|New York Evening World, April 14, 1903.|
On this date in 1903 - Agents of the United States Secret Service were called upon to help New York City police identify a corpse found in a barrel on Manhattan's East Eleventh Street near Avenue D.
Frances Connors was on her way to work at 5:30 in the morning, when she spotted a garment sticking out of a sugar barrel between piles of lumber on the sidewalk in front of the New York Mallet and Handle Company (743 East Eleventh Street). She thought she could make use of the fabric and went to take it from the barrel. As she removed it, she uncovered the dead man inside. The corpse had been folded and crammed into the barrel. The body showed a number of stab wounds. The obvious cause of death was a pair of razor slashes that nearly severed the head from the torso.
NY Evening World, April 15, 1903.
Connors' screams caused Special Officer Joseph McCall, on patrol on East Eleventh Street, to rush to the site. He summoned detectives. When the body was removed from the barrel, a slip of paper containing Italian language writing was found. That was sufficient reason for Detective Bureau supervisor "Chesty George" McCluskey to assign the case to Detective Joseph Petrosino, who resolved many criminal matters relating to the immigrant Italian community in New York City.
Reports of the barrel victim reached William Flynn, chief agent of the New York office of the U.S. Secret Service. Flynn's men, assigned to surveil the counterfeiting gang of Mafia leader Giuseppe Morello, had noticed some odd behavior and a stranger with gang members the night before. Flynn arranged for his men to take a look at the victim and cooperate with the NYPD murder investigation.
The agents recognized the deceased man as the stranger they observed with the Morello Mafia members. Police gathered up known members of Morello's organization, including top Mafiosi Giuseppe Morello and Ignazio Lupo. They were unable to locate Morello adviser Vito Cascio Ferro. They later learned that Cascio Ferro fled back to his native Sicily through New Orleans.
|The Morello Mob|
NY Evening World, April 16, 1903.
The victim was eventually identified as Buffalo resident Benedetto Madonia, brother-in-law of Giuseppe DePrima, a Morello gangster recently imprisoned for counterfeiting. Authorities believed the New York City Mafiosi lured Madonia to his death because DePrima was judged a traitor. (Secret Service Agent Flynn gave Mafia leaders this mistaken impression through a favorable treatment of DePrima, which he hoped would lead other gang members to cooperate.)
Using the barrel's label and some sawdust and garbage found at the bottom of it, police were able to link the barrel to a Morello gang hangout. They also found that a Mafia suspect known as Petto the Ox was in possession of a pawn ticket for a watch that belonged to the victim. Though certain of the gang's responsibility for Madonia's killing, authorities could not assemble a convincing case.
Read more about the Barrel Murder on the American Mafia history website:
- The Barrel Mystery by William J. Flynn (1919)
- Memoirs of a Murder Man by Arthur A. Carey (1930)
- "Sinistro: The underworld career of Giuseppe Morello" (2015)
- "Badges in Little Italy" (2007)
- "Barrel murder inquest," New York Times, May 8, 1903, p. 7.
- "Counterfeiters cut throat of the man whose body was packed in barrel of sawdust," New York Press, April 16, 1903, p. 1.
- "Killed and packed in barrel," New York Sun, April 15, 1903, p. 1.
- "Madonia's knowledge cost him his life," Washington D.C. Times, April 21, 1903, p. 1.
- "Mafia murder victim," New York Tribune, April 15, 1903, p. 1.
- "Man found in barrel known," New York Sun, April 21, 1903, p. 1.
- "Man in barrel was tortured, then murdered," New York World, April 14, 1903, p. 1.
- "Slain man in barrel; may be a Brooklyn crime," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 14, 1903, p. 1.
- "Twelve suspects held in barrel murder case," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 16, 1903, p. 22.
- Carey, Arthur A., Memoirs of a Murder Man, Garden City NY: Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1930.
- Flynn, William J., Daily Reports, April 13-22, 25, 29-30, May 1, 7-8, 1903, Department of the Treasury, United States Secret Service Daily Reports, R.G. No. 87, Roll 109, Vol. 9, National Archives.
- Flynn, William J., Daily Report, March 21-22, 1904, Department of the Treasury, United States Secret Service Daily Reports, R.G. No. 87, Roll 109, Vol. 11, National Archives.
- Flynn, William J., The Barrel Mystery, James A. McCann Company, 1919.
- Benedetto Madonia Certificate and Record of Death, certificate no. 12640, City of New York, April 14, 1903.
- Prisoner's Criminal Record, Bureau of Detectives, Police Department of the City of New York, Giuseppe Morello Prison File, inmate no. 2882, Atlanta Federal Prison, National Archives and Records Administration.