HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Answers have been revealed in a Hazleton cold case regarding the murder of nine-year-old Marise Chiverella in 1964.
James Paul Forte was identified through DNA and genealogy tracing. One of the key members of the team that solved the Chiverella mystery is just 20 years old. He’s a college student with a passion for genealogy. And the Chiverella case isn’t his first cold case breakthrough.
At the press conference Thursday morning, 20-year-old Eric Schubert stood alongside Pennsylvania State Police as they announced the 57-year-old cold case was finally solved. He’s a genealogist who helped investigators track down the killer.
“Mr. Schubert sent me an email years ago asking if he could work on our case. For the Pennsylvania State Police that’s a little outside the box. This decision paid off,” Troop N PIO Anthony Petroski said.
Schubert is a junior history student at Elizabethtown College. He’s been a genealogist for half his life, after seeing a commercial for an ancestry website when he was 10. It involves digging through public records, newspaper archives, and public DNA databases.
He started with family trees, which developed into helping people find biological parents. At 18, he started working with criminal cases after a police department contacted him for help.
“It’s all the same in the essence that there’s a question there, there’s a puzzle there,” Schubert said.
After helping solve his first cold case, the pandemic hit and Schubert was sent home from college with a lot of free time. He read about the 1964 unsolved murder of nine-year-old Marise Chiverella in Hazleton, and reached out to PSP.
It was perfect timing. Lieutenant Devin Brutosky with PSP Hazleton says back in 2007, the state police lab developed a suspect DNA profile from the fluids found on Chiverella’s clothes, and entered it in their databases.
“That profile was checked monthly against all other criminals that had DNA in the system,” Brutosky said.
Then in 2018 Parabon Nanolabs sent a DNA sample to a genealogy database called Genmatch and in 2019 they found a distant match, someone that could be perhaps a sixth cousin. That’s where Schubert comes in. He traces that bloodline and it leads him to relatives with closer matches to the sample.
“At the end of the day those matches allowed me to identify the assailant for the state police,” Schubert said.
He says it took two years of research. The distant match was from a family in Weatherly who donated their DNA and using samples from that family, they found a match to an open homicide in 1972, which led them to James Paul Forte.
“You can see sometimes that puzzle come together before your own eyes. Maybe you find something that says ‘oh, this person that you’re looking at lived in the same neighborhood as the victim’ or, ‘you know, they worked down the street from the victim’ or that sort of thing. So finding those circumstantial details, when you’re when you’re working on a case are really interesting,” Schubert said.
Forte’s remains were exhumed in January to obtain a DNA sample. That sample matched the DNA from the fluid on Chiverella’s clothes, the final piece of the puzzle.
Schubert says it took him two years of research. He hopes to continue helping people through genealogy.
He thanks Pennsylvania State Police for working tirelessly on this case for decades. Troopers say Forte likely has more victims and anyone with information should contact PSP Hazleton.