Phoebe Jane Vigoletti
Cause of Death: Strangled
Motive: Black Hand Vendetta
Murder Scene and Date
Third Avenue NW
March 14, 1926
By Nancy Bowers
On Monday, March 15, 1926, railroad employees on their way to work found the body of 46-year-old Phoebe Jane Vigoletti lying on a path near the Chicago Great Western tracks in Oelwein.
Written May 2011
Authorities pieced together that Vigoletti — whom they termed “a resident of the Italian community” in Oelwein — was killed in her home at 3rd Avenue Northwest the night before.
Someone broke down the back door and strangled her with a rope. The kitchen showed signs of a violent struggle.
Evidence indicated Vigoletti’s body was removed from the house, taken across the back yard, hoisted over a fence, and dragged or carried a considerable distance to the pathway where it was discovered.
The rope used to kill her was never found.
☛ Black Hand at Work? ☚Fayette County Sheriff Charles C. Wright and Oelwein Police Chief Moore worked the investigation.
Authorities attached significance to the fact that Vigoletti’s body was found dumped on the same site as that of an unnamed Italian male, who was stabbed 84 times in 1919.
That implied they believed the murder might be tied to the Black Hand, a shadowy criminal organization that terrorized Italian-Americans from the latter part of the 19th century through the 1920s.
The group — which used extortion, threats of violence, and murder — was so feared that witnesses and those with information refused to cooperate with law enforcement in solving crimes like the Jane Vigoletti homicide.
☛ Other Iowa Black Hand Murders ☚
Following is a partial list of unsolved Iowa murders believed related to the Black Hand. Click on the name where possible to read the articles about these victims:
- ☛ Joseph Busemi: 1915 Waterloo, Black Hawk County
- ☛ Unknown Italian Immigrant: 1915 Centerville, Appanoose County
- ☛ Francis “Frank” Oliverio: 1917 Des Moines, Polk County
- ☛ Dominic Sposeto: 1919 Des Moines, Polk County
- ☛ Nicollo Vinceri: 1920 Centerville, Appanoose County
- ☛ Domenico Barretto: 1921 “Little Italy,” Des Moines, Polk County
- ☛ Angelo Ferrari: 1921 Des Moines, Polk County
Please note: Use of information in this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.
- ☛ “Italian Woman Killed Sunday,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 15, 1926.