Gas station owner gunned down in Murray in 1933, as tragedy struck McAllister family again

Posted 13 June 2022 at 6:55 am

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

Illuminating Orleans – Vol. 2, No. 21

MURRAY – June 10, 1933. A quiet Saturday night on Route 104 in rural Sandy Creek, in the Town of Murray.

Francis McAllister and his friend John W. Irvine Jr. sat inside McAllister’s gas station, chatting. Shortly after 11 p.m., a car traveling east pulled in and stopped. There were four occupants, two men in front, two girls in the back.

McAllister filled the tank with seven gallons of gas as requested and walked to the driver’s window for payment. Unbeknownst to him, the occupants had already bilked two gas station owners of payment for gas and cigarettes that evening on their joy ride in a car which they had stolen in Niagara Falls. The driver started to drive off as McAllister approached but he jumped on the running board and hung on. A shot rang out and McAllister fell to the road with a bullet in his lung.

John Irvine, seeing his stricken friend, gave pursuit, leaped onto the rear of the departing automobile and hung on precariously.

“McAllister was one of the best friends I had and I wanted to do something to catch the person who had shot him.”

He hoped to be able to signal a passing motorist for assistance. But the occupants of the car became aware of his presence. Three shots were fired through the rear window, the third hit him in the shoulder and he fell off.

Alfred J. Hackett, who was traveling toward Rochester came upon Irvine who told him about his injured friend. They went back to the gas station and brought McAllister to Arnold Gregory Hospital in Albion, where he died shortly after admission.

McAllister was survived by his wife, Helen and six children: John (9), Lorraine (8), Francis (7), Robert (5), Helen (3) and Mary (2). He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Holley.

Just fourteen years previously, on Sunday, June 1, 1919, six members of McAllister’s family had been killed in a horrendous automobile accident. They were returning to their Holley home from their farm on Ridge Road when they were struck by a high-speed B.L. & R. interurban car on the Fancher-Brockville railroad crossing. All of the occupants of the car were killed: McAllister’s parents, John (48) and Jennie (44), siblings: Vincent (15), Mary (13) and Sullivan (8) and his paternal aunt, Letitia Irwin (44).

An inquiry determined that the motorman of the trolley car was not at fault for the accident. Francis McAllister (21) and his brother John (18), who had both been in Buffalo that evening, were the only remaining members of the family.

Following the Sandy Creek shooting, police immediately mounted a determined search for the four occupants of the car. It was soon located in a garage in Niagara Falls. On June 28th Officer John Hagerman arrested the two girls Dolores Jean Klodiziek (18) and Sophie Czernowinski (17) in Niagara Falls. Based on information given by Klodiziek, the two men, Lorne Lally (18) and Angelo Presicci (21), were arrested on June 29th, also in Niagara Falls. The four were brought to Albion on June 30th, accompanied by Lieut. John Dietz and Officer John Hagerman and a police motorcycle escort.

They were arraigned before Willis Brightly, Justice of the Peace for the Town of Murray and were held at the Albion jail under the supervision of Sheriff Sydney Treble. Though court would not resume until early November, District Attorney William Munson chose not to summon a special grand jury or a special term of county court for the case, citing the expense to the county. Much to their dismay, the two girls were also held thorough the summer, as material witnesses. Judge Harcourt had set their bail at $10,000.

Lally, who had previously served time at the Elmira Reformatory for stealing an automobile in Niagara Falls, was charged with first degree murder for the fatal shooting of Francis McAllister. The trial was held before Supreme Court Justice Thomas H. Noonan in Albion on November 1, 1933. Since it was the first first-degree murder in Albion since the Stielow case in 1915, it attracted a large audience. Lally was represented by Milton J. Whedon and Russell Scharping of Medina. William Munson was District Attorney.

When questioned, Lally admitted to carrying the .32 caliber revolver with which McAllister was fatally wounded and Irvine injured but he denied that the shooting was premeditated.

“I shot without thinking much about it and I meant to hit him in the arm, though I couldn’t see him very good.”

When questioned about shooting Irvine, Lally said:

“I didn’t want to be caught in a stolen car and that was why I shot him.”

The jury found in favor of the lesser charge of second-degree murder, which spared him a possible death sentence.

When sentencing on November 4, 1933, Judge Noonan told Lally that he seemed to be a boy who had done little with the opportunities that had been given him. The judge imposed a sentence of not less than 20 years to life for the murder and 10 years additional for the use of the pistol. Lally was taken to Attica Prison.

The trial of Angelo Presicci on the charge of first-degree assault of John Irvine was held in Albion on November 14, 1933, before County Judge Bertram E. Harcourt. Testimony introduced by District Attorney William Munson charged that Presicci slowed the car so that Lally could get a better aim at Irvine. Presicci was represented by DeSilver and Edna Drew of Buffalo. He was found guilty and sentenced to 4 to 8 years at Attica Prison.

Orleans County supervisors had offered a reward of $500 for information leading to the arrests. This was divided between Officer George Hagerman of Niagara Falls who arrested the two girls on June 28th and Lieut. John J. Dietz, also of Niagara Falls who assisted. Dolores Jean Klodiziek was also included in the reward as she provided Hagerman with the information which led to the apprehension of Lally and Presicci.

Following Lally’s sentencing, his mother was heard to question the release of the two girls, saying “Are they going to be turned loose to ruin some other mother’s son?”

Information sourced from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and the Buffalo Evening News, 1933,