A Twist of the Knife

The paragraph you’re about to read — as in, the one that follows this one — is almost entirely true. There’s one word which isn’t quite right. But don’t worry! I’ll let you know which word is wrong afterward. Ready? Great. Let’s go.

In September of 2013, a New York City man named Antonio Ciccarello died as a result of a stab wound. About five days prior to his death, Ciccarello was commuting to work as he normally did, traveling from Manhattan’s Lower East Side to Times Square. But this trip was different. In what was probably an attempted mugging, someone came up behind Ciccarello and stabbed him in the torso. Ciccarello was able to flee the attacker — he never saw his assailant — and writhing in pain and bleeding noticeably, made his way to the hospital. Doctors were able to repair the wound and, at least temporarily, save Ciccarello’s life. But in doing so, the medics created a new problem. The surgery resulted in a bowel obstruction, the complications of which ultimately resulted in Ciccarello’s death. The death was ruled a homicide, and his assailant is a murderer.

That’s the story — and, again, it’s all true, except for one word. Before we get there, though, let’s note that to most people, it’s clear that this crime should be considered murder, despite the fact that Ciccarello lived for days after the attack. If it hadn’t been for the assault, Ciccarello would still be alive. It’s tragic but not really much different than a lot of other assaults which turn into murders.

But does that change when we learn the truth? The incorrect word, above, is “days.” Ciccarello wasn’t stabbed five days prior to his death. He was stabbed five decades before he died.

Everything else, though, is correct. Ciccarello made it to the hospital and the doctors were able to surgically repair the stab wound and, temporarily, ward off death. And, as the New York Times reported, “the operation Mr. Ciccarello received to save his life [. . . ] eventually led to a fatal obstruction.” And, as the paragraph above begins, it is entirely true that in September of 2013, a New York City man named Antonio Ciccarello died as a result of a stab wound. The only difference is that the stabbing and, for that matter, that life-saving operation occurred in either 1958 or 1959, and not in 2013. Ciccarello lived to be 97 years old, and according to his daughter (via the Times) “was healthy till the end.”

Nevertheless, the New York Police Department considers the case a homicide — there are no exceptions made for crimes which involve a victim who didn’t die quickly — although most assume that the crime will go unsolved. Setting aside the fact that Ciccarello never identified his assailant, there’s a very good chance that Ciccarello outlived his murderer.

Bonus FactAccording to the FBI, about one-third of all homicides reported in the US (in 2012, at least) end up without an arrest made. That’s actually significantly lower than for most other crimes — as a whole, more than half of all violent crimes end up with no one arrested.

Take the Quiz!Name the characters killed by Shakespeare. In his plays, of course, not in real life.

From the ArchivesLunch and a Murder: The society for people who like to solve unsolved crimes.