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  • Writer's pictureThe True Crime Edition

The Trick-or-Treat Murder of Peter Fabiano

Goldyne Pizer would have done anything for Joan Rabel, even murder.

Photo by Dan Smedley on Unsplash

On Halloween night, 1957, Los Angeles hairstylist Peter Fabiano walked down the stairs of his Valley home to greet a belated trick-or-treater. It was late, around 11 pm, and Peter had already got into bed with his wife, Betty. It was too late for children to be knocking.

Nevertheless, the 35-year-old grabbed the bowl of remaining sweet treats and answered the door. A second later, Betty heard a deep voice and a loud pop that woke up her daughter, Judy.

Betty and Peter Fabiano via

At the front door, she found her husband bleeding out in a pool of his blood. Judy ran to her police officer neighbour’s home, who called in the Valley police department. Peter was taken to Sun Valley hospital, where he was pronounced dead from the gunshot to his chest.

The only witness to the shooting was a teenager who saw a car speeding away from the neighbourhood. There were no gun shells left at the scene, and nothing had been taken from the house, despite the family owning two successful hair and beauty shops.

Peter’s shooting had the characteristics of a gang hit, but the only record the hairstylist had was for a charge of bookmaking in 1948. He had no connection to any crime syndicate, and that lead was quickly terminated.

Peter and Betty met in the 1940s when Betty was already divorced from her first husband and was a single mother of two. The pair began their marriage in New York and had moved to Los Angeles the year before Peter’s death.

When Betty told the police her account of Halloween night, she explained that she thought there were two people at the front door; two men with one pretending to be a woman. When asked if Peter had any enemies, she gave them one name; Joan Rabel.

Joan Rabel was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1917, and had a lucrative career as a writer and photographer, sailing around the Americas. In 1957, she arrived at Peter Fabiano’s salon looking for work after her divorce. Joan and Betty became firm friends, and she was welcomed into the Fabiano family. When Peter and Betty began having problems in their marriage, Betty moved in with Joan.

Peter became threatened by the closeness of the two women, and the Los Angeles Times described the pair’s relationship as ‘abnormal’, which in the 1950s was code for homosexual.

Betty eventually decided that her marriage to Peter was worth saving, and she told Peter about the affair she’d been having with Joan. The couple reconciled, and Betty agreed not to see Joan again.

The same year in 1957, Joan met Goldyne Pizer, a medical secretary. The pair became fast friends and spent their free time together, drinking coffee and gossiping. It’s reported that Goldyne was also gay, had spent her life suppressing her feelings and had married Herbert Krome, a naval pharmacist, who she had recently divorced.

It was during these coffee mornings with her new friend that Joan spoke to her about “evil” Peter Fabiano, her employer. Joan was heartbroken and angry that Betty went back to her husband, and she wanted revenge on the man. Joan began to seduce Goldyne as she had Betty and eventually convinced Goldyne to kill Peter for her.

“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.”

Goldyne bought a .38 Smith and Wesson from a shop in Pasadena under the guise of wanting the weapon for personal protection. She then waited outside the Fabiano’s home on Halloween night in a car Joan borrowed from a friend. They waited until all the lights in the house went out, then Goldyne approached the home in a superhero eye mask and committed the murder.

Goldyne disposed of the gun in a storage locker in a Los Angeles branch of Bullock department store. An anonymous tip led detectives to the weapon, and in turn to Goldyne Pizer’s door two weeks later.

She was arrested in her Hollywood home, where she told the police, “it’s a relief to get it off my mind”. Joan was eventually arrested, and the two women went through several examinations with psychiatrists, as the court believed that homosexuality may have made them unfit to stand trial.

One of the psychiatrists wrote about Goldyne Pizer, “The only thought she had was that she had saved her friend, Joan Rabel, from an evil person.”

Both women pleaded not guilty but eventually changed their plea. Pizer pleaded insanity and claimed she was just easily influenced. Joan refused to comment throughout the hearing and was reported to be stony-faced and wore a constant, strange smile during the trial.

They were both eventually charged with second-degree murder and were sentenced to five years to life in prison.

Goldyne Pizer and Joan Rabel via

Goldyne Pizer was released and stayed in Los Angeles. She died in 1998 when she was 83. There’s little information about Joan Rabel, but it is assumed that she was released from prison around the same time as Goldyne.

Betty Fabiano sold the beauty businesses. She died in 1999 in Palm Desert, California. It is unknown if she had a hand in her husband’s death.


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