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College student, 20, helps solve cold case of girl, 9, who was raped and killed in 1964


A Pennsylvania college student and genealogy expert helped crack the 57-year-old cold case of a young girl who was sexually assaulted and murdered while taking canned goods to a church on her way to school in 1964.

Marise Ann Chiverella, 9, was last seen at around 8.10am on the morning of March 18, 1964. 

Her body was found in a strip mine pit in Hazle Township, more than two miles away from her home, at 1pm. She had been beaten and sexually assaulted, police said, and the canned goods she was walking to the church were found near her body.

The case remained unsolved until Thursday, when police announced the murderer as James Paul Forte, a bartender who died of natural causes, possibly a heart attack, in May 1980. 

He had been arrested for an unrelated sexual assault in 1974, 10 years after he’s thought to have killed Chiverella.

Authorities were helped by Eric Schubert, 20, a student at Elizabethtown College who reached out to police two years ago and put together a family tree that helped lead them to Forte – a very distant relative who is not thought to have known Chiverella or her family.

Marise Ann Chiverella, 9, was sexually assaulted, beaten and murdered on March 18, 1964. Her killer had gone unidentified for 57 years until Thursday

James Paul Forte was in his early 20s when is thought to have killed Chiverella. He died in May 1980 of natural causes, possibly involving a heart attack

James Paul Forte was in his early 20s when is thought to have killed Chiverella. He died in May 1980 of natural causes, possibly involving a heart attack

Police were helped by Eric Schubert, a 20-year-old student at Elizabethtown College who offered police his help two years ago

Police were helped by Eric Schubert, a 20-year-old student at Elizabethtown College who offered police his help two years ago 

‘This is a very important day for our department,’ said Col. Mark Baron, the lead investigator on the case, in a press conference on Thursday, according to NBC News.

‘Even though it took nearly 58 years for this case to be solved, I think this should instill in the families of victims across the state and across the country a sense of hope,’ he said. 

Barron appeared emotional during the announcement, at one point wiping tears from his eyes with a napkin. 

‘And that hope is that no matter how long it may take, we as law enforcement will never give up in trying to find the perpetrators of these heinous crimes that go on. God willing, in life or in death you will be found.’

Baron believes that Chiverella’s is the fourth-oldest case in the country to be solved using genetic genealogy.

Chiverella’s family remembered her as a shy girl who dreamed of becoming a nun.

‘We have so many precious memories of Marise,’ said her sister, Carmen Marie Radtke.

‘At the same time, our family will always feel the emptiness and the sorrow of her absence.’

'This is a very important day for our department,' said Col. Mark Baron, the lead investigator on the case, who became visibly emotional during a press conference Thursday

‘This is a very important day for our department,’ said Col. Mark Baron, the lead investigator on the case, who became visibly emotional during a press conference Thursday

Schubert became interested in genealogy at age 10. He has since helped out in other cold cases in Chicago and the Philadelphia area

Schubert became interested in genealogy at age 10. He has since helped out in other cold cases in Chicago and the Philadelphia area 

Schubert stood with state police and Luzerne County officials on Thursday.

The 20-year-old college student became interested in genetic genealogy at age 10, according to WNEP

‘I was home sick a lot when I was a kid, so I would see genealogy commercials, and I would say, “Wait a second, maybe I could do that.” And I thought it would be a two-week thing, but here I am, and I’m certainly thankful I started,’ Schubert said. 

He’s helped out in other cold cases in Chicago and the Philadelphia area. He reached out to Pennsylvania state police when he was 18, two years ago, to see if he could help. 

‘Just reaching out and saying, “Hey, I think I know what I’m doing. If I’m not stepping on any toes, I’d be happy to help.” I didn’t think that would work. But it did, and I’m very thankful for that because I knew that I could at least potentially get this case a little closer to being solved. And in the end, you know I’m happy we could pull it off,’ he said. 

'We have so many precious memories of Marise,' said Marise's sister, Carmen Marie Radtke

‘We have so many precious memories of Marise,’ said Marise’s sister, Carmen Marie Radtke

The first break in the case came in 2007, when a Pennsylvania State Police DNA lab developed a suspect profile based on a DNA sample left on Marise’s jacket, NBC News reports.

The DNA was entered into a national database and checked regularly. 

In 2018, another break came when the DNA sample was sent to a genealogy database, where it matched to a very distant relative.

The DNA helped create photo renderings using just the suspect’s DNA, predicting what he would’ve looked like at age 25, 40, and 60.

Schubert came in soon after. He put together a family tree based on the DNA and helped police search through census and military records.

‘I’ll never forget when Cpl. Baron was telling me that we had just gotten that match because, in that moment, I knew that we were going to find the assailant. We quickly worked our way up from that match to a match that in the end was over 1,000 centimorgans,’ he said, referring to a unit for measuring genetic linkage.

Police narrowed a list down to four suspects, eventually landing on Forte.

Forte was in his early 20s at the time of the murder, which police believe was a ‘random’ attack. 

Police believe he kidnapped Chiverella off the street before he beat her, sexually assaulted her, killed her and dumped her in a strip mine pit. 

He worked at a local bar in the decades after the murder and was arrested for sexual assault in 1974, later pleading to a lesser charge and getting a year of probation, according to NBC News.

He was arrested on a minor charge in 1978 but didn’t serve any jail time.

Authorities don’t believe he ever got married.

Forte’s body was exhumed in January. His DNA matched the sample collected from Chiverella’s jacket in 2007.

Schubert said this was the hardest investigation he’s been a part of, but that he hopes to help in others, according to WNEP. 

Chiverella’s mother, Mary, died before her daughter’s killer was ever identified.  

‘She’s on my mind every day,” Mary told WNEP in 2009. ‘Things we do, or somebody say something, it always reminds me of her.’

The victim’s brother, Ronald, said Thursday that knowing his sister’s killer brings the family ‘a sense of closure.’

‘No full closure we’ll never have that, but a sense of closure that we know the individual that did it and that the individual isn’t out committing the same crime and hurting other young girls like Marise,’ he said. 



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