Updated: Apr 29, 2021
Please note that this, and all episodes of Thrice Cursed have been adapted from their original spoken form to text by myself, and some additional ad-libbed content may have been omitted. All content within is the sole property of Thrice Cursed Podcast. Please don't plagiarise. Plagiarism sucks.
Hello, I’m Rebekkah Rosewood. And this is Thrice Cursed.
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In Sun Valley, California on Oct 31st 1957, Peter and Betty Fabiano awoke to the sound of the doorbell. It was just after eleven, and they hadn’t been expecting any late night visitors. Peter pulled himself out of bed, and headed downstairs. Opening the door, he questioned “It’s a little late for this, isn’t it,” thinking it had to have been some late night trick or treaters. It was Halloween, after all.
The person standing at the door, however, wasn’t a child. “No,” they replied, their hands raised, holding something within a brown paper bag. Far too quickly for Peter to respond, a gunshot rang out, and Peter was lying on the floor. The perpetrator ran, jumping into the passenger seat of a getaway car, which sped off almost immediately. Betty found her husband with a bullet lodged just beneath his heart. Betty’s 15-yr-old daughter from a prior marriage, Judy Solomon, ran 2 doors down to a neighbor’s home. This neighbor was Bud Alper. Alper was a member of the LAPD. It was late, so he, too, had been sleeping, and it was a while before he came to the door. Once he knew what was happening, Alper called his department, and several officers arrived within minutes. Peter was rushed to Sun Valley Receiving Hospital, where he succumbed to his injury. He died of massive blood loss, having never regained consciousness.
A few days later, when Betty was finally able to gather herself to speak to police, she told them she had heard 2 voices that evening. One had been masculine, and the other sounded oddly like a man impersonating a woman. One 15-yr-old boy reported witnessing a car leaving the neighborhood in a hurry around the time of the shooting.
The investigating officers kept these things in mind as they dug into Peter’s personal life and background. At the same time, the Independent released an article on the murder, drawing comparisons to gang assassinations. Having seen the article, police turned their attention in that direction. It didn’t seem to make a ton of sense, however, as Peter had only a misdemeanor charge of working as a bookie in 1948. Aside from that, his criminal record was clean. How could he have been the victim of a gang assassination, when nothing else in his past showed any indication of criminal involvement?
When faced with these claims, Betty was adamant, there was only one person who would wish harm upon her husband. That person was none other than family friend, Joan Rabel. She was picked up and questioned by police, but they weren’t able to get a confession from her, and there was no evidence to tie her to the case. Because of this, she was released. The investigation seemed to be at a standstill.
That is, until two weeks later, when the murder weapon was found in a Bullock’s department store locker.-- I guess back in the 50s department stores had lockers you could rent. Was it because people were shopping so often that they needed a locker for their items? Or like, they’d spend so long there? Like Disneyland? I don’t know. I don’t know a lot of things. If you know, email me? I’m super curious.
Regardless of my lack of knowledge… The murder weapon was found in a department store locker that had been registered to a lab assistant at the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. That lab assistant was 42-year-old Goldyne Pizer.
Pizer was arrested by police on November 12th, 1957. She had confessed to the murder, claiming that Joan Rabel had convinced her to shoot Peter. “She told me that Mr. Fabiano was a vile, evil man-- a man who destroyed everything around him,” Pizer said. “She told me that he mistreated his wife, and that he was dealing narcotics.”
She also told police that the gun had been purchased using Rabel’s money, which had been given to her. They had also driven by Peter’s home weeks before the murder so that Pizer would recognize him when the time came.
While Pizer was an open book, Rabel remained silent.
So who was Joan Rabel? And why? Why did Rabel weave such a wild tale to coerce someone into committing a murder? What could have possibly been so bad that she would convince someone else to murder him, yet not bad enough that she do it herself?
The majority of Rabel’s past is a bit of a mystery. Seems she did a better job of hiding that than her crime. Some online articles say that Rabel was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; however, a newspaper printed around the time of the crime reported that she emigrated to the US from Lithuania. In adulthood, she pursued a career as a freelance photographer, as well as a writer --which makes sense given her propensity for telling tall tales, and would often travel to Honolulu Hawaii to take courses at the college there. Which… Goals. By her 30s, Rabel was divorced, and likely searching for new roots.
It was around this time, in the late 40s, that Peter hired Joan Rabel to work as a receptionist in one of his salons. It was also around this time that Peter and Betty married. Working with Peter, Rabel became very close to him, and in turn, Betty as well. So close in fact, that when Peter’s marriage to Betty hit a rough patch, Betty moved in with Rabel. Rabel claimed that Betty told her of a dark side to her marriage, a dark side to Peter, even. He was abusive, and controlling. Supposedly, it was this dark side that made her obsess about whisking Betty away to a better life.
Little could be found on the relationship between the two women. One news article printed in 1957 in “The Los Angeles Times” described their relationship as “abnormal.” Which, according to vice.com, is as close to mentioning a lesbian relationship as a newspaper would get in 1957. The closeness of their relationship caused Peter to feel insecure, and uncomfortable. Which is why, when he and Betty reconciled, it was under the condition that Betty have no contact with Rabel going forward. An agreement she upheld. --While I don’t know that I believe he was abusive, this does seem to point to a controlling nature.
After Betty, Rabel appeared to have moved on. In 1957, She met Goldyne Pizer. Goldyne was a 42-year old divorcee, and the two women quickly developed what Goldyne described as a “Coffee klatch” friendship. Stemming from the German word “kaffeeklatsch,” this directly translates to coffee and gossip. It’s often used to refer to a group of friends getting together over a cup of coffee, typically at one of the friend’s homes.
During these coffee dates, the topic of conversation often turned to the Fabianos. It was long months of Rabel going on and on about what a toxic, horrible man Peter was, and how Rabel wished desperately she could do anything to save her dear friend Betty from him. And, like the Mahna Mahna song from The Muppet Show, her words worked their way into Pizer’s mind, creating a home there, and popping up when she least expected, or wanted it there.
As time went on, Rabel’s words went from wistful, to persuasive. 3 months was all it took for Joan Rabel to convince her newfound partner in crime to commit murder. She was, for all intents and purposes, Rabel had made Pizer her unpaid hitwoman.
From there, you know what happened. The two staked out Peter's home so Pizer could put a face to the name and supposed evil. Then, on Halloween night, Rabel drove Pizer to his home one final time, leaving Pizer to exit the vehicle, mask on, and murder Peter Fabiano.
Upon returning to the vehicle, some reports state that Rabel kissed Pizer, whispering a soft, “Thank you,” before speeding away from the scene of the crime. She was then dropped off at home, and told to “Forget you ever knew me.”
When Pizer was apprehended by police, she was honestly relieved, and happy to tell police everything.
During a psychiatric evaluation, Pizer said “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.” After hearing this account, the psychiatrist wrote, “The only thought she had was that she had saved her friend, Joan Rabel, from an evil person.
When it came time for the trial, both women pleaded not guilty, Pizer, by reason of insanity, claiming that Joan had managed to cast some sort of spell over her, and that Pizer had been unable to resist. And while on trial, Pizer showed genuine remorse for her actions. Rabel, on the other hand, remained stone-faced, and occasionally even smiled.
Both were sentenced to 5 years to life in prison, but no sources could tell me how much time was served by either.
Eventually, Pizer was released from prison, and by 1971, just 14 years later, was an officer of the Miracle Mile chapter of the Professional Women’s Club. She died in Los Angeles County in 1998 at the age of 83.
As for Betty, after Peter’s death, she sold the beauty salon and appears to have remarried in 1966. She lived a relatively long life, passing away at the age of 81 in Palm Desert, California.
Any abuse claims against Peter Fabiano were never substantiated, and no further look was ever taken into Joan and Betty’s friendship.
Rabel’s life after prison is far more elusive. No one is entirely sure when she was released from prison, IF she was ever released from prison, or where she died. She seemed to have disappeared into thin air, likely adding to the case’s Halloween notoriety.
This has been the cursed tale of Joan Rabel, Goldyne Pizer, and Peter Fabiano. A tale of friends, lovers, and triangles. I’m telling you. Triangles. 3. Curses come in 3s. This stuff writes itself.
For more cursed content, follow me on social media at ThriceCursedPod, or join Thrice Cursed Fan Group on facebook. You can also get access to more content on Thrice Cursed patreon at patreon.com/thricecursedpod. And, if the fates move you, you can send me mail! It can be addressed to Rebekkah Rosewood, or Thrice Cursed, at 520 N. Ventu Park Rd. Newbury Park, CA 91320.
Until next time, keep your curses hexy, and your hexes sexy.
Sources: Vice.com, Thevintagewomanmagazine.com, medium.com,derangedlacrimes.com, pleadthebelly.com, latimesblogs.latimes.com, nydailynews.com