16 September 2018

The Unsolved Murder of Officer Edward Riphon

While researching my latest book, Murder Capital, one of the astounding facts I discovered was that in Madison, Wisconsin’s 170-year history, only four police officers were killed in the line of duty. I say “only” because one might expect a state capital to be slightly more dangerous. The even more interesting part of this historical footnote, however, is that all four murders occurred around the time of Prohibition – for the over 80 years since combined, the level of danger comes nowhere close to the risk of patrolling in those 13 lawless years.

Three of those four deaths are covered in Murder Capital. The fourth, that of Officer Edward Riphon, was excluded because it could not be directly connected to the group of bootleggers and bloodthirsty killers I was putting the spotlight on. This does not mean, however, that Riphon’s story is not worth telling. With that in mind, the following summary of his heroic death is provided in remembrance.

Edward Francis Riphon was born on March 3, 1894 in the rural Dane County community of Spingdale, where he was raised by his parents, Martin Riphon and Sarah Moran Riphon, and helped out on the family farm at an early age and through his early 20s. The town was rural enough that his address was simply “on the Mount Horeb Road”[i] Even as recently as 2010, much of the town was without water and sewer facilities.

By the middle of 1917, Edward was married and still working on the family farm.[ii] What made his decide to switch careers is unknown. After getting hired on as a police officer in June 1927, Riphon apparently moved into Madison gradually. The 1930 Federal Census has him boarding at 615 West Main Street without his family joining him.[iii] From his first day on the force, he was scheduled on the night shift.

The most memorable moment in Riphon’s career came in December 1931, when he encountered John Schyler in the Forrest Taylor soft drink place. Schyler appeared to be reaching for a gun when Riphon intervened. After a short hand-to-hand melee, Riphon came out on top. Back at the station, it was determined that Schyler was the head of a bank robbery gang out of Fond du Lac. From his jail cell, Schyler gave up gang member Herman Ringhand. Riphon was highly commended and the pair were sent up to the state prison for 25 years.

At 1:00am on May 16, 1932, Riphon made his report into headquarters from a callbox outside the Tenney building (110 East Main) on the Capitol Square. He had just finished a late night meal at Bailey’s (518 East Wilson) with cabbie Gus Wilson, just as he had many nights before.[iv] Around 1:30, he was seen by garage employee Carl Deering speaking with three men in a large, dark-colored sedan. The automobile was parked on South Pinckney, halfway between Main and Washington. When Riphon did not make his 2:00 telephone call in to Sgt. Patrick Powers, they knew something was wrong.

Officer Riphon was found around 7:50am in a gravel pit on Hope Road, east of Madison. Tragically, it was 10-year Olin K. Jacobson, on his way to school, who first saw the horrific sight. Jacobson thought the man in the ditch was merely asleep, and alerted Fred Horstmeyer, who relayed the word to Julius Irvin Witte, proprietor of the Hope general store (and the nearest telephone).[v] Riphon had been shot twice, with one bullet penetrating his temple. He was apparently also beaten, as his body was covered in bruises. His patrol car was parked at the capitol building in the center of town, further indicating he had been “taken for a ride”. Rumors circulated that Riphon had a “black book” with the names of local gangsters and this was the cause of his death.

Immediate suspicion was turned toward Archie Dell Delaney, who was seen with Riphon on the day he vanished. Delaney had been sent to the reformatory at Green Bay for burglary a few years prior. Questioning of Delaney cleared his name immediately; he may have been a burglar, but he was no murderer. Riphon’s wife suspected area bootleggers. She told detectives that they had received many threatening letters over the years, and on one occasion there was an altercation with a south side restaurant owner. She feared that his being transferred from the south side to the capitol square might give the bootleggers the false impression that he was scared, despite his not asking to be transferred.[vi]

Not long after the apparent abduction, an automobile matching Deering’s description was found abandoned in McHenry, Illinois, approximately 95 miles southeast of Madison. Today, McHenry is considered by some to be the northwest edge of the Chicago suburbs. An automobile had been hijacked near Rush Street in Chicago from Major F. O. Wood of Camp McCoy[vii], and police believed this car, a Studebaker, was driven to Madison and back to McHenry before being dumped. Wood was even an occupant for approximately twenty minutes before being forced out at Halsted and Fulton (in the River West neighborhood). During the ride, Wood was ordered to “look straight ahead” and had a nickel-plated .32 pointed at him. He initially described two of the hijackers as “an Italian” and “a Norwegian” who was a “darn nice looking boy”.

Unknown to Wood, the vehicle continued on to Madison, stopping multiple times to change license plates. In Whitewater, plates were stolen from garage owner Max Frederick Foerster. Upon reaching Madison, they stole another set from the Studebaker of Philo Buck, professor of comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin. Probably unknown to the men, they were also parked right outside the home of Dean Charles Schlichter. The stolen plates may have been the cause of Officer Riphon’s questioning, and if so, his death may have been spur of the moment rather than anything planned or “contracted”.

On the morning of May 18, law enforcement personnel had Wood look through thousands of rogues gallery photographs in Chicago. He picked out five men who seemed familiar to him: Albert Novak, Clarence Flynn, Minard Batjes, Henry Decker and William Kasierod. All the men were around age 20. The two most likely suspects according to Wood were Novak, a car thief who had once been an accessory to murder, and Flynn, a known rapist.[viii]

The sedan itself was a bloodbath; splatters were found on the ceiling, the rear door, the windshield and elsewhere. The belief was that Riphon had been bludgeoned repeatedly with a gas pipe. Two such pipes, both 18 inches in length, were found in the car, one of them still smeared with blood and hair. A pencil from Koch Rent-a-Car was found, as was a key, both items tracing back to Riphon.[ix]

After abandoning the murder vehicle, the killers stole another car in McHenry, one owned by grocery store proprietor Peter William Frett. According to the newspaper, by some strange coincidence, Frett had actually known Riphon in passing from being in Madison on business. The Frett car, in turn, was deposited in Chicago, and the men were seen fleeing by railroad porter Adolph Herman of 5442 Higgins Avenue (in the Jefferson Park neighborhood). As the newspaper put it, they “fled to cover in the Chicago underworld”.[x]

Patrolman Riphon had served with the agency for five years. He was survived by his wife, Isabelle Berg Riphon and their children Marian, Berniece, and Raymond. When the funeral took place at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church a few days later, 900 mourners came to pay their respects. Fifteen uniformed officers were on site, including the six pallbearers. Father John A. Risch told his parishioners, “When our friends close their eyes for the last time, we should open ours.” He swore that Riphon’s life was taken by “a detestable scoundrel endeavoring to undermine human society.”[xi]

Despite the identification of suspects by Wood, no arrests were ever made and the Riphon homicide remains unsolved.

The story of Officer Riphon briefly made the news more than 80 years after his passing, due to another family tragedy. His son, Raymond Riphon, had lost his father at the tender age of 7 and turned to the Catholic Church to be his guide. For the next eight decades, he attended school, he attended mass, and was well-known and respected by all who knew him. "He always sat in the third pew, aisle side, for five o'clock mass every Saturday," Father Michael Radowicz says. "He had a very good friend that would bring him to mass. He was always just a wonderful guy and just always had a bright smile." Therefore it came as a great shock when at Raymond’s funeral in 2012, someone stole the memorial box – not simply the money, but the cards, as well. Raymond’s “safe haven” was violated.[xii]

Gavin Schmitt's Murder Capital is available now.

[i] 1900, 1910 Federal Census
[ii] World War I Draft Registration
[iii] 1930 Federal Census
[iv] “Police Hunt Pair After Killers Take Officer Riphon for ‘Ride’” Wisconsin State Journal. May 16, 1932.
[v] “Police Hunt Pair”
[vi] “Police Hunt Pair”
[vii] There was some confusion on the identity of Wood. When consulted, Camp McCoy knew of no such man. A Major Norman B. Wood of Two Rivers, connected with Camp Grant, existed. Whether the man incorrectly identified himself or was misheard by police is unclear. The discrepancy is covered in William H. McCall, “Bloody Auto Points Slayers’ Trail to Lair”, Wisconsin State Journal. May 17, 1932.
[viii] McCall, William H. “Order Arrest of 5 ‘Bad’ Chicago Suspects in Riphon ‘Ride’ Murder” Wisconsin State Journal. May 18, 1932.
[ix] McCall, William H. “Patrolman Beaten with Gas Pipe, Death Car Tells” Wisconsin State Journal. May 18, 1932
[x] “Gas Pipe”
[xi] “Death Great Preacher, Teacher, Priest Tells Riphon Mourners” Wisconsin State Journal. May 18, 1932.
[xii] http://www.wkow.com/story/24139649/2013/12/Wednesday/tonight-at-10-donation-box-from-funeral-stolen-from-local-family

10 September 2018

Valachi recalls assassination of boss of bosses

On this date in 1931...

Reigning Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore Maranzano was shot and stabbed to death in his Park Avenue, Manhattan, office. The assassins, sent by underworld bosses who had been targeted by Maranzano, posed as government agents to gain entry to the offices. Decades later, Joseph Valachi became one of several "inside" sources who provided background information on the killing.

New York Times
Following the Mafia's 1930-1931 Castellammarese War and the April 1931 assassination of then-boss of bosses Giuseppe Masseria by his own lieutenants, Valachi served on a crew that was a sort of palace guard for the new boss of bosses Maranzano.

In late summer of 1931, Maranzano expected a raid from government agents. Fearing arrests on gun charges, he instructed his guards not to bring weapons to his office, the Eagle Building Corporation on the ninth floor of the New York Central Building, 230 Park Avenue.

Valachi was upset by the order. He told his associate Buster, "I don't like this. They are trying to get us used to come up here without any guns. I ain't going to come around here any more... You better talk to that old man and make him understand..." [1].

About twelve days later, on September 9, Valachi was called to Maranzano's home, 2706 Avenue J in Brooklyn. At that time, the boss of bosses revealed that he was planning a new war to eliminate those he viewed as his rivals. [2].

"Joe, I can't get along with those two guys," Maranzano said. Valachi understood that his boss was referring to "Charlie Lucky" Luciano and Vito Genovese, who recently assumed control of the large crime family previously run by Masseria. Maranzano revealed that there were others he felt needed to be eliminated, including Al Capone, Frank Costello, Guarino "Willie Moore" Moretti, Giuseppe "Joe Adonis" Doto, Vincent Mangano, Ciro Terranova, Arthur "Dutch Schultz" Flegenheimer.

Valachi was told to meet Maranzano at his office the following afternoon at two o'clock. Before leaving the Maranzano home, Valachi cautioned Maranzano not to appear in public and he let the boss know his feelings about the rule against bringing guns to the office: "I never liked that order about us coming down the office without any guns. Gee, after all, anything happened to you, we will all be out in the street."

Maranzano assured Valachi that all soon would be settled.

Overnight, Valachi wondered about the status of regional Mafia big shots Maranzano had not mentioned as targets of the intended new war. He later recalled, "I started to think that he did not mention Tom Gagliano, Frank Scalise, Don Steve from Newark, so I was wondering if those guys were in on it." [3]

The next day, September 10, Valachi prepared to meet with Maranzano as planned, but men higher in the organization called him away and kept him occupied until early the next morning. Valachi returned to his apartment at 108th Street and Second Avenue. Only then did he glance at the daily newspaper and learn that "they killed the old man."

The paper also reported that Vincenzo "Jimmy Marino" Lepore, a Maranzano ally in the Bronx, had been murdered at a barber shop, 2400 Arthur Avenue.

It occurred to Valachi that top Maranzano men had been "in on this" and worked to keep him away from the boss while the assassination was carried out. [4]

Days later, Valachi was summoned to a meeting with Tom Gagliano. The assassination of Maranzano was explained to him: "They told me the old man went crazy... and he wanted to start another war," Valachi recalled. "I knew they were right but I did not say anything." [5]

At a subsequent meeting with fellow Mafiosi, Valachi was given a story of the assassination. Girolamo "Bobby Doyle" Santuccio, who was taken into custody as a witness to the killing, told him, "...It was the Jews that came up at the office and they showed phony badges and they said that they were cops... There was about fifteen guys in the office at the time that they came up."

Maranzano escorted two of the visitors into his private office. Santuccio continued, "We heard a shot and everyone ran out of the office and, at the same time, the two guys came out and told us to beat it as they ran out. I went into the other room and I got on my knees and I lift his head and I saw that besides the shot they had cut his throat... I didn't care if I got pinched as I was disgusted, and I figure that even if I did run I won't know where to go." [6]

  1. Valachi, Joseph, The Real Thing - Second Government, unpublished, 1964, p. 360.
  2. Valachi, p. 361.
  3. Valachi, p. 362-363.
  4. Valachi, p. 364-366.
  5. Valachi, p. 367.
  6. Valachi, p. 372-373.

  • Valachi, Joseph, The Real Thing - Second Government: The Expose and Inside Doings of Cosa Nostra, The American Mafia, mafiahistory.us.
  • "Gang kills suspect in alien smuggling," New York Times, Sept. 11, 1931, p. 1.
  • "Hunt racket killing clue in Park Ave.," New York Daily News, Sept. 12, 1931, p. 7. (Within this report, Charlie Luciano is referred to as "Cheeks Luciano.")
  • "Racket killing diary found; lists a judge," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sept. 11, 1931, p. 1.
  • Goheen, Joseph, "Gangs kill 4, 1 in offices on Park Ave.," New York Daily News, Sept. 11, 1931, p. 2.

08 September 2018

Jury selected as Mafia bosses head to trial

On this date in 1986...

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Jury selection began September 8, 1986, in the federal trial of alleged Mafia Commission members in New York City.

The Commission Case was set in motion years earlier by Rudolph Giuliani, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. He reportedly was inspired by a discussion of the Commission in A Man of Honor, the autobiography of longtime Mafia boss Joseph Bonanno. "If he could write about it," Giuliani reasoned, "we could prosecute it."

Giuliani was emboldened by recent successes in applying the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act against organized crime leaders.

A federal indictment was unsealed February 26, 1985, charging representatives of all five New York City Mafia families with conspiring in the management of the underworld. As the fifteen-count indictment was announced, Giuliani commented, "This is a bad day, probably the worst ever, for the Mafia." Much of the case was based on electronic surveillance.

Initial Defendants:

Bonanno Crime Family
Philip "Rusty" Rastelli

Colombo Crime Family
Gennaro "Gerry Lang" Langella
Ralph Scopo

Gambino Crime Family
Paul "Big Paul" Castellano
Aniello "Neil" Dellacroce

Genovese Crime Family
Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno

Lucchese Crime Family
Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo
Salvatore "Tom Mix" Santoro
Christopher "Christy Tick" Furnari

The government labeled Rastelli, Langella, Castellano, Salerno and Corallo the bosses of their crime families. Dellacroce and Santoro were said to be underbosses of the Gambino Family and Lucchese Family, respectively.

Most of the defendants were arraigned in Manhattan Federal District Court on February 28. Corallo, Dellacroce and Scopo were not present, as they had been hospitalized. All defendants pleaded not guilty (A defense attorney entered the pleas for his clients Dellacroce and Scopo), except Corallo. Corallo attorney Albert Gaudelli stated that his client refused to waive the right to plead in person. Rastelli collapsed during the arraignment and was taken to the hospital for treatment and evaluation.

A superseding indictment in June 1985 added two more defendants, Carmine Persico and Stefano Cannone, along with additional charges related to a concrete industry extortion scheme. The government charged Persico with being the reigning boss of the Colombo Crime Family (reducing Langella to Persico's underboss or acting boss).

Several defendants died before the trial began. Aniello Dellacroce died of natural causes December 2 in a Queens hospital. Two weeks later, boss Paul Castellano was shot to death in front of a Manhattan restaurant. The death of Stefano Cannone was reported January 12, 1986, (NY Daily News) as a "recent death from natural causes." Cannone's death appears to have occurred months earlier in September of 1985.

Philip Rastelli was severed from the case because he was being tried on a separate matter in Brooklyn. Prosecutors added Anthony "Bruno" Indelicato, as a representative of the Bonanno clan.

As a trial date for the Commission Case approached, Mafia leaders reportedly considered but ultimately decided against the assassination of Giuliani. (This was not revealed until the fall of 2007.) John Gotti, new boss of the Gambino Family, and Persico reportedly were in favor of murdering the U.S. attorney. The Lucchese, Bonanno and Genovese bosses rejected the notion.

At jury selection before Judge Richard Owen, the names of prospective jurors were kept confidential to ensure that they would not be influenced by threats or bribery. During the selection process, prospective jurors were asked questions about their knowledge of American Mafia history, such as whether they had ever heard of Al Capone.

Prosecuting attorneys in the case were Michael Chertoff, John Savarese and John Childers. One defendant, Carmine Persico, elected to serve as his own defense counsel.

Trial Defendants:

Bonanno Crime Family
Anthony "Bruno" Indelicato, 38

Colombo Crime Family
Carmine "Junior" Persico, 53
Gennaro "Gerry Lang" Langella, 47
Ralph Scopo, 58

Genovese Crime Family
Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno, 75

Lucchese Crime Family
Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo, 73
Salvatore "Tom Mix" Santoro, 72
Christopher "Christy Tick" Furnari , 62

The trial lasted a month and a half. It included surprising defense admissions that the Mafia and a ruling Commission existed in New York and prosecution testimony from turncoat Cleveland Mafioso Angelo Lonardo (part of his testimony dealt with the 1927 Mafia murder of his father) and undercover FBI agent Joseph Pistone. An effort was made to gain the testimony of Joseph Bonanno, retired in Tucson Arizona. But the 80-year-old Bonanno instead accepted a stay in jail for contempt of court.

The jury deliberated for five days. The verdict was returned to a crowded courtroom at 12:20 p.m. on Wednesday, November 19: All defendants were found guilty on all the charges brought against them.

Persico, Salerno and Corallo were convicted as the bosses of the Colombo, Genovese and Lucchese Crime Families. (Sometime later it was learned that Salerno was not the real chief of the Genovese clan but was fronting for boss Vincent "Chin" Gigante.) The case established Langella as Colombo acting boss or underboss, Santoro as Lucchese underboss and Furnari as Lucchese consigliere.

All the defendants were convicted of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. Indelicato was convicted of participating in the 1979 Commission-authorized murder of Carmine Galante. All the defendants but Indelicato were convicted of extortion, extortion conspiracy and labor payoffs. Corallo and Santoro also were convicted of loansharking conspiracy.
Judge Owen sentenced the defendants on January 13, 1987. Persico, Salerno, Corallo, Langella, Santoro, Furnari and Scopo were sentenced to a century in prison. Indelicato was sentenced to forty years.

More on this subject:
Hunt, Thomas, and Michael A. Tona, DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime - Vol. II.  

  • "11 plead not guilty to ruling organized crime in New York," New York Times, July 2, 1985.
  • "In brief: Mafia bosses are sentenced to centuries," New York Times, Jan. 18, 1987.
  • "Crime families facing trial for 'Mafia' acts," Binghamton NY Evening Press, June 27, 1985, p. 3E.
  • "Prosecutor: Indictments could help break up the mob," Ithaca NY Journal, Feb. 27, 1985, p. 2.
  • "Rhinebeck man charged as mob boss," Poughkeepsie NY Journal, Feb. 27, 1985, p. 1.
  • Blumenthal, Ralph, "Aniello Dellacroce dies at 71; reputed crime-group figure," New York Times, Dec. 4, 1985.
  • Bonanno, Joseph, with Sergio Lalli, A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983, p. 141, 159-160.
  • Doyle, John M., "Eight mobsters convicted of all counts in Mafia Commission trial," AP News Archive, Nov. 19, 1986.
  • Elkin, Larry, "Government launches case against 'Mob Commission,'" AP News Archive, Sept. 18, 1986.
  • Hornblower, Margot, "Mafia 'Commission' trial begins in New York," Washington Post, Sept. 19, 1986.
  • Irwin, Victoria, "Mafia goes on trial," Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 10, 1986.
  • Irwin, Victoria, "New York arrests launch major Mafia sweep," Christian Science Monitor, March 1, 1985.
  • Jacobs, James B., with Christopher Panarella and Jay Worthington, Busting the Mob: United States v. Cosa Nostra, New York: New York University Press, 1994, p. 79-87.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "Bonanno jailed after refusing to be witness," New York Times, Sept. 6, 1985.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "Judge requires that Bonanno gives testimony," New York Times, Sept. 5, 1985.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "Judge sentences 8 Mafia leaders to prison terms," New York Times, Jan. 14, 1987.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "Jury strips 2 concrete racketeers of their assets," New York Times, May 13, 1988.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "Reputed crime bosses arraigned," New York Times, March 1, 1985.
  • Lubasch, Arnold H., "U.S. jury convicts eight as members of mob Commission," New York Times, Nov. 20, 1986, p. 1.
  • Magnuson, Ed, "Hitting the Mafia," TIME, Sept. 29, 1986.
  • McFadden, Robert D., "Organized-crime chief shot dead stepping from car on E.46th St.," New York Times, Dec. 17, 1985.
  • Meskil, Paul, "Mob figure makes bail," New York Daily News, Jan. 12, 1986, p. 17.
  • O'Shaughnessy, Patrice, and Joseph McNamara, "Round 1 of feds v. 'iron fist,'" New York Daily News, Sept. 19, 1986, p. 7.
  • Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Vincent Cafaro testimony, Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi, Hearings before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate, 100th Congress, 2d Session, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1988, p. 232, 868-870.
  • Shifrel, Scott, and Helen Kennedy, "Court told mob bosses voted on whacking Giuliani in '86," New York Daily News, Oct. 25, 2007.
  • Winerip, Michael, "High-profile prosecutor," New York Times, June 9, 1985.
  • U.S. Social Security Death Index, ancestry.com.