History comes to life
BELLAIRE — History will come to life every Wednesday through February and March as the Great Stone Viaduct Society hosts its seventh annual winter lecture series.
“We’re in conjunction with the Bellaire Public Library. This is our seventh year. Admission is free, and we have a wide variety of historical topics,” Chairwoman Erica Keller said. “We hope for a nice attendance.”
She said six of the presentations will be at the Bellaire Public Library. However, two 2 of the programs will be held at St. Mary’s Church in St. Clairsville on March 27. This event will feature a double presentation covering two infamous area murders. Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato will recount the facts surrounding a grisly murder that occurred in 1950 and the subsequent trial that resulted in a guilty verdict for George Doty and his execution in the electric chair.
“He was a taxicab driver,” Belmont County Common PLeas Judge Frank Fregiato, one of the presenters, said.
He added that the victim, Alma Montag, was a teenage girl. Both were from Bellaire. Fregiato said Montag was riding in Doty’s taxi when he attempted to rape her, then murdered her.
Fregiato added that the presentation will include an individual who was present around the time of the murder. He added that he has done extensive research into the case.
“I’ve got all the transcripts,” he said, adding that he has secured the original death warrant for Doty.
“The trial was held before a three-judge panel instead of a jury trial,” he said, adding that when a death sentence is a possibility, the law allows for a defendant to opt out of a jury trial and have a trial before such a tribunal.
“The defendant almost always takes the jury. It’s rare that he or she wants a three-judge panel. The issue here was insanity, so he thought the technicalities would be more persuasive before judges as opposed to a jury,” Fregiato said.
Daniel Frizzi Jr., president of the Bellaire Public Library and past chairman of the viaduct society, will speak about the Lovers Lane Murder of 1924. In that case, Jenetta Panella, a 15-year-old Italian schoolgirl, was murdered in the Georgetown Tunnel 2 miles west of Bellaire by Fred Ward.
“She was an immigrant with her parents. Her father was a farmer,” Frizzi said. “She was on her way home from buying her books. She was attacked on the way back. … It was an older man who probably had known her from seeing her. He attacked her as she passed through the tunnel at Georgetown on her way home.
“He chased her through the tunnel, caught her on the other side of the tunnel, assaulted her and stabbed her to death.”
Frizzi said he selected that presentation for personal reasons.
“I lived in West Bellaire and walked through that tunnel many times, and my grandmother had told me the story,” he said. “My grandmother actually saw the body. … She lived right by the tunnel.”
He added that preparing his presentation was complicated by the lack of clerk of courts records.
“Most of what I’ve come up with are from eye-witnesses and from newspaper records I was able to find,” he said, adding that he will also draw on stories from his grandmother and a man whose father was a witness in the trial.
“They tried to argue insanity — never admitted that he did this,” Frizzi said.
Keller said the presentations are popular and noted that 246 people attended Fregiato and Frizzi’s last presentation.
Other programs in the series include:
∫ This Wednesday, David A Simmons of Ohio History Connection will speak about the first Ohio River railroad bridge, built in Steubenville in 1865.
∫ On Feb. 20, Wayne A. Cekola will speak about World War II ration tokens.
∫ On Feb. 27, Hank D. Lutton, archeologist and historian, will speak about the prehistoric mounds and monuments of the upper Ohio Valley.
∫ On March 6, Larrie Green, Bellaire author, will speak about the contributions of African-Americans to American history.
∫ On March 13, Marcia Hartman and Ken Williams, who started Crossroads Magazine, will present Tales From Crossroads Magazine.
∫ On March 20, Jeanne Finstein and Judi Hendrickson of the Friends of Wheeling will re-enact the trial of Elsie Russell, convicted of the 1934 murder of Gladys Lias.
All presentations will be held at 6 p.m.