It’s too bad “Cold Case” is off the air, because if ever there was a case made for the CBS crime drama about detectives digging up—literally, in many cases—decades-old homicides in order to find the culprit, it’s this one, involving a 97-year-old porter named Antonio Ciccarello.
Ciccarello was 97 years old when he died in September in New York City. But instead of cause of death being listed as “He was 97 freakin’ years old, for God’s sake!” his demise was ruled a homicide.
From a stabbing wound that he received some 55 years earlier.
As reported in the New York Times, the medical examiner determined that Ciccarello died from complications of a bowel obstruction “due to ventral hernias due to remote exploratory laparotomy for treatment of stab wound of torso,” which, in English means that the operation he received in the hospital to save his life in the 1950s was a factor in the bowel obstruction that killed him in the 2010s. Which made the case a homicide.
New York City detectives, bored out of their minds because only a record-low 332 homicides—less than one a day!—were committed in the city in 2014, immediately opened a murder investigation.
In a New York minute, the city’s most recently declared homicide became one of its “coldest.”
Not surprisingly, the detectives find themselves a little hamstrung due to a dearth of still upright witnesses. As the detective squad’s commanding officer, Lt. Michael Saccone, so obviously put it, “The problem we’re coming up with is there are not too many people who are still alive.”
And as for standard investigating procedures like visiting the scene of the crime… Well, as they say in NYC, “Fuhgeddaboutit.”
Homicides resulting from injuries sustained years and even decades ago are apparently not that uncommon. Eleven other 2014 homicides were attributed to prior incidents, including a man who died from complications from a gunshot wound he sustained in 1989.
And last August when James Brady, Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, who was shot in the head during the 1981 assassination attempt on the President, passed away, his death was classified as a homicide, although the feds declared they wouldn’t file murder charges against John Hinkley, the shooter.
Given the circumstances in the Ciccarello death, a lot of folks are probably wondering, regarding the investigation, “What’s the point?” But since murder has no statute of limitations, if a medical examiner finds that cause of death resulted, at least in part, from an assault, then “homicide” it is, and the police are legally bound to investigate.
Perhaps more to the point though, is how a knife wound can be ruled complicit in the death of a man whose life expectancy at the time of his birth was 48.4 years? One could just as plausibly argue, it seems, that being stabbed in the back somehow doubled his lifespan, either by giving him a renewed appreciation of being alive and increasing his will to live, or to spite his attacker, or because he grew more aware of his surroundings and avoided other dangerous situations. Or maybe the blade incision just turned out to be extremely good, if inadvertent, acupuncture.
I bet right now there are a number of readers out there who, if given the option to live to 97 in exchange for a quick gashing, would say, “Where’s the knife?”
And, let’s face it: if a half-century old knife wound can be implicated in a nonagenarian’s demise, it’s only a matter of time before scientific advances and lawyers team up to point the finger at other decades-old instigators of death.
“Your Honor, we contend that it was the KFC Double Down Dog sandwich, a hot dog smothered in cheese sauce wrapped in a ‘bun’ of fried chicken that Mr. Grossman devoured on the morning of January 9, 2015 that inextricably led to his massive and fatal coronary in 2063. We demand $10 million in damages. And a lifetime supply of potato wedges.”
Personally, I hope they find an eyewitness and arrest a suspect. I can’t wait to see the lineup when they ask the eyewitness to identify the person who stabbed Ciccarrello, and he points to a tottering 90 year old guy and says, “Yeah. That’s him. I recognize him like it was yesterday.”