The Belsano Job
Train robbery & murder
on the C&I Railroad

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The following article is reprinted by permission from Pennsylvania Profiles, Volume 4, by Patrick M. Reynolds. The Red Rose Studio, the town of Willow Street, PA 17584. Submitted to the Home Page by George Dilling.


On the morning of October 11, 1924, Joseph Davis and James Garman, both of Ebensburg, were riding the Cambria & Indiana Railroad from Rexis near Vintondale to Colver. They were guarding a small safe containing a payroll of $33,054.64 for the Ebensburg Coal Company's coal mine workers.

At 9:10, just as the train was about to cross the concrete bridge outside Belsano, the engineer, Warren Mentch, spotted a passenger wanting to board so he stopped the train. Just as the train slowed down, two passengers in the coach who had boarded in Rexis drew guns and shot Garman dead. Davis was disarmed and forced to give up the safe.

At the same time, four men rushed out of the bushes alongside the tracks and “covered” Mentch. This gave the bandits in the coach enough time to drag the safe to a getaway car parked near the tracks. The crime was not reported until the train arrived in Colver, and immediately the State Police went into action setting up roadblocks and forming search parties to secure the area for the killers and the loot. The State Police also sent circulars describing the crime to police departments in other states.

Within two weeks, two men, Michelo Bassi and Anthony Pezzi, were apprehended in Terre Haute, Indiana. Each had a gun and $3000 in cash and lousy alibis. They were returned to Pennsylvania to stand trial. Bassi and Pezzi were convicted of first degree murder. On February 23, 1925, they became the 141st and 142nd persons to die in the state's electric chair.

EPILOG: Not all the money—nor the safe—were ever found. Rumor has it that they may still be buried near the site of the robbery.

Postscript by George Dilling: Warren Mentch, the engineer, was the Father of Nelson Mentch and father-in law of Frances Mentch. Nelson also worked in the engine of C&I trains, I believe as engineer also. His wife was the home ecnomics teacher for many years in the Nanty Glo-Vintondale High School. Both were very active in the PTA. Mrs. Mentch still remains a very good friend of our family.

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