Marise Ann Chiverella, 9, was abducted and murdered on March 18, 1964. Genetic Genealogy performed 57 years later confirmed the identity of her killer as James Paul Forte. Marisa’s case was the oldest case in Pennsylvania and the fourth oldest case in the U.S. that was solved through Genetic Genealogy.
Marise Chiverella was a 9-year-old girl who lived in the small town of Hazleton, PA. According to news sources, her sister Carmen Radtke described her as a shy girl who was learning to play the organ and wanted to become a nun.
Hazleton, PA is a small mining town in the Northeast section of Pennsylvania. Locals know the area of Luzerne County for its rolling hills and sections of mining operations.
On the morning of March 18, 1964, Marise was walking the half-mile to St. Joseph’s Parochial School. On her way to school, she intended to drop off a small food donation to a nun at a local church. Marise was kidnapped just a few short blocks from her destination.
Her family reported her missing when she didn’t come home for lunch, something that she would normally do. Members of the small community began their search. Marise’s body was found later that same afternoon in a mine waste pit, next to the Hazleton Municipal Airport, approximately two miles from the location of where witnesses last saw her. According to investigators in 1964, Marise had been raped and strangled.
The 1964 Investigation
When investigators recovered Marise’s body from the mine waste pit, they found that her wrists and ankles had been bound with her own shoelaces. They also found the scarf she wore was shoved into her mouth. Unfortunately, not much more evidence was found. However, DNA and semen were located on Marise’s jacket. This would prove crucial in 2007 when the crime lab was able to develop a DNA profile based on the samples left on her clothing.
Genetic Genealogy is a complex process based on individual and familial DNA samples. It takes a DNA sample and compares it to other databases of DNA samples. Once a DNA broad familial group has been identified, the system continues to compare the samples more narrowly until a DNA profile identifies an individual or as close to a set of grouping as possible. Then, genealogist build a family tree. Genetic Genealogy is the bridge between familial history and science.
Eric Schubert, 20, is a history major student at Elizabethtown College. He is also a part-time genetic genealogist who has assisted investigators on other extremely complex cases. Once investigators had a DNA profile, Schubert offered his assistance. For two years, Shubert developed an extensive family tree based on the alleged perpetrator’s DNA profile provided by investigators. Once he had it narrowed down to a single individual, Schubert provided his conclusion to investigators. Detectives turned their focus to James Paul Forte.
James Paul Forte
At the time of Marise’s death, James Paul Forte was a 22-year-old local bartender. According to news sources, Forte graduated from Hazleton High School in 1959. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on October 16, 1959, and discharged on September 28, 1962. Once discharged, Forte returned to the Hazleton area, where he began working as a bartender. State police arrested him on April 3, 1974, for sexual assault of a local 23-year-old-woman. A search warrant on his vehicle provided hair and mud samples that tied him to the crime. Police charged him with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, and aggravated assault. He was released on $5,000 bail. Ultimately, prosecutors dropped the sexual charges and Forte pled guilty to aggravated assault on September 18, 1974. One month later, Forte was sentenced to one-year special probation and ordered to pay the victim’s hospital bills. In 1978, Forte was again arrested for reckless endangerment and harassment.
On May 16, 1980, James Forte, 38, died of a heart attack while at work at a ballroom in Hazle Township, PA.
Closure for the Family & Community
Investigators learned that Forte lived 6-7 blocks from the Chiverella family and did not know them. Based on genetic genealogy and further investigations, Forte’s body was exhumed and his DNA was tested. It was confirmed to be a match for the samples left on Marise’s clothing. Investigators formally names James Paul Forte the killer of Marise Chiverella.
In a statement to news sources, Pennsylvania State Police Lead Investigator, Cpl. Mark Baron stated:
“Over the past 57 years, this homicide investigation has affected the family, the Hazleton community, and hundreds of members of the Pennsylvania State Police, Troop N. The dedicated and relentless work of all members of this team and with the assistance of Eric Schubert, ES Genealogy, we are proud to say this case is solved. Although it doesn’t bring back Marise, we hope it provides closure to not only family, but all individuals affected by this brutal and senseless crime.”