Showing posts with label Murder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Murder. Show all posts

04 November 2018

Update: 'Whitey' Bulger killing

Update - 4 November 2018

The high-security Federal Correctional Institution at Hazelton, West Virginia, site of the October 30 killing of former Boston gang boss James "Whitey" Bulger, has been closed to visitors.

The prison's website contains a brief and unexplained notice: "All visiting at this facility has been suspended until further notice."


The Federal Bureau of Prisons has not explained whether the visitation shutdown is related to Bulger's killing and has not indicated when the suspension will be lifted.

While media reports have indicated that Bulger was choked and beaten to death by at least two Mafia-connected inmates from Massachusetts (and have provided specific identifications of those inmates), there has been little in the way of official news on the subject.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts issued a brief "Tweet" on October 30:
We received word this morning about the death of James 'Whitey' Bulger. Our thoughts are with his victims and their families.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of West Virginia issued a two-sentence press release on October 31:
The United States Attorney's Office and the FBI are investigating the death of James Bulger as a homicide. To protect the integrity of the investigation, no further details will be released at this time.

Bulger was eighty-nine years old and serving two consecutive life sentences for murders, racketeering and other offenses.  He was found unresponsive in the penitentiary at eight-twenty, Tuesday morning, October 30. Prison staff attempted life-saving measures. Bulger was pronounced dead by the Preston County Medical Examiner. Bulger arrived at the prison following a transfer one day earlier.

He was sentenced five years ago after a summer 2013 trial in Boston, Massachusetts. He was a fugitive between 1995 and 2011. He was arrested in California in 2011. In the 1980s, while engaged in his own illegal activities, he secretly aided federal authorities in dismantling the Mafia organization in the Boston area.

The Hazelton facility houses 1,270 male inmates. It has experienced a string of violent attacks. Bulger's killing was reportedly the third homicide inside the facility in the past seven months.

An official of the guards union at the prison told the press that Hazelton is dangerously understaffed. He said the prison currently has seventy-seven job vacancies, with more than half of those for guard positions.

See earlier report:

30 October 2018

Boston's Bulger is killed in federal prison

James "Whitey" Bulger, longtime Boston underworld figure, was found dead Tuesday, October 30, within a high-security penitentiary in Hazelton, West Virginia.

Sources indicated that Bulger was "killed." Federal authorities are investigating the circumstances.  The New York Times, citing two unnamed Federal Bureau of Prisons employees, reported that at least two inmates beat Bulger to death. The Boston Globe reported that the prison in Hazelton has experienced a string of violent attacks. Two other inmates were killed in fights at the understaffed institution earlier this year, according to the Globe. Bulger was found unresponsive at 8:20 a.m. Efforts were made to revive him.

Eighty-nine-year-old Bulger, sentenced to two life prison terms after being convicted of involvement in eleven murders, had only arrived in Hazelton on Monday, October 29. He was transferred from a prison in Florida and held for a time at a transfer facility in Oklahoma City.



Bulger was part of South Boston's Winter Hill Gang. While engaged in his own illicit rackets, he fed information to the FBI about Mafia rivals and assisted in the dismantling of the Angiulo Mafia organization in Boston in the 1980s. His cooperation with federal agents provided him with protection from prosecution for more than a decade. When authorities finally were poised to arrest Bulger early in 1995, he was apparently tipped off and vanished. The indictment against him included charges that he participated in nineteen gangland killings.

FBI corruption was revealed in 2002, when Bulger's handler, John J. Connolly, Jr., was convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice.

Bulger quickly earned the top spot on the FBI's Most Wanted List. The government reward for information leading to his arrest reached $2 million in September 2008. A worldwide search (there were reports that Bulger might have fled to Sicily) ended on June 22, 2011, with Bulger's arrest in California. He had been living in Santa Monica with his longtime companion Catherine Greig. Agents found $800,000 in cash and more than thirty firearms hidden in their apartment.

Catherine Greig pleaded guilty to helping Bulger elude the police. She was sentenced in 2012 to eight years in prison. She remains behind bars in Minnesota.

Bulger came to trial at Boston's federal courthouse in June 2013. The jury concluded five days of deliberations on August 12, 2013, finding Bulger guilty of racketeering offenses and participation in eleven murders. On November 14, 2013, he was sentenced by federal Judge Denise J. Casper to two consecutive life sentences plus five years.


Born September 3, 1929, in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Bulger grew up in a South Boston housing project. His criminal activity started at an early age. He was arrested in 1956 for bank robbery. Following conviction, he was sentenced to twenty years in prison, but served just nine years. When he emerged from prison, he became a key member of the Winter Hill Gang. A younger brother, William, went into politics and became a longtime leader in the Massachusetts State Legislature.

Sources:
See also:

06 October 2018

'Schatz' follows Yale to wealth, influence, grave

On this date in 1928...

New York Daily News
 Michael "Mike Schatz" Abbatemarco, a top lieutenant in Frankie Yale's Brooklyn organization, was found dead, slumped behind the wheel of his still-running automobile at 4:15 a.m. on Oct. 6, 1928. The car was parked in front of 2421 Eighty-Third Street in a residential section of Gravesend, Brooklyn. Abbatemarco, thirty-four-year-old underworld ruler of the Gowanus area, had been shot in the forehead, neck, right cheek and chest.

Abbatemarco's wealth and underworld influence appeared to dramatically increase following the death of his boss, Yale, in July. Some believed that Mike Schatz held a monopoly on area beer sales. During the summer, Abbatemarco purchased his flashy new automobile and moved from 321 First Street in Brooklyn to 38 Seventy-Ninth Street, a two-story yellow brick building in the borough's Bay Ridge section.

Abbatemarco
The night before his death, Abbatemarco played poker with friends at a Gowanus coffeehouse, Union Street and Fourth Avenue. His buddy Jamie Cardello reportedly walked him to his car after the game at about 3 a.m. Some suggested that Abbatemarco was accompanied by a gangster named Ralph "the Captain" Sprizza. (Sprizza was later charged with participating in the Abbatemarco murder.)

A Brooklynite named Jack Simon observed the parked Abbatemarco coupe while walking to work through the area. Simon told police he soon heard gunshots from that direction and saw a man get out of the car and trot through a vacant lot toward Eighty-Fourth Street. Police later found a discarded handgun in the lot.

Abbatemarco's funeral was said to be nearly as spectacular as that of his former boss, despite widow Tessie Abbatemarco's efforts to keep the ceremony more subdued. His coffin was encased in silvered bronze. The cortege included more than one hundred cars and fourteen cars of floral offerings. A large tower of roses topped by a fluttering dove was sent by Anthony "Little Augie Pisano" Carfano, a top lieutenant to Manhattan Mafia boss Giuseppe Masseria and Masseria's choice as Yale's successor in Brooklyn. Carfano did not personally attend. A military honor guard - eight riflemen from the Eighteenth Infantry at Fort Hamilton - took part in the funeral due to Abbatemarco's military service during the Great War.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
 Following Abbatemarco's death, members of his underworld organization. including his brother Frank, nephew Anthony and relative Joseph Magnasco, merged into the Profaci Crime Family, forming the President Street-Carroll Street crew that later gave rise to the rebellious Gallo brothers.

See also: Michael Abbatemarco biography.

Sources:

  • "Beer racket clue at Philadelphia in gang slaying," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 8, 1928, p. 1.
  • "Funeral of racketeer quiet as widow overrules gang's wish for brilliant show," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 10, 1928, p. 1.
  • "Gang chief burial with police army," New York Daily News, Oct. 10, 1928, p. Brk-5.
  • “Gang chief buried with honor guard,” New York Evening Post, Oct. 10, 1928, p. 1.
  • "Gold digger clew in gang death," New York Daily News, Oct. 8, 1928, p. 13.
  •  “Throng at funeral of slain Uale aide,” New York Times, Oct. 11, 1928.
  • “Uale friend slain in car as he sits at driving wheel,” Brooklyn Standard Union, Oct. 6, 1928, p. 1.
  • “Uale gang leader slain like his chief,” New York Times, Oct. 7, 1928, p. 1.
  • "Uale's successor slain in auto by lone gunman, jealousy in gang hinted," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 6, 1928, p. 1.
  • Daniell, F. Raymond, “Yale successor slain near place where chief died,” New York Evening Post, Oct. 6, 1928, p. 1.
  • Meffore, Arthur, "Yale beer gangster slain," New York Daily News, Oct. 7, 1928, p. 2.

Murdered at McD's

Sylvester "Sally Daz" Zottola, 71, was shot and killed Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, while waiting at a McDonald's drive-thru lane in the Bronx. Zottola, a reputed associate of the Bonanno Crime Family and once a trusted friend of former Bonanno boss Vincent J. "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, apparently had been targeted by rivals for the past year.

Zottola, alone in his SUV, visited the McDonald's restaurant drive-thru, on the 1600 Block of Webster Avenue near Belmont Street in the Claremont section of the Bronx, at about 4:45 p.m. and placed an order for a medium coffee. He was boxed in, a car in front of him and a car behind him, when a gunman in a dark hoodie stepped up to his vehicle and fired at him six times with a 9mm handgun. One slug struck Zottola in the head, three entered his chest, one hit him in the shoulder. Zottola was unarmed at the time.

The gunman approached through a hole in a fence along Clay Avenue behind the McDonald's property and walked down an embankment to the drive-thru lane. After the shooting, he went back up the embankment, through the fence and into a waiting gray sedan. The car sped away southward on Clay Avenue.

Zottola was pronounced dead at the scene, concluding a series of attempts on his life that date back at least to September 2017...

Read more at Mafiahistory.us.

17 August 2018

Mafia boss shot down at Philly's 'Bloody Angle'

On this date in 1936...
Camden Morning Post

Local Mafia boss John "Big Nose" Avena and associate Martin Feldstein were standing in front of 718 Washington Avenue in Philadelphia, a few paces from the intersection with East Passyunk Avenue, at about 2:20 in the afternoon, August 17, 1936. A small sedan approached on Washington. It slowed as it reached them. A gunman inside the vehicle pointed the muzzle of a submachine gun out a window and sprayed the two men with bullets.

Avena appeared to be the gunman's target. He fell with numerous wounds to his chest. Feldstein, a minor numbers racketeer, merely picked a bad moment to stand on the sidewalk with the boss. He was struck by slugs in his arm and midsection.

The sedan turned onto Passyunk and disappeared into the city traffic. Police later found the vehicle abandoned at 7th Street and Watkins, about a half mile from the scene of the shooting. Witnesses saw several men climb out of the car, one seemed to carry a piece of long luggage, and move off in different directions.

Patrol officers and detectives in the area heard the gunshots and rushed to the corner of Washington and Passyunk. It was the southernmost intersection of a one-fifth mile of diagonal-running Passyunk that had been nicknamed "the Bloody Angle" because of the number of murders committed there.


Avena and Feldstein were rushed to Pennsylvania Hospital. Avena was pronounced dead a few minutes later. Feldstein was rushed into emergency surgery. Surgeons extracted several slugs from his body, but the damage was extensive. Feldstein died that night.

Avena
The coroner formally announced that Avena died of gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen. Less formally, newspapers were told that Avena's heart was nearly blasted to pieces by a dozen well-placed slugs.

Following the testimony of witnesses at an inquest, two men were named as suspects in the killing: John Fosco, alias John Martin, and Peter Gallo, alias Peter Wallace. John Amato, chauffeur for gang leader Pius Lanzetti, was later named an accessory to the murder.

Police investigators decided that the murder of Avena was the result of a feud between the Avena Mafia and a gang run by the Lanzetti brothers. The groups had been quarreling over Avena's recent intrusions into Lanzetti numbers rackets.

That Avena was deposed as Mafia leader through a drive-by shooting along the Bloody Angle was widely viewed as appropriate. He had first come to the attention of the public as a suspect in a similar shooting at the northern end of the angle about a decade earlier.


See also:

Sources:

  • John Avena Certificate of Death, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Vital Records, file no. 82485, registered no. 17257, Aug. 17, 1936.
  • "Racketeer, aide killed in Phila. numbers war," Camden NJ Morning Post, Aug. 18, 1936, p. 1.
  • "Suspect gives up in gang slaying; held as accessory," Philadelphia Inquirer, March 21, 1937, p. 2.
  • "Two men slain by rivals in numbers war," Wilkes-Barre PA Evening News, Aug. 18, 1936, p. 9.
  • McCullough, John M., "2 slain by gang in flareup of numbers war," Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 18, 1936, p. 1.

13 August 2018

What happened to girl wounded by stray bullet?

Media quickly lost interest in
Connecticut girl caught up in
New York City underworld hit

When Mafia assassins opened fire in a crowded Manhattan intersection at midday, Aug. 11, 1922, they inflicted a mortal wound on their target but also wounded two bystanders.

The intended victim, Umberto Valente, died an hour later at St. Mark's Hospital. A young girl and a municipal street cleaner - "collateral damage" in the hit - were rushed to Bellevue Hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds.

Agnes Egglinger
Street cleaner Joseph Schepis, forty-two, suffered a wound to his throat that was not life-threatening. Eleven-year-old Agnes Egglinger, a visitor from Connecticut, was more seriously hurt.

Newspapers in New York City and around the country told of Agnes being struck by a stray slug in the right chest. The New York Daily News, "New York's Picture Newspaper," ran a photograph of the girl. The papers said the young girl might lose her life. It appears, however, that no one in the media thought of following up to see whether Agnes survived.

Public records indicate that she did. Federal and state census records show Agnes becoming an adult, and state records appear to show her marriage as well as her death.

Agnes was the third child - and first daughter - born to Harry and Erna Schultz Egglinger of Jamaica, Queens, New York. At least two additional siblings were born after her. Harry worked as a metal lathe operator. The Egglinger family moved in 1919 from Queens to New Haven, Connecticut, first settling at 34 Sylvan Avenue and later moving about a mile south to 42 Hurlbut Street. While in New Haven, Erna's younger brother Reinhold Schultz, Jr., - Agnes' Uncle Reinhold - lived with the family as a boarder.

New York Daily News, Aug. 12, 1922.
Scene of the attack on Valente.

In early August of 1922, the Egglingers went to visit Erna's father, Reinhold Schultz, Sr., at his Manhattan home, 232 East Twelfth Street. They were a few days into their visit when a feud within the New York City Mafia erupted in gunfire at the intersection of East Twelfth Street and Second Avenue.

Agnes and her four-year-old sister Dorothy were playing on the sidewalk, as gunmen loyal to Manhattan gang boss Giuseppe Masseria murdered Umberto Valente. Valente, a trusted assassin of Brooklyn-based Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila, had failed in an assassination attempt against Masseria just three days earlier (a half-dozen striking garment workers were wounded - at least one fatally - when their group got in the way of the getaway car and mobsters fired at the ground to disperse them). Little Dorothy was fortunate to escape injury as the bullets flew on August 11; reports stated that a slug passed through the fabric of her dress.

Masseria
The media lost track of Agnes Egglinger after her arrival at Bellevue Hospital. But the 1925 New York State Census showed that Agnes was alive and living with her family at 12009 Baisley Avenue back in Jamaica, Queens. Sometime between the 1922 visit to Manhattan and the 1924 birth of Agnes' little brother Alfred, the family had returned to New York from New Haven, Connecticut. Agnes, eighteen, also appeared in the 1930 United States Census. She was still living with her parents, though their address had changed to 120-19 153rd Street, Queens. Harry Egglinger owned the home at that address. The census placed the home's value at $10,000 and noted that it was equipped with a radio.

A decade later, eighteen years from the shooting that nearly cost Agnes her life, the 1940 U.S. Census found the twenty-eight-year-old in her parents' home on 153rd Street. Her two younger siblings were also still in the household, and an older brother was renting rooms in the house for himself, his wife and their young son. Agnes was working as a clerk in an insurance office.

While available records are not definitive, it appears that the Agnes Egglinger who was accidentally shot in the summer of 1922 was the same Agnes Egglinger who became the wife of Frank Seelinger in Queens in late September of 1946. It could be argued that marriage was a greater threat to her health than a bullet. Records show that Agnes Seelinger died in July 1949 - twenty-seven years after the nearly fatal gunshot wound and less than three years after taking her wedding vows.

Sources:
  • "1 dead, 2 shot, as bootleggers again fight on East Side," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 11, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Bootleggers at war," Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 2.
  • "Cloakmaker, victim of gunman, dies; 3 more in hospital," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 9, 1922, p. 20.
  • "East Side bad man killed as shots fly," New York Herald, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 16.
  • "Eight men shot in mysterious battle on street," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 8, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Gang kills gunman; 2 bystanders hit," New York Times, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 20.
  • "Gunman's volley fatal to striker," New York Times, Aug. 10, 1922, p. 13.
  • "Gunmen shoot six in East Side swarm," New York Times, Aug. 9, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Man dies from bullet, girl is seriously hurt," New York Evening Telegram, Aug. 11, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Mystery in rum street battle near solution," New York Tribune, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 16.
  • "New Haven girl wounded in New York bootleggers' feud," Bridgeport CT Telegram, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 1.
  • "One killed, two shot in pistol battle," Brooklyn Standard Union, Aug. 11, 1922, p. 1.
  • "One man killed, two wounded, in gang war," New York Call, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 4.
  • "Three shot down in crowd in East Side gang warfare," New York Evening World, Aug. 11, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Valente's arrest balked by murder," New York Evening World, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 3.
  • New York City Death Index, certificate no. 8666, July 3, 1949.
  • New York City Marriage License Index, license no. 10522, Sept. 28, 1946.
  • New York State Census of 1915, Queens County, Jamaica village, Assembly District 4, Election District 27, Ward 4.
  • New York State Census of 1925, Queens County, Baisley Park village, Assembly District 4, Election District 36, Ward 4.
  • United States Census of 1920, Connecticut, New Haven County, City of New Haven, Enumeration District 505.
  • United States Census of 1930, New York State, Queens County, Baisley Park, Assembly District 4, Enumeration District 41-376.
  • United States Census of 1940, New York State, Queens County, Enumeration District 41-1287B.

See also:

06 August 2018

Unlucky date for Steel City underworld bosses

August 6 has been a bad date
to be a Pittsburgh Mafia boss.

On that date in 1929, thirty-nine-year-old underworld chief Stefano Monastero was murdered as he went to visit an ailing henchman at St. John's General Hospital on Pittsburgh's North Side. 



Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Calogero Spallino (also known as Sparlino), free on bail as he awaited trial for an attempt on the life of Monastero rival Joe "Ghost of the Hill" Pangallo, went into St. John's for appendix surgery. Stefano Monastero drove to the hospital in an armored automobile, featuring steel plating and three-quarter-inch bulletproof glass windows. But he had to leave the protection of the vehicle to enter the building. When he emerged, shotguns erupted from a nearby parked car.

Pangallo
Monastero was knocked down by the shots. One of his assailants then approached with a handgun and fired into the boss's head to finish the job. The murder remained unsolved, but Joe Pangallo was generally believed responsible.

Stefano Monastero rose to power about 1925, assuming control of a regional underworld network in western Pennsylvania assembled largely by the linked Calderone and Landolina families. Monastero and his older brother Salvatore ran a produce business but earned considerably greater income through North Side stores that provided ingredients and equipment for bootleggers. Monastero had been fighting a gang war with Pangallo since about 1927. (In September of that year, the local press reported on a car bombing that threw Pangallo twenty feet into the air but failed to kill him.)

Monastero's Mafia pedigree was noteworthy. He was the son of Pietro Monastero, a Caccamo native who was among those charged with the 1890 Mafia murder of Police Chief David Hennessy in New Orleans. Stefano Monastero was very young, living with his mother and brothers in Sicily, when Pietro Monastero was killed by a lynch mob at Orleans Parish Prison in 1891. The family relocated to New Orleans following Pietro's killing and moved from city to city in the U.S. before settling in the Pittsburgh area.

On the same date three years later, recently installed Pittsburgh boss John Bazzano was called to a meeting of the nation's Mafia leaders on Hicks Street in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. He was to answer for his involvement in the recent murders of Wilmerding, Pennsylvania, racketeers John, James and Arthur Volpe. Bazzano did not leave the August 6, 1932, meeting alive.

Pittsburgh Press
The Volpes, under the protection of New York underworld power Vito Genovese, were gunned down within Bazzano's Rome Coffee Shop on Pittsburgh's Wylie Avenue on July 29. Genovese, suspecting that the Volpes were victims of an anti-Neapolitan conspiracy among Calabrian and Sicilian Mafiosi in Pittsburgh, New York and Cleveland (including Bazzano and Nick Gentile in Pittsburgh; Albert Anastasia, Joe Biondo and Vincenzo Mangano in New York; Frank Milano in Cleveland), assembled the disciplinary hearing for Bazzano.

During the meeting, the forty-four-year-old Bazzano did not deny responsibility for the murders of the Volpes. Instead, he called on other Mafia leaders to join in a war to exterminate the Neapolitans in their organization.

Bazzano's words and recent deeds presented a threat to the still-shaky underworld alliances that emerged from the bloody Castellammarese War concluded one year earlier. His punishment was immediate. He was gagged and tied with rope, while his body was punctured more than twenty times with ice picks. Some of the wounds reached his heart, causing a fatal hemorrhage. The body was found August 8, wrapped in burlap near the intersection of Centre and Clinton Streets in Red Hook. It could not be identified until relatives from Pittsburgh arrived in New York looking for Bazzano.

Authorities subsequently learned of an assembly of U.S. Mafiosi at New York City and rounded up fourteen underworld figures from Brooklyn (Albert Anastasia, John Oddo, Cassandro Bonasera, Ciro Gallo, Joseph Traina) and Buffalo, New York (Paul Palmeri, Salvatore DiCarlo); Pittsburgh (Calogero Spallino, Michael Bua, Michael Russo, Frank Adrano) and Pittston, Pennsylvania (Santo Volpe, Angelo Polizzi); Trenton, New Jersey (Peter Lombardo). The suspects, represented by attorney Samuel Leibowitz, were quickly released for lack of evidence.

More on these subjects:

30 July 2018

Murders his pal on "Good Killers" orders

On this date in 1921...

Asbury Park Press
Aug. 19, 1921
Two old friends from Sicily, recently reacquainted in New York City, went out hunting in the woods along New Jersey's Shark River on July 30, 1921. Only one of the men returned.

Bartolomeo Fontana, the survivor of the hunting trip, later confessed to New York City Police that he deliberately brought his pal Camillo Caiozzo into the woods and shotgunned him to death on orders of a Brooklyn-based criminal network known as "the Good Killers."

Investigation of the Good Killers revealed an interstate organization responsible for many murders around New York City and Detroit, in the United States, and in the Castellammare del Golfo region of Sicily. Gang commanders included Stefano Magaddino, who would soon rise to lead the Mafia in Buffalo, New York.

More about this murder and the Good Killers gang:"The Good Killers: 1921's glimpse of the Mafia," by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona.

22 July 2018

Vendetta killings at New Orleans' French Market

On this date in 1869...

French Market, New Orleans

Two leaders of a Sicilian underworld faction were murdered on the morning of July 22, 1869, outside New Orleans' French Market.

Joseph Banano and Pietro Allucho, top men in a coalition of gangsters who emigrated from the Sicilian provinces of Messina and Trapani, died almost instantly from shotgun and pistol wounds. They had been involved for some time in a bloody feud with the Palermo-based Agnello Mafia organization. They recently returned to New Orleans after hiding out with friends in Galveston, Texas. Efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict were abandoned following the assassination of Mafia boss Raffaele Agnello in April 1869 and the succession of Joseph Agnello to his brother's leadership post.

New Orleans Times
The murders of Banano and Allucho occurred at the foot of Ursulines Street, beside the busy produce market. Though many people were nearby at the time, all claimed not to have seen the shooting.

The attention of police Officer Beasley, stationed nearby at the Levee, was attracted by the first shotgun blast that felled Allucho. From a distance, Beasley saw Joseph Banano attempt to help his collapsing friend Allucho and saw Salvatore Rosa, standing beside a "spring wagon," fire a second shell from his gun into Banano's side. As Beasley rushed to the scene, Rosa dropped his shotgun into the wagon, drew a pistol and fired again into Banano. After that, he tossed the pistol into the wagon, and another man drove the wagon quickly away.

Rosa saw Beasley approaching and attempted to escape, but the officer grabbed him after a brief chase.

Six slugs were found to have penetrated Allucho's side and chest and to have caused extensive damage to his lungs. Banano's right ribs were shattered by five slugs. A pistol in his pocket was broken into pieces by the projectiles, and one of the pieces was driven two inches into his body. A pistol shot wound was found on the other side of his body.

City newspapers differed in their accounts of what immediately preceded the attack and did not reveal their sources of information. (Judging from their slants, the competing stories appear to have come from sources close to the competing underworld factions.)

The New Orleans Times portrayed the incident as an ambush. It said Rosa hid himself in the back of the spring wagon until Banano and Allucho, "quietly engaged in conversation," were close by. Rosa then "simply shot one man after the other down as they stood in their tracks," the newspaper reported. The Times also linked the incident to shots fired an hour and a half earlier. At that time, Joseph Agnello was stopped by police. Agnello insisted that he had not done any shooting but was shot at by unknown men.

The New Orleans Daily Picayune suggested a self-defense motive for Rosa. It said Rosa was walking between St. Philip Street and Ursulines Street when he was threatened by a group of men at Ursulines. He reportedly ducked into a nearby building and armed himself. When he emerged, he fired into the threatening crowd.

Rosa was well known to police as a dangerous gunman. He was arrested two years earlier and charged with the murder of Erastus Wells at the Poydras Market. He was acquitted in that case. More recently he was charged in the apparently unintended killing of grocer David Clark, struck by gunfire during an eruption of the Sicilian underworld feud at the end of March, 1869, and also with attempting to kill a witness against him in the Clark homicide case.

As Rosa was locked up, there was speculation that he would use a self-defense argument to escape conviction. But he would never face trial. While incarcerated, Rosa developed a mysterious illness. He was said to be nearly dead when authorities agreed to release him in bail in August. He died August 21, 1869.

Two rumors were widely circulated after his death. The first was that he had been poisoned in his jail cell by Banano and Allucho followers. The other was that he had not died at all, but used phony reports of illness and death to escape from his underworld rivals and from the law.

New Orleans Daily Picayune

Sources:
  • Hunt, Thomas, and Martha Macheca Sheldon, Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia, Second Edition, 2010.
  • "An attempt to kill," New Orleans Daily Picayune, April 7, 1869, p. 2.
  • "Again arrested," New Orleans Daily Picayune, May 7, 1869, p. 12.
  • "Another tragedy - Two Sicilians killed," New Orleans Daily Picayune, July 23, 1869, p. 2.
  • "The two last assassinations," New Orleans Times, July 23, 1869, p. 1.
  • "The Sicilian disturbances," New Orleans Daily Picayune, July 24, 1869, p. 2.
  • "The homicides - a week of blood," New Orleans Daily Picayune, July 28, 1869, p. 2.
  • "Death of Rosa," New Orleans Daily Picayune, Aug. 22, 1869, p. 9.
  • "Salvador Rosa," New Orleans Death Records Index, Aug. 21, 1869, Ancestry.com.
  • "Unfounded rumor," New Orleans Daily Picayune, Aug. 25, 1869, p. 2.
Read more:

Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia by Thomas Hunt and Martha Macheca Sheldon.

20 July 2018

SoCal Mafia tries (again) to take out Cohen

On this date in 1949...

Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles area gambling czar Mickey Cohen, a frequent target of Mafia assassination attempts, was shot as he left a Sunset Strip eatery in the wee hours of July 20, 1949. Three companions, including a state agent assigned to guard Cohen, also were wounded in the attack.

Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Edward Herbert in front of Sherry's
Cohen, then thirty-five, his thirty-eight-year-old aide Edward "Neddie" Herbert, twenty-six-year-old actress Dee David and state agent Harry Cooper emerged from Sherry's Restaurant, 9039 Sunset Boulevard, just before 4 o'clock in the morning and approached Cohen's black Cadillac. Shotguns erupted from across the street. Cohen inexplicably crouched just as the guns went off and, as a result, was the least wounded of the group. He took a slug to the right shoulder.

Edward Herbert, a recent addition to Cohen's gang and the scarred survivor of another recent gangland attack, was struck by several slugs. His spinal cord was damaged, and he was instantly paralyzed from the midsection down. He lingered near death for about a week, as doctors tried surgery and blood transfusions. He died of his wounds and complications on Thursday morning, July 28.

Los Angeles Times
Cooper and Cohen
shortly before the shooting
Dee David was wounded in her back. She was treated at Citizens Emergency Hospital. She recovered quickly.

Two large-caliber slugs struck Harry Cooper in the abdomen. Cooper had recently been assigned - somewhat curiously - by state Attorney General Frederick Howser to serve as a bodyguard for Cohen. As Howser made that appointment, he also urged city and county law enforcement agencies to steer clear of Cohen. Cooper was rushed to Hollywood Receiving Hospital. His condition was critical for some time, but the agent eventually recovered.

The gunmen were well positioned for their escape. They lurked behind tall grass and brush on an old abandoned building foundation. A stairway behind the foundation led downhill into the backyard of 9035 Harratt Street. After firing into Cohen and his companions, the gunmen fled down the stairway, through the Harratt Street home's yard and down a residential driveway. They climbed into a waiting automobile and sped away.

Underworld celebrity

Cohen had been often in the news since the June 20, 1947, Beverly Hills murder of his friend and underworld associate Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel. Authorities believed that Cohen controlled gambling throughout southern California following Siegel's killing. In the summer of 1948, Cohen survived an assassination attempt.

Cohen
The following March, seven Cohen gangsters were arrested fleeing from the scene of the brutal beating of Alfred Pearson. When certain police officials ordered that the gangsters not be charged and that records relating to their arrest be destroyed, a grand jury investigation was launched. The investigation exposed Cohen connections to law enforcement and resulted in conspiracy indictments against Cohen, a number of Cohen henchmen, three police officers, an attorney and a local businessman. Trial was originally scheduled for June 27, 1949, but later postponed to October.

In May 1949, police determined that another attempt had been made on Cohen's life. The gang boss's car was reportedly brought to a local garage with bullet holes in its body and blood staining its interior.

Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron was bothered by reports of corruption in the police department. On July 15, 1949, less than a week before the shooting at Sherry's Restaurant, Bowron went to the radio airwaves to promise the citizens of Los Angeles that graft would be exposed. "I want to know what police officers have received favors from Mickey Cohen or his mob and all matters relating to bookie operations within the city," the mayor stated. "I want to know if there are any possible connections between police officers and organized crime in any way at all..."

Attorney General Howser's assignment of agent Cooper to guard Cohen came to light just one day before the shooting.

Los Angeles Times

Investigation

Cohen recovered from his wound while under heavy police guard at the Queen of Angels Hospital. Though he told investigators he had no idea who was responsible for the shooting, there was reason to believe he was lying.

Some in the hospital overheard a Cohen telephone conversation on July 23. Cohen, obviously angry, said into the phone, "I know who did it. They've crippled me for life. Can't use my right arm. But I'll take care of them in my own way. The investigators keep coming up, keep asking me who did it. That's the end. I can handle this and I will handle it."

Jack Dragna
The Los Angeles Times reported on the conversation in its July 24 issue. The authorities questioned Cohen about it that day. But he denied the conversation occurred at all and insisted he did not know who the gunmen were.

The police identified three suspects and brought them in for questioning. Joseph E. Messina, a former barber who was believed involved in gambling, was interrogated and released. Tony Brancato, a Kansas City mobster who relocated to southern California, was taken into custody on July 24 on a charge of suspicion of attempted murder. A Brancato associate, Anthony Trombino, surrendered to authorities on July 25. Brancato and Trombino were released on the twenty-seventh.

Cohen checked himself out of the hospital against his doctor's orders on July 29, in order to attend the funeral services for Edward Herbert. Following the services at Willen Mortuary on Santa Monica Boulevard, Herbert's remains were transported by plane to New York City for burial. Cohen intended to fly to New York and even made plane reservations but changed his mind at the last minute and went to his home. He later told the press, "It would cause too much commotion. It wouldn't do any good to go East now." Cohen reportedly paid $1,500 in hospital bills for himself, Edward Herbert and Dee David and several thousand dollars for Herbert's copper coffin.

Detectives seemed to be on the right track as they connected the shooting at Sherry's Restaurant with underworld gambling rivalries, particularly the long rivalry between Cohen and the Dragna Mafia clan of Los Angeles.

Near the end of July, Ignatius "Jack" Dragna was questioned. Dragna admitted knowing Cohen and also admitted attempting to compete with Cohen's organization in a horse-race wire service racket some years earlier. But Dragna claimed he long ago gave up on that racket and knew nothing about the shooting.

The case remained unsolved.

Weasel's account

Several decades later, Mafia turncoat Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno revealed what he knew of the incident. According to Fratianno, Mafia boss Jack Dragna was obsessed with the idea of killing Cohen and enormously frustrated with Cohen's series of lucky escapes.

Fratianno said Dragna ordered Dominic "Jimmy Regace" Brooklier and Arthur "Army" DiMaria to ambush Cohen outside Sherry's. Their getaway car, according to Fratianno, was driven by Simone Scozzari.

None of those individuals were charged in connection with the shooting that killed Edward Herbert and wounded Cohen, Cooper and David.

Dragna died in February 1956. The next year, Simone Scozzari was one of the Mafiosi noted at the Apalachin, New York, Mafia convention. Scozzari rose to the position of underboss of the Los Angeles Mafia. He was deported to Italy in 1962.

DiMaria reportedly remained a soldier in the crime family. He died in 1972, nine years before being publicly accused of murder by Fratianno.

Brooklier was a recent addition to the crime family at the time of the Cohen shooting, and his assignment as a gunman was intended to test his mettle. His botching of the Cohen hit did not prevent him from rising within the organization. Brooklier became boss of the crime family in the mid-1970s. His poor handling of the organization and hostility toward Fratianno helped convince Fratianno to cooperate with the FBI. Brooklier died in federal custody in 1984.

Mickey Cohen, Dragna's longtime nemesis and longtime target, died of natural causes in the summer of 1976.

Sources:
  • "Jury investigating Cohen case summons four more witnesses," Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Bowron asks grand jury action in police scandal," Los Angeles Times, March 23, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Mickey Cohen jailed, officers get suspensions," San Bernardino County CA Sun, March 23, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Mickey Cohen to appear at grand jury's inquiry," Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Two Mickey Cohen pals arrested in Phoenix home," Los Angeles Times, March 25, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Attorney halted booking of Cohen gang, jury told," Los Angeles Times, March 26, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Jury investigating Cohen case summons four more witnesses," Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Mickey Cohen, three police officers and nine others indicted in conspiracy," Los Angeles Times, April 13, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Last two Cohen men surrender in beating case," Los Angeles Times, April 19, 1949, p. 23.
  • "Cohen and 12 others to go on trial June 27," Los Angeles Times, May 17, 1949, p. 2.
  • "New search starts for Allen records," Los Angeles Times, June 6, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Court postpones Mickey Cohen and henchmen's trial," Los Angeles Times, June 25, 1949, p. 6.
  • "Bowron vows all-out inquiry of police graft," Los Angeles Times, July 16, 1949, p. 2.
  • "Howser assigns officer to protect Mickey Cohen," Los Angeles Times, July 20, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Gang guns wound Cohen and 3 aides," Los Angeles Times, July 20, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Circumstances aid escape of gunmen," Los Angeles Times, July 21, 1949, p. 6.
  • "Mickey Cohen, henchmen blasted in gang warfare," Santa Rosa CA Press Democrat, July 21, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Cohen lets it slip, he knows assailants," Los Angeles Times, July 24, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Angry Cohen refuses to tell who shot him," Los Angeles Times, July 25, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Control of race information seen as Cohen attack motive," Los Angeles Times, July 26, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Sheriff acts to bar gangs from strip," Los Angeles Times, July 28, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Cohen fails to fly east as planned," Los Angeles Times, July 30, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Former Cohen rival quizzed in shooting," Los Angeles Times, July 31, 1949, p. 1.
  • "Explosion near home upsets Mickey Cohen," Los Angeles Times, Aug. 3, 1949, p. 2.
  • Demaris, Ovid, The Last Mafioso: The Treacherous World of Jimmy Fratianno, New York: Times Books, 1981, 36-37.
  • Feather, Bill, "Los Angeles membership chart 1920-50's," Mafia Membership Charts, Nov. 7, 2017. 
  • Murphy, Kim, "The godfather's son," Los Angeles Times Magazine, Sept. 17, 1989, p. 14.

10 July 2018

KC's Lazia is gunned down at his home

On this date in 1934...

Sedalia Democrat
Two gunmen fatally shot John Lazia, underworld-connected political boss of Kansas City's north side "Little Italy," July 10, 1934, as he stepped out of a car in front of his apartment building.

Lazia and his wife had spent the evening of Monday, July 9, with their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Carrollo, in the Lake Lotawana area, where the Lazias had a summer home. They returned to Kansas City in the early morning hours of July 10 in an automobile driven by Carrollo. Mrs. Lazia was seated in the front, beside Carrollo, while Lazia and Carollo's wife sat in the rear.

They pulled into the semi-circular driveway of the Park Central apartment building, 300 East Armour Boulevard, where the Lazias lived. When the car stopped under the building's front entrance canopy, John Lazia emerged from a rear seat and began to open the front door to help his wife from the car. At that moment, two gunmen opened fire on Lazia with a machine gun and a shotgun.

Mrs. Lazia
As Lazia fell wounded, he called out, "I'm shot. Get Marie out of here. Step on it, Charlie!"

Carrollo did as he was instructed. The gunmen advanced and fired more shots into Lazia's body. They then ran off into an alley beside the apartment building, climbed into a waiting automobile and escaped.

Lazia was rushed to St. Joseph Hospital (then about two miles away on East Linwood Boulevard). Doctors tended to his wounds - he had been struck by slugs in his chest, shoulder, head, back and arms - and administered three blood transfusions. They were unable to save Lazia. He died at the hospital at just after two o'clock that afternoon.

Lazia claimed not to know who shot him. In his final moments, he told Dr. D.M. Nigro, "I don't know why they did it. I'm a friend to everybody. I don't know why they did this to me."

Newspapers noted that Lazia was an important lieutenant in the political machine of Kansas City Democratic boss Thomas J. Pendergast. It was said that Lazia personally controlled 30,000 votes in the city. The killing brought considerable negative attention to the Pendergast machine. It was the second time that Lazia had damaged the organization. The machine's connections to the region's underworld had been exposed through Lazia's trial for income tax evasion five months earlier. At the time he was murdered, Lazia was free on bond awaiting an appeal of failure to file convictions that resulted in a one-year prison sentence, five years' probation and a fine.

St. Louis Star and Times shows location of victim and gunmen

Investigation goes nowhere

Otto P. Higgins, director of the local police force, took personal charge of the Lazia murder investigation. Joe Lusco, a north side political rival of Lazia, was immediately brought in for questioning. Police also rounded up more than twenty of Lusco's followers.

Lusco
Lusco was reputed to be part of Casmir Welch's political organization, which battled the Pendergast machine. A feud between the Lusco and Lazia factions had already claimed a number of lives, including that of Ferris Anthon, believed killed by Lazia-affiliated gunmen in the summer of 1933.

Lusco, however, insisted that any problems he ever had with Lazia had been resolved long ago. Lusco told investigators that he and Lazia were the closest of friends. Without evidence against the rival faction, police were forced to release Lusco and his men.

There was some suspicion that Lazia was targeted due to the arrests of two men for the killing of bank messenger Webster Kemner during a robbery earlier in the year. Sam DeCaro and Charles Taibi were charged with the Kemner killing. DeCaro was quickly tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Taibi was awaiting trial at the time of Lazia's murder. There were rumors that Lazia provided information to police that linked DeCaro and Taibi to the slaying of Kemner.

Lazia
Eventually, the local authorities suggested that Lazia was killed by gangsters from outside the region. Lazia, they claimed, had enraged distant gang bosses by refusing to allow their men to operate within the Kansas City area.

In the fall of 1934, federal agents found interesting connections between the killing of John Lazia and the Union Station Massacre in Kansas City a year earlier. Kansas City gangster James LaCapra told authorities that Lazia aided gangsters "Pretty Boy" Floyd, Adam Richetti and Verne Miller in their failed but bloody attempt to free Frank Nash from federal custody. Agents also discovered that markings on machine gun bullets used in the massacre were a match for bullets recovered at the scene of Lazia's murder, suggesting that the same machine gun was used in both incidents. Authorities felt this was an indication that Lazia was killed by former allies rather than by known enemies.

Stand-up guy?

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Police and press seemed not to consider that Lazia's recent income tax case had anything to do with his killing, though testimony in that case revealed to press, police and public the connections between political bosses and underworld bosses, the amount of money generated through local gambling rackets and the specific amounts that had been paid to county law enforcement personnel to ensure protection of those rackets. In fighting the government's case, Lazia went to the witness stand, named business partners and described financial transactions. And his fight did not end with his conviction.

When the jury returned a generous verdict, finding him guilty only of misdemeanor failing to file returns for two years and acquitting him of felony tax evasion, Lazia did not act in the way expected of a "stand-up guy." He went to the press and stated, "I'm a victim of prejudice. I feel I've been convicted on charges that never would have been placed against most businessmen."

Though a federal judge in spring 1934 overruled a request for a new trial, Lazia pressed ahead with an appeal, further increasing the exposure of his underworld colleagues. One month before his murder, Lazia learned that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Omaha, Nebraska, would hear his appeal in October.

Saying goodbye

Lazia's remains were placed in a casket reportedly valued at $5,000. Some sources described the casket as silver-plated bronze, others as silver-lined copper. A wake was held at the home of Lazia's sister, and an estimated 10,000 people visited through the night.

St. Louis Star and Times shows funeral procession
On the morning of July 13, about 1,000 people were still crowded around the sister's home as the funeral procession to Holy Rosary Church commenced. More thousands lined the route to the church. Thomas J. Pendergast participated in the sendoff, along with former north side political boss Michael Ross and City Manager H.F. McElroy. The procession included 120 cars and was followed by four trucks filled with floral offerings.

Lazia
The most noteworthy floral piece was a large wheel and axle with an obviously missing second wheel. That was sent by Pendergast. Newspapers called attention to the fact that flowers had been sent from individuals in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans and other U.S. cities. Even Joe Lusco sent flowers.

Following the funeral Mass, Lazia's remains were taken to St. Mary's Cemetery to be buried next to the graves of his father and mother.

Though John Lazia was dead and buried, the U.S. Bureau of Internal Revenue was not quite done with him. About a week after the funeral, Collector of Internal Revenue Dan M. Nee filed a lien of $62,280.01 against the Lazia estate, including property owned by Lazia's widow. The government argued that Lazia failed to pay $48,847.76 in owed taxes for the years 1927 through 1930 and also owed interest and fines totaling $13,432.25.

Sources:
  • "John Lazia, Kansas City politician, goes to trial," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 5, 1934, p. 4.
  • "Gambling den 'fixing' bared in Lazia trial," St. Louis Star and Times, Feb. 6, 1934, p. 1.
  • "Says protection of Lazia's resort cost $500 a week," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 7, 1934, p. 1.
  • "Maze of tax data piled up at Lazia trial," St. Louis Star and Times, Feb. 8, 1934, p. 1.
  • "Lazia deposits put at $153,871 for two years," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 9, 1934, p. 2.
  • "Lazia had money; was it taxable? Is issue at trial," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 10, 1934, p. 3.
  • "Move by Lazia's lawyers to halt tax evasion trial," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 11, 1934, p. 16.
  • "Lazias lived on $150 a month, wife testifies," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 12, 1934, p. 3.
  • "Prosecutor asks for 'horse sense" in Lazia verdict," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 13, 1934, p. 6.
  • "Lazia convicted on two counts in income tax case," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 14, 1934, p. 1.
  • "Lazia is guilty on two charges," Chillicothe MO Constitution-Tribune, Feb. 14, 1934, p. 1.
  • "Lazia is sentenced by Judge Otis," Chillicothe MO Constitution-Tribune, Feb. 28, 1934, p. 7.
  • "John Lazia gets year in jail on U.S. tax charge," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 28, 1934, p. 3.
  • "A new trial for Lazia is probable," Chillicothe MO Constitution-Tribune, April 9, 1934, p. 6.
  • "Lazia hearing Saturday," Chillicothe MO Constitution-Tribune, April 10, 1934, p. 2.
  • "John Lazia denied retrial," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 14, 1934, p. 2.
  • "Lazia appeal will be argued in Omaha," Jefferson City MO Post-Tribune, June 1, 1934, p. 2.
  • "John Lazia dies after being shot by two gunmen," Sedalia MO Democrat, July 10, 1934, p. 1.
  • "John Lazia shot down by 2 unidentified gunmen today," Chillicothe MO Constitution-Tribune, July 10, 1934, p. 1.
  • "Machine-gunners shoot John Lazia, Pendergast's aid," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 10, 1934, p. 1.
  • "Politicians are dazed by death of Johnny Lazia," Jefferson City MO Post-Tribune, July 11, 1934, p. 3.
  • "A Chillicothe young man to aid of wounded man," Chillicothe MO Constitution-Tribune, July 11, 1934, p. 1.
  • "Great throng files past John Lazia bier," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 12, 1934, p. 3.
  • "Italians honor Lazia, lies in $5,000 casket," Jefferson City MO Post-Tribune, July 12, 1934, p. 10.
  • "The Lazia funeral to cost $40,000," Chillicothe MO Constitution-Tribune, July 12, 1923, p. 1.
  • "Thousands line funeral route of John Lazia," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 13, 1934, p. 1.
  • "Government files $62,280 lien on John Lazia estate," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 21, 1934, p. 3B.
  • "John Lazia linked with massacre of 5 at Kansas City," St. Louis Star and Times, Oct. 11, 1934, p. 3.

16 June 2018

Top New England mobsters targeted

On this date in 1989:
In the late morning of Friday, June 16, 1989, "Cadillac Frank" Salemme, a rising star in the Patriarca Crime Family, was walking through a House of Pancakes parking lot off Route 1 in the Boston suburb of Saugus, Massachusetts, when two gunmen opened fire on him from a passing automobile. 
 
Salemme
Salemme scrambled for cover and rushed inside a Papa Gino's pizza shop about thirty yards away. As he did so, the gunmen's car turned and made a second pass, firing more shots at the fleeing Mafioso.

"Cadillac Frank," wounded and bleeding, ran to the rear of the pizza shop, yelled out, "Call the police!" and collapsed near the door to the men's room. He regained his composure and his footing. Returning to the front of the shop, he sat down at the first table. He had been struck twice by the slugs fired at him - once in his chest and once in his left leg. As he waited for police and paramedics to arrive, he calmly pressed his windbreaker jacket against the chest wound to slow the flow of blood.

The authorities found the gunshot victim uncooperative. He refused even to identify himself. When asked who shot him, Salemme answered, "No one." Salemme was taken to AtlantiCare Hospital in Lynn, Massachusetts. Later in the day, doctors graded his condition as "guarded but stable." Investigators knew of Salemme's connections to organized crime, but they weren't sure what to make of the murder attempt. Things became somewhat clearer that afternoon.

End of the Wild Guy
Shortly after three o'clock, two fishermen discovered a dead body partly submerged in the Connecticut River at Wethersfield, just south of Hartford, Connecticut. Police arriving at the scene found that the male corpse was fully clothed and still in possession of a wallet. Cards inside the wallet belonged to William P. "Wild Guy" Grasso of New Haven.

Grasso
Further investigation positively identified the dead man as Grasso, considered the number-two man in the Patriarca organization, behind only Rhode Island-based boss Raymond "Junior" Patriarca in importance.

An autopsy revealed that Grasso had been killed by a single gunshot to the base of his skull. The medical examiner concluded that the gunshot had been fired at least twenty-four hours before the body was found.

 When the news of Grasso's murder was released, Connecticut's United States Attorney Stanley A. Twardy, Jr., noted that the "Wild Guy" was "the single most influential organized crime figure in Connecticut." Twardy also commented that he could not rule out a connection between the murder of Grasso and the attack on Salemme.

Detectives kept watch for familiar underworld figures at Grasso's funeral on Tuesday, June 20. Hundreds of people filled St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church in New Haven for a Mass of Christian Burial, but no known Mafiosi were seen. The funeral cortege included fifty cars. Grasso was buried at All Saints Cemetery in his hometown, sharing a grave with his wife, who died a year earlier. He was survived by a son, three brothers and two sisters.

'Best thing that ever happened'
Grasso, a New Haven native and once a member of the New York-based Colombo Crime Family, became a member of the New England organization after serving time in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary for creating a garbage hauling monopoly in southern Connecticut. His cellmate at Atlanta was "Junior" Patriarca's father, notorious New England crime boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca. Grasso emerged from prison as a trusted aide of the elder Patriarca.

Grasso later referred to his Atlanta sentence as the "best thing that ever happened to me."

When Raymond L.S. Patriarca died in 1984, "Junior" Patriarca became boss and Grasso became underboss, directly overseeing New England Crime Family rackets in Connecticut. Grasso aggressively expanded his territory from New Haven, across the southern portion of the state into Fairfield County, up into Hartford and beyond into the Springfield, Massachusetts, area, stepping on many mobsters' toes along the way. New York Mafiosi had long dominated in Fairfield County, several crime families had interests in Hartford, and Springfield was known to be the territory of a faction of the powerful New York-based Genovese clan.

'Kill or be killed'
Authorities quickly understood that the moves against Grasso and Salemme were designed to weaken the administration of "Junior" Patriarca. But it took some time before they could piece together just what was going on.

The loss of Grasso was keenly felt within the New England Mafia. No one within Connecticut's branch of the organization had Grasso's combination of ability and loyalty. According to FBI sources, the Patriarca administration appointed a Rhode Islander, Matthew L. Guglielmetti, to oversee rackets in the Nutmeg State. Nicholas L. Bianco, another Rhode Island resident, was elevated to the position of underboss.

In 1990, federal prosecutors began dismantling the New England Mafia through successful prosecutions. In the process, they learned that brothers Louis and Frank Pugliano, Gaetano Milano and Milano's longtime friend Frank Colantoni, Jr., participated in the killing of Grasso. Believing that Grasso was planning to murder them, they set to the job of eliminating him first.

Grasso funeral (Courant, June 21, 1989)
They set up a phony underworld meeting in Massachusetts on June 13, 1989. With Louis Pugliano at the wheel of a van, they picked up Grasso to take him to the meeting. While driving along Interstate-91 in Connecticut, Milano fired a single shot into the back of Grasso's neck. The group deposited Grasso's body at the Connecticut River.

At his sentencing in 1991, Milano told U.S. District Judge Alan H. Nevas that he felt the killing of Grasso was necessary: "It was kill or be killed."

A like-minded group in Massachusetts was found to be behind the attempt on Salemme's life. Authorities learned that Enrico Ponzo and Vincent Michael Marino were the gunmen who attacked "Cadillac Frank."

U.S. prosecutors assembled convincing cases against the New England Mafia rebels (Ponzo was able to avoid capture until early in 2011) and much of the crime family leadership. But an important part of the story remained unknown to them and to the American public. It was unknown because agents of the FBI were keeping it secret.

FBI sparked rebellion
Years later, it was learned that some in the FBI had worked with informants within the New England underworld to create a destructive rivalry within the Patriarca Mafia organization. Seeds planted by the FBI convinced groups within the Connecticut and Massachusetts branches of the organization that the Patriarca administration was planning to eliminate them. That prompted them to act against Grasso and Salemme, and it also figured in several other murders.

Defense attorney Anthony Cardinale revealed in a 1997 affidavit that intentional FBI activities caused the plots against Grasso and Salemme and that the FBI knew of the plots but kept silent about them for a period of sixteen months. FBI improprieties were documented in the following years.

One of the mobsters involved in the FBI efforts was Angelo "Sonny" Mercurio. The FBI actively hid Mercurio's involvement in instigating the anti-Grasso plot while others were tried and convicted for it. Mercurio was never charged in connection with the killing. He died in Florida in late 2006 while in the witness protection program.

The revelations of FBI involvement and coverup led to revised sentences for a number of those convicted in the early 1990s.

Sources:
  • "Garbageman backs attempt to regain 'stolen' customer," Bridgeport CT Post, Nov. 7, 1968, p. 20.
  • "Police confirm reputed crime boss a homicide victim," Associated Press, June 17, 1989, apnews.com.
  • Cullen, Kevin, "Two men linked to mob shot in separate attacks," Boston Globe, June 17, 1989, bostonglobe.com.
  • Hays, Constance L., "A mob leader in New England is believed slain," New York Times, June 17, 1989.
  • Foderaro, Lisa W., "Mob leader's slaying may signal power struggle," New York Times, June 18, 1989, p. 31.
  • Mahony, Edmund, "Hundreds attend rite for Grasso," Hartford Courant, June 21, 1989, p. 1.
  • Gombossy, George, "Magistrate may free mob suspects on bond," Hartford Courant, March 31, 1990, p. C1.
  • Mahony, Edmund, "Two plead guilty to racketeering charges in surprise move," Hartford Courant, May 2, 1991, p. C1.
  • Barry, Stephanie, "Mob killer may get out early," Springfield MA Republican, Sept. 22, 2008, masslive.com.
  • Christoffersen, John, "Judge reduces mobster killer's sentence," Norwalk CT Hour, Oct. 9, 2008.
  • Marcus, Jon, "Attorney says FBI encouraged mob shootings," New Bedford MA SouthCoast Today, Jan. 10, 2011, southcoasttoday.com.
  • Guilfoil, John M., "Fugitive mobster found in Idaho," Boston Globe, Feb. 9, 2011, boston.com.
  • Mahony, Edmund H., "The Mob in Connecticut: Grasso's reign of terror," Hartford Courant, April 26, 2014, courant.com.