Showing posts with label Bootleggers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bootleggers. 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


18 February 2017

92 years ago: Explosion in Pittsburgh

On this date in 1925: A massive explosion destroyed two buildings and severely damaged several others in the Produce District of Pittsburgh.

The 5 a.m. blast seemed to originate inside the office safe of the Landolina Bros. & Co. wholesale produce firm at 2028 Penn Avenue. The safe itself was obliterated, turned into shrapnel by the detonation within. Investigators wondered if the bomb was placed by a "Black Hand" extortion gang or personal enemies of the East End-based Landolina family.



Fires broke out following the explosion, and it took firefighters until 10 a.m. to get the blazes under control. Though an estimated $110,000 worth of damage was caused, authorities said no one was killed or injured.

In addition to the Landolina building, an adjacent building at 2026 Penn Avenue, owned by produce merchant William J. Joyce, was destroyed. Another Joyce-owned building at 2024 Penn was thrown sideways by the force of the blast and was described in the press as sagging "crazily over the wrecked street." Two bank buildings - the William Penn Trust Co. at Penn Avenue and 21st Street and the Franklin Savings and Trust Co. across the street - were damaged. Warehouses in the district were forced to dispose of large quantities of produce, as shards of shattered window-glass became embedded in the foodstuffs.


Police immediately arrested Angelo Valeti of 2028 Spring Way in Pittsburgh, a partner in the Landolina firm. A witness saw him in the area just before the explosion. Authorities were searching for other roomers at the same Spring Way address who disappeared after the explosion. According to reports, Valeti and others had been arrested and fined just weeks earlier for their roles in a suspicious fire.

At the time of the explosion, no one suspected that it was triggered by an underworld rivalry. By the fall of 1928, however, the Landolina family - originally from the Trabia-Caccamo-Termini Imerese area of Sicily and related to western Pennsylvania Mafia chieftain Salvatore Calderone - was known to be embroiled in a regional bootlegging feud.

In July of that year, 75-year-old Nicaso Landolina was shot to death at his home, 203 Mayflower Street, while he was watering flowers in his front yard. Police noted that Nicaso was carrying a revolver in his pocket as he tended to the garden. An investigation showed that the Landolinas had received a number of threatening letters from Italian gangsters. Two months later, Nicaso's nephew, Anthony, was shot to death in front of 1619 Penn Avenue. Rumors suggested that Anthony had learned the identities of the men and had sworn to kill them. They got him first.

29 January 2017

La Smootch Mort II

In the previous installment we were introduced to Chicago's Kiss of Death Girl-Mary Collins and John Sheehy her first paramour to bite the dust.The distinction of being the second hoodlum to fall as a result of Mary Collins’s curse goes to North Side gang leader and pal of victim number one, Dean O’Banion, who was put on the spot the following November 10.  It was said that Collins and O’Banion were one time paramours. It was also suggested hat they may simply just been friends, so the reader can decide for themselves.

#2


Victim number three was the young—he never saw his twenty-second birthday—Mister Irving Schlig. Starting off with two cars, Schlig became a successful bootlegger. His gang’s modus operandi was to sell alcohol to crooked pharmacists and then come back the following night and steal it, and then sell it back to them.

Irving was also a progressive gangster attempting to take advantage of modern technology. He bought an airplane and paid a pilot to teach him to fly. After a mere two hours of flight training, Schlig flew to Canada for a cargo of booze. Unfortunately for the neophyte pilot, engine trouble on the return trip forced him down in a Kalamazoo, Michigan, cornfield. He destroyed his cargo lest he be caught with the goods. A month later he bought another plane and on August 27, 1925, he and an associate named Harry Berman took off for the airfield for another trip to Canada. The following morning they were found dead on the roadside near the airfield. Both had been shot through the back of the neck.

 #3

By the time of Schlig's murder, Mary’s ghastly reputation was already spreading through gangland. One of those picked up for the murder was gangster Eugene “Red” McLaughlin, who, when told that Mary was going to testify against him, stated, “If you drag that broad in you’ll never hang me. All her friends get the bump before they get the rope.” Red was eventually released for lack of evidence.

Coming up- Nos. 4 & 5...

28 January 2017

La Smootch Mort



Ah, the Prohibition Era; a time when a guy with a fast car, a dream, and a machine-gun, could make oodles of kale supplying an insatiable citizenry with their much desired clown juice. For a bootlegger, one of the grand things about having the grands in your pocket was being able to blow some of it on a jane before getting yourself dead.

For the gangsters of old, romance and death went together like gin and tonic, a situation that produced one of the semi-legendary figures to come out of this alcohol fueled epoch: The “Kiss of Death Girl”, so called because a large number of her paramours ended up on the slab. Lots of women lost their men to the gun but a “Kiss of Death Girl,” had more than the average bear. New York City had one and so did Chicago. We shall examine the Windy City’s hexed vixen first.

Her name was Mary Collins and she was a North Sider who became acquainted with the gangsters of her bailiwick in the early days of the Dry Era. The first of Mary’s fellas to end up with a toe tag was a friend and fellow gun man of North Side gang leader Dean O’Banion named John Sheehy.

Kiss of Death Girl a.k.a. Mary Collins

The end of Sheehy came in a speakeasy known as the Rendezvous on the evening of December 7, 1923. As the story goes, Sheehy simply asked for a bucket of ice and was told no by the waiter. Gangsters don’t like to hear no; so Sheehy went to the bar to fetch it himself, but again was told no. One writer put it that it was Mary, whose birthday they were celebrating, that wanted the ice so she could throw the cubes at the band’s drummer and this is why Sheehy’s request was denied.

Sheehy didn’t appreciate the inhospitable nature of both the waiter and club’s steward so pulled out his roscoe and killed them both. Before Sheehy and Mary had a chance to vacate the premises however, police arrived and Sheehy managed to wing one of them before catching a bullet himself and expiring the next day.

Headline for Sheehy shooting

In our next installment we'll meet victims #2 and #3 of the Kiss of Death Girl.