Haunted Love: The Story of a Deadly Halloween Love Rectangle
Tomorrow is Halloween, the holiday of candy and spooky stories. As I have mentioned while recording Plead The Belly, I was not afraid of things until I started working on this project. Well, add trick-or-treaters to the list of things I’m newly afraid of. While I was doing a Google search for the worst women of Halloween, I found a story characterized as a crime manufactured by a love triangle. I hesitate to call it a love story. It’s more about obsession and coercion. Also… more importantly for the analytically minded… while it could very easily be reduced to the sensation of a lesbian love triangle, it involved four people. It doesn’t add up. Also, aren’t love triangle stories a little square? (Laughs at self).
You: Just tell the story.
On October 31st, 1957, Joan Rabel would finally get to see her elaborate plan to kill Peter Fabiano enacted.
It all started when Peter hired Joan to work at his hair salon in Los Angeles. Joan was a 40-year-old freelance photographer with a background in writing. Or, more like, she had taken some writing classes in college. So, yeah, she needed a job. But, Peter introduced her to more than just a part-time income to supplement her creative pursuits. He also introduced her to his wife, Betty, who would quickly become the object of Joans obsession. Joan soon became good friends with Peter and Betty. The friendship fell apart, however, when the couple began to have marital problems.
Peter Fabiano was a former United States Marine. He was working as a truck driver when he met Betty in the late 1940s. He continued with this profession while they got married and lived in Kingston, New York. In 1956 the couple relocated to Los Angeles and opened two beauty shops. However, Los Angeles didn’t turn out to be the city of dreams they might have hoped for. During their relationship issues, Betty moved in with Joan for a brief time.
Later, in reporting the story, the Los Angeles Times would describe Joan and Betty’s relationship as “abnormal”. Mostly, the news papers avoided the topic all together. It was the closest you might expect a news paper in 1957 to get to reporting a Homosexual relationship, even a murderous one.
Betty and Peter eventually decided to work on their relationship with the condition that Betty would no longer see Joan. Betty moved back in with Peter and Joan rapidly became fixated on removing Peter from the equation.
Enter Goldyne Pizer. Goldyne was born in Illinois to German immigrants. She moved to Los Angeles by 1940 and worked as a secretary. She had been married briefly in 1944. The marriage did not last and they quickly divorced. After her marriage ended, Goldyne was known to date women which was obviously very taboo at the time.
I can imagine Goldyne must have thought she finally found her personal fairy tale love story as she entered into a whirlwind romance with Joan. Although it had been a quick pace for Goldyne, Joan was clearly not over her previous relationship. Joan constantly spoke of Betty Fabiano and of how Peter would mistreat her and her children. Joan told Goldyne stories of Peter’s involvement in narcotics and ultimately convinced her that Peter was a product of evil.
Goldyne had never met Peter or Betty, but felt terrible thinking that someone would be stuck in such a situation and allowed herself to be controlled by Joan’s personal agenda. She followed all of Joan’s instructions. Although Joan gave Goldyne the money, she was the one who purchased a gun (which would later be traced back to her), she was the one who purchased the bullets, and she would be the one to pull the trigger on Halloween 1957.
Here’s how that night played out. Joan borrowed a car from a friend. She left her car in the driveway of her home, so neighbors would corroborate the fake alibi that she was at home during the time of the murder. Joan picked out a costume for Goldyne to wear and the two staked out the Fabiano home. At about 11:00pm the lights were turned out in the house and Goldyne rang the doorbell disguised as a late night trick-or-treater. She concealed the gun in brown paper bag, that was presumably for gathering candy.
Goldyne never removed the gun from the paper bag. When Peter opened the door, she held up the bag, shot him, and ran back to the car where Joan was waiting ready to pilot the getaway. Joan and Goldyne returned the car to Joan’s friend and burned the costume. When it was all over, Joan left Goldyne with the words, “Forget you ever knew me.”
Goldyne was left with the guilt, the grief of being dumped, and the gun (Because, I guess they didn’t plan out how they were going to get rid of the gun? More like Joan didn’t care. It’s clear her plan had always been to use and dump Goldyne). Goldyne, now on her own, stored the gun in a department store lock box.
Joan thought she had executed the perfect plan, but that glory only lasted for a couple of weeks. Investigators didn’t have a hot lead to start with. Peter’s family described the second voice they heard as a man imitating a woman. (Or like… a stereotypical Lesbian?). Anyway, it would turn out the be the gun that helped to reveal the true story. The gun was traced back to Goldyne, and when she was brought in for questioning, she spilled everything. Maybe don’t point all the evidence to the person you’re coercing to commit a murder and then dump them. She’s obviously no longer loyal to you.
Goldyne pleaded insanity and stated to one of the psychiatrists evaluating her case, "I had no motive, personally. Whatever motive I had was to please Joan. I was always easily influenced. I have been impressionable and always trusting." The psychiatrist later wrote "The only thought she had was that she had saved her friend, Joan Rabel, from an evil person."
Joan also pleaded innocent, but both women were sentenced to five years to life in prison after taking a plea deal to reduce their charge from first degree murder to second degree murder. Their case landed in history as the “trick-or-treat murder,” and was frequently cited in as an example of women receiving softer treatment in the courtroom.
Betty lived out her life and died at age 81.
Goldyne was released from prison and worked in the The Professional Women’s Club until she died at age 83.
It is unknown what happened to Joan.
There are some takeaways from this story. First, don’t screw someone over and expect them not to turn on you. You must be a narcissist to think that anyone will continue to care about your personal motivations after you’ve humiliated and left them out to dry. Second, don’t date someone who is obsessed with someone else. More importantly, don’t kill your lover’s obsession. Or, like, don’t kill… at all. (Maybe that should have been number one. I’m probably good since it’s only the 6th commandment.) Third, and this is my personal take away, (this feels obvious to me but I’m not about to blame the victim) DO NOT answer the door on Halloween after you’ve turned out the lights. Ok, I totally would answer the door thinking it’s a neighbor or something. Whatever you do, have a Happy Halloween and don’t get shot!
Trick or Treat murder. (2007, October 31). Retrieved from https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2007/10/they-had-planne.html
MacEachron, S. (2015, November 09). The Bizarre Lesbian Murder Scandal That Rocked 1950s LA. Retrieved from https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/53n88a/the-bizarre-lesbian-murder-scandal-that-rocked-1950s-la
Sutfin, H. (2016, October 25). Trick, Treat or Murder. Retrieved from http://swordandscale.com/trick-treat-or-murder/