John Elbert Daily

John Elbert Daily, who was born in Italy and whose birth name was D’Elia, and his wife, Catherine (nee Spozarski), a Polish immigrant, lived in a boardinghouse on Forbes Avenue, in the Uptown section of the city.

Forbes Avenue, Uptown, 1921

Together in their second floor room, the couple quarreled on the evening of July 16, 1922. Neighbors heard the sounds of fighting, followed by three gun shots and then two more. They also witnessed an armed Daily leaving the house.


Daily, 35, was quickly apprehended by police. His clothes and shoes were bloody. A search of his room found the murder weapon. Catherine Daily, 22, had been shot five times.

Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 17, 1922

The couple had been married for seven months.

With four murders occurring in a twenty-hour period, the Daily murder was part of “the greatest wave of murder” in Pittsburgh in more than 25 years.

Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 17, 1922

Daily later reported that his wife had requested a divorce. Another report was that they quarreled after Daily accused her of being unfaithful.

At trial, Daily pursued a third approach, claiming that a stranger entered their room, assaulted him, and shot his wife. With the neighbors as prosecution witnesses, Daily was convicted of first-degree murder on March 23, 1923, and sentenced to death.

After his conviction, Daily charged that his attorney forced him to present a “framed” defense, when the truth was that the shooting was the accidental result of a scuffle with his wife for possession of the gun. His wife, he said, was a dope fiend who was going to shoot him.

On appeal, the court rejected the argument that Daily’s new defense warranted a new trial (Commonwealth v. Daily, 280 Pa. 59, 1924). Whatever his defense, the court held, the jury had found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In his clemency request, Daily claimed he and his wife were quarreling over her divorce request when she pulled a gun. They struggled over the gun and Catherine was killed. That story was also rejected.

John Daily was executed on July 7, 1924, and buried in the prison cemetery.

Pittsburgh Daily Post, July 8, 1924

Daily, who worked at Mangieri’s, a downtown bar turned café after Prohibition that was the focus of multiple Prohibition-law violations, was reputed to be involved in organized crime. His extensive criminal record of burglary, possession of stolen goods, and related crimes, dated at least to 1906. He was out on bail awaiting trial at the time of the murder.

image001                                                       1035 Forbes Ave. today


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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