Showing posts with label 1931. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1931. Show all posts

18 May 2017

Another King falls


Thirty-eight year old Bill Kirkillis was a former Chicago hoodlum who had moved to Massillon, Ohio, and had become known as the "King of Columbia Heights," a section of that city. On this date back in 1931, Kirkillis was exiting an apartment and heading for his car when a gunman opened fire on him. One of the four shots plowed into his right side and made it to his hear, killing him.

Kirkillis had been recently released from the workhouse where he did a stint for stabbing a man. He had also been picked up on suspicion of killing another. However, police believe that Kirkillis was  bumped off for tipping off Federal Prohibition agents about speakeasies belonging to his rivals.

 


12 May 2017

Sam Hunt Loses a Friend



Harry Hyter was a gangland sort dating back to at least the early 1920s when he was involved with a bootleg gang operating out of Gary, Indiana. His record also consisted of a handful of arrests for robbery. By the early Thirties he was known as a “hanger-on” of the Capone gang and was a pal of ranking Capone gunman, Sam Hunt.

 Harry Hyter

On this date back in 1931, somebody(ies), for some reason, fired  bullets into Hyter’s head and chest. His body was then driven out to an area called “Jaranowski’s woods” and dumped. While searching his body, police found a number of cards listing amounts of gallons so figured that Hyter was still actively engaged in bootlegging.

10 May 2017

There is a First Time for Everything






A little after midnight on this date back in 1931, Luigi Piazza pulled into a gas station near Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Greensburg is a small town in western PA outside of the city of Jeanette. At this time Jeanette, located in Westmoreland County, was home to numerous glass factories and a large portion of it's fifteen thousand inhabitants supplied much of America with it's glass. It was Piazza's job to supply these inhabitants with alcohol.


As Piazza sat in his car listening to the gas pump ding, I like to imagine him thinking to himself, "Gee wiz, there has never been a gangster bumped off with a Tommy gun in all of Westmoreland County. Being a bootlegger here sure beats doing it in Chicago."

Obviously we don't know what Piazza was thinking at the time but while he was thinking whatever it was that he thought, a large touring sedan pulled into the station and parked next to him with the back window curtains closed. After it came to a stop the curtains parted and the muzzle of a Thompson machine-gun, said to be the first ever used in Westmoreland County, came forth. As the station attendant continued to pump petrol into Piazza's car,the gunman pumped a number of rounds into Piazza. 

Mission completed, the sedan pulled away as Piazza slumped to the floor of his car. An ambulance was called and the bootlegger was rushed to the hospital where he died later in the day.

08 May 2017

It's the Big Sleep for the Leader of the Pillow Gang



Carmelo Fresina was a St. Louis gang leader involved in bootlegging and extortion. He was looking at some bootlegging trials and told his wife, prior to leaving their house at 9 p.m. on the night of May 7, 1931, that he was going away for a few days to “fix those liquor cases against me.” Thirteen hours later an Illinois State Highway patrolman found him reposing in the tonneau of his car. 


At some point during the night of May 7 or the early morning of May 8, Fresina was sitting in the front seat of his car when somebody in the rear fired two bullets into his head. In no condition to drive himself to his final resting spot, Fresina was removed to the floor of the back seat and his assassin(s) drove the car to Edwardsville, Illinois and left it on the side of a road.


Carmelo Fresina


A few years previously he and a few cohorts were involved in a bit of underworld chicanery that resulted in shooting. One of the bullets pierced Fresina’s posterior (though painful, he fared better than his confederates who ended up dead) and since that time, it was said, that wherever he went he carried a pillow with him to sit on. As a result, the local police referred to his mob as the Pillow Gang.

PS.
The Pillow Gang, which operated out of St. Louis and was headed by Fresina, should not be confused with the “My Pillow Gang” currently operating out of Minnesota headed by this guy:


Not Carmelo Fresina


02 February 2017

La Smootch Mort IV



On June 7, 1930, a tugboat chugging through a drainage canal outside of Chicago churned up a body that had been weighted down with seventy-five pounds of iron. Inside the dead man’s suit was a photo of pretty girl with the inscription, “Gene, I’ll be loving you always, Maria.” Could Maria have been Mary Collins? According to one writer; yes. As the body sat on the slab waiting for identification, somebody called Tom McLaughlin, the president of the Checker Cab Company, and asked him if his younger brother, Eugene “Red” McLaughlin—the very same gangster who was arrested for the murder of  victim number two, Irv Schlig— was missing. Tom said that Red hadn’t been seen in two weeks. The caller then told him about what the police dragged out of the drainage canal and Tom raced over to the morgue. There he officially identified the corpse as his younger brother. Shown the photo Tom reportedly said, “Yes, that’s Mary all right. I told him she was poison and he would get his, if he went around with that skirt.” Apparently Red laughed off the curse, not realizing he was victim number six.
 
 #6

The seventh and final gangster to succumb to the Kiss of Death girl was Sam Katz, an extortionist who specialized in kidnapping gamblers and holding them for ransom. One day, Katz and Mary were picked up and taken in for questioning. In regards to the Kiss of Death curse, one of the detectives told Mary, “Why don’t you quit this bird. Give him a break—Let him alone.” Both the Kiss of Death girl and Katz laughed it off. Two months later on July 16, 1932, Katz and two accomplices showed up to a gambler's office to shake him down. The trio had already kidnapped his brother once, and they threatened to kidnap him if he didn’t come up with a payoff. The gambler called the police and a trap was set. When the gangsters showed up to collect their loot, the gambler gave them a hundred bucks. They told him to go get more, so he left his office and the police ran in. The gangsters were told to put up their hands but Katz went for his gun and received a fatal blast from a shotgun for doing so. His confederates too, were killed.
Headline for #7

 

01 February 2017

La Smootch Mort III


Th saga of the Kiss of Death Girl continues with victim number four. We are told that he was another North Side bootlegger, named John Phillips, who a Mary Collins chronicler tells us, was at a night club called the Northern Lights with Ms. Collins and a few others. Because of their raucous behavior, the police were called. Phillips and his cronies were quicker on the draw then the cops and the gangsters walked the officers out of the club at gunpoint. Before they could get too far however, reinforcements showed up and Phillips was killed in an ensuing shootout. A newspaper search found one mention to support this claim but an actual news story covering the shooting proved elusive. There was however, a bandit named John Phillips killed in Chicago in a shootout in 1931. Perhaps the journalist got his dates mixed up and took some dramatic license. 

Number five, David Jerus a.k.a “Jew Bates”, was also a pal of Dean O’Banion’s. By 1930 Jerus had relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio, but distance couldn’t protect him from the curse. On December 5 of that year, Jerus and a confederate named Coates, tried to take a guy for a ride in Covington, Kentucky. The intended victim however, had a gun and a will to live. Once in the back he seat he drew his gun and shot both Jerus and Coates, who managed to shoot him back. Jerus lingered for a bit before officially claiming the number five title.

Headline for #5

 

29 December 2016

Behind the Mug: Lucky Luciano's 1931 Arrest... There's more to the story!

Charles 'Lucky' Lucania, 1931.
Charlie Lucky’s name and reputation had certainly garnered the attention of some media entities and law enforcement by spring of 1931, yet to the public and many police departments outside of Manhattan - he was still largely an unfamiliar figure. Lucky's infamy began to grow exponentially following the events that unfolded later in the year.  Our story today addresses an incident that occurred just two months before he kick-started that career-boosting rise in notoriety (we are of course talking about the underworld housecleaning of sorts (which included the murder of Joe 'The Boss' Masseria April 15, 1931 and Salvatore Maranzano on September 10, 1931)

On the evening of February 2, all hell broke loose in Manhattan, or so it has been implied, when two Jersey cops decided to spend their day off in Big Apple, and crossed paths with one Charles Lucania, aka Lucky.

No News is Good News?

To jump forward a bit, the altercation ultimately provided one of the baddest of badass mugshots the world of organized crime had seen to that point, but oddly – very few details of the incident have ever surfaced to accompany the sinister picture. So then, what happened?  If one were to fill in some blanks with their own theories, then perhaps it's safe to say that fate, destiny, and possibly a lot of mouth-running and temper-flaring led to an physical altercation, subsequent arrest, unusual dismissal, and most peculiar - barely a damn thing ever mentioned in the media. Therefore, this little anecdote is rife with theoretical possibilities. Here's the lowdown on facts, hearsay and outlying oddities:

As Luciano's lengthy rap sheet clearly discloses, he was arrested on February 2, 1931 and charged with two first-degree felony assaults. On February 4, he stood before Judge Joseph F. Mulqueen in the Court of Common Sessions, whereby both felony indictments were discharged; case dismissed.Seems fairly cut and dry, but here's where it all gets interesting...


A sinister photograph with an elusive tale lurking behind it.  The 1931 mugshot of Charles 'Lucky' Luciano hadn't been publicly displayed until 1935, when the press began circulating it (in lieu of current photos, which did not exist) following the murder of Arthur 'Dutch Schultz' Flegenheimer in 1935. Luciano and John Torrio were considered 'of interest' to investigators following the murder.


Fight Club...

Lucky's arrest came at the hands of the two aforementioned off-duty New Jersey police officers, but not before some serious ass-kicking took place, and according to one so-called 'in the know' reporter of the time - it wasn't Luciano on the receiving end of said ass-kicking.  Hickman Powell, author of  'Lucky Luciano: The Man Who Organized Crime, shed a little light on the melee, albeit brief and underscored by era-commonplace journalistic over-sensationalism.
 

"Lucky was accused of participating in a vulgar street brawl, beating up two Jersey City policemen who had ventured across the river into Manhattan." - Hickman Powell, from Lucky Luciano: The Man Who Organized Crime

Back of mugshot. Luciano's chosen alias of the day was 'Charles Reed'.

Further adding intrigue to the entire scenario was the controversial judge who dismissed the charges.  Joseph Mulqueen had chalked up a high number of dismissals during his time on the bench, which was certainly an issue raised by his detractors.  That fact, paired with a documented denial of gang existence, makes for all the more conspiratorial fun and conjecture.

Notwithstanding the Judge's record and often-contentious reputation, the case may have been in Luciano's favor simply because the two  out-of-town, off-duty cops may have rather saved some face than explain why they were involved in a fight in the first place. Or perhaps the duo of Officers Phillips and Henshaw did appear in court and Mulqueen heard the explanation, dismissing on principal.  The answer we do not know... yet.  Rest assure, there's one crime historian who's definitely going to dig for the facts, and hopefully divulge a 'part two' to this little underworld mystery.


www.ganglandlegends.com

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