Charge Woman Induced Girl to Steal Keys From Teachers So She Could Rob Homes


DEDHAM, Feb 10 In a courtroom packed with Norwood citizens, Mrs. Julia Portella, 25, mother of a 14-months-old child, today was branded by police as a “female Fagin.” and found guilty by Judge E. Dwight Fullerton on charges of breaking and entering and larceny, after getting a young schoolgirl to steal from her teachers the keys to their apartments.

It was revealed in court that the woman’s husband, John Portella, 1126 Washington st, Norwood, was arrested Feb 6. charged with a burglary at a Westwood home and the larceny of $300 worth of silverware; that he escaped from his cell in Norwood Police Station through a ventilator shaft- and has not yet been recaptured. Mrs. Portella was sentenced to one year in the House of Correction for the looting of the schoolteachers’ apartments. She appealed and was held in $2000 bonds for the Grand Jury. Her attorney, Benjamin J. Sykes, asked the court for mercy for her since she had the small baby to look out for, and her husband was missing.

Chief William H. Sullivan of Norwood, who prosecuted the case, told the court that the investigation of Sergts. Nicholas Curran and Thomas Lydon had revealed that the woman had influenced a 15-year-old Norwood schoolgirl to steal the keys from the teachers and slip them to Mrs. Portella, who used them to gain access to the teachers’ apartments in the Talbot Block during the hours that the teachers were in school.

Miss Gretchen Hamilton and Miss Abbie Smith both testified in court that they missed their keys and later discovered their, apartments had been ransacked and that jewelry and clothing valued at $70 had been stolen. Police recovered the articles for the teachers.

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The 15-year-old girl, whose name was withheld on account of her youth, was found guilty and sentenced to Lancaster Industrial School for Girls.

On two additional counts against Mrs. Portella, the court did not find probable cause to hold her for the Grand Jury and they were dismissed.

“That’s my dress Mrs. Portella’s wearing now:” exclaimed one woman as the prisoner was brought into the dock.

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