Vincenzo Ciccia and Oreste Delforte

Rocco Famia was shot three times as he prepared to go to work during the early morning hours of August 26, 1927. The shots were fired from outside through a window and into the kitchen of his Lytle St., Hazelwood home.

Reports linked the murder to tensions between bootleggers, a Prohibition-spurred trade that was dominated by Italian immigrants and that became particularly violent in the five-year period beginning in 1927.

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Seven men, all recent Italian immigrants with extensive criminal records, were arrested in Clairton that same day.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 31, 1927

Famia’s wife, Sophia, testified before the grand jury that her husband was murdered by Vincenzo Ciccia and Oreste Delforte as a threat to her not to testify against the them for a different crime.

Sophia Famia provided that same evidence at trial. Ciccia and Delforte offered an alibi defense, including testimony from multiple witnesses who could place them in Clairton, more than ten miles to the south, at the time of Famia’s killing.

The two men were convicted on December 17, 1927, after a week-long trial. The jury recommended the death penalty.

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Pittsburgh Press, December 17, 1927

A motion for a new trial was argued on December 27, 1927. Though such a motion was a routine occurrence, a formality between the conviction and the formal imposition of a death sentence, it was granted on December 30, after a three-judge panel determined the evidence did not support their convictions.

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Pittsburgh Press, December 30, 1927

At retrial, the state argued the same dubious case, centering on the testimony of Sophia Famia. The defendants offered the same alibi defense. Ciccia and Delforte were acquitted on March 3, 1928. No other arrests were made for the killing of Rocco Famia.

After being released from jail, the two men raised families and ran small businesses. Oreste Delforte died in Canandaigua, NY, in April 1966. Vincenzo Ciccia died in Pittsburgh on December 6, 1973.

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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