Showing posts with label March 15. Show all posts
Showing posts with label March 15. Show all posts

16 March 2020

Bogus Blackhand bombing in Buffalo

Marital blowup nearly causes building blowup

In mid-March of 1918...

Buffalo Commercial
Claiming to be targets of "Black Hand" extortion, father and son Diego and Calogero "Charles" Alessi sought help from the Buffalo, New York, Police Department on Friday, March 15, 1918.

The Alessis, originally from Marianopoli, Sicily, had been in the United States for a couple of decades. Sixty-seven-year-old Diego worked as a laborer and grocer. Calogero, thirty-five, one of Diego's five sons, was employed as a motorman with the International Railway Company. The two men and their families lived at 122 Trenton Avenue in Buffalo.

That address had been Diego's home for at least ten years. Calogero, his wife and their two children, formerly residents of 32 Baker Street (where some other Alessi family members lived), had recently moved into a downstairs apartment in the Trenton Avenue home.

Calogero brought an unexploded bomb into police headquarters that Friday. He said he found it on the steps outside of the family home at about five o'clock that morning. His father instructed him to take it to the police. Eight family members had been inside the home when the bomb was placed. Calogero said his father had previously received and ignored mailed threats demanding hundreds of dollars.


Zimmerman and Miller (l to r) of the Buffalo Police
Black Hand terrorism, consisting of mailed extortion letters, was becoming a common story, as successful Italian-Americans were increasingly targeted by extortion gangs. The front of Dr. A.J. Cetola's home at 65 Front Avenue recently had been torn off in an explosion following his refusal to pay extortion demands.

Police took custody of the bomb from Calogero Alessi and turned it over to City Chemist Herbert Hill for examination. Hill determined that the device contained sufficient explosives to destroy the entire building. He noted that some distinctive fabric was used inside the device and in its outer covering.

The incident earned attention from the press, but not nearly as much attention as what occurred a few days later.

Buffalo Evening News
Following a brief but apparently thorough investigation by Detective Sergeant Edward J. Newton, Detective Sergeant Charles F. Zimmerman, Detective Ralph Guastaferro and Inspector Charles N. Miller, two men were placed under arrest on Monday, March 18. The suspects were Diego and Calogero Alessi. They were charged with placing explosives at their own home. (At that time, Newton and Zimmerman were in charge of investigating cases in Buffalo's Italian community, and Miller was chief of the Buffalo Police Detective Bureau.)

The investigation revealed that there had been domestic trouble between Calogero and his wife of fifteen years, Mary. Calogero had been trying to convince Mary to leave and to take their two children with her. A search of the Alessi home turned up a pair of Calogero's pants that had been cut up. The fabric was a match for that contained in the bomb.

When interviewed by police, Mary Alessi said that her husband and in-laws had been working to push her out of the house. On the morning of March 15, she said, Calogero returned home from work at about two o'clock in the morning. She and Calogero had an argument, after which he left the home, locking her and the children inside. The bomb was found shortly after that. The discovery did cause Mary and the children to leave the home and return to 32 Baker Street. Mary quickly took a factory job for income.

The case against Diego and Calogero Alessi was dismissed in Buffalo City Court for lack of evidence. However, Calogero was then prosecuted for abandoning his family responsibilities. That case came before Judge William P. Brennan on May 13, 1918. Brennan questioned Mary Alessi about the relationship with her husband. She testified that she believed Calogero had grown tired of her and planned to scare her off through the use of the bomb.

Calogero Alessi was convicted. Judge Brennan sentenced him to probation and ordered him to provide support of $7 a week to his wife and children.


Sources:
  • "Bomb causes aged Italian to report," Buffalo Commercial, March 15, 1918, p. 11.
  • "Cleared on bomb charge; now must support family," Buffalo Courier, May 14, 1918, p. 2.
  • "Hold two for bomb probe," Buffalo Enquirer, March 19, 1918, p. 14.
  • "Men put bomb in front of own house, police say," Buffalo Evening News, March 19, 1918, p. 9.
  • "Must support family," Buffalo Enquirer, May 13, 1918, p. 12.
  • "That bomb was to scare wife," Buffalo Evening Times, March 19, 1918, p. 4.
  • "Told to pay for support of his wife and children," Buffalo Evening News, May 14, 1918, p. 15.
  • "Two planted bomb, say police," Buffalo Courier, March 19, 1918, p. 4.
  • Passenger manifest of S.S. Victoria, departed Naples on Sept. 29, 1899, arrived New York on Oct. 18, 1899.
  • Regan, J.E., "Chief Girvin's Buffalo Police," The National Police Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4, July 1918, New York: National Police Journal, 1918.
  • Regan, John E., "The efficient police force of Buffalo, N.Y.," The Police Journal, Vol. IX, No. 4, April 1922, New York: Journal Publishing Company, 1922.
  • The Buffalo Courier 1916-1917 Classified Directory, Buffalo: Paul Goering & Co., 1916, p. 105.
  • The Buffalo Directory 1908, Buffalo: Courier Company of Buffalo, 1908, p. 129.
  • The Buffalo Directory 1918, Buffalo: J.W. Clement Co., 1918, p. 102.