Early in the morning of April 28, 1912, Michael Roma shot and stabbed Luigi Sirocchi in the kitchen of his 135 Greenfield Avenue, Hazelwood home in “one of the most ghastly and revolting murders ever committed in Allegheny County.” Roma’s wife, Therese, was present during the killing. Her role was a matter of dispute.
In a feeble effort to disguise the murder, Sirocchi’s body was dismembered with a hatchet and dragged to nearby railroad tracks to create the appearance of an accident. It was discovered there by a railroad crew that same morning.
Following a trail of blood, police went to the Roma home later that morning. There they found Roma with two gunshot wounds and discovered parts of Sirocchi’s body.
In his confession to police, Roma, 30, said he had been involved in a violent altercation with a group of four men that included Sirocchi’s brother. It was then that he was shot twice. When Roma returned to his home, he said, he found Sirocchi, who had previously boarded in his home, intimately involved with his wife. Enraged, Roma killed Sirocchi.
Therese Roma had been involved in a relationship with Sirocchi while they both lived in Italy. Michael Roma’s jealousy over their efforts to continue that relationship in Pittsburgh had led to a series of previous physical and legal entanglements with Sirocchi and his brother.
Roma’s trial was complicated by the law which protects a wife from testifying against her husband and by his manifest mental health problems, which prevented him from offering a defense.
Relying on Roma’s confession, the murder weapon, and overwhelming physical evidence, he was convicted of first-degree murder on June 25, 1912. After his motion for a new trial was rejected, Michael Roma was sentenced to death on July 5.
Therese Roma, also tried for murder, was acquitted two days later after testifying that her marriage was abusive.
After his conviction, Roma’s attorneys petitioned the court for the establishment of a lunacy commission to investigate Roma’s “mental soundness.” That request was granted and Roma was declared insane on February 11, 1913. He was transferred to Mayview State Hospital.
Michael Roma died at Mayview on November 28, 1918, a victim of the influenza epidemic. That epidemic had peaked a month earlier, leading to pressure to ease restrictions on business and movement and, predictably, a resurgence of illness and death.