FAMOUS BRAINTREE MURDERS
Facts emerge in
Forgotten victims: Descendants say both were hard-working family men
Editor's note: Reporter Rick Collins will discuss the victims and the search for more about their identities in an interview tonight at 7 on Channel 2's "Greater Boston."
It was 27 years ago when Michael Dukakis, then in his first term as Massachusetts governor, declared that Nicola Sacco and Bartolemeo Vanzetti had not received a fair trial and should have their names cleared. With the 50th anniversary of their executions approaching, Dukakis also declared Aug. 23, 1977, Sacco and Vanzetti Day in Massachusetts.
Dukakis now acknowledges that his administration erred - not in its decision to clear Sacco and Vanzetti's names - but by not also reaching out to the families of Frederick Parmenter and Alessandro Berardelli, the two men who were robbed, shot, and left to die on a Braintree street on April 15, 1920.
He said one reason for the oversight was that concerns about victims' rights were not as strong in the 1970s.
"It was a terrible gap in my judgment; we didn't seem to focus on that," said Dukakis, now a professor at Northeastern University. "I think so much of the focus has been on (Sacco and Vanzetti) and the possibility that other people did it that I'm not sure how much time and attention we paid to (Parmenter and Berardelli.)"
It's an omission that has been made repeatedly during the past 85 years.
And it's an omission that has troubled the family of Barbara Gilliland, of Quincy, a distant relative of Parmenter.
"I remember my mother saying that a lot of fuss had been made about Sacco and Vanzetti, but nobody had ever cared or thought about the men who were killed," Gilliland said.
The Patriot Ledger in May published a story detailing the dearth of information on Parmenter and Berardelli. The paper has since launched a comprehensive interstate search through state birth and death records, newspaper accounts, and trial transcripts for additional information on the slain men and their families.
Frederick Parmenter, born in 1876, was the oldest of 10 children, and a descendent of the Huntington family, according to a family tree provided by Arthur Shores, 74, of Weston, who would have been Parmenter's great-nephew.
Parmenter married Hattie Snell of Easton in 1897 and they were a prominent couple in Avon, where they lived for the most of their marriage. Parmenter, a member of Brockton's Paul Revere Masonic Lodge, served as a selectmen for three years and as president and a director of the Avon Baptist Church.
The Parmenters, along with their two young children, Richard and Jeanette, moved in late 1919 from Avon to a single-family house on West Street in Braintree, a few miles from the Slater & Morrill shoe factory, where Parmenter had worked for 20 years as an assistant paymaster.
Berardelli was an Italian immigrant hired by Slater & Morrill as a special guard to accompany Parmenter on his quarter-mile walk from the company's office on Railroad Avenue to the main factory building on Pearl Street. He also was a Braintree special police officer.
While Parmenter was the outgoing one, Berardelli was known as "the detective" and usually stood by quietly while they picked up the pair of metal boxes that held hundreds of pay slips. Considering the amount of money in the boxes - there was $15,776 stolen in the robberies - Parmenter and Berardelli were armed and often accompanied by at least one other person.
On April 15, witnesses say that Parmenter, while on Pearl Street, stopped factory employee James Bostock to tell him that a motor pulley needed to be fixed. A few moments later, Berardelli was grabbed and shot by a man leaning against a fence in front of the Rice Hutchins shoe factory. Parmenter turned and was shot in the chest by a second man.
Parmenter was shot once more and collapsed in the gutter. He was taken to Quincy City Hospital where he died the next morning.
Berardelli was shot, and slowly crumpled to the ground. He was carried to a home across the street from the shoe factories, where he was pronounced dead.
Shortly after the murders, Hattie Parmenter moved back to Easton with her family. She testified briefly at the 1921 trial, mainly about whether her husband owned a hat similar to the one found at the crime scene. She died of cancer in 1925, while Sacco and Vanzetti were still appealing their death sentences.
Sarah Berardelli collapsed after being told of her husband's death by a Patriot Ledger reporter. She moved in with a friend, Aldeah Florence, of Water Street, after her husband's funeral and then moved to New Haven, Conn.
Too upset to talk
Both women testified briefly at Sacco and Vanzetti's 1921 trial.
In a 1927 interview with the Patriot Ledger, Sarah Berardelli told a reporter:
"All these years I have tried to forget and have suffered so much. I will not say anything more."
It is not known when she died, or whether her two children are still alive.
Parmenter's son, Richard, an engineer, died in Middleboro in 1966. His daughter, Jeanette, is a retired school teacher.
The Patriot Ledger was able to track down one of Parmenter's grandsons, but he declined to speak.
Arthur Shores knew his cousin, Jeanette - she was actually his fifth- and sixth-grade teacher in Brockton -and attended her wedding.
Because of the student-teacher relationship, Shores said he never felt comfortable asking his cousin about the murders; in fact it wasn't something mentioned in the family as a whole.
"I did hear about it from my father and mother," Shores said. "When anyone would say (Sacco and Vanzetti) didn't commit the crimes, my father would get pretty upset about that because he pretty much concluded that they did."
Rick Collins may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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