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36 stab wounds, two assassins and a commissioned murder: the crime that led to the last death sentence carried out in Argentina

Early on Monday, July 20, 1914, Lauro and Salvatto killed the accountant Frank Carlos Livingston in the lobby of his ground-floor apartment in the Palermo neighborhood.
Early on Monday, July 20, 1914, Lauro and Salvatto killed the accountant Frank Carlos Livingston in the lobby of his ground-floor apartment in the Palermo neighborhood.

On the morning of Saturday, July 22, 1916, Calabrians Francisco Salvatto and Giovanni Lauro were shot in the courtyard of the National Penitentiary, after being found guilty of the death of Frank Carlos Livingston. The case had been baptized by journalism as “The crime of Gallo Street 1680″ and means like Criticism, The reason Y Faces and masks They followed him very closely.

Frank Carlos Livingston was 46 years old. At the time of his death, he was working as a sub-accountant at Banco Hipotecario Nacional, where he had joined as a young man. He had been married for nine years to Carmen Guillot, 28, and they had six children. In the early morning of July 20, 1914, upon entering his home, at Gallo 1680, two individuals surprised him in the entrance hall, and he was murdered with 36 stab wounds.

Although the first indications would lead the police to a robbery, since the dead man was missing his wallet, Commissioner Ruffet was struck by the degree of cruelty for a simple robbery. Also, the victim still had his gold watch.

Carmen Guillot ended up confessing the crime to Judge Irigoyen: "Yes. I had him killed and I'm not sorry"
Carmen Guillot ended up confessing the crime to Judge Irigoyen: “Yes. I had him killed and I am not sorry”

The clue that would lead to a quick solution to the case were the knives that the killers had left at the crime scene: they had a strong fishy smell and one of them had scales attached.. Immediately, the investigators questioned the maid, who had had an affair with the fisherman Salvatore Vitarelli, supplier of the Livingston family. The man was quick to confess that the victim’s wife had proposed paying him to murder her husband, apparently a violent and beating person. Vitarelli hired two Calabrians who were looking for work: Giovanni Bautista Lauro, 24, and Francisco Salvatto, 27.

The criminal judge JR Serú found them guilty and sentenced them to death. And his wife, Carmen Guillot, and the fisherman Vitarelli, to life imprisonment.

That July 22, 1916, the prisoners were taken before the firing squad, made up of eight troops. Lauro, haughtier than the trembling Salvatto. The first had left a stamp of San Gennaro pasted on the cell wall and the second had asked to take a couple of puffs on a cigarette.

On Saturday, July 22, 1916, in the courtyard of the National Penitentiary where Las Heras Park stands today, the death penalty for common crimes was applied for the last time.
On Saturday, July 22, 1916, in the courtyard of the National Penitentiary where Las Heras Park stands today, the death penalty for common crimes was applied for the last time.

Although the death penalty was contemplated in the project of the Penal Code of 1922, finally the Congress did not vote on it. The position prevailed that there is no right to kill a fellow man; that the death of the accused would not repair the harm caused and that, ultimately, the convicted person should live precisely to repair the damage caused.

When General José F. Uriburu overthrew Hipólito Yrigoyen, he instituted martial law. As a result of it, on February 1, 1931, the anarchist Severino Di Giovanni was shot at the National Penitentiary together with his brother-in-law Paulino Scarfó, who had been the authors of several attacks in the city of Buenos Aires. There were also other executions of common criminals, as occurred in the 1st Avellaneda police station with the Gatti brothers, who had been arrested days before when they robbed a store on Miter Avenue. The order had been given by Major José Rosasco, in charge of the local police; in revenge, he would be killed months later while dining in a restaurant in that city.

Frank Carlos Livingston had arrived in Buenos Aires from New York in the mid-19th century. He was 46 years old and was a sub-accountant for the Mortgage Bank.
Frank Carlos Livingston had arrived in Buenos Aires from New York in the mid-19th century. He was 46 years old and was a sub-accountant for the Mortgage Bank.

A history of violence

The death penalty had been abolished in the country by the Assembly of the Year 13. Without taking into consideration political cases, such as the execution of Santiago de Liniers on October 4, 1811, the First Triumvirate issued a proclamation in which Those caught stealing from homes were sentenced to death.

Until 1852 they continued to be shot for political reasons and in other cases to “preserve good customs”as was argued in the execution of Camila O’Gorman and the priest Ladislao Gutiérrez, in 1848. Repealed in August 1852, the Constitution of 1853 abolished it and the province of Buenos Aires did the same in 1868. It would be reinstated in the Code Criminal of 1886.

After the Gallo street crime, capital punishment was rethought again when Abel Ayerza and Santiago Hueyo were kidnapped on October 23, 1932. Ayerza belonged to a traditional Buenos Aires family and Hueyo, who would be released days later, was the son of the Minister of Economy of Justo. After months of negotiations with the kidnappers and misunderstandings, in February 1933 Ayerza’s body was found in a cornfield. Then the Executive Branch sent to Congress a project for the death penalty by electrocution, the method applied in the United States. But lawmakers didn’t deal with it.

The assailants had taken Livingston's wallet, but had left behind his gold watch and pencil, which were much more valuable: investigators quickly ruled out the cell phone for theft.
The assailants had taken Livingston’s wallet, but had left behind his gold watch and pencil, which were much more valuable: investigators quickly ruled out the cell phone for theft.

During the Government of Juan Perón, capital punishment was considered for cases of treason or rebellion, but it was not applied.

In 1970, Juan Carlos Onganía reinstated it, after the kidnapping of General Pedro Aramburu; during the three years of the following democratic government, it was repealed and reapplied during the 1976 dictatorship, although the disappeared were murdered without due process and outside this norm. In 1981, 10-year-old Néstor Evaristo was kidnapped by three men who lived on the street, abused him and murdered him. Although a judge had sentenced them to death, they were eventually sentenced to life in prison.

In 1984, the government of Raúl Alfonsín repealed it and when Argentina signed the Pact of San José in Costa Rica, it no longer has the possibility of establishing it, unless it denounces the Pact.

That Saturday, July 22, 1916, the death penalty was applied for the last time for common crimes.. Three months were missing for the assumption of the first democratic government arising from the Sáenz Peña law. It was in the courtyard of the National Penitentiary, where many of the residents who enjoy Parque Las Heras are surely unaware that history also happened there.

* The original article of this note was published on July 22, 2018.

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