A Murder on Halloween

Peter & Betty Fabiano

Peter & Betty Fabiano

It was late on Halloween night of 1957 in Los Angeles.  Beauty shop owner, Peter Fabiano and his wife, Betty were turning out all the lights in their home to go to bed for the night when their doorbell rang.  Mr. Fabiano went downstairs to answer the door, thinking it was a late trick-or-treater.  Mrs. Fabiano, still upstairs, heard her husband ask “Isn’t it late for this sort of thing?”  There was a muffled reply followed by a loud pop and then a thump.  As Betty ran downstairs she heard the squeal of tires on pavement as a vehicle sped off.  She found her husband sprawled on the floor, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the chest.  Mrs. Fabiano called for help, but unfortunately her husband died on the way to the hospital.

It took investigators nearly two weeks to identify a person of interest in the case.  The person they named was Joan Rabel, who at one time worked for Mr. Fabiano in his beauty shop.  Rabel had become good friends with Mrs. Fabiano and Betty even lived with Rabel for a short time during which she was having problems in her marriage.  Mr. Fabiano became jealous of the relationship between the two women.  He ultimately decided to work things out with Betty, but there were conditions that had to be agreed to.  Betty was not to ever see Rabel again and to not even say her name in Mr. Fabiano’s presence.

Rabel was arrested under the suspicion that she killed Mr. Fabiano because she wasn’t too keen on the demands he made that kept her from seeing Betty.  Rabel denied any involvement saying she was home the whole night and her car in her driveway was proof of that.  This was a partial truth.  In fact, her car was in her driveway the entire night, but after interviewing her acquaintances, detectives learned that she was most definitely not at home.  A friend of hers told investigators that she let Rabel borrow her car that night and that about 37 miles were put on it.

When caught in the lie, Rabel admitted that she did borrow the car to1957_1113_rabel_4 get groceries.  With no hard evidence to go on, the police had to let Rabel go.

About a month later an anonymous tip was called in about a lockbox in a department store that should be checked.  When officials followed up on the tip they found a .38 caliber gun, which ballistics later confirmed matched the weapon used to kill Mr. Fabiano.  Upon further investigation of sales records at local gun shops, they found that the gun belonged to Goldyne Pizer, a lab technician at an Los Angeles children’s hospital.

Pizer was a meek woman and almost immediately confessed to the shooting.  She insisted that it wasn’t her fault, however, and that someone had put her under a “spell”.  That person would turn out to be none other than Joan Rabel.

1957_1207_pizer_rabelRabel and Pizer had been good friends, possibly lovers for a few years.  Rabel would always tell Pizer what an awful person Peter Fabiano was.  It became an obsession and their favorite topic of conversation.  Though Pizer didn’t know Mr. Fabiano herself, she began to hate him.  Talk of murder began between the two women and Rabel gave Pizer money to buy a gun.

The night of the murder Pizer attempted to disguise herself, wearing a hat, gloves, mask and face paint with the gun hidden in a paper bag.  It was Halloween and wouldn’t look suspicious at all to anyone who may see her.

Rabel and Pizer arrived at the Fabiano house around 9 pm and sat outside waiting hours for the lights to be turned off inside the house to make their move.  Pizer went to the door while Rabel waited in the car.newspaper headline

After the deed was done, Pizer ran back to the car and when she got inside Rabel kissed her and said “Thank you.”  After dropping the car off Rabel told Pizer “Forget you ever knew me.”  The pair walked off in different directions.

Rabel pleaded not guilty.  Pizer claimed insanity.  In the end they each accepted a plea deal for second-degree murder and were sentenced to life in prison.

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