Ralph Reno

Seven hours from gallows, a reprieve

Ralph Reno, an Italian immigrant, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder in 1925 of Mary Palombizio in her apartment on West Taylor Street in Chicago. Although the person who killed her also killed her husband, Edward Palombizio, Reno was not tried for the second murder. His conviction rested on the testimony of the Palombizio's neighbor, Mary Pacifico, who was wounded in the attack. Pacifico identified Reno, even though the killer had worn a mask. Reno came within seven hours of execution before winning a reprieve. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the conviction in 1927. The following year, Reno was acquitted.

Case Chronology

March 23, 1925 — Edward and Mary Palombizio are shot and killed and their neighbor, Mary Pacifico, wounded by a masked man in the apartment building where they lived on West Taylor Street in Chicago.

April 6, 1925 — Cook County grand jury indicts Reno for the murders of the Palombizios.

April 16, 1925 — Grand jury indicts Reno for assault with the intent to kill Pacifico.

June 20, 1925 — Criminal Court jury finds Reno guilty of killing Mary Palombizio and recommends a death sentence. (Reno is not tried for the murder of Edward Palombizio.)

December 11, 1925 — Judge John P. McGoorty grants Reno’s motion for a new trial on the ground that the evidence was insufficient.

December 19, 1925 — Reno’s second trial begins.

January 15, 1926 — Second jury finds Reno guilty of the murder of Mary Palombizio and recommends a death sentence. Judge Harry B. Miller sentences Reno to death by hanging.

April 23, 1926 — Reno receives a stay of execution seven hours before being scheduled to hang.

February 16, 1927 — Illinois Supreme Court reverses and remands the case based on judicial error.

December 6, 1927 — Reno’s third trial begins.

Late December 1927 — Reno is acquitted of the murder of Mary Polombizio and the indictment for the murder of Edward Polombizio is quashed. Reno is released on $2,500 bail for the attempted murder of Mary Pacifico.

February 1928 — A jury acquits Reno of the Pacifico crime and he leaves the courtroom of Judge McGrooty a free man.

Case Data

Crime date: March 23, 1925
Jurisdiction: Cook County, Illinois
Crime: Murder
Related crime: Assault with intent to kill
Age: 30s
Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: Italian
Arrest date: March 23, 1925
Victim(s): Edward Palombizio, Mary Palombizio, Mary Pacifico
Victims’ occupation: Unknown
Victims’ gender: Edward Palombizio (M), Mary Palombizio (F), Mary Pacifico (F)
Victims’ race: White
Victims’ ages: Unknown
How defendant became a suspect: Identified by Mary Pacifico as the assailant
Principle evidence of defendant’s guilt: Mary Pacifico’s eyewitness testimony
Principle defense: Alibi defense that he was with his wife, Anna Reno, at the time of the crime.
Type of trial: Jury
Conviction Date: June 20, 1925
Convicted of: The murder of Mary Palombizio
Sentence: Death
Appellate Record: Conviction reversed and remanded by Illinois Supreme Court on February 16, 1927.
Basis for exoneration: Circumstantial nature of the evidence, inconsistencies in testimony, and the lack of motive.
Legal form of exoneration: Acquittal
Release date: Late December 1927
Days of incarceration: 1,013 (Estimated)
Prior record: None
Compensation: None

— Jason Robi