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

11 August 2017

Live by the sword...

Mafia assassin Umberto Valente
killed in East Village shooting

On this date in 1922: Mafia assassin Umberto Valente was gunned down in a bold daylight shooting on a busy Manhattan street corner.

Valente was seen with a group of men at the intersection of East 12th Street and Second Avenue at about noon, when he suddenly darted into the intersection toward a taxicab. Two other men also moved into the intersection, drew handguns and opened fire on the fleeing man.

Valente reached the runningboard of the taxi and tried to return fire before collapsing unconscious to the street. His attackers fired a few shots toward a gathering crowd and made their escape through the basement of an apartment building at 233 East 12th Street.

Stray slugs wounded a New York street cleaner and an eleven-year-old girl from New Haven, Connecticut, who was in New York City visiting her grandfather.

NYPD Detective Sgt. Kirk witnessed the end of the gunfight from a streetcar. He rushed to the fallen Valente and commandeered an automobile to take Valente to St. Mark's Hospital. Valente never regained consciousness. He died of his wounds about an hour later.

According to an often repeated underworld legend (told and likely created by the notoriously inventive David Leon Chandler), the gunman who fired the fatal shots into Valenti was Salvatore Lucania (later known as Charlie Luciano), at that time an underling of Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria. Evidence in support of the tale is lacking. Lucania's only documented brush with the law in August of 1922 occurred near the end of the month when his car was pulled over for a traffic violation.


Investigators determined that Valente had been responsible for the attempted murder of Giuseppe Masseria a few days earlier on August 8. Masseria surprisingly escaped unharmed - except for a couple of bullet holes through his straw hat - after being cornered by a gunman near his home, 80 Second Avenue (less than half a mile from the spot where Valente was killed). On the afternoon of the eleventh, police found Masseria at his home, insisting that he had not been out of the building and knew nothing of the attack on Valente. His denials were unconvincing. It was assumed that Masseria either directly participated in or ordered the shooting of Valente.

Already awaiting a murder trial for the shooting death of Silvio Tagliagambe two months earlier, Masseria was charged also with the murder of Valente.

Police hypothesized that Masseria and Valente, both known to be involved in Manhattan bootlegging and gambling rackets, had become underworld rivals. Much later, authorities learned that Masseria and allies were engaged in a gangland war with reigning Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore D'Aquila. Valente had been assigned by D'Aquila to eliminate Joe the Boss.

Sources:
  • "Eight men shot in mysterious battle on street," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 8, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Gunmen shoot six in East Side swarm," New York Times, Aug. 9, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Cloakmaker, victim of gunman, dies; 3 more in hospital," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 9, 1922, p. 20.
  • "Gunman's volley fatal to striker," New York Times, Aug. 10, 1922, p. 13
  • "Car used in street battle traced here," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 10, 1922, p. 18.
  • "1 dead, 2 shot, as bootleggers again fight on East Side," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 11, 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.
  • "Mystery in rum street battle near solution," New York Tribune, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 16.
  • "East Side bad man killed as shots fly," New York Herald, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 16.
  • "Gang kills gunman; 2 bystanders hit," New York Times, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 20.
  • "Valente's arrest balked by murder," New York Evening World, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 3.
  • "New Haven girl wounded in New York bootleggers' feud," Bridgeport CT Telegram, Aug. 12, 1922, p. 1.
  • "Bootleggers at war," Philadelphia Inquirer (Associated Press), Aug. 12, 1922, p. 2.
  • Chandler, David Leon, Brothers in Blood: The Rise of the Criminal Brotherhoods, New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1975.
  • Gentile, Nick, with Felice Chilanti, Vita di Capomafia, Rome: Crescenzi Allendorf, 1993.

27 July 2017

1909 Connecticut murder linked to NYC Mafia

On this date in 1909...
An orchardman in Danbury, Connecticut, is ambushed and shot to death at his doorstep on Hospital Avenue. Newspaper reports immediately link his murder to the Morello-Lupo Mafia organization in New York City and to the famous Barrel Murder case.

Giovanni Zarcone of Danbury
Near the centennial of this murder (now eight years ago), I was invited to speak about it at the Danbury Museum and Historical Society. A couple of documents were prepared for that event: One was the text of my remarks and the other was a collection of related images. Links to these documents are provided below.

An article relating to the murder and its background was published in the July 2009 issue of Informer: The Journal of American Mafia History. That issue remains available in print and electronic formats through the MagCloud service.


23 July 2017

Brooklyn's 1902 'Sack Murder' (1 of 4)

Bay Ridge boys, heading out for summer evening swim,
were first to encounter grisly contents of discarded sack

(Jump to Part 2)
Joseph Donahue, Robert Pearsall
and John Mulqueen (left to right)

On this date in 1902...
Fourteen-year-old John Mulqueen and three of his friends slid down the grassy slope from the foot of Seventy-third Street in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. As they moved through trees and tall weeds toward the rocky shore of New York Bay, they began removing their clothes. The sun had set on a steamy Wednesday, July 23, 1902, and the boys were ready for a cooling swim.

Before heading into the water, the four teens fanned out, looking for remote hiding places for their clothes. None wanted to take the chance of falling victim to the “chaw beef” trick. That practical joke involved tying tight knots into the shirt and pants of a bather. When the victim came out of the water, he would need to use teeth along with fingers to get the knots out. Onlookers would cheer, “Chaw beef, chaw beef...,” as the knots were undone.

Young Mulqueen carried his garment bundle off into the grass, where he spotted what looked to be a large and very full potato sack. The boy found the object irresistible. He pulled a small knife from his clothes and put a slit into the sack. Underneath, he found another container, which appeared to be made of tougher material.

He gathered his friends and began slicing into the inner liner. When the dusk light fell upon a portion of the sack’s contents, the boys recoiled. A man was inside, naked and lifeless.

“It’s a dead man!” Mulqueen shouted.

The boys, stunned by what they saw, retreated and hastily put their clothes back on. Mulqueen, who lived a few blocks away at 321 Seventy-fourth Street, decided that the police were needed. He suggested that two of the group leave at once for the Fort Hamilton Police Station on Eighty-sixth Street near Fifth Avenue. The other two should keep watch on the area, he said. Joseph Donahue of 346 Seventy-fourth Street, Robert Pearsall of 1671 Third Avenue and William Chambers of 206½ Chambers Street all agreed that Mulqueen’s plan was sound. However, none of the boys wished to be left behind with the bagged corpse. They decided on an alternate plan – they would all go together to fetch the police.

By road, the distance between their favorite swimming spot and the station was about one and a half miles. But the layout of Bay Ridge in 1902 – sprawling farms, large vacation estates and smaller homes surrounded by woods through which paths had been carved – allowed a more direct route and cut the trip to the station by about a third.

Desk Sergeant Hughes somewhat reluctantly listened to John Mulqueen’s story. He doubted that the boys had stumbled upon a corpse in a bag of potatoes, but dispatched three police officers with Mulqueen and his friends in a patrol wagon to investigate.

The Brooklyn officers followed Mulqueen’s direction to the sack and quickly verified his tale. Unprepared to conduct an investigation on the dark shore, the officers decided to take the large bundle back to their station. With considerable difficulty, they dragged the sack and its contents up the twenty-foot-high slope to the intersection of Seventy-third Street and Shore Road, loading it into the patrol wagon.

A thorough examination of the corpse and its wrappings was conducted under the lights at Fort Hamilton Station. The outer covering was indeed a large potato sack. Stenciled on it were the words, “Paton’s Selected Scotch – 168 lbs.” Police determined that the inner lining had been assembled from some floor matting sewn into the shape of a bag. Another bag was found over the head of the victim. Around that was wrapped a few pages from the Sunday, July 13, issue of the New York Times.

Despite the date of that newspaper, investigators could see that the victim had been dead not longer than twenty-four hours. He was a fairly large and powerfully developed man, with a height of about five feet and ten inches and a weight approximated at two hundred and forty pounds. He had gray eyes, black hair and a lighter color mustache. Police guessed that he was roughly thirty eight years old.

The cause of death was readily apparent. A deep gash ran across the victim's throat from ear to ear, nearly disconnecting the head from the torso. The coroner noted that only a single cord of neck muscle remained intact. The victim had bled out quickly, possibly losing as much as a gallon of blood in the moments following his murder.

Two other short stab wounds were found on the neck and face. A number of other wounds on the body were noted. The victim’s left thumb and forefinger were missing, the result of a much older injury. Several scrapes looked to be defensive injuries. Bruises were visible all over the body. Several larger bones had been broken. The coroner theorized that the broken bones might have occurred after death, as the body was stuffed into the floor mat bag. Heavy twine had been used to fold the body in half by joining the upper spine to the lower legs. This, too, was seen as a measure taken to allow for easy disposal of the victim.

Detectives and patrolmen returned to the shore with lanterns to search for additional clues. They discovered another potato sack, which held a black suit, a shirt, shoes and a derby hat. The suit and shirt had been cut into large strips and were stained with blood. With the clothes, the detectives found two folded documents. One was a bill of lading for a tomato-based product imported from Italy. The other was a notice of eviction relating to a commercial establishment at 165 Columbia Street. Though the victim remained nameless, the documents suggested he was an Italian merchant doing business on Columbia Street.

Further up the slope from the spot where the body had been found, Officers Burns and White noted that a section of fence had been knocked over and several saplings crushed. From the available evidence the detectives concluded that the two potato sacks had been driven to Shore Road and thrown onto the slope from a vehicle. They speculated that the perpetrators of the crime, believing the water was closer to the road than it actually was, expected the sacks to roll out into the bay. Area residents reported seeing a wagon stopping briefly in the area during the night.

(Jump to Part 2)

Brooklyn's 1902 'Sack Murder' (2 of 4)

Victim identified as 'Joe the Grocer,'
Sicilian immigrant living under assumed name

(Return to Part 1)   (Jump to Part 3)

Police officers under the command of Captain Michael Devanney of Fort Hamilton Station and sleuths of the Brooklyn Detective Bureau led by Captain James G. Reynolds met at Columbia Street to follow the only clues to the victim’s identity.

167 Columbia Street
Detective Sergeant Antonio Vachris was one of the investigators dispatched to the scene by Captain Reynolds. Vachris, born in France to an Italian family making its way to the United States, was a longtime resident of Brooklyn and knew its Italian population well. He spoke Italian and some Sicilian dialects. One of the few non-Democrats to advance through the ranks of the Brooklyn police, Vachris secured promotion several months earlier from roundsman - street supervisor of patrolmen - to detective sergeant in an unusual way. He sued administrators of the New York Police Department, charging that he had been performing detective sergeant duties at Brooklyn headquarters for years while being denied the corresponding title and pay. The courts found in his favor and compelled Police Commissioner “Colonel” John N. Partridge to appropriately grade Vachris and others in his situation.

The building at 165 Columbia turned out to be a second-hand furniture store owned by Mary Noonan. The police awakened Noonan, who lived in an apartment above her business, and asked her about the eviction notice. She directed them to a grocery next door at 167 Columbia.

'Joe the Grocer' Catania
In the apartments above that store, police found grocer Giuseppe Catania’s wife and six children. Vachris learned that Catania, known in the neighborhood as “Joe the Grocer,” had been missing since Tuesday morning. The disappearance had been reported to police at the Fort Hamilton Station and at the Mulberry Street headquarters in Manhattan. Catania’s son Charlie and son-in-law Dominick Tutrone had been searching for him all over the city.

The murder victim reportedly had lived in Brooklyn for more than twenty years under the assumed name of Catania (Secret Service records later referred to him as Giuseppe DiTrapani), since emigrating from his native Palermo, Sicily. He initially worked as a longshoreman on the Brooklyn docks and lived for a time in a Sicilian neighborhood on Union Street.

Catania’s wife collapsed and wept loudly after hearing of her husband’s demise. The police learned very little from their initial attempts to question her. Her wailing woke a number of neighbors and drew them to the apartment. Police interviewed the small crowd and began piecing together a possible explanation for the murder.

Det. Sgt. Vachris
They learned that Catania fought with a man named Troia or Trica on Sunday, July 20. Catania showed up at Troia’s second-floor apartment on Hicks Street near the intersection with Summit and attempted to collect an old grocery debt of fourteen dollars. Troia refused to pay. The disagreement became physical, and Troia shoved Catania down a flight of stairs.

When police asked Mrs. Catania to confirm that her husband had fought with Troia, she became more talkative. She dismissed the fight as a possible cause for further violence. She told Vachris that her husband and Troia patched up their relationship on Monday. Troia, she said, pledged to pay his debt the following day.

According to Mrs. Catania, her husband left their home on Tuesday morning to meet Troia and collect his money. He then intended to head into Manhattan to pick up a case of imported tomato paste a friend had moved through the New York Customhouse. Catania had less than three dollars on him when he left the house, she said. She did not know if he ever made it to Manhattan.

She insisted that her husband was very well liked in the neighborhood. He spent his evenings at home, on the front steps, chatting with neighbors. He liked to drink, she said, but never drank too much.

(Return to Part 1)   (Jump to Part 3)

Brooklyn's 1902 'Sack Murder' (3 of 4)

Suspect Troia quarreled and fought
with Catania over $14 unpaid debt

(Return to Part 2)   (Jump to Part 4)

Detective Sergeant Vachris and two other officers headed down toward Red Hook, Brooklyn, to check in on Troia. Lighting their way with a candle, the officers climbed the stairs of 604 Hicks Street at close to three o’clock in the morning. Immediately, they found reason to doubt that Troia’s apartment could be the scene of the Catania murder. The stairs were so narrow that it would have been impossible to move Catania’s lifeless body down them without leaving blood stains on the walls. The investigators saw no blood on the walls or the doorframes. They noted, however, that a panel in the door at the top of the stairs had been cracked.

Vincenzo Troia
Vincenzo Troia slowly answered the police knocks on his door. He opened the door and took a moment to blink himself fully to consciousness before starting to answer a barrage of questions.

He said he knew of Catania and owed him some money. He reported that he saw the grocer on Monday. There had been some unpleasantness the day before, but on Monday he apologized. He promised at that time to pay the owed fourteen dollars, and the two men shook hands. He had not seen Catania since that time. The broken door panel was the result of an angry Catania kick on Sunday, he said. He told police that he was twenty-six and unmarried and came to Brooklyn from Palermo about a year earlier.

The police placed Troia under arrest and searched his apartment and his clothing for traces of blood. There was none. The suspect went quietly along with the police, while detectives questioned residents of the neighborhood. Speaking with investigators, a Hicks Street barber confirmed the Sunday fight between Troia and Catania. After Catania tumbled down Troia’s stairs onto the sidewalk, the barber said, Troia charged at him. The two wrestled a bit before the barber separated them. According to the witness, neither man threw a punch or drew a weapon during that scuffle.

NY Tribune, July 25, 1902
When the Coney Island Police Court opened later that morning, Troia was brought before Magistrate Albert Van Brunt Voorhees Jr. and processed on suspicion of homicide. Troia identified himself to the court, said he was twenty-four years old, a native of Palermo, single and employed as a fruit packer for Brooklyn businessman Luigi Nosdeo. He insisted he was innocent of Catania’s killing. Voorhees committed him to Raymond Street Jail.

While the Sunday argument and Catania’s alleged appointment with Troia on the day he disappeared were evidence enough to hold Troia on suspicion for a few days, they were insufficient to convict him of murder. Brooklyn police spent much of the day Thursday trying to build a credible case against the prisoner.

They discovered that Luigi Nosdeo’s business ventures included a livery stable at 629 Hicks Street that was filled with horses and wagons. Investigators speculated that Troia could have used one of the wagons to haul Catania’s body out to Bay Ridge, but they could find no blood evidence in any of the wagons or any indication that Troia had borrowed one of the vehicles. Detectives moved on to examine every wagon they could find in the South Brooklyn Italian community. None showed any signs of having been used to transport Catania.

The murder weapon and the scene of the crime were just as elusive. Without those essential elements, there could be no hope of conclusively identifying the murderer.

Police turned their attention to four unidentified Sicilian men who lived in a room behind Catania’s store and were known to be friendly with Troia. They learned that two of those men had escorted Troia to Catania’s apartment on Monday as brokers of peace. Police interpreted Troia’s apology and his promise of payment as a deception designed to lower Catania’s guard. They therefore viewed the men who accompanied Troia during the apology as possible accomplices.

Fort Hamilton Police Station
Catania’s son Charlie revealed that the four men were the only ones in the neighborhood apparently uninterested in the grocer’s disappearance on Tuesday. Ordinarily, he told the investigators, the men would ask about his father when he was not around. On Tuesday, when Catania was conspicuously absent, they greeted Charlie without mentioning his father.

Two of the men Charlie found suspicious were interrogated by police late on Thursday, as Catania’s body was brought to the front parlor of his Columbia Street home for a wake. The men claimed to know nothing about the murder, other than what they had read in the newspapers. No weapons and no signs of a violent struggle were observed in their apartment.

During the day on Friday, a large crowd of mourners filed through the black draped front parlor of the Catania home to pay respects to the grocer and offer condolences to his family. The room was kept dark, the only light emanating from a tall candelabrum. Due to the darkness and to the high collar the undertaker placed on the body, Catania’s enormous neck wound was unseen. A well attended funeral was held at the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary on Saturday afternoon. (The Brooklyn Eagle reported that religious services were canceled, "the pomp and ceremony of an Italian funeral being considered sufficient.") The grocer’s body was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery. Police officers and detectives were on hand through every stage of the funeral, examining the faces of attendees and listening to their hushed conversations.

(Return to Part 2)   (Jump to Part 4)

Brooklyn's 1902 'Sack Murder' (4 of 4)

Investigation by Brooklyn police stalls,
Secret Service links killing to Mafia

(Return to Part 3)

Just a few days into the investigation, Detective Sergeant Vachris decided that there was no workable case against Troia or the four men who lived behind Catania’s shop. He began to explore other possibilities. One of those was provided by Catania’s son-in-law Dominick Tutrone, who spoke about it with a reporter from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper on Saturday morning.

“He was a good man,” said Tutrone. “When my wife [Catania’s oldest daughter] died, he was very kind to me. And, as if he did not have children enough of his own, took my two little ones home too.”

“What is your opinion of this murder?” the reporter asked.

“I do not know what to think. It seems too horrible to contemplate. I cannot think that this man Troia had anything to do with it. It seems impossible to believe that for such a trivial thing as fourteen dollars such a murder would be committed... Italians do not kill their friends for so slight a cause. There is something else behind this. Vengeance, I believe.”

Tutrone indicated that Catania had lived a peaceful life for all of his two decades in Brooklyn. He said, however, that a vendetta could have arisen from some earlier incident in Catania’s home city of Palermo, Sicily.

“These people cherish a wrong a long, long time, years and years,” Tutrone explained. “Of course there is talk, lots of it. But I do not know of anything that he ever did in Sicily that would result in his murder. He was not killed for his money. That is certain, for he had no money. He was not killed by any enemy he had made in this country. I am sure of that. Then the only thing that is left for us to believe is that this thing was done to settle up some old score.”

According to the Eagle, the “lots of talk” to which Tutrone referred was gossip relating to a Palermo offense allegedly committed by Catania against one or two men. One wild rumor specifically charged that he murdered two fellow Sicilians. The Italian quarter of Brooklyn, the newspaper said, was convinced that the families of the injured parties had tracked Catania to Brooklyn and avenged their relatives.

Vincenzo Troia was discharged from custody on July 29. The police admitted that, while there was evidence of some bad blood between Catania and Troia, they had no evidence linking Troia to the Catania killing.

William Flynn
Detective Sergeant Vachris gradually came to support a version of the vendetta theory. Unlike the Palermo murder rumor, the detective’s version left Catania innocent of any wrongdoing. The grocer merely testified against men charged of murder in Palermo. As a result of the testimony, the defendants were convicted and sentenced to twenty-year prison terms. They swore revenge. Fearing for his life, Catania fled to Brooklyn. Over the years, he became comfortable and forgot about the murderers he helped convict. When the two men were released from prison, they learned of Catania’s whereabouts, traveled to Brooklyn and fulfilled their vendetta.

Months later, part of that theory was supported by the arrest on Brooklyn's Washington Street of recent Sicilian immigrant Liborio Laveri. Investigators learned that Giuseppe Catania had been a government witness two decades earlier when Laveri was charged with the kidnapping of a merchant in Termini Imerese, Sicily. Laveri served a long prison sentence. Upon his release, he traveled to the U.S. and reached New York just one month before Catania's murder, becoming a resident of Main and Front Streets in Brooklyn. There was no evidence tying Laveri to the murder, but he was held at the Adams Street Police Station while authorities worked to have him deported as an undesirable alien.

Police interest in the Catania murder diminished over time. The case remained officially unsolved.

However, the murder became a matter of intense interest to Agent William J. Flynn and his fellow Secret Service men of the New York bureau. The Secret Service had been trailing suspected members of a gang of Brooklyn and Manhattan counterfeiters for more than a decade. That gang of immigrant Sicilian Mafiosi was believed to be importing counterfeit currency within shipments of produce and olive oil from Mafia contacts in Sicily. While the Secret Service had managed to shut down some of the smaller operators in the counterfeiting ring, men who had been caught passing phony bills, it had little evidence against the suspected leaders.

Ignazio Lupo
As the police attributed the slaying of Catania to an unknowable team of old-world assassins, Flynn developed a contrary opinion. Believing the Columbia Street shop to be one of a number of New York area groceries used to distribute phony bills, Flynn was certain that Catania was killed because of his habit of drinking and chatting socially with his Brooklyn neighbors. The grocer occasionally drank a bit too much and chatted about things others wished to keep secret, Flynn concluded. Catania’s near-beheading was an act of savage discipline administered by ruthless higher ups in the counterfeiting ring.

When the corpse of a nearly beheaded murder victim turned up in a barrel on a Manhattan street the following spring, Flynn's agents recognized the victim as a man recently in the company of the Mafia counterfeiters they were trailing. Flynn announced that the same gang, led by Giuseppe Morello and Ignazio "the Wolf" Lupo, was responsible for both the "Barrel murder" and the killing of "Joe the Grocer" Catania.

Flynn's suspicions were confirmed by underworld informants, and New York police noted the Catania murder in Lupo's file. However, neither Mafia boss was ever brought to trial for the killing.

(Return to Part 3)

Sources:
  • Critchley, David, The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City Mafia 1891-1931, New York: Routledge, 2009, p. 42.
  • Flynn, William J., Daily Reports of April 14, 19, 20, May 1, 1903, Department of the Treasury, United States Secret Service Daily Reports, R.G. No. 87, Roll 109, Vol. 9, National Archives.
  • Ignazio Lupo criminal record, New York Police Department, Ignazio Lupo Prison File, #2883, Atlanta Federal Prison, NARA.
  • United States Census of 1880, New York, New York County, Enumeration District 42
  • United States Census of 1900, New York, Kings County, Ward 8, Enumeration District 100.
  • "Police board's big detective shake-up," New York Times, Feb. 4, 1900, p. 1.
  • "Patrolmen offer protests," New York Times, Feb. 6, 1900, p. 9.
  • "Band of assassins murdered Catania," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 24, 1902, p. 1.
  • "Boys find a man's body sewn in a sack," New York Times, July 24, 1902.
  • "Brooklyn police suspect an Italian of concealing murdered victim in a sack," New York World, July 24, 1902, p. 3.
  • "No clew to the slayers of the man in the sack," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 25, 1902, p. 2.
  • "Murder due to vengeance it is believed," New York Press, July 25, 1902, p. 3.
  • "Body found sewed in a sack identified," New York Times, July 25, 1902, p. 14.
  • "Arrest in sack murder," New York Tribune, July 25, 1902, p. 2.
  • "Old vendetta in Sicily behind Catania killing," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 26, 1902, p. 18.
  • "Bay Ridge murder mystery," New York Times, July 26, 1902.
  • "No proof that Troyia murdered Catania," New York Times, July 27, 1902. 
  • "May be a victim of a vendetta," New York Tribune, July 27, 1902, p. 3.
  • "No clew to sack murder," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 29, 1902, p. 16.
  • "Catania fled from vendetta," New York Herald, July 31, 1902, p. 5.
  • "Clew for sack murder found," New York Tribune, July 31, 1902, p. 4.
  • "Trica returned to Sicily," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 5, 1902, p. 5.
  • "Palermo police trying to solve Catania mystery," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 5, 1902, p. 5.
  • "Catania's slayer may yet be caught," Brooklyn Standard Union, Oct. 5, 1902, p. 1.
  • "Unlucky Catania a witness," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 5, 1902, p. 3.
  • "Former brigand caught here," New York Press, Dec. 6, 1902.
  • "May have been killed for spite," New York Tribune, Dec. 6, 1902, p. 4.
  • "Slain man in a barrel; may be a Brooklyn crime," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 14, 1903, p. 1.
  • "Coiners' gang killed him," New York Sun, April 14, 1903, p. 1.
  • "Counterfeiters cut throat of the man whose body was packed in barrel of sawdust," New York Press, April 16, 1903, p. 1.
  • "Eight Sicilians held for barrel murder," New York Times, April 16, 1903, p. 1.
  • "Like the Catania murder," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 17, 1903, p. 15.
  • "Desperate gang held in murder mystery," New York Times, April 17, 1903, p. 3.
  • “Barrel murder mystery deepens,” New York Times, April 20, 1903, p. 3.
  • "Anthony F. Vachris dies; retired peer of detectives," Brooklyn Eagle, Jan. 6, 1944, p. 11.

12 July 2017

Bonanno boss shot down in Bushwick eatery

On this date in 1979, several masked men with shotguns and automatic firearms murdered Bonanno Crime Family bigshot Carmine "Lilo" Galante, 69, his bodyguard Leonardo Coppola, 40, and restaurateur Giuseppe Turano, 48, at a patio table in Joe & Mary's Italian-American Restaurant, 205 Knickerbocker Avenue in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. Turano's son John, 17, suffered serious but not fatal bullet wounds to his back. 

Police immediately began searching for longtime Galante friend Angelo Prisinzano, 73, who reportedly left the restaurant just before the shooting started, as well as Balsassare "Baldo" Amato and Cesare Bonventre, both 28, who were present at the time of the shooting but quickly fled - apparently unharmed - following it. Authorities later concluded that Prisinzano was also targeted in the attack but narrowly escaped. 

(Angelo Prisinzano died of natural causes about one week after the assassination of Galante. Cesare Bonventre was reported missing in early April of 1984. His mutilated remains were reportedly found soaking in drums of acid a month later. Baldassare Amato became an important figure in the Bonanno Crime Family. He was sentenced in October 2006 to life in prison following a federal conviction on racketeering and murder charges.)

Binghamton NY Evening Press

New York Times

Rochester NY Democrat and Chronicle

The sentencing of Baldassare Amato was covered in the December 2006 issue of MobNews Digest.



01 July 2017

Gangland assassination in Brooklyn

Capone gunmen blamed in Frankie Yale's murder

At about 4 p.m. on July 1, 1928, Brooklyn underworld leader Francesco "Frankie Yale" Ioele, 35, was driving his Lincoln automobile along 44th Street in Brooklyn, when he was overtaken by a black sedan.

Spot of Yale's death. (Police had removed his body from the car.)
Shots were fired into the Lincoln's rear window, and Yale accelerated in an effort to escape. The two cars came abreast between 9th and 10th Avenues, and a volley was fired by pistols and a sawed-off shotgun into Yale's car.

Yale's skull was cracked open by the slugs, and his car veered off the road, crashing into the stone steps in front of 923 44th Street. He died immediately.

Though some press accounts referred to the killing as the first New York gangland murder to feature the use of a "Tommy Gun" submachine gun, an autopsy attributed Yale's fatal wounds to a shotgun and a pistol.

At the time of his murder, Yale was believed to be a top lieutenant in the Manhattan-based Mafia organization of Giuseppe Masseria. Yale appeared to be the top-ranked Calabrian in the Sicilian-dominated Mafia network, which opened to non-Sicilians in the Prohibition Era. Later in 1928, following the slaying of Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila, Masseria became the U.S. Mafia's boss of bosses.


Police linked the Yale murder to gunmen working for Chicago's Al Capone, a Brooklyn-born gangster whose family was rooted in the Naples area of Italy. Capone and Yale, both vassals of Giuseppe Masseria, had been rum-running partners. Perhaps concerned that Yale was not dealing with him fairly, Capone inserted a spy named James DeAmato into Yale's organization. DeAmato was found dead on a Brooklyn street in July 1927, likely forcing Capone to take more decisive action.

Yale's funeral was an extravagant gangland sendoff, featuring a silver coffin, mountains of floral tributes and a cortege of two hundred automobiles.

For more on Frankie Yale, see 
"What do we know about Frankie Yale?" 
on The American Mafia history website.

25 June 2017

June 25, 1906: Murder at the Garden

On this date in 1906, prominent architect Stanford White was shot and killed at the rooftop theater of Madison Square Garden. The shooter was Harry Kendall Thaw, of Pittsburgh. Thaw, the heir to a multimillion dollar fortune, held a grudge against White, whom he blamed for thwarting his efforts to achieve the respect of high society. White was also the former lover of Thaw’s wife, Evelyn Nesbit. Nesbit had been a popular model and chorus girl and was the inspiration for the movie The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing.
At trial, Thaw went with a temporary insanity defense (“temporary” probably being the only part that was exaggerated). The jury wound up deadlocked. At the second trial, Evelyn Nesbit took the stand and testified that Stanford White had abused her and that Thaw was just acting in her defense. She performed this task in exchange for the promise of a divorce and a million dollars from Thaw.  The jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity. Thaw received a sentence to the state mental hospital at Matteawan. Nesbit received her divorce, but not the money.
Thaw escaped from Matteawan in 1913 and fled to Canada. He was eventually apprehended and extradited to New York. After receiving a new trial, he was found sane and not guilty of murder. He was released from state custody in 1915.
Thaw was arrested again in 1916, this time for the abduction and sexual assault of 19 year old Frederick Gump (no relation to Forrest). He was found not guilty by reason of insanity (it’s like déjà vu all over again). In 1924, Thaw was judged sane and released from the asylum where he had been incarcerated.
Harry Thaw died of a heart attack in Florida in 1947. In his will, he left Evelyn Nesbit ten thousand dollars, about one percent of his estimated net worth.
Further reading:
Murderpedia – Harry Thaw  
Wikipedia – Harry Kendall Thaw

20 June 2017

70 years ago: The end of 'Bugsy' Siegel

On this date in 1947, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was killed at the home of his girlfriend, Virginia Hill, 810 North Linden Drive in Beverly Hills, California.

Siegel, a transplanted New York racketeer, was an organizer of west coast gambling rackets and developer of the Flamingo hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Siegel was known to be a close associate of Meyer Lansky and Mafia boss Charlie "Lucky" Luciano.

New York Post
Binghamton NY Press
Los Angeles Times
FBI Report, p. 1.
FBI Report, p. 4.
FBI Report, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times

Rochester NY Democrat and Chronicle

Los Angeles Times


17 June 2017

Fruits, vegetables may be hazardous to your health

Police restrain John and Philip Scalise after they view the body of their murdered brother.
On this date in 1957 - Frank "Don Ciccio" Scalise, a top lieutenant (and former boss) of the Mafia organization that soon would become known as the Gambino Crime Family, was murdered at a Bronx produce shop. (The killing served as inspiration for a scene in the movie, The Godfather.)

New York Times
Scalise, a resident of 211 Kirby Street on City Island in the Bronx, stopped at Enrico Mazzare's produce shop, 2380 Arthur Avenue, in the afternoon. He spent ninety cents on peaches and lettuce and was putting change back in his pocket, when two gunmen appeared and opened fire on the Mafia leader.

Four slugs struck and instantly killed Scalise. He suffered gunshot wounds to neck, head and arm. The gunmen exited the store, jumped into a double-parked black sedan and sped away.

Mazzare witnessed the killing but provided little useful information to the police: "Suddenly two men brushed by me. I heard some shots, and I looked around. These two men were hurrying by me again. They weren't wearing coats and they had their sleeves rolled up. They got into an old black sedan and went up Arthur Avenue." Mazzare was taken into custody as a material witness.

Scalise's blue 1956 Cadillac was parked a couple of blocks away on Crescent Avenue, near the candy store run by his brother Jack. Police brought Jack and Philip Scalise to Mazzare's shop to identify their brother's remains. (Jack left the country for Italy a short time later. He was spotted on a visit to the U.S. in 1959 and quickly brought before a grand jury investigating the 1957 murder.)

Later in the day, Bronx District Attorney Daniel V. Sullivan told the press, "Thus far this appears to be definitely a gangland killing. [Scalise] was regarded as a big shot and kingpin in this area."

Frank Scalise and Charlie Luciano.
Federal authorities suspected Scalise of involvement in an international narcotics smuggling operation. Scalise had been sought by police for questioning related to several murders. Investigators knew that Scalise was a lieutenant to crime boss Albert Anastasia and a close friend of exiled Mafia leader Charlie "Lucky" Luciano.



Sources:

  • "Underworld figure murdered in Bronx," New York Times, June 18, 1957, p. 1.
  • "Gunmen end Scalise's life," Albany NY Times-Union (Associated Press), June 18, 1957, p. 5.
  • "Scalise slain; pal of Costello and Luciano, Albany NY Knickerbocker News (Associated Press), June 18, 1957, p. 7.
  • "Scalise bank box divulges no clue," New York Times, June 19, 1957, p. 40.
  • "Scalise data checked," New York Times, June 20, 1957, p. 21.
  • "Hint Scalise doubled as 'loan shark,'" New York Post, June 20, 1957, p. 40.
  • "Police photograph funeral of Scalise," New York Times, June 23, 1957, p. 58.
  • "Bronx' Scalise gets gangland sendoff," New York Post, June 23, 1957, p. 2.
  • Katz, Leonard, "Bail cut, witness to Scalise murder is let out of jail," New York Post, July 9, 1957, p. 21.
  • Katz, Leonard, and Abel Silver, "Scalise: Little Italy's fourth unsolved murder," New York Post, July 28, 1957, p. 12.
  • "Scalise brother flies in, seized," New York World Telegram and Sun (Brooklyn), April 4, 1959, p. 1.
  • "Scalise brother held," New York Times, April 5, 1959, p. 34.
  • "Scalise inquiry begins," New York Times, April 7, 1959, p. 19.
  • "Scalise in Paris," Kingston NY Daily Freeman (Associated Press), April 28, 1959, p. 5.

11 June 2017

Vendetta ends life of 'Black Sam' Todaro

Son, wife, nephew of murdered 'Big Joe' Lonardo
participate in the slaying of Cleveland Mafia boss

Salvatore Todaro
On this date in 1929 - Cleveland Mafia boss Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro was murdered in front of a Porrello corn sugar warehouse at Woodland Avenue and 110th Street. Though recent killings in the region had resulted from underworld rivalries, authorities determined that the assassination of Todaro was an act of personal vengeance.

Todaro took power in the local crime family after the October 1927 murders of boss Joseph "Big Joe" Lonardo and his brother John. His position was secured with the murder of Lonardo loyalist Lorenzo Lupo the following spring. The Lonardo faction, closely aligned with the national Mafia leadership of boss of bosses Salvatore D'Aquila, was replaced by an administration of Todaro and the Porrello brothers. The new regime was supported by rising New York Mafia boss Giuseppe Masseria. (Masseria had relatives in Cleveland.)

The murdered Lonardos were given a lavish gangland funeral - reports said their caskets were silver. But Lonardo kin almost immediately began experiencing money problems.

Concetta Lonardo and Fannie Lanzone Lonardo both claimed to be the widows of Joseph Lonardo. Though never formally married, Concetta had lived with Lonardo for many years until their 1925 separation and she was mother to their five children. Fannie was with Lonardo in the last few years of his life and claimed that the two had been married in Sandusky, Ohio on September 8, 1925. A court battle between the widows tied up the family fortune - cash and property estimated to be worth $200,000. Lacking financial resources, Concetta faced the loss of the family home at 13700 Larchmere Boulevard. She reached out for support from the new underworld boss.

Concetta Lonardo
(Cleveland Public Library)
Early in 1929, she began making regular visits to the front of the Porrello corn sugar warehouse - the Mafia leadership's local headquarters. Todaro dutifully stepped out of the building to meet her at her car, a maroon and black Chrysler Model 75 coupe, and provide her with some money. (Cleveland detectives considered the possibility that these were blackmail payments extracted by the Lonardo family under threat of cooperating in the investigation of the Joseph and John Lonardo murders.) Concetta was generally driven to the meetings by her oldest child, eighteen-year-old Angelo.

On the afternoon of June 11, Concetta's twenty-two-year-old nephew Dominic Sospirato came along for the  ride to see Todaro. As usual, Todaro emerged from the warehouse to greet his former boss's widow. As he crossed the sidewalk toward the waiting car, gunshots were heard and "Black Sam" collapsed. He had been shot five times. The Chrysler sped away.

Todaro's brother-in-law, Angelo Sciara, witnessed the shooting and gave authorities the names of the occupants of the car. Concetta was later taken into custody as a material witness, though she claimed to know nothing of the fatal shooting of Todaro. Angelo Lonardo and Dominic Sospirato could not be located. Concetta and the two young men were all indicted for first-degree murder.

“Black Sam” Todaro's funeral featured an expensive bronze and silver casket and abundant floral tributes, but restrictions on the use of marching bands and the route of the cortege were put in place by local Safety Director Edwin Barry.

On November 12, Concetta went to trial alone for the Todaro murder. The prosecutor argued that she must have known that occupants of her automobile planned to shoot and kill Todaro. The state's case included a jury visit to the Cleveland corner where Todaro was killed. After a deliberation of more than six hours, the jury acquitted her.

Angelo Lonardo in later years.
The not-guilty verdict seems to have encouraged Angelo Lonardo and Dominic Sospirato to come out of hiding and take their own chances with a jury. They surrendered to authorities in February 1930, pleading not guilty to the murder charges against them. They were convicted of second-degree murder on June 11, 1930 (the anniversary of Todaro's killing). They were immediately sentenced by Judge James B. Ruhl to life terms at the Ohio State Penitentiary. A successful legal appeal gave them a second chance, and they were both acquitted at retrial in November 1931.

Authorities briefly considered Lonardo a suspect when Rosario and Raymond Porrello and their bodyguard Dominic Mangino were murdered in February 1932.

Many years later, the seventy-seven-year-old Angelo "Big Ange" Lonardo, by then a former Cleveland Mafia underboss who had become a government informant, testified before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Early in his testimony, he matter-of-factly stated, "...My father was murdered by Salvatore Todaro in 1927. In revenge, my cousin, Dominic Sospirato, and I killed Todaro."

Sources:
  • Gentile, Nick, Vita di Capomafia, Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1963.
  • Neilsen, Sgt. William T., Criminal Complaint, Cleveland Police, June 11, 1929.
  • Porrello, Rick, The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia: Corn Sugar and Blood, Fort Lee NJ: Barricade, 1995.
  • Reports of the Detective Bureau, Police Department of the City of Cleveland, Oct. 13-16, 1927; June 13, 1929; July 2, 1929.
  • United States Census of 1930.
  • United States Census of 1940.
  • Zicarelli, Det., Information report to Inspector of Detectives Cornelius W. Cody, Oct. 16, 1927, Nov. 16, 1929.
  • "2 brothers murdered in bootleg war," Cleveland Plain Dealer, Oct. 14, 1927.
  • "Hits new lead in murder of two Lonardos," Cleveland Plain Dealer, Oct. 15, 1927.
  • "Police seek gunman in yellow car," Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 1, 1928, p. 1.
  • "Seize gunman as suspect in Lupo murder," Cleveland Press, June 1, 1928, p. 1.
  • "Police hunt Lonardo, Jr. as slayer," Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 12, 1929.
  • "Lonardo's son indicted for feud killing," Cleveland Press, June 12, 1929.
  • "Bootleggers in Cleveland open warfare," Mansfield OH News-Journal, June 12, 1929, p. 1.
  • "Mrs. Lonardo indicted with son in murder," Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 13, 1929.
  • "Detectives see blackmail sign as murder clue," Akron OH Beacon Journal, June 13, 1929, p. 20.
  • "Slain 'baron' given gangster funeral," Cleveland Press, June 15, 1929.
  • "Royal burial," Wilmington OH News-Journal, June 17, 1929, p. 4.
  • "Mrs. Lonardo faces trial for murder," Akron OH Beacon Journal, Nov. 12, 1929, p. 29.
  • "Try woman for gang murder in Cleveland," Zanesville OH Times Recorder, Nov. 13, 1929, p. 3.
  • "Gang murder trial," Zanesville OH Times Recorder, Nov. 14, 1929, p. 1.
  • "Acquit Mrs. Lonardo of Todaro's murder," Mansfield OH News-Journal, Nov. 15, 1929, p. 19.
  • "Fails to get share of Lonardo estate," Akron OH Beacon Journal, Feb. 24, 1930, p. 23.
  • "Cleveland racketeers are under pen life sentence," Chillicothe OH Gazette, June 12, 1930, p. 1.
  • "Cleveland men found guilty," Mansfield OH News-Journal, June 12, 1930, p. 1.
  • "Extermination of gang about complete today," Piqua OH Daily Call, June 12, 1930, p. 1.
  • "United States Courts," Cincinnati Enquirer, July 19, 1930, p. 20.
  • "Marriage here basis of suit," Sandusky OH Register, July 22, 1930, p. 12.
  • Kenen, I.L., "Corn sugar racket has taken seven lives in Cleveland with five marked for death; once mighty Porello clan is tottering," Cincinnati Enquirer, Aug. 4, 1930, p. 13.
  • "Acquitted at retrial," Akron OH Beacon Journal, Nov. 25, 1931, p. 9.
  • "Free two convicts," East Liverpool OH Evening Review, Nov. 25, 1931, p. 11.
  • "Jail Lonardo in probe of feud killings," Cleveland Plain Dealer, Feb. 28, 1932.
  • Koziol, Ronald, "Jailed mob chief agrees to testify in casino trial," Chicago Tribune, Aug. 29, 1985, p. 10.
  • Culnan, Dennis, "Former boss calls Mafia disrespectful," Cincinnati Enquirer, April 16, 1988, p. A4.
Read more about Salvatore "Black Sam" Todaro, Prohibition Era underworld murders and the Mafia organizations of the region in DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime, Volume I - to 1937 by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona.

10 June 2017

Youngstown racketeer Farah killed at his home


On this date in 1961: Mike Farah, 56, was practicing his golf swing outside his Warren, Ohio, home, when gunshots from a blue Chevrolet cut him down. 

Mike Farah
Two or three shotgun blasts were fired. Farah's hip was badly damaged and some of the fired shot penetrated the side of his abdomen. His 16-year-old daughter Grace witnessed the shooting. She said the Chevrolet pulled up to the curb, about 30 feet from where her father was standing. Shotguns were fired from the rear seat of the vehicle, and it then sped away around a corner toward Youngstown, Ohio.

Farah dragged himself into the house, and an ambulance was summoned to take him to the nearby hospital. About two hours later, Farah died of internal bleeding.

Police found the blue Chevrolet abandoned just a half mile from Farah's home. They determined that it had been stolen from Canton three months earlier.

Mike Farah was known to authorities as the former part-owner (with his brother John and Tony Delsanter) of the Jungle Inn gambling casino, in Liberty township, just outside of Youngstown. James "Jack White" Licavoli, Cleveland-based Mafia leader, also appeared to hold an interest in the establishment. (Licavoli was known to have partnered with Mike Farah in the Girard Novelty Company in Niles and the Triangle Novelty Company in Warren.) The casino, opened following the repeal of Prohibition, proved itself impervious to law enforcement until the late 1940s, when the Ohio governor sent in agents from the state liquor control board. The Jungle Inn was closed after a raid in 1949.

Authorities in the region believed that Farah continued to be involved in racketeering, though he insisted that he was retired. He was charged with assault with intent to kill following an attack against Trumbull County Republican chairman and Board of Elections member Jean Blair in June 1959. In that case, he was convicted on a lesser charge of assault and battery and was sentenced to four months in county jail, a $200 fine and court costs. He did not begin serving that sentence until his the Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.

Farah served two and a half months of the sentence before being released on March 31, 1961. Common Pleas Judge G.H. Birrell granted Farah's freedom in consideration of his good behavior while behind bars.

The Jungle Inn
Before "retirement," Farah had been imprisoned on racketeering charges (later pardoned by the governor) and for operating a still.

The Farah murder was counted as the fourth in a series of shootings in Mahoning and Trumbull counties dating back just over a year. The first was Joseph "Sandy" Naples, killed along with his girlfriend on the front porch of her home. Joseph Romano was struck by a shotgun blast but survived. He said he could not identify the shooters. "Big John" Schuller was shotgunned to death while fixing a tire on his car at the side of the highway. Authorities determined that the tire had been rigged to go flat. Additional murders of underworld figures would follow in the very near future.

Rumors indicated that the shootings were part of an effort by Cleveland mobsters to take direct control of gambling operations in the Youngstown area.

Sources:
  • "Motion filed by Mike Farah for new trial," Dover OH Daily Reporter, Jan. 6, 1961, p. 12.
  • "Warren rackets figure released," Salem OH News, April 1, 1961, p. 8.
  • "Around Ohio," Akron OH Beacon Journal, April 1, 1961, p. 19.
  • "Ohio mobster slain in own front yard," Pittsburgh Press, June 11, 1961, p. 7.
  • "Racketeer Farah slain in Warren," Akron OH Beacon Journal, June 10, 1961, p. 1.
  • "Warren racket boss Mike Farah slain by gunmen," Salem OH News, June 10, 1961, p. 1.
  • "Youngstown racketeer fatally shot," Chillicothe OH Gazette, June 10, 1961, p. 1.
  • "Clues sought in murder of rackets boss," Sandusky OH Register, June 12, 1961, p. 7.
  • "Purple gang member quizzed on slayings," Sandusky OH Register, Aug. 1, 1961, p. 1.
Read more about Mike Farah, the Jungle Inn and Youngstown racketeering in DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime, Volume II - From 1938 by Thomas Hunt and Michael A. Tona.

01 June 2017

June 1, 1948: Death of a Blues Legend


On this date in 1948, bluesman John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson (not to be confused with another musician who had appropriated his name), was murdered during a robbery in Chicago, IL. 

Williamson was walking home after playing a gig at Chicago’s Plantation Club when he was attacked by a man armed with an icepick. His last words were reported to have been, “Lord have mercy.” Details of the crime are hard to come by, but there is no indication that the killer was ever brought to justice.

Here’s Sonny Boy performing his 1947 hit “Shake the Boogie.”

 

 Further reading:

 Biography.com - Sonny Boy Williamson

 Encyclopedia Britannica - Sonny Boy Williamson (American Musician)

The Blues Harp Page – Sonny Boy Williamson I

 Fact Monster – Sonny Boy Williamson

 Wikipedia – Sonny Boy Williamson I

30 May 2017

Zanghi 'squeals' after brother's murder

On this date in 1927, two men were felled by shotgun and automatic pistol fire as they chatted outside a South Philadelphia restaurant. The shooting resulted in unprecedented cooperation with law enforcement by a Philadelphia gang leader and the arrest and (largely unsuccessful) prosecution of local Mafia leadership.

Philadelphia Inquirer, May 31, 1927.
The location of the shooting was the Cafe Calabria, 824 South Eighth Street near Christian Street. Gunmen positioned in the area coordinated with others in a passing automobile for the carefully planned 6 p.m. attack.

Anthony "Musky" Zanghi, 27, an arrogant gang boss who regularly found himself in as much trouble with other underworld figures as he was with law enforcement officers, was the apparent target of the gunmen. But he avoided any injury, reportedly by ducking for cover at just the right moment.

Zanghi's little brother Joseph, 19, and underworld colleague Vincent "Scabby" Cocozza, 31, were not as fortunate. They were hit by flying lead as they stood near Musky on the sidewalk. A slug penetrated the center of Joseph Zanghi's forehead, killing him instantly. Scabby was shot multiple times. He died minutes after arrival at Pennsylvania Hospital.

One of the witnesses to the double-murder was a six-year-old Alfred "Freddy" Cocozza, nephew of the slain Vincent Cocozza. Years later, Freddy Cocozza embarked on a fabulously successful singing career using the name Mario Lanza.

Vincent Cocozza death certificate

Early accounts of the shooting were vague. Some reports said Joseph Zanghi and Vincent Cocozza were shot while waiting for Musky to finish dinner at the Giardino di Torrena restaurant next door at 822 South Eighth Street.

Musky was so enraged by the killing of his brother that he provided detectives with a detailed story of the incident and formally accused a number of Philadelphia-area men of taking part in it. Police officials said it was the first time they recalled any crime figure of Zanghi's rank breaking the underworld's "code of silence."

According to his story, he and Cocozza had been in Atlantic City, New Jersey, earlier in the day. Upon their return to Philadelphia, Anthony Zanghi was warned to stay out of sight, as gunmen from out of town were looking for him.  Zanghi did not follow the advice.

Minutes before six o'clock, Musky and Cocozza encountered local Mafiosi Salvatore Sabella and John "Big Nose" Avena along Eighth Street. Sabella and Avena greeted Zanghi with unusual warmth, patting him on the shoulders and inquiring about his health.

Anthony "Musky" Zanghi
"I knew they were a couple of [John] Scopoletti's men, and it struck me funny that they were making so much fuss over me," Zanghi told detectives. (Zanghi believed that Scopoletti was the boss of the local Mafia at the time. That appears to have been an error.)

Cocozza walked on and bumped into Joseph Zanghi, who was on his way to meet his brother. The two men stopped to talk, while Anthony Zanghi worked to extract himself from the Sicilian gangsters.

Zanghi told investigators that he spotted a few Scopoletti men sneak around a corner. Certain that something was up, he stepped away from Sabella and Avena. At that moment, a blue sedan sped around the corner from Christian Street and Sabella and Avena and other men on the street drew pistols.

Musky dove for cover as the weapons from the sidewalk and the street opened fire. As Scabby and Joseph collapsed, the gunmen on the sidewalk jumped onto the sides of the automobile and were quickly carried away.

Hearing this story, police gathered up Scopoletti, Sabella, Avena, Joseph Ida, Dominick Festa, Luigi Quaranta and Dominick Pollina. They also arrested four men from New Brunswick, New Jersey, who showed up to meet with the Mafiosi as the arrests were being made. The New Jersey suspects were identified as Norman Marsella, Nicholas Messino, Joseph Bruno and John Marco.

Early on the morning of May 31, an emotional Zanghi identified all of the Philadelphia men in a police lineup, calling the suspects "dirty dogs" and "dirty rats." As he first saw the lineup, he called out, "There's the dirty rats that killed my brother. Let me get at them." According to reports, Zanghi decked Sabella with a single punch to his head.

After making the identifications, the gang leader wept: "I've done something I never thought any cop could ever make me do. I've squealed. I'll be killed now for sure, but I don't care. My brother is dead, and I loved my brother."

Zanghi provided police with information on underworld activities, including regional trafficking in liquor, narcotics and women. Police also learned that Zanghi's organization had been shaking down saloons in the region that did business with his bootlegging competitors, a possible motive for the Mafiosi to wish to eliminate Zanghi.

A short time later, there was reason to doubt Zanghi's stated determination to see his brother's killers brought to justice. Musky went missing. Luigi Quaranta was tried and convicted during his absence. Quaranta was later given a new trial because Zanghi - his original accuser - had been unavailable for cross examination.

Defense witnesses testified that Zanghi falsely identified the suspects. One witness testified that Zanghi privately admitted he did so in order to extort large payments from the Mafiosi. Zanghi's disappearance was said to be evidence that he had received a payment. He soon returned to Philadelphia, but he had little credibility left. None of the other murder suspects were convicted.

Anthony Zanghi remained a racketeer. Suspected of the 1928 murder of Anthony Denni, he left Pennsylvania and began operating in New York under the name of William Martino. Musky was shot to death in Manhattan's Little Italy, on Mulberry Street between Canal and Hester, on August 7, 1934. Police believed that Zanghi business partner Anthony Cugino, then in hiding, killed Zanghi after an argument related to a currency counterfeiting operation. Zanghi's widow, Antoinette, was subsequently arrested, tried and convicted of working in the same counterfeiting racket. Police tracked down Cugino the following year. He hanged himself in a holding cell at New York City Police Headquarters on September 8, 1935, before he could be arraigned for his partner's murder.


Sources:
  • Joseph Zanghi Certificate of Death, County of Philadelphia, file no. 47793, reg. no. 12335, filed June 1, 1927.
  • Vincent Cocozza Certificate of Death, County of Philadelphia, file no. 46043, reg. no. 12345, filed June 1, 1927.
  • New York City Death Index, certificate no. 18199, Aug. 7, 1934, Ancestry.com.
  • Register of Interments, Mt. Moriah, Philadelphia PA, Ancestry.com.


  • "2 slain in street by gunmen firing from racing auto," Philadelphia Inquirer, May 31, 1927, p. 1
  • "Gangsters kill 2 men," Wilmington DE Evening Journal, May 31, 1927, p. 8.
  • "Use pump guns in gang warfare," Wilkes-Barre PA Record, May 31, 1927, p. 1.
  • "Two men slain on street corner," Pittsburgh Press, May 31, 1927, p. 1.
  • "Breaks gang law in helping cops nab brother's slayers," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 31, 1927, p. 6.
  • "Gang chief names seven as slayers' bares crime ring," Philadelphia Inquirer, June 1, 1927, p. 1.
  • "Scopeletti trial nearly disrupted by 'buying' charge," Philadelphia Inquirer, July 1, 1927, p. 1.
  • "New trial in killings," Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 30, 1927, p. 2.
  • "Gangster killed in crowded street," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 8, 1934, p. 11.
  • "Zanghi widow held as bad bill passer," Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 19, 1934, p. 2.
  • "Ex-inmate of Maryland pen, wholesale killer, hangs himself in cell," Baltimore Sun, Sept. 9, 1935, p. 20.