Murder or Self-Defense?
Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum
Was it murder or self-defense or manslaughter? All three terms were used in news articles and court records to describe an October 27, 1907 Millinocket occurrence.
A squabble occurred between a young resident of Little Italy and three young men from the town side of the bridge and led to the shooting and death of Angus Grant. The cause of the argument is unclear but may have about the procurement of “liquid refreshment” according to police Chief Fred Gates. The shooting took place in the “dooryard” of Peluso’s place. The shooter, Giuseppe Stefanizzi, aka Joe Stevens, was charged with murder. Stefanizzi was 26 years old, a married man with a child and had his mother and sister living with him in Little Italy. After the shooting, he ran into the woods and apparently escaped into Canada.
This story is supported by documents shared with the museum a few years ago during a visit by a descendant of the shooter. The documents include the statement by Police Chief Fred Gates and statements by the other two town men (who were with the victim). Gates and the two witness statements were all signed by Justice of the Peace George W. Stearns.
On of the witnesses stated had they had gone to Little Italy and paid a young man for some “refreshment.” That was consumed and they wanted more. This was when Grant stated he “knew a man.” The man was Stefanzizi/Stevens. Money was exchanged, but when Grant was told it would be an hour before delivery, Grant asked for his money back (one dollar). When Stefanizzi/Stevens refused, a shot was fired and Grant was killed. Both witnesses fled the scene but later identified Stefanizzi/Stevens as the shooter.
Stefanizzi/Stevens was eventually indicted for murder in court in Bangor in August of 1910. As the shooter had fled, extradition papers were sent to Washington, D.C. where they were signed by President Theodore Roosevelt and returned to Bangor to be delivered to New Brunswick where the shooter was believed to be. Eventually the defendant was apprehended in Michigan. He was not returned to Millinocket as the 1910 court proceedings took place in Bangor at the Judicial Supreme Court.
Stefanizzi/Stevens was convicted of self-defense/manslaughter and spent fifteen months in Thomaston state prison. He never returned to Millinocket. After finishing his sentence, Stefanizzi/Stevens moved his family to Brownville.
A great-granddaughter visited the museum in 2017 and shared the documents. I took her on a tour of Little Italy and she took several photos. She wished that there was some way to discover which home her relative had lived in with his wife and young son.