In the Italian section of Johnston, near Morgan’s Mills, a celebration was about to begin. The baby of 36-year-old Santo Riccitelli had just been christened and a large party had assembled to …
In the Italian section of Johnston, near Morgan’s Mills, a celebration was about to begin. The baby of 36-year-old Santo Riccitelli had just been christened and a large party had assembled to enjoy the knowledge that the child had now been welcomed into the Christian faith.
Traditionally, Italian christenings involve the baby being dressed in a long white robe which has been passed on for generations. Two godparents are chosen, gifts of crucifixes and rosaries are bestowed upon the child, and each guest is given five sugared almonds upon leaving the church.
Guests then assemble at the home of the child’s parents where a large home-made feast is enjoyed. Serving food which has been purchased at a store is considered bad luck. At Santo’s home that day of Jan. 26, 1896, the delectable feast awaited, complete with beverages, many of which were of the intoxicating variety.
Santo and his many relatives, friends and neighbors, including a 43-year-old man known as “Scarface Chintz” gathered that day at the bustling corner of Morgan’s Mills where the atmosphere was alive with the sound of celebration.
The party went on until after dark. By that time, many of the attendees had imbibed a little too much. An argument broke out and, before long, Frank Ricci secured a large club and swung in into the shoulder of 46-year-old Luigi Lafazia, bruising him badly.
When Luigi’s brother Phillip saw what had transpired, he jumped in to help. This prompted Frank to ask 51-year-old Dominico Anchilla if he could borrow his revolver. Dominico gave him the weapon and Frank fired a shot at Phillip. After the bullet skimmed across the right side of Phillip’s head, just above his ear, Frank handed the gun back to Dominico and decided he should probably leave the celebration.
Someone in the party, or nearby, went to get the police. As it was his gun that had been used, Dominico panicked when he saw the lawmen and began to run. An officer pursued him but Dominico didn’t stop running until he heard the officer fire two shots into the air.
Dominico was brought back to the party and gave the officer possession of the revolver. The police looked for Frank but he had fled too. A search for him went on until the next morning when he was located before dawn, hiding under a pile of cotton in the basement of the Morgan Mill. He was arrested without a fight and locked up at the Johnston jail.
Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.
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