58-Year-Old Murder Case Cracked by College Student

Finding Marise Chiverella's killer was 'hardest thing that I've ever done,' says Eric Schubert
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2022 8:00 AM CST
Updated Feb 13, 2022 5:10 PM CST
Student Helps Solve 58-Year-Old Murder Case
Eric Shubert, a 20-year-old genetic genealogist, speaks during a press conference announcing James P. Forte as the suspect in the March 18, 1964 killing of Marise Ann Chiverella, Thursday, in Hazle Township, Pa.   (John Haeger/Standard-Speaker via AP)

Pennsylvania state police have identified a man who raped and murdered a 9-year-old girl 58 years ago—with help from a college student. Marise Ann Chiverella was abducted while walking to school in Hazleton, 80 miles north of Philadelphia, on March 18, 1964. Her raped and strangled body was found hours later in a waste coal pit. Over the ensuing decades, more than 230 law enforcement officers sought justice, though the name they were looking for wouldn't emerge until 2020. As CNN reports, a distant relative of the killer was identified using genetic genealogy in 2019. Eric Schubert, an Elizabethtown College history major and genealogy expert who was just 18, volunteered his services to police a year later. They accepted, and he constructed an elaborate family tree to nail down the suspect.

His efforts led to James Paul Forte, a 22-year-old bartender at the time of the crime with no known connection to Marise. He had a record—a guilty plea for aggravated assault in 1974 and an arrest for recklessly endangering and harassment in 1978. Forte died of natural causes, possibly a heart attack, two years later at age 38. His body was exhumed last month to show his DNA matched fluid found on Marise's jacket, per CBS News. Police made the announcement at a Thursday press conference, attended by Marise's four siblings. "We have so many precious memories of Marise. At the same time, our family will always feel the emptiness and sorrow of her absence," said sister Carmen Marie Radtke. "We will continue to ask ourselves, what would have been, what could have been?"

But "thanks to the Pennsylvania State Police, justice has been served today," Radtke added. After two years on the case, Schubert, who's helped crack other cold cases since founding ES Genealogy in 2016, also spoke. "The investigation that went into all of this work was probably the hardest genealogy task that I've ever faced. This was probably the hardest thing that I've ever done in my entire life," he said, per the AP. "And it means so much to me that I was able to be on the team that could provide answers to the Chiverella family." The lead investigator, State Police Cpl. Mark Baron, said the cold case was the fourth-oldest in the US to be solved using genetic genealogy, and the oldest in the state. (Read more cold cases stories.)

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