Police identified James Paul Forte as the murderer of Marise Ann Chiverella on Thursday.
Police in Pennsylvania announced that a cold case involving the brutal assault and murder of 9-year old girl, aged 57 years, was solved by genetic genealogy.
Marise Ann Chiverella died on March 18, 1964. State police released a news statement Tuesday. On her way to school, she was carrying canned goods but never returned to Hazleton.
Police identified James Paul Forte as her murderer on Thursday. Police said that he died from natural causes in May 1980, possibly from a heart attack.
Col. Mark Baron said that this was a crucial day for his department.
He got emotional and said, “Even though this case took almost 58 years to solve, I believe this should instill in victims’ families across the country and state a sense of hope.” “And that hope is that, no matter how long it takes, we as law enforcement won’t give up trying to find those responsible for these horrible crimes that continue. God willing, you will be found in death or life.
Baron believes that this case is the fourth oldest to be solved in the United States using genetic genealogy.
Authorities stated that Marise was last seen by her family around 8:10 AM on the day she died. Her body was discovered in Hazle Township at 1 p.m. that same day, more than 2 miles from where she had been killed.
Authorities claimed Marise was physically and sexually assaulted, and then killed. Near her body were the canned goods that she was carrying to the church.
The case was not solved and no arrests were made.
At the news conference, state police stated that they were constantly looking into the case and made one small breakthrough in 2007. Based on the DNA from Marise’s jacket, a Pennsylvania State Police DNA laboratory was able to create a suspect profile. Officials said that the sample was uploaded to a DNA database, and then checked for new DNA each month.
2018 saw a break in the case. The DNA sample was sent into a genealogy database, and it was matched to a distant relative. The suspect’s identity was not known at the time so they started working with Eric Schubert (a Pennsylvania college student who is a genealogy expert) to create a family tree using the DNA.
Police interviewed relatives and took samples over the following years. They were able to narrow down the suspect list to just four people, including one who had been charged with unrelated sexual assault in 1974. Police identified that person as Forte and determined that he was the main suspect in Marise’s murder.
According to police, Forte’s remains were exhumed by officers in January. His DNA was identical to the Marise jacket sample from decades ago.
Forte was only in his 20s at the time of the crime. Police claimed that the attack was random and that Forte did not know Marise or her family.
Police said that Forte had worked at a local bar in the years since his murder. Authorities do not believe he ever got married.
After his 1974 arrest for sexual assault, he pleaded guilty to a lesser offense and was sentenced to one year probation. He was again arrested in 1978 for minor infractions, but he did not spend any time in jail.
Marise’s siblings spoke at a news conference, and they expressed gratitude for law enforcement’s work. They described Marise’s shyness and stated that she had aspirations to become a nun.
Carmen Marie Radtke, her sister, stated that “we have so many precious memories about Marise.” “At the exact same time, her absence will forever leave our family feeling empty and sorrowful.”