On Sunday, Jan. 12, 1969, police found a dead man behind the wheel of a '66 Cadillac convertible parked in the Los Angeles International Airport lot. There was a small-caliber bullet wound at the base of the man's skull. The man had been dead for a couple of days.
A local resident, departing the airport Saturday for a one-day flight, parked near the Cadillac and noticed the driver slumped over the steering wheel. When the resident returned Sunday night and found the Cadillac and its driver in the same position, he alerted police.
No identifying papers were found on the body. Police used fingerprints to identify the victim as forty-six-year-old former Cleveland robber/safecracker Julius Petro. They learned that Petro had borrowed the Cadillac from a woman friend two days earlier.
Petro had survived at least two brushes with death during his young adult years in Ohio. He was sentenced to be executed for murder, but won a retrial on appeal and in 1948 was acquitted of that murder. Months later, he and four accomplices held up the Mafia-linked Green Acres casino outside of Youngstown, Ohio. The robbers took about $30,000 in cash and jewels, including a large diamond ring belonging to regional gambling boss Joseph DiCarlo. Shots were exchanged between the robbers and casino guards. Petro suffered gunshot wounds to his right chest and arm, but managed to recover.
An early 1950s bank robbery conviction sent Petro to prison for about thirteen years. Following his May 1966 release, he joined a wave of Cleveland-area racketeers relocating to California. Initially serving as an enforcer for a gambling operation, in a short time Petro was viewed as a threat to displace racket overseer John G. "Sparky" Monica. The killing of Petro eliminated that threat.
Monica denied any involvement, but he was indicted for hiring Ferritto and a man named Robert Walsh to kill Petro because Petro was extorting money from him. Prosecutors seeking to bring the gambling boss to trial encountered a number of obstacles that delayed for years a preliminary hearing in the case. A Monica arraignment was finally set for Monday, February 22, 1982. Just a few days before that, however, fifty-six-year-old Monica, free on bail, died in a traffic accident on US-70 near Tularosa, New Mexico.
Investigators were able to track some of Monica's movements and guessed that he was returning from a visit to a girlfriend in Odessa, Texas, when the highway accident occurred.
- “Petro, freed in killing, is found shot,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sept. 18, 1948.
- "Reputed Mafia figure," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 19, 1982, p. 35.
- California Death Index.
- Demaris, Ovid, The Last Mafioso, New York: Bantam Books, 1981.
- Dye, Lee, “Parolee’s murder mystifies police,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 16, 1969, p. 1
- Farr, Bill, “’Hit man’ admits murder at airport,” Los Angeles Times, May 19, 1978, p. 5
- Hazlett, Bill, "1969 gangland slaying case headed for trial," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 8, 1982, p. II-6.
- Hazlett, Bill, "Judge to appeal closed hearing order," Los Angeles Times, May 30, 1979, p. II-4.
- Hertel, Howard, and Gene Blake, "Reputed Mafia chief defies court, jailed," Los Angeles Times, July 10, 1969, p. 1.
- Hunt, Thomas, and Michael A. Tona, DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime, Volume II, 2013.
- "Fatal wreck adds twist to murder," El Paso Times, March 17, 1982, p. 11.
- Petro v. United States, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Feb. 12, 1954. (Also Joseph J. Sanzo v. U.S.)
- Porrello, Rick, Superthief, Next Hat Press, 2006.
- Porrello, Rick, To Kill the Irishman, Next Hat Press, 1998.
- Social Security Death Index.
- Julius Petro biography on Mafiahistory.us.
- "Golden State often unfriendly to transplanted mobsters," October 2021 issue of Informer: The History of American Crime and Law Enforcement.