Pennsylvania authorities solved a nearly 6-decade-old cold case; check out how they did it

Pennsylvania state police just solved the 1964 murder of Marise Chiverella, CBS News reports

That’s the oldest cold case to ever be solved in Pennsylvania. And, it is the fourth oldest cold case to be solved in the country, overall. As Pennsylvania State Police Lieutenant Devon Brutosky put it, during his press conference on Thursday:

Pennsylvania state police was founded in 1905, so over half of our existence we’ve investigated this case.


Chiverella was a 9-year-old girl who has been described by her siblings as quiet and sweet. They say that she liked to play the organ and that she aspired to become a nun.

All of this, however, was put to an end on March 18, 1964. At 8:10 in the morning, Chiverella disappeared during her walk from her house to her school.

Roughly five hours later, around 1 p.m., authorities found her body in a coal refuse pit in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Investigators examined the girl’s body and discovered that she had been sexually assaulted and murdered before being dumped in the pit with her belongings.

Authorities never were able to find Chiverella’s killer. The case ended up going cold until 2007.

How Chiverella’s killer was found

In 2007, Pennsylvania’s DNA lab was able to develop Chiverella’s killer’s DNA profile using fluid that was left on the girl’s jacket. For many years, no matches were found. But, in 2019, things changed.

In that year, the suspect’s DNA was uploaded to a genealogical database called GED Match. Through this database, authorities were able to match the DNA to a distant relative of the killer. Then, it was all about narrowing things down.

Expert genealogist Eric Schubert joined the effort in 2020. He was able to find relatives of the killers throughout the country, and according to authorities, most of these relatives cooperated with the investigation.

Eventually, that investigation led authorities to James Paul Forte, or at least Forte’s body. He died of natural causes in the 1980s. Authorities exhumed his body to confirm that his DNA was a direct match for the DNA profile that they had, and it was.

It’s a match

Pennsylvania authorities put out a statement, explaining:

To put the numbers in perspective, it is estimated that there have only been 117 billion people who have ever inhabited earth.

It turns out that Forte never was a suspect in the investigation of Chiverella’s death. He would have been 22-years-old at the time of Chiverella’s death. It has been discovered that he pled guilty to aggravated assault in 1974 and that he was charged with reckless endangerment and harassment in 1978.

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