverella’s jacket,” police said in their statement to Oxygen.com. “The ability of selecting an unrelated individual (or another person) having this same profile is one in 480 septillion.”

Police stated Forte was arrested in Hazleton back in 1974 on charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, and aggravated assault, according to the statement sent to Oxygen.com. He was later arrested in 1978 for reckless endangerment and harassment.

At Thursday’s press conference, authorities stated they interviewed the victim of the 1974 attack and called it a “very violent encounter.”

Police said it may not have been the only crime Forte committed and asked anyone with information to come forward.

Public Information Officer Trooper Anthony Petroski III emailed Oxygen.com a statement on behalf of Lead Investigator Cpl. Mark Mark Baron of the Pennsylvania State Police.

“Over the past 57 years, this homicide investigation has affected the family, the Hazleton community, and hundreds of members of the Pennsylvania State Police, Troop N.,” said Baron. “The dedicated and relentless work of all members of this team and with the assistance of Eric Schubert, ES Genealogy, we are proud to say this case is solved. Although it doesn’t bring back Marise, we hope it provides closure to not only family but all individuals affected by this brutal and senseless crime.”

Today, Marise Ann Chiverella would be 67 years old.