Connecticut legislators on Wednesday moved closer to making amends with a Hartford woman who helped in the identification, arrest and conviction of a man nearly 70 years ago, when she was a teenager who had been assaulted by him.
The House of Representatives voted unanimously in favor of a bill that finally issues a $3,000 reward that had been denied to the woman, who is now in her 80s and known by the pseudonym Patricia “Pidgie” D’Allessio. It’s a name used to protect her anonymity in a book describing the crimes in the southwestern section of the city in 1953.
“It’s hard to believe that we sometimes have the ability to redress injustices of the past, but this is a case where we have an opportunity to grant a small measure of justice to an individual,” said Rep. Edwin Vargas, D-Hartford.
As a teen, the woman was grabbed from behind while walking along a Hartford street, forced into a backyard and sexually assaulted on a rainy night in 1953, according to the Hartford Courant. Vargas said the woman and her parents reported the assault to the Hartford Police Department but it was not taken seriously, even though there was evidence the man tried to strangle her with a scarf.
“Despite the red markings on her neck, the police discounted it as perhaps some boyfriend’s hickies,” Vargas said. “She was not taken seriously. The police moved on.”
Weeks later, an 11-year-old girl named Irene Fiederowicz was raped and strangled to death about a mile away, leading police to believe there was a serial rapist in the community. They returned to the teen known as “Pidgie” for help and she ultimately identified the man, Robert Nelson Malm, from a police lineup and testified against him in court.
“There was a $3,000 reward that had been posted by Governor (John Davis) Lodge at that time. Unfortunately, she was told that she had done her civic duty and that should be enough of a reward,” Vargas said. “Back then, $3,000 could have made the difference for Pidgie to have gone to college and have received a college education.”
Despite the suggestion from some lawmakers on Wednesday to provide the woman with interest on that reward money, Vargas said it’s the symbolic gesture that her family wanted.