Joseph Orosz

In another case of a single, male immigrant steelworker killing a single, female immigrant over a spurned proposal, Joseph Orosz killed Teresa Bobak on January 8, 1896, in Greenfield. Both were from Hungary.

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Eliza Furnace, 1902

Orosz had arrived several years earlier and had established himself at Jones & Laughlin Steel’s Eliza Furnace. Bobak, an attractive and much in demand recent arrival, had worked in a home on Second Avenue in Greenfield, in which Orosz boarded before moving to a new position.

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While Orosz fell desperately in love with Bobak, there are conflicting reports as to whether she reciprocated. Believing that they would marry, Orosz began to prepare for their life together. As Bobak became aware of these plans, she indicated she would not marry him.

Orosz became increasingly frantic and insistent. He also began drinking. After one final rejection, Orosz told Bobak he was going to kill her, went directly to purchase a gun, returned to her residence, asked one more time to marry her, and shot her in the face when she refused.

He then attempted suicide, shooting himself in the chest after the murder. Only slightly injured, Orosz then ran from the house and was apprehended that evening.

With a strong case against him, Orosz offered only a drunkenness defense. In a particularly fast-moving sequence of events associated with a poorer and socially isolated defendant, he was tried and convicted on February 18, 1896, only five weeks after the murder, and sentenced to death on February 29.

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No appeal was filed. In a rather perfunctory clemency request, Orosz’s counsel argued that the circumstances of the killing – that Orosz acted under the influences of drunkenness and passion – left him “unable to deliberate and premeditate and incapable of forming a specific intent.” No signed petitions or supportive letters accompanied Orosz’s request.

The District Attorney brusquely dismissed the matter.

image002Joseph Orosz was hanged on September 1, 1896.

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Suggesting just how common it was for hangings to produce death slowly by asphyxiation, Orosz’s hanging was reported as unusual in that his neck was broken and, therefore, his death was faster than most.

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Pittsburgh Press, September 1, 1896

Eleven years and a day after Bobak’s murder, an explosion at the Eliza Furnace killed fourteen men. Thirty years after that, Jones & Laughlin was the defendant in a landmark case in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the long-sought right of workers to unionize.

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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