Forever Lebanon Valley

State Police Clear 58-Year Old Cold Case Using Genetic Genealogy

PSP Lead Investigator, Corp. Mark Barron
1964 photo of Marise Chivarella, age 9
State Police display a yearbook photo of James Paul Forte, a few years before he murdered Marise Chivarella on March 18, 1964

Police investigators are often told to avoid emotional attachments with people involved in their cases. But today’s news conference with state police from Hazleton might be the exception.

Over the course of nearly 58 years, a team numbering over 100 troopers, crime lab scientists, and investigators have worked doggedly to find out who murdered 9-year old Marise Chivarella on March 18th, 1964.

Today, members of that team announced they have positively identified her killer as James Paul Forte, a 22-year old man who lived within blocks of the Chivarella’s home at the time, but who was never identified as a suspect in the case.

Forte died suddenly in 1980 of natural causes while tending bar at a local restaurant.

Over the last two years, state police have used the latest genetic genealogy, DNA and Y-chromosome testing, and exhumation to prove Forte was the killer.

Their efforts paid off, according to State Police Lt. Devin Putoski:

As this investigation stretched over the decades there have been many lead investigators, but it was Corporal Mark Barron who led Marise’s case to the end.

He broke down a few time today, as he spoke about his team’s effort:

Marise’s three brothers and sister attended today’s news conference and her eldest brother, Ronald, said that before their mother’s death, she had come to forgive whoever it was that killed her daughter. But she also prayed regularly that state police would find out who did it.