Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

THE CROTON LAKE MURDER

'Go To Trial Tomorrow!'

After a five-minute appearance in court on November 15, all five suspects were arraigned on murder charges. Each one pled "not guilty." As they were led out of the courtroom, Santo Zanza screamed out at Guista: "If I could get at you, I would tear your heart out!"

Westchester District Attorney Francis Winslow wasted no time preparing the case. The very next day, on November 16, 1911, just 7 days after the murder of Mary Hall, the grand jury heard testimony in the case. Appearing in the White Plains courtroom were Gertrude Rae, one of the tenants and witness to the robbery, Anna Griffin, the landlord's daughter and Dr. Amos Squire, the county coroner. Both women repeated a graphic account, minute by minute, of the robbery that took place.

Mrs. Rae said that when she realized a robbery was happening, she ran out of the house with two babies in her arms. When she tried to hide near one of the barns, a man came out holding a gun. "As he first came out he had a pistol, but my dog was with me...he took a knife out of his pocket and tried to use it on the dog. I thought if he finished the dog, he would do it to the three of us together!" she told the jury.

Anna Griffin told the court she believed she heard Mary Hall being killed upstairs while she was held on the first floor by Cali. "Soon I heard a woman scream and it sounded as though it was upstairs...he told me to lie down again and I was on my knees in there. He kept pointing the pistol at me and wanting more!" she said. After they fled the house, Anna said she heard gunfire: "I saw Mrs. Rae and her two children out there and then I heard some pistol shots!"

It was enough for the jury. All five men were indicted for first-degree murder. The proceeding took all of one hour. D.A. Winslow wanted the case to go forward as soon as possible. One newspaper reported, "The authorities believe the work of gathering evidence against them is about concluded. As far as the prosecution is concerned, the cases can go to trial tomorrow."

After the grand jury, police continued to talk to all the defendants about their various roles in the murder. Angelo Guista gave a full written statement, which implicated Santo Zanza as the one who actually killed Mary Hall. A local newspaper reported "the confession was wrung from the prisoner by up-to-date third-degree methods."

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