In an all too familiar scenario, Andrew Malinowski shot his wife, Helen, after she refused to reconcile with him due to his abusive conduct. The killing occurred on the morning of New Year’s Day, 1914, at the 2815 Spring Alley (now Way), Strip District home of Helen’s mother, Mary Zagorski. Helen and her two daughters had moved in with her mother to escape her husband’s abuse.
After shooting his wife six times, Malinowski, a Polish immigrant steelworker at Pittsburgh Screw and Bolt Company, attempted suicide by shooting himself in the head.
The immediate precipitant of the shooting was that Malinowski had seen his wife at a New Year’s Eve dance with another man. He stayed awake all that night drinking, then shot Helen the next morning. She died fifteen days later. A thousand people are said to have attended her funeral at the now historic St. Stanislaus Kostka Church.
At trial, Malinowski’s defense emphasized the depth of his love for his wife. That defense failed in the face of eyewitness testimony of the shooting and he was convicted of first-degree murder on May 14, 1914. After his motion for a new trial was rejected, he was sentenced to death on June 13.
Malinowski was the first person in the state convicted under the new statute that provided the electric chair for executions (P.L. 528, No. 338, June 19, 1913).
His friends provided financial support for an attorney to support his commutation. Their efforts, which portrayed Malinowski as a reputable and hardworking man affected by a “crazy impulse of frenzy,” were successful.
After he had been transported to the new state prison at Bellefonte (now SCI-Rockview) to await execution, Andrew Malinowski’s death sentence was commuted to life on March 19, 1915.
The circumstances of Malinowski’s mental health problems and of the many men like him whose lives involved interpersonal violence are not possible for us to know. However, the role of the everyday danger and violence and exploitation of the steel industry in which he and many thousands of others labored certainly merits consideration. Crystal Eastman’s groundbreaking “Work Accidents and the Law,” published in 1910 as part of the Pittsburgh Survey, documented the extent of this violence and produced this calendar.
Malinowski’s efforts to escape punishment continued. He was pardoned and released from prison in December 1922, after nearly nine years behind bars.
After his release, Andrew Malinowski remarried, returned to the steel mill, and lived in Ambridge. He died in Pittsburgh on May 19, 1959.
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