Black Hand Vendetta? Murder of Phoebe Jane Vigoletti 1926

Murder Victim

Phoebe Jane Vigoletti
46-year-old Homemaker
Cause of Death: Strangled
Motive: Black Hand Vendetta

Murder Scene and Date

Third Avenue NW
Oelwein, Iowa
Fayette County
March 14, 1926


By Nancy Bowers
Written May 2011

location of Oelwein, Iowa

location of Oelwein, Iowa

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.

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? ☚

from the Iowa City Press-Citizen

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 ☚

Black Hand symbol

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:


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.

Comments are closed.

Tags: , , , , , , ,