A businessman’s murder leaves behind several unanswered questions.
Police sketches of the two suspects
For almost 20 years, Stanley Gryziec and his brother, Peter, operated a few local businesses, including a gas station and a bar, in Rome, New York. Stanley and his wife, Esther, lived right next door to the station. According to Stanley’s daughter, Sharon Migliaccio, her parents’ life was happy and secure, until the night of November 6, 1976:
“Dad had just gone upstairs to run mom’s bathwater. Mom went through the house, doing her nightly check. She did a nightly ritual where she would go and check all the windows and doors and make sure everything was locked. My mother was deaf and she wore a hearing aid. With the hearing aid, she could hear very well. And she had just finished in the kitchen, when she heard a loud noise. And as she turned around, the back door just flew open.”
Was Gryziec silenced?
Sharon said her dad raced downstairs when he heard the commotion of two men breaking into their house:
“As he turned to go into the dining room, I think he startled the perpetrator. The shorter stockier man was already at my mother’s throat, and was choking her, and in the process, knocked her hearing aid out of her ear. And she said she just played dead. She just wouldn’t move, she just laid there. She tried to hold her breath so they would think she was dead. While she was lying on the floor, she said, he laid this pearl handled gun next to my face. She says, I could see it. I opened my eye just a little tiny bit and I could see. They spent a good hour in the house just ransacking it, totally. They took all the stuff out of the desk, threw everything on the floor. The pillows they ripped. I mean, they obviously were looking for something but what they were looking for I have no idea.”
The killers were looking for something
Eventually the two men left. No one knew why they broke in or if they got what they came for. According to Sharon, her mother waited until she could no longer feel any movement in the house, then tried to free herself:
“Somehow she managed to get her hands untied from her feet, and her feet untied. Her hands were still tied behind her back, but she did manage to go into the dining room and find my dad laying on the floor, dead.”
From the beginning, a cloud of suspicion loomed over the investigation of Stanley Gryziec’s murder. The night of the killing, police barred the Gryziec family from entering the home. After thoroughly searching the ransacked house, Detective John Keys of the Rome Police Department determined that the only things missing were two bottles of beer from the refrigerator:
“It appeared as if the ransacking was to look for an item, possibly, or a piece of paper that Mr. Gryziec had hidden somewhere.”
The next day, the family was finally permitted to enter the home. Stanley’s son, Martin, found an important clue the police had missed:
“While I was doing that, I happened to notice a shell casing on the rug. I mean, it wasn’t imbedded in the rug or anything, it was lying right out on the rug… We picked it up with a pencil, and put it in a plastic bag, and called up the Rome Police Department. One detective came over, and I showed him where I found it on the floor, and he looked at it,
‘Yeah, that’s a shell casing all right…’ and proceeded to put it in his pocket and said let’s not mention this to anyone for the time being.”
The police insisted Stanley was stabbed
It was a curious request, but the case would soon take an even more disturbing turn. The official autopsy report stated that Stanley Gryziec had been killed by a single stab wound to the heart. Stanley’s son Martin refused to accept the “official” autopsy report:
“Well we knew that was totally false, that my father had been killed by a stab wound. We had found a shell casing, and we’d explained to the police that there was no guns in the house. The only way that shell could have got here was it was fired in this house.”
There was only one way to settle the question. Stanley’s body was exhumed and a second autopsy performed. It revealed that he had been killed by a .25 caliber bullet, fired through his chest. There never had been a stab wound.
It would seem difficult to mistake a bullet wound for one made by a knife. Was the ruling simply an oversight or was it deliberate? And if so, who ordered the cover-up and why? Stanley’s children believe that someone wanted it to look like their father had been stabbed to death. It seemed that these questions would remain forever unanswered… until a witness stepped forward.
In March of 1989, an admitted drug dealer told police that he knew who killed Stanley Gryziec. For obvious reasons, the drug dealer asked to have his name withheld:
“I was tending bar one night and a person approached me and wanted me to pull a burglary. He knew that I owed him money and he offered me to get even. So we drove around for a little bit, and he pulled into an alley over here and he goes, I want you to break into Stan’s house. And I told him, I’m not a burglar. I go you know I’m out here selling coke. I’m just not a burglar. I’m not going to go breaking into anybody’s house. And so, he was quite disturbed with me, he goes, I’ll take you back to the bar.”
The witness claimed he never agreed to the break-in. Based on his information, the case was reactivated with a new team of investigators. The investigators contacted Amy Scott, Stanley’s neighbor. Amy told investigators that shortly after 11:00 PM, she saw a man walking through the alley towards Stanley Gryziec’s home:
“I let my dog stay out maybe a half an hour to forty-five minutes. And then I opened a door, the one on my porch, to call my dog back in. Then I looked up and I saw this guy coming through the same pathway that I noticed before, only this time he was headed toward a white car. He got in the car, and then I noticed there was another man in the car. And he proceeded down the street very fast.”
A few days later, while Amy was at the local bank, she saw the men in the Lincoln again. To Amy it seemed like they were following her:
“I got really nervous, so I started my car up and I speeded down the street. I was really afraid. I just drove like crazy, till I got to a police station, and I jumped out of the car. And I ran up the steps, where I met a policeman, and I told him what was happening. We got in his car, and we drove around a couple of blocks, up and down, but we never saw him again.”
Detectives also learned that the owner of a local bookstore, Patsy Peck, had seen the two men the day before Stanley was killed. Patsy also said they were driving a white Lincoln Continental:
“Well, there was the tall dark man who had on a trench coat, and it had a nylon pile collar. And the other man was shorter, and sandy-haired, and they’d been out of town for a while, hadn’t seen my husband in quite a long while.”
When investigators asked Patsy why she had not come forward with this information before, she told them that she had. Patsy told Detective John Keys that she had spoken to one of the original detectives:
“We do know that the investigators talked to Patsy and Amy but we looked in our files and found there wasn’t anything put down in documentation form as to their interview with Patsy Peck.”
Robert Saunders, another lead nvestigator on the case, learned that another witness claimed to have spotted the same men at the same bar:
“He told us that a couple of men had come into the bar matching the descriptions that were published in the paper. They met with another man in the back of the bar who handed him a large sum of money. And they turned and left. He was kind of curious, so he said, wasn’t that so and so? And the individual who had given them the money says, yes, it was. And he said, why did you give them that large amount of money? And he said they’d done a job for me, and now they have to leave town.”
Authorities began searching for a connection between Stanley Gryziec’s murder and the bar where the informant had worked and the two men had been seen. They discovered that the bar’s liquor license had been held by Peter Gryziec, Stanley’s older brother. Then Stanley’s children related a puzzling incident that had occurred eight months before the murder. Peter Gryziec was gravely ill and Stanley went to visit him. No one knew what was said that day, but the two brothers, who had always been close, never spoke again. Peter died four months later.
The murder of Stanley Gryziec remains unsolved and numerous questions remain unanswered. Why did the intruders ransack the house? Why did the initial investigators fail to report the details of their conversation with the bookstore owner? Finally, what was the connection between the bar, Peter Gryziec and Stanley’s murder? Authorities are hoping that someone can answer these questions.
Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season three with Robert Stack and in season five with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.
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