Articles on Aunt Peggy

Monday 9/26/1960,” The Bee”, Danville Va

“Sleeping Beauty” Trial halted by Judge’s Illness”

Cleveland, Oh. (AP) Because of illness of Juvenile Court Judge Margaret J. Spellacy the child neglect trial of Lillian Fratantonio, mother of the “Sleeping Beauty” girls was interrupted today. Judge Spellacy 38, was taken to Lakewood Hospital Sunday suffering from severe pleurisy. Her family said the pleurisy followed a severe case of Pneumonia Judge Spellacy suffered six weeks ago. Mrs Fratantonio is accused of mistreating her children, Bernadette 3, and Venita 5, by feeding them barbiturates which kept them in a state of coma for long periods. A statement to police, in which Mrs Fratantonia allegedly told of giving the children barbiturates, has been admitted as evidence by the court. Mrs Fratantonia 29, contends the statement was given under duress and denies she drugged her children. the trial started last Monday, the prosecution still has several witnesses to present.

And then this 9/29/1960 Thursday in the “Lebanon Daily News”

“Mistrial is declared in Sleeping Beauty Case”

Cleveland (UPI) A new trial will be held for Mrs. Lillian Fratantonia 29, charged with child neglect in the drugging of two of her daughters, the famed “Sleeping Beauty” sisters. Juvenile Court Judge Albert Woldman declared a mistrial Wednesday and dismissed the 10 man 2 woman jury that had been hearing the case for a week before Juvenile Court Judge Margaret J. Spellacy. The trial had been in recess since Friday because Judge Spellacy was hospitalized Sunday morning with severe pleurisy. Woldman granted the defense motion for a mistrial because he said “justice would be best served’. he said it was not known how long Judge Spellacy would be ill and it would be unwise and unfair to continue the case indefinitely. Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Osborne had suggested the case be recessed until Judge Spellacy could return, or until a substitute Judge could be appointed to preside. Defense Attorney Leonard Knajewski objected to a continuation on grounds Mrs. Fratantonio constitutional rights would not be protected

One response to “Articles on Aunt Peggy

  1. Howlin' Harry Besharet

    here’s a relevant excerpt from my book, which will be published by Gray & Co., Publishers, this fall. it is an informal oral history of cleveland journalism, told by the editors, reporters, photographers and copy boys at the pee dee and press. the book doesn’t yet have a title, so if you have a good one, lemme know.

    The Sleeping Beauty stories—if you remember that—Bill Tanner and I got into trouble because the trial was going on. This was in the Juvenile Court and he noticed there was some—I’m trying to think what the heck the evidence was. During a recess, Tanner took some evidence off of the table. The evidence hadn’t been presented yet. I was told about this, and in a side room, I photographed it. But what Tanner didn’t know was, all those days there, the husband, who was absent from the trial, he didn’t show up, but he happened to be sitting in the courtroom and evidently, he saw Tanner take it. To make a long story short, I remember photographing it, and we got caught. Bill was outside. The innerbelt was just being constructed, so that dates the year, and they had to rebuild the sidewalk in front of the criminal court building. I had come in the side door. But I got out of there, and I did what Tanner said—I had the camera in my left hand. I had the film ¬it was a 4×5 Press camera, so they were big plates—and as I’m going out the door, charging down the stairs, this guy had just gotten finished—it was a double-width sidewalk—he had just gotten finished putting it in and I’m going full tilt. And it was either stop and go back in the building, or try and jump this thing. Well, I tried to jump it, and I almost made it, but my one heel got caught and I hit the cement. And of course, this guy’s yelling at me, but I just kept going. My shoe almost came off, but half of my foot landed in the cement, and I kept going. When I got back to the city room, Louie Clifford was sitting at the city desk, as he would sometimes, with his feet up on the desk, and he was spun around in his swivel chair, looking back behind him toward the hallway I came down, and he’s waiting for me. He spotted me, holding his finger up in the air, calls me there, and he holds up the phone and he says, “This is Judge Spellacy. She wants to speak to you.” The judge advised me that I was being held in contempt, we’re going to take the word of your city editor. You’re going to tear up that film, open it up there and tear it up in front of the city editor, three witnesses there, which I did. And all Clifford said to me was, “You know what you did.” I said, “Yes.” “Do you understand?” I said, “Yes.” He didn’t say anything. He didn’t chew me out or anything. But then when Tanner came back, about 4 in the afternoon, he read the riot act to Tanner. He called me out to the city desk and he—pretty much to Tanner, not to me, but he had me stand there. —Tony Tomsic

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