There's nothing new about today's violence. One thing that jumps out from newspaper pages I read from the first 40 years of the twentieth century was the number of murders committed and attempted. Everyone, it seems, owned a gun, and a shocking number of people carried them in public, though they were usually concealed by the clothing they wore.

Not surprisingly, many of the killings went unresolved, even when police knew the identities of the killers. It was all to easy to escape and begin life elsewhere with a new name. Few people had drivers' licenses in the early days of the century, and there were no Social Security numbers.

And if you happened to be an immigrant, especially from Italy, Poland or Russia, well, authorities had a difficult time remembering and spelling your real name. A person could convincingly call himself by almost any name.

The following 1920 murder, which took place in my hometown, Solvay, New York, is a good example. The killer is identified by the Syracuse newspapers as Dominic Valvani, but his last name could have been Valvano, a small difference, I know, but a difference just the same.

The victim, identified here as Mrs. Sylvia Carnazola, would appear in the 1920 United States census as Sylvia Kanasola, the name her children would retain for the rest of their lives. The census information was gathered a short time before her death.

Like many women killed during an era that began a few years before World War I and worsened during the so-called Roaring Twenties, Sylvia Kanasola was involved with a man with a violent temper, a man who refused to let her lead a life that did not include him. It's typical of such men to claim they loved the victims of their murders, but no man could do such a thing to a woman he truly cared about.

On the day after the shooting, the Syracuse Journal reported it this way:

Syracuse Journal, Monday, April 12, 1920
State, county and city police are scouring Central New York in search of Dominic Valvani of Solvay, charged with the murder of Mrs. Sylvia Carnazola, 35, of 2260 Milton Avenue, Solvay. The woman was murdered as she sat in the kitchen of her home shortly after 7 o’clock last night. Three shots were fired, two striking her in the head.

Four other persons were in the room at the time. They swear the murderer was Valvani, a veteran of the World War. He has a criminal record in Solvay, and, it is alleged, was an admirer of the dead woman.

After firing three shots, the murderer ran from the home down Milton Avenue toward Bridge Street, then north across the Erie Canal. He disappeared there, and has not been seen since. It is believed he took refuge in the New York Central yards near the Solvay Process plant.

Jealousy, it is believed, prompted the crime. For several months, Mrs. Carnazola has been separated from her husband, Gaurimo Carnazola, and Sunday night met him in the old home to talk over arrangements for a divorce. This was told to police by her husband, after the shooting.

It is said Valvani and the woman were together Sunday afternoon. It is believed they quarreled, and when Valvani learned Mrs. Carnazola had returned to her husband, jealousy got the better of him, prompting him to kill the woman with whom, friends say he was infatuated.

His relations with her date back to a time before the war, it is claimed. At that time she left her husband, it is said, to live with Valvani. When he was discharged from the service, they are said to have resumed their relations.

In the room at the time of the shooting were her husband, along with Joseph Marchetti of 1969 Milton Avenue, Joseph Darmelli and Frank Carelli. All four were taken to headquarters at Solvay and made statements. Valvani, they said, burst into the room, shouting, “Sylvia! Sylvia!” When she appeared, he fired at her three times.

One bullet struck the woman in the head, the second went through a door, and the third entered her neck, just below the left ear.

Before any of the four men could seize him, Valvani dashed from the room and disappeared down the street.

The Solvay police were notified and a short time later District Attorney Frank Malpass, Sheriff Edward Ten Eyck, Coroner S. Ellis Crane, and detectives from the Syracuse department were at the scene of the crime.

The sheriff and his deputies took up the hunt for the man while the coroner and district attorney remained to take statements.

State police at Oneida were notified, and at 9 o’clock Lieutenant A. B. Moore and four state troopers were aiding the sheriff in the hunt for the man.

All railroads and highways leading from Solvay are guarded, and a systematic search is being made in the northern sections of the county where Valvani is believed to be hiding.

He is described by the Solvay police as follows: 31 years old, five-feet, eight-inches tall, weight about 150 pounds. He was wearing a dark brown suit, black soft hat and no overcoat.

He has been arrested five times by Solvay police. The slain woman had been the complainant on more than one of those occasion.

Funeral services for Mrs. Carnazola will be held 9 a.m. Tuesday at the undertaking rooms of Joseph Pirro, and a half-hour later at St. Peter’s (Italian) Church. Burial will be in the Assumption Cemetery.

In Rome, New York, where he had lived previously, the shooter was known as Dominic Valvano.

Rome (NY) Daily Sentinel, April 12, 1920
Jealousy is believed to have been the cause when Dominic Valvano, 31, formerly of the city, shot and killed Mrs. Sylvia Carnazola of 2260-1/2 Milton Avenue, Solvay. She died in a chair and Valvano escaped. The crime was committed last night.

According to the story told by neighbors to police from Solvay and detectives from nearby Syracuse, Mrs. Carnazola had been separated from her husband. Valvano had been rooming at her home, and it is claimed the woman had become a mother. Valvano had been in the army,, and when he returned from the war, he found another man living at the home.

According to police records in this city, Valvano was arrested October 19, 1913, on the charge of assault in the third degree for hitting Sylvia Bebioungilo, 221 East Dominick Street. She was proprietress of a boarding house. When arraigned in City Court at that time, Valvano paid a fine of $10.

Now he is a fugitive being hunted by state police, local authorities and those in Onondaga County.

Valvano is described as being about five-feet, eight-inches tall and weighing about 150 pounds. He has a dark complexion and smooth face. At the time of the crime he wore dark clothing, but no overcoat, a dark cloth cap and a pair of army shoes.

According to local police, Valvano lived here only a few months several years ago.


Syracuse Post-Standard, April 13, 1920
Search for Dominic Valvani, charged with killing Mrs. Sylvia Carnazola of Solvay Sunday night, was continued yesterday by the Solvay, Syracuse and state police.

The funeral of Mrs. Carnazola was held this morning at the undertaking rooms of Joseph Pierro and St. Peter’s Italian Church, followed by burial in Assumption Cemetery.


Syracuse Journal, April 13, 1920
Solvay’s Sunday night shooting, the murder of Mrs. Sylvia Carnasola by Dominic, alias Charles Valvani, was a carefully planned and deliberately executed killing, according to the latest developments to come to the attention of the authorities.

With state troopers, county authorities, and the police of Solvay and Syracuse aiding in the manhunt, the alleged murderer continued today to elude capture, and the dragnet was widened to shut off his flight for the Atlantic coast or seclusion in the Pennsylvania mountains.

Valvani was employed by Matthew Snyder, a contractor at the Halcomb Steel plant, and had approximately $40 in pay coming for last week’s work. For some time previous, he has been borrowing money from friends and acquaintances, according to the latest developments, and it was suggested Tuesday that he had about $150 in his possession at the time of the crime.

He has repeatedly told the Solvay police and several of his friends that he intended returning to his native land, and it is thought that when he returned from service with the A. E. F. (American Expeditionary Forces) in the war zone, the discovery that Mrs. Caransola, long the object of his affections, was married, jealousy prompted him to the deed before he went back to Italy.

Sheriff’s deputies trailed the man across the salt lands, through the Belle Isle yards, and over the marshes to the RS&E trolley tracks,, and there the trail was obliterated.

Lester Jacobson, “clam shell” operator of the New York Central at the Belle Isle roundhouse, saw the hunted man about 40 minutes after the crime. Valvani was coming through the Belle Isle yards in the vicinity of the water tower near the roundhouse. He was walking briskly and evidently paid no attention to the path, for he plowed through the mud of the lowlands without seeming to care.

Valvani cross the northernmost track and plunged down into one of the swampy marshlands to the cinder path used by the railroad bus line. He followed this road to a point about opposite the roundhouse and again took to the fields, heading straight across lots in the direction of the roundhouse stop on the Rochester and Syracuse trolley line.

It would have been possible for him to have boarded the limited car reaching the Syracuse terminal at 7:43 p.m. that night, or the 8:15 p.m. westbound trolley. Railroad men queried by Criminal Deputy Sheriff Edward Hoffmire declared no Italian had boarded their cars at the roundhouse or any adjacent stops that night.

Italian settlements in Lyons, Newark (NY) and Pennsylvania mining towns are being combed for the criminal.

A watch had been posted at all seaports on the Atlantic to prevent his skipping from the country as a coal passer or trimmer on a ship bound for the Mediterranean.

Wherever he was headed, Dominic Valvani (or Valvano) apparently made good his escape. As far as I know, he was never apprehended.

According to the 1920 United States census, with information collected before the murder, the victim identified herself as Sylvia Kanasola. Not reported at the time of her murder was the fact the woman had three children, the oldest, daughter Lena, being born in Italy in 1901, two years before the family crossed the ocean and settled in the United States, living first in Pennsylvania, where son Joseph was born in 1904.

The 1920 census also listed Syliva Kanasola as divorced. Her ex-husband, in the 1930 census, was listed as Guerino H. Karnasola. Joseph was living with him. The couple's youngest child, Samuel, born during World War 1, shows up in the 1940 census as a 22-year-old living in Syracuse with James and Eleanor Desimone.

Joseph Kanasola became an Onondaga County deputy sheriff. His son, Robert, graduated from Solvay High School in 1954 and for awhile worked as a reporter for the Syracuse Herald-Journal.

For more on Solvay way back when, check out
the Solvay-Geddes Historical Society