Class of 1964 Noreen Jones Memorial


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Noreen Jones - Ilion, NY

Benedict (Bennie) X. DiPiazza, of Frankfort, met Ilionite Noreen Jones in the Summer of 1961. Bennie had just graduated from high school and was working as a lifeguard at the Frankfort swimming pool. Noreen had just finished her freshman year at Ilion High School. She went to the pool with her two small cousins.

DiPiazza claims he dated Noreen for three years. Noreen Jones' family insisted she never dated Bennie DiPiazza. Margaret Rella of Frankfort, Noreen's aunt, said that Noreen went to St. Mary's Academy, a Little Falls Catholic high school, and lived with her aunt and uncle there, in order to get away from him. Margaret Rella recalled that DiPiazza made obscene phone calls in the middle of the night, drove by their houses, looked in windows and shouted obscenities. There were reports that a crying Noreen had gone to a neighbor's house, after being approached by DiPiazza, on the street. Noreen's Aunt Margaret also reported that DiPiazza, broke into the Jones' home and stole a photograph of Noreen. Benjamin DiPiazza, the father of Bennie, insisted that the picture be returned.

In February 1964, DiPiazza and Noreen were alone in the Jones family home on Main Street in Ilion. He wanted to discuss their future together. He wanted to talk about marrying Noreen after she graduated from college. DiPiazza recounted, "She told me to get her off my mind, to forget about her entirely, she was going off to college.... I was hurt and angry. She said I hit her, but I don't remember it."

Noreen's parents, George Jones a custodian in Ilion schools, and his wife Flora, sought the help of the Herkimer County District Attorney in protecting their daughter, Noreen.

A meeting was held in the office of District Attorney Albert W. Schneider in March 1964. The DiPiazza and Jones families, including Noreen and Bennie, were at the meeting. Bennie DiPiazza signed a pledge never to approach Noreen or her parents again. However, after the meeting, in the hallway, DiPiazza punched the 17 year old Noreen Jones in the face and broke her nose. As her father was helping her up, DiPiazza jumped Mr. Jones, picked him up, and threw him on an inch thick seat that broke in half. He then climbed on Mr. Jones and continued beating him, breaking Mr. Jones' ribs.

Bennie DiPiazza was charged with assault and placed on probation. If he violated the terms of his probation, by bothering Noreen or her family, he risked spending a year in jail. DiPiazza hated District Attorney Schneider and in a 1990 interview with the Observer Dispatch said "I resent Schneider to this day."

In July 1964, an argument between Bennie and his own father resulted in Bennie's being sent to St. Louis, MO to stay with his grandfather for two weeks. The grandfather, Anthony DiPiazza, was 70 years old at the time. He had served 18 years in Auborn for a murder conviction in the slaying of Nicholas DiMaggio. DiMaggi's body was found with five bullets in his head. The victim was discovered on Columbus Day 1931, on Railroad Street in Frankfort. The elder DiPiazza claimed the police had framed him, after they grilled him constantly, for 48 hours. After his release from Auborn, Anthony DiPiazza moved to St. Louis where friends gave him a job and a place to stay. Twenty year old Bennie DiPiazza would not accept the same offer from his grandfather and instead, returned to Frankfort in August 1964.

On the afternoon of August 27, 1964, Noreen Jones and her father went to a bank in Frankfort. Noreen entered the bank to obtain a school loan to attend Mary Regina College, in Syracuse. She planned to major in elementary education. Her father waited outside on a bench until he saw Bennie DiPiazza behind the wheel of a pink Buick.

Afraid for his daughter's safety, Mr. Jones went into the bank to get Noreen. When they came outside, DiPiazza was standing nearby, watching them.

Mr. Jones left his car, which was parked off Main Street, and hitched a ride with the driver of a van waiting at the street light. He brought his daughter to her Aunt Frances Irons' home. He and Mrs. Irons drove back to retrieve his car.

On the ride back to get Mr. Jones' car, they stopped at the DiPiazza home on Pleasant Avenue to speak with Bennie's parents. No one was home but as they were leaving they encountered Bennie. Bennie threatened to ram their car with his pink Buick if they didn't pull over. Bennie's exchange with Mr. Jones is documented in more than 1000 pages of trial transcript. "Gomer [Mr. Jones' nickname], you sonofabitch, you... If you tell lies to my probation officer, I'm gonna get you."

After leaving the DiPiazza home, Frances Irons called the Frankfort Police Department. She spoke with the only officer on the day shift Acting Chief, George Grates. He arrived at her house at 1:50 PM.

Bennie DiPiazza continued riding around in the Buick. He picked up two high school girls and brought them to a dairy bar. He drove by the Irons home and saw the parked police car.

While Chief Grates rode around the village looking for DiPiazza, Noreen and her Aunt took the Irons children out for ice cream. They reached the Royal Market, on Main Street, when DiPiazza pulled up to the curb and told Noreen, "You, you're next." Noreen replied, "Bennie, what are you so steamed up about?"

DiPiazza got out of the car, and slammed the door. Noreen ran heading for the police station, which was located in the rear of the Village Hall building. She was screaming, "God help me, it's him, it's him. He's got a gun, he's got a gun..."

Bennie opened fire with his Beretta, in front of Noreen's Aunt, two small cousins and three other witnesses. Village Clerk Fred Petrell, grabbed DiPiazza's arm trying to deflect the shots. Noreen fell to the floor, behind a table and started crawling under it. DiPiazza emptied his gun. Noreen had been hit six times; twice in the heart, once in the lung, liver and kidney. Chief Grates arrived and DiPiazza made no move to escape. Later, DiPiazza said, "They made me do it, I had to do it."

On August 31, 1964, 1500 mourners attended the funeral of 17 year old Noreen Jones. Her body was interred in Mount Olivet Cemetary in Frankfort.

On October 21, 1964, 20 year old Benedict X. DiPiazza was indicted for the 1st degree murder of Noreen Jones.

The trial of Bennie DiPiazza was held in the spring of 1965. During the trial, Dr. Orgel, a Syracuse psychologist testified for the defense. He said DiPiazza scored an overall IQ of 122 on the Wexler-Bellevue intelligence tests... which would place him in the superior range. But on Rorscharch "ink blot" and "figure drawing" tests, Orgel found disturbing characteristics. DiPiazza, in Orgel's opinion, had feelings of inadequacy, tense hostility, destruction and sadism. He had to prove to himself and others that "..."he's a male, and as competent as any other male... My observations indicate hi is chronically antisocial...maintains no loyalty, is frequently callous, and shows a gross lack of responsibility and a lack of exercise of judgement."

In Orgel's testimony, anything "...that threatens his view of himself as a male" might cause him to "fly into a rage with little provocation." Orgel labeled DiPiazza a "sociopath".

The prosecution's doctors testified that he was not insane at the time of his crime. Dr. Jacobs said DiPiazza had admitted he loved Noreen and "because he couldn't have her, no one else would."

On May 22, 1965, after 16 hours of deliberation, a jury of 8 men and 4 women returned a guilty verdict. DiPiazza was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum or 20 years.

Between 1984 and 1996, Bennie DiPiazza was denied parole at least six times. He was denied parole five times because he wanted to return to Frankfort and the State could not find anywhere for him to live. In 1984, a Christmas furlough home to Frankfort was cancelled after Herkimer County District Attorney Henry LaRaia advised against it. Later, District Attorney Patrick Kirk opposed the parole of DiPiazza.

While in prison, DiPiazza continued to threaten family members and police. According to District Attorney Michael Daley, DiPiazza stopped the threats when he realized that they were affecting his parole hearings.

In 1989, a negative psychiatric evaluation resulted in parole denial. "Subject still represents an inherent danger to the public... His behavior in the presence of females is erratic and unpredictable... Subject undergoes a personality change when dealing with members of the opposite sex... inability to behave appropriately in such situations suggests a need for constant supervision in such situations."

Bennedict X. DiPiazza was paroled in February 1996 and is scheduled for release in August or September of 1999.

DiPiazza was released from prison August 30, 1999. On December 14, 1999, he was arrested for allegedly stealing merchandise worth about $250, from Filene's department store, in the Albany Crossgates Mall. State Division of Parole spokesman, Thomas Grant, said DiPiazza will not be considered for parole again until October 2001. (March 21, 2000)

Source of information The Observer Dispatch - May 20, 1990, Dec 10, 1998, Dec 30 - 1998
Updated March 21, 2000

Related Link
FLORA D. JONES v. COUNTY HERKIMER ET AL. (07/22/66)

 

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