“Just a Murder—Nothing to Make a Great Fuss Over”

Patricia M. Salmon

They not only hated each other. They detested each other. Certainly not an uncommon occurrence for a young wife and her mother-in-law, but there was a significant difference. This young wife was quite vocal about her intent to kill said mother-in-law.

Sixty-three-year-old Maria Pinte was found abed. Having been smashed in the head, face, and neck with a fire poker she was lingering and would soon be lifeless. For added measure the elderly woman was strangled. The assailant was not content with the results of the flying fire poker, so he or she saw to it that clasped hands around the older woman’s neck would seal off her air passage. When the attempt at murder was inflicted, Antoinette Pinte was the only adult present. Married to Carmine Pinte, son of the deceased, the couple’s seventeen-month-old child Flora was in the house, but she was obviously unable to report on the day’s activities. Three boarders lived at the residence but they were absent when the events of the day occurred. All were on a day’s outing to Manhattan. Shoe cobbler Carmine Pinte maintained a shop at Second Street (now Fillmore Street) near Lafayette Avenue in New Brighton, Staten Island. The ominous New Brighton Village Hall once loomed over this intersection. Sunday, January 26, 1896, was the documented date of Maria Pinte’s demise.

NB Village Hall PC 300

New Brighton Village Hall, Lafayette Avenue, New Brighton, Staten Island.

Dr. William Walser was rushed to the scene. He declared the cause of death to be asphyxia by choking. In addition to being well poked with the fire poker, Walser noted that the deceased had been burned with the poker after it was specifically placed in the home’s hearth until it was scorching hot. In effect the killer also branded Mrs. Pinte.

Carmine Pinte met Antoinette at a picnic when she was fourteen-years-old. Much to his mother’s dismay, and later disgust, he began courting the teenager. Mother was especially unhappy that he spent so much time at the 113 Mott Street tenement where she lived with her family in Manhattan. No matter, Carmine soon married the girl and the three lived together at the combination New Brighton home and cobbler shop with the result that no peace was realized in the household thereafter. Maria resented her new daughter-in-law who continually railed against her. Apparently there were financial troubles too, so Carmine took the three boarders into his residence. They were, at the time of the murder, Anthony Paolini, Macali Mulinara, and Louis Congeneles. The men slept in chambers on the second floor, while the newlyweds had a bedroom behind the shoe shop. Mrs. Pinte was relegated to a tiny hallway for her evening slumber. The Pintes and their renters converged in the shoe shop nightly as this was the only location where there was ample room for all. Except for the constant discord between the women of the house it was said to be a comfortable residence. Obviously it was not. The shoemaker did realize an improvement in his finances, so on the day of the murder he too was in Manhattan hoping to find an apprentice to assist him in his business activities.

Anthony Paolini returned to the New Brighton home around 5:00 p.m. Since Flora liked music, Paolini retrieved a flute from his second floor quarters and went to entertain the child. He found mother and daughter seated in the Pinte’s room. He asked Antoinette, “Where is Maria?” “She is asleep,” she replied adding “she’s sick and you mustn’t speak to her. Don’t go in there.”[i] After playing a few tunes Paolini decided to check on Maria while Antoinette was occupied elsewhere. Paolini found Maria in bed with a quilt over her head. Her face was concealed. Paolini pulled the bedding back. What he saw and heard caused him to stagger back “cold and sick.”[ii] Maria was still alive but a gurgling sound was bubbling up from her throat. Antoinette was soon upon him. Pushing Paolini out the door she slammed it tight. Guarding the door with her body the young wife’s “eyes were bright with fury and fear” and her teeth “showed animal like between her drawn lips.”[iii] Paolini ran for his own quarters. He sat for two long hours waiting for his housemates to return. The three then confronted Antoinette. After a two hour discussion she insisted that her mother-in-law had died from sickness. Furthermore, Antoinette exclaimed that Maria “was old and lived long enough.”[iv] When asked why she had scratches on her face the young woman replied that in her grief she had self inflicted the wounds. For good measure she also pulled clumps of her own hair out of her head. Paolini made a hasty exit to the police station and informed the authorities that something was seriously amiss in the Pinte household.

When questioned by the police Antoinette insisted that Maria had been ill and “died,” and quite frankly she believed “it was nothing to make a great fuss over.”[v] At her arraignment Judge Augustus Acker recognized Antoinette as having been brought before his bench in the past. It seems that Carmine Pinte had hauled his wife into court after Antoinette attempted to kill his mother after a previous quarrel. At that time Antoinette proclaimed that Maria was spying on her, spreading rumors about her, and for the most part making her life miserable. Sent home with a warning, the relationship had not improved with Antoinette telling the judge “she wouldn’t ever leave me alone.”[vi] Antoinette was so wretched she twice ran away from her New Brighton home, but Carmine successfully implored her to return on both occasions.

Remanded to the West New Brighton Jail the accused killer kept very quiet, but of course no one could understand her as she did not speak English. The three boarders were also incarcerated as witnesses. For his part husband Carmine had no doubt that his betrothed had murdered his mother. For the previous four years the women had done nothing but bicker and terrorize each other.

Having arrived at the station with her baby, the child remained with Antoinette. When the shoemaker returned and found out the events of the previous evening he hurried to the jail to retrieve the child. Calling Antoinette “the Devil,” as far as Carmine was concerned his wife could remain incarcerated indefinitely.[vii]

The autopsy on Maria’s body revealed that the woman was indeed quite ill. With edema of the brain and cancer of the left lung, Dr. Walser declared she would probably have died of her own accord within three months of her murder. If only the murderer had not been so impatient. According to the New York Daily Tribune Carmine Pinte paid Antoinette’s father $250 for her hand in marriage. One wonders if in hindsight the shoemaker still thought this was money well spent.

Antoinette’s dilemma was curtailed when the Richmond County Grand Jury refused to issue an indictment against her. Staten Islanders were amazed owing to the wealth of circumstantial evidence accumulated against the young woman. Thus she was set free and returned to her New Brighton residence where she could now live in peace and quietude—perhaps.

Westervelt near Rich Terr, NB detail of postcard

Westervelt Avenue, New Brighton, Staten Island.

Bibliography

Evening Post. “Arrest of a Young Girl for Murder.” January 27, 1896.

New York Herald. “She Was Strangled.” January 28, 1896.

The Press. “Slain In Her Sleep.” January 28, 1896.

The Sun. “Choked to Death in Bed.” January 28, 1896.

The World. “Wouldn’t Indict Her for Murder.” March 17, 1896.

[i] The Sun, “Choked to Death in Bed,” January 28, 1896.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] New York Herald, “She Was Strangled,” January 28, 1896.

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Special thanks to Barbara MacDonald Hemedinger and Gina Sacco.

Copyright 2015 Patricia M. Salmon

For further information, please visit PatSalmonHistory.com and PatSalmonHistory at Facebook.com

 

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