Frank Maly

Frank H. Bezek, a 40-year old Slovenian immigrant who had risen to a position as manager at Pittsburgh Coal Company, was walking home from work along a remote stretch of Moon Run Rd. on the evening of September 6, 1911, when a man stepped out of the shadows and shot and killed him.

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View of Pittsburgh Coal Company mine, Moon Run area

His pockets were cut and their contents stolen, leading police to initially suspect robbery as the motive.

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After that line of investigation failed to produce any evidence or suspects, attention was focused on Bezek’s young wife, Mary. In her possession was found a letter that had been written by Frank Maly, 24, a Slovenian-immigrant coalminer who boarded in her home. The letter, written after the murder, provided evidence that Maly and Mary Bezek were lovers who had conspired to kill Frank Bezek.

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Pittsburgh Press, September 16, 1911

The letter also contained an address where Maly could be reached, having fled after the murder. Posing as Mary Bezek, police wrote to Maly there and arrested him when he picked up the letter.

Once arrested, Maly quickly confessed, admitted to lying in wait and firing the fatal shot, and explained that he and Mary Bezek had plotted together to kill Frank Bezek so that they could marry. Mary Bezek denied any such plans and any relationship with Maly.

After brief jury deliberations, Maly was convicted of first-degree murder on December 12, 1911, and sentenced to death on December 29. In one of the perverse benefits of chivalry, Mary Bezek was never charged but was often blamed.

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Pittsburgh Post, December 13, 1911

A determined and successful clemency effort was mounted. It centered on the then-popular theory of female criminality that emphasized the role of women in manipulating men into committing crimes. Specifically, the Pardon Board found that Mary Bezek was “infatuated” with Maly; that her “lustful desires,””persuasion,” and generous servings of food and liquor overwhelmed his efforts “to tear himself away” from her; and that she provided the gun and the plan and “commanded him” to kill her husband.

Maly’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison in Western Penitentiary on June 18, 1913.

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After more than twenty-two years in prison, Frank Maly was paroled on January 24, 1934, on the condition that he be deported from the country.

Mary (Bezek) Zaverl died in Pittsburgh on July 29, 1966.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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