When Peter Fabiano opened the door on the night of Halloween to what he thought were late-night trick or treaters, he was in for the shock of his life. With candy bowl in hand, he suggested that it might be a little late for the eager trick or treaters to be knocking on doors, but rather than the ghosts and ghouls he expected, he was instead met by a woman with a gun.
The woman raised her weapon, carefully concealed within a paper bag, and then shot Fabiano in the chest. From upstairs, Betty Fabiano heard the gunshot blast, followed by the thud of her husband collapsing to the floor. She ran down just in time to hear the screech of tires as the getaway car raced from the scene. Peter was rushed to the hospital, but he never recovered.
Mrs. Fabiano later told police that she heard the perpetrator’s voice, one of the few clues investigators had in what would become a three year investigation. She described it as the sound of a man’s voice attempting to disguise his voice as a woman’s.
Initially under the assumption that the murder of Peter Fabiano was some sort of mob hit, investigators dug deep into Fabiano’s past, in any attempt to find out who would want the former salon owner dead. When they failed to turn up any evidence Fabiano had any ties to organized crime or any other known enemies, investigators were left scratching their heads.
Two weeks later they concluded only a single name: Joan Rabel.
For a brief period the Fabianos were experiencing marital problems and decided to separate. Peter stayed in the home, while Betty moved in with Rabel. Her and Rabel became very close, and there was some speculation that the two were more than just friends. Eventually Betty and Peter decided to reconcile and Peter allowed Betty to come back home, but only on one condition; she was never to speak with or mention Rabel ever again.
In November of 1957, Rabel was placed under arrest and interrogated about her whereabouts on Halloween night. Rabel claimed that she was at home all evening, and neighbors were later able to confirm that her car was still parked in the street at the time of Fabiano’s murder, but detectives soon discovered that was only a half truth.
One of the neighbors police questioned on Rabel’s whereabouts on Halloween night told them that Rabel had borrowed her car that night and had seen that she had put about 37 miles on the vehicle. Rabel was put on the spot about this minor detail she had left out of her statement, but Rabel claimed that she was only out grocery shopping and insisted that she had nothing to do with Fabiano’s murder.
With no further evidence to place Rabel at the Fabianos’ doorstep that night, investigators were forced to drop the pending charges. Rabel thought she had gotten away with murder, but eventually investigators would receive a tip that would blow the entire case wide open.
Inside a department store deposit box was a .38 caliber pistol. Testing later determined that the rounds from the gun were an exact match for the bullet removed from Peter Fabiano’s chest on the night of his murder.
Sales records would lead investigators to Goldyne Pizer, an unassuming laboratory technician at the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital.
It didn’t take much to get Pizer to crack under the pressure of Johnny Law breathing down her neck. Before she had even entered into the interrogation room she tearfully confessed to pulling the trigger and agreed to tell police everything she knew.
Pizer told police that after moving from Pennsylvania to California she became ensnared in a whirlwind relationship with none other than Joan Rabel. Rabel spoke often of Betty Fabiano and her evil husband who forbade Rabel from speaking with her dear friend. Before long it was all Pizer and Rabel would talk about.
For hours Rabel would wax on about Peter Fabiano’s mistreatment of his wife and children, his alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade, and all other sorts of treachery. Though Pizer didn’t know Fabiano, the stories relayed to her by Rabel planted the seeds of hatred within her that continued to grow as time went on. By the time Rabel made the suggestion that she should help her get rid of Fabiano for good, Pizer was practically jumping at the opportunity to assist Rabel in her twisted plot.
Rabel believed that she had the perfect plan. Using Pizer as the fall guy, Rabel could get Peter Fabiano out of the picture once and for all, and she and Betty would finally be able to close the wedge he and driven between them.
After purchasing a gun and some ammo from a local shop with money Rabel had given to her, Rabel agreed to drive Pizer to the Fabianos’ home in Los Angeles. Pizer pulled a mask over her head and held the concealed gun inside a paper bag. When Fabiano opened the door she shoved the gun into his chest, fired, and ran for her life towards the borrowed car driven by Rabel.
The two women hightailed it back to Rabel’s neighborhood in order to return the car, leaving behind a khaki jacket Pizer had been wearing during the murder. The women burned the rest of the evidence and then kissed goodbye before Rabel told Pizer to forget that she ever knew her.
Realizing she still had the murder weapon in her possession, Pizer rented a department store security box and tucked the gun safely inside. Neither woman ever thought that eventually their secret would be discovered.
In March of 1958, both women were taken to trial. Pizer pleaded insanity, while Rabel maintained her innocence. In what would become an unpopular decision at the time, both women were granted a plea deal and sentenced to five years to life in prison, rather than face the gas chamber.
Goldyne Pizer was released in 1971, and went on to work as an officer in The Professional Women’s Club until her death at the age of 83. It is unknown what became of Joan Rabel. Some sources claim that she may have died while incarcerated, while others believe she may have lived out the rest of her years under an assumed identity after her release.