Page 35 - Southington Magazine Holiday 2020 Issue 42
P. 35

 In 1912 there was a farmer who owned a large chestnut farm in Southington. It was har- vest season and poachers were plentiful. The proprietor had all he could do to keep them away. A Polish-speaking man entered the orchard on a Sunday afternoon. He was warned away by the proprietor and in the altercation that followed some blows were struck.
Shortly after the melee was over, the owner of the orchard was found near death. The Pole was apprehended and a good case of circumstantial evidence was woven about him. The dying man identified the Pole with a nod of his head as the perpetrator. It looked very much as if he would be convicted of murder until William Egan, a lawyer, and son of the then State Police Commissioner Thomas F. Egan was retained as counsel.
Mr. Egan listened to the man’s story, which was punctuated with tears. After hearing the complete tale, Mr. Egan appealed to the state police. “I do not believe this man is guilty,” he told his father. “I think the authorities have the wrong man.”
My grandpa, Frank Virelli, was assigned to the case. His investigation revealed the fact that three other men had been around the orchard as well. One had not been working or seen around his home since the day of the shooting.
The clue was slight but Virelli thought it was worth following. The man had gone to board in the home of a relative. Shortly thereafter a letter ar- rived from Cleveland. It was just before one of the fall elections so Frank Virelli went to Cleveland and posed as an election registrar.
He made a canvas of the Italian section of the city and discovered that this man had joined an Italian po- litical club. Viewlli went to the club and accused the man of registering illegally. The man denied the charge and stated that he was willing to visit the police station to disprove
Shown ‘pulling’ Norm Devio, left; Al Virelli, right.
he was surprised when Virelli charged him with be- ing Attillio Casale from Southington, Connecticut.
Attillio eventually confessed, and soon after Domencia Maccia and Crespino Casale were ar- rested as his accomplices. The three had gone to the chestnut farm after the Polish man’s altercation had occurred at which time Attillio Casale shot the farmer while the three men were being evicted. The Pole was released.
Lieutenant Virelli arrived in this country alone at the age of 14. He was born in Santagata Dei Goti, Province of Benevento, Italy, in 1876. He held vari- ous jobs, one of which was a brakeman on the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. It is ironic that in 1967 I, too, would be working on the railroad as a conductor and later an engineer. I worked in this capacity for more than 19 years.
Fast forward 71 years to 1983. An arm wrestling contest was held in Plantsville for the Southing- ton town championship. It was sponsored by Tara’s Cafe and The Observer newspaper.
I had entered the contest in the 150-pound class. Mind you, I have “pulled,” a term used in arm wrestling, all over the world from Athens, Greece to Singapore. This contest would be different however, one that I would not forget.
I had met my match in a fellow named Joe Ca- sale. He gave me the hardest fought match I would ever have in my career. I won finally, but it wasn’t easy – never underestimate your opponent.
We stayed in touch. A few years later I received a copy of a newspaper article. In it there was a story about my grandpa. I contacted Joe and asked him if he knew anything about it. Later he called to say “yes” the Casale mentioned in the article was in- deed a relative. Small world – isn’t it?
   Sleuth Frank Virelli
the charge.
At the station,
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