Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2010 Issue

A Book Theft Turns Deadly

Humantorch

A 1948 Human Torch was among the comics allegedly stolen from Marciniak.


By Michael Stillman

A book theft that turned deadly may lead to homicide charges depending on the outcome of forensic evidence. The books at issue were actually comic books, but the results were nothing short of tragic.

On July 5, thieves broke into the home of 77-year-old Homer Marciniak of Medina, New York (near Buffalo). Evidence indicated that Marciniak was beaten during the theft of his comic collection. He had been collecting the comics, some dating back to the 1940s, since he was a boy. The collection has been valued at 40,000-$100,000. Marciniak was briefly hospitalized after the attack for cuts and bruises. Several hours later, he suffered a heart attack and died.

It took a couple of months for police to make an arrest, but when they did, they charged Rico Vendetti, 41, a Rochester businessman, and 17-year-old Juan Javier, with burglary. The case, however, is rapidly expanding. Four others are now allegedly involved and some may be cooperating. Meanwhile, Vendetti has been charged under racketeering statutes with operating a crime ring. Allegations are that he has been purchasing stolen merchandise from thieves and shoplifters for years, taking in around $50,000 a month in sales. The primary venue for his sales is said to be eBay. He allegedly has been selling everything from razor blades to Rogaine this way. In the Marciniak case, the FBI believes he recruited the individuals to break into the older man's home to steal his comic collection. The charges claim that Vendetti has put several comic books from Marciniak's collection up for sale online.

While the charges against Vendetti and the others are already serious enough, the FBI is looking at an additional charge - homicide. The time between the robbery and Marciniak's death was approximately 10 hours. However, there are tests that can be made on blood samples to determine whether the heart attack began at the time of the crime. Samples from the crime scene have been submitted to a laboratory to perform the requisite examination. Obviously, there is great suspicion that the timing of the assault and terror Marciniak experienced and his death by heart attack is more than an unfortunate coincidence. The question is whether a clear link can be established forensically. If so, one can expect that Vendetti and his alleged cohorts will find themselves in far deeper trouble. Fatally attacking an elderly man is not the type of behavior likely to elicit sympathy from a jury.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
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    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers:<br>Rare & Collectors’ Sale. May 2, 2018</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, May 2:</b> Extremely Fine Copy of Fantasy Classic. Tolkien (J.R.R.) <i>The Hobbit, or There and Back Again,</i> L. (George Allen & Unwin Ltd. Museum Street) 1937. €20,000 to €30,000
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    <b>Fonsie Mealy, May 2:</b> Excessively Rare – V. Fine Copy. [Mac Mahon]. <i>Jus Primatiale Armacanum, In Omnes Archiepiscopos, Episcopos, et Universum Clerum</i>… [n.p.] 1728. €750 to €1,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy, May 2:</b> Madden (R.R.). <i>Travels in Turkey, Egypt, Nubia and Palestine in 1824, 1825, 1826 and 1827,</i> 2 vols. 1822. €500 to €700
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    <b>Fonsie Mealy, May 2:</b> Early English Herbal. Gerarde (John). The Herball or General History of Plants, thick folio L. (John Norton) 1597. €700 to €1,000
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