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GRILLO, Tony, & Wife

    Cambria Freeman, 13 Feb 1903, Contributed by Patty Millich


A dastardly attempt to hide robbery and murder resulted in the wrecking by dynamite of an Italian boarding house at Portage early Monday morning. Two persons are dead, two are injured and a score of others had miraculous escapes from death when the explosion let go. The concussion broke the windows in all the buildings for nearly a square and did some other damage.

The dead are Tony Grillo, aged 44 years, and Mrs. Tony Grillo, aged 40 years. The injured are Ralph Tellilido, a shoemaker, thumb pierced by a splinter; Joe Deslavo, injured about the shoulder.

The scene of the affair was the boarding house of Tony Grillo and his wife on Railroad street, not far from the old Pennsylvania railroad station, in a store building owned by the Doran brothers of Wilmore. In this building, which is a large frame structure, two stories high, they kept a score of boarders, the latter for the most part sleeping in the store room and the room back of it, which had been fitted up with cots.

Grillo, his wife and three daughters - Lucy, aged 9; Mary. Aged 7 and Rosie, aged 5 - occupied the ground floor adjoining the store room part of the building. Immediately over this room was another in which Tellilido and Charlie Grillo, aged 13 slept. Michael Grillo, the oldest of the five children, slept with some of the boarders in the other part of the house.

When the frightened people of Portage reached the scene they found the Grillo building badly wrecked, the walls bulging and parts of the joists and timbers lying out in the street. They also found that some of the inmates of the house were in the cellar, under piles of debris. The boarders in their night clothes, rushed out of their sleeping quarters in affright.

Patrolman Henry Plummer took charge of affairs. Under his direction a search of the ruins began, groans being heard from the cellar. The first and second floors had been torn loose, the plaster, lath and flooring lying in a pile in the cellar and under this heavy mass came cries for help. Willing hands soon pulled the stuff away and the body of Mrs. Grillo, clad in her night clothes and with a cut on her neck was found. She was dead and as soon as this fact was established, she was laid to one side and the work of rescuing the living went on.

Soon the workers found little Rosie and strange to say, she was not injured, as far as they could se. Shortly afterward more workmen brought to the outer air, Mary and Lucy Grillo, neither of whom seemed to be hurt, except for a few scratches. They were in their nightgowns and were covered with the dust from plaster. When taken out they were carried into the Union Hotel near by and given attention.

Satisfying themselves that no more were alive under the mass the searchers soon had Mrs. Grillo's body and that of her husband lying side by side. The latter had a gash on the head but whether the wounds were received through the explosion and subsequent fall into the cellar and the awful mass of debris no one knew. Many were of the opinion that murder had been done and the explosion was to hide the crime.

The house is a wreck. The first and second floors in the part where Grillo and his wife lived were torn loose and hurled upward, then falling into the cellar, the debris of the second floor falling on top of the occupants of the first floor and covering them up. The roof of the house was left on and the walls were standing somewhat bulged. Quite a lot of stuff was thrown into the streets by the force of the explosion.

Of the men injured Deslavo was hurt by the explosion forcing a partition with great force against the cot upon which he was sleeping, but his injuries are not serious. Tellilido and young Charles Grillo were thrown from their beds in the second story against the ceiling of the room and the marks where their bodies dented the plastering can be plainly seen.

The boarders are all Italians employed about the railroad at Portage. They had no occasion to use dynamite and none of the explosive was known to be in the house, yet persons familiar with its use say that at least twenty-five pounds must have been put off under the room where Grillo and his three little girls slept. It was stated that Grillo had between $600 and $700 and his wife $200 more in the house, but none of the money has yet been found and the theory is that it was stolen by some one who killed the couple and then exploded the dynamite to cover the crime and who did not scruple to place in jeopardy the lives of nearly a score and a half of people, including five children.

Dr. Miller's examination of Grillo's body showed him that his head was crushed in as if by some heavy instrument and his ribs were all caved in. Mrs. Grillo, according to Dr. Miller, was suffocated, as the injuries she sustained would not be sufficient to cause death.

Grillo had been a resident of Portage for twelve years. He conducted a fruit store in a room in the Exchange Hotel building, where he did a thriving business. He and his wife were hard working people and were well thought of in Portage.

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