On this date in 1930...
Detroit Mafia leader Gaspare Milazzo and aide Rosario "Sam" Parrino were shot to death May 31, 1930, at an East Vernor Highway fish market. Their deaths helped ignite a widespread rebellion against U.S. Mafia boss of bosses Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria.
|Detroit Free Press|
Cesare "Chester" LaMare, Masseria-aligned leader of an Italian gang based in Hamtramck, had called a conference of regional underworld leaders at the fish market. He secretly planned to eliminate as many as six rival bosses, including top men in the eastern Detroit Mafia dominated by the Tocco, Zerilli and Meli families.
He had once been close friends with the Tocco and Zerilli crowd, but by 1930 most of the bosses apparently knew that LaMare could no longer be trusted. Milazzo and Parrino were the only invitees who showed up for the noon meeting.
Milazzo, also known as Gaspare Scibilia (and referred to in the Detroit Free Press
as Gaspare Lombardo), was a native of Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, born to Vincenzo and Camilla Pizzo Milazzo in 1885. In his mid-twenties, he crossed the Atlantic to settle in a growing colony of Castellammaresi centered at North Fifth Street and Roebling Street in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.
He likely participated in a Mafia organization led by Sebastiano DiGaetano. The DiGaetano organization was subsequently commanded by Nicola Schiro, under the strong influence of Castellammarese Mafioso Stefano Magaddino, and decades later became the Bonanno Crime Family.
Milazzo married Rosaria "Sarah" Scibilia, also a native of Castellammare, in 1914. (She entered the U.S. a year earlier with her parents and siblings, heading to 222 North Fifth Street to join an uncle.) After just a few years in New York, where their first child was born, the Milazzo family began traveling, perhaps made necessary by gangland feuds or by Milazzo's involvement in bootlegging rackets. Two children were born to the couple in Pennsylvania between 1918 and 1920. A fourth child was born in California.
In the 1920s, the Milazzos settled down in Detroit. Gaspare Milazzo opened a grocery, which served as handy cover for an illegal brewery operation, and became a respected leader in the local underworld. By 1930, he was owner of a comfortable home at 2511 Lemay Avenue.
Born in 1890 in Alcamo, just east of Castellammare, Rosario Parrino and his older brother Giuseppe settled in Brooklyn as young men. Giuseppe's immigration documents indicated that he was heading to Johnson Street in Brooklyn to meet an uncle named Vito DiGaetano. This opens the possibility that the Parrinos were related to the bosses of the DiGaetano underworld organization.
During Prohibition, Giuseppe Parrino became a wealthy member of the Schiro organization. By 1930, he was owner of a tile store and a expensive home on Ocean Parkway in central Brooklyn.
Rosario appears to have been less fortunate. There was uncertainty about his address at the time of his murder. His death certificate stated his address was 2739 East Vernor Highway, the same address typically given for the fish market. Some press reports placed his residence at 2721 East Vernor Highway, a few doors from the market. This was also the address of a Tom Cochello, longtime friend of Milazzo and Parrino who was held by police for questioning following the murders.
Milazzo and Parrino were blasted with shotguns at close range shortly after arriving at the market. As the gunfire began, market owner Philip Guastello ran out of his business and did not return.
Powder burns were evident on both of the victims. Milazzo's body was ripped apart, and he died instantly. The official cause of death was listed as "shock, hemorrhage and internal hemorrhage following gunshot wounds, homicide."
|Milazzo death certificate|
Parrino, struck by slugs to his chest and abdomen, was still alive when police arrived and responded to some questions. He told police that he did not know his assailants and could not imagine why anyone would target him or Milazzo.
Parrino was brought to Receiving Hospital, where Doctor Nathan Schlafer attempted to repair his wounds. Parrino died at two-thirty in the afternoon of internal hemorrhage.
Milazzo was buried June 4 at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Detroit. Parrino's remains were shipped east to relatives. His Michigan death certificate indicated that the body was sent to a brother-in-law named Luigi Tommasso of 264 Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn. Parrino was buried in St. John Cemetery in Queens.
Following the death of Milazzo, "Joe the Boss" Masseria endorsed Chester LaMare as overall leader of Detroit's Italian-Sicilian underworld. But the fish market murders were a strategic failure. The Hamtramck racketeer did not have the muscle to compete with east Detroit Mafiosi. In summer of 1930, LaMare reportedly left Detroit to hide in New York for a while.
The Castellammaresi in Brooklyn were enraged by the Detroit murders and noted that Giuseppe Parrino was oddly accepting of his brother's death. Under pressure from Masseria, boss Nicola Schiro abandoned the organization and returned to Italy. Masseria then backed Giuseppe Parrino as that crime family's new boss, raising Castellammarese suspicions that Parrino was in league with the forces behind the killings.
Many from the former Schiro family secretly assembled under the leadership of Magaddino and Salvatore Maranzano to oppose Masseria. They formed alliances with Mafiosi around New York City and across the country. The resulting conflict became known as the Castellammarese War.
In the late afternoon of January 19, 1931, Giuseppe Parrino dined with three other men at the Del Pezzo Restaurant, on the second floor of 100 West 40th Street in New York City. Just before six o'clock, his dinner companions became argumentative. One of the group resolved the argument, and the men returned to their meals. A gunshot was then heard, and Parrino stood up from his chair. As he did so, the guest who had been the peacemaker held out a handgun and fired a bullet that struck Parrino between the eyes. Two more were then fired into the back of his head.
The dinner companions calmly walked out of the restaurant, leaving the handgun and Parrino's corpse behind them on the floor.
|New York Daily News|
Weeks later, Chester LaMare quietly returned to his two-story brick home on Grandville Avenue in the northwest of Detroit. His return was noted by local police, who planned to raid the home on the morning of February 7. LaMare was to be arrested and brought to testify before a Wayne County grand jury. He would not live that long.
Overnight, while LaMare's wife was out on an errand, the boss received a visitor. The guest was apparently seen as a friend by LaMare and his two guard dogs. The friendship ended abruptly when the guest fired two bullets into LaMare's head.
Spot of LaMare's murder
Detroit police were certain that the East Side Mafiosi were responsible for the LaMare murder. They arrested Joseph Zerilli and William "Black Bill" Tocco but could not make a case against them.
The war went badly for Masseria in most of the country, as he and his allies suffered serious losses. The one exception was Chicago, where Masseria's man Al Capone emerged victorious over rebel-aligned Joseph Aiello. On April 15, 1931, Masseria's own lieutenants ended the war by arranging the assassination of Joe the Boss at Coney Island, Brooklyn. Castellammarese war leader Salvatore Maranzano was subsequently selected as the next Mafia boss of bosses.
- "5 killings laid to rum racket," Detroit Free Press, June 3, 1930, p. 2.
- "Alleged gangsters arrested in Detroit," Marshall MI Evening Chronicle, Feb. 10, 1931, p. 2.
- "Cafe patron put on spot in 'Met' cafe," New York Daily News, Jan. 20, 1931, p. 3.
- "Detroit gang leader killed in own kitchen," Lansing MI State Journal, Feb. 7, 1931, p. 1.
- "Gangs receive machine guns," Detroit Free Press, Sept. 18, 1930, p. 1.
- "Hamtramck waits move by governor," Lansing MI State Journal, July 14, 1924, p. 5.
- "LaMare, lord of West Side, assassinated," Escanaba MI Daily Press, Feb. 8, 1931, p. 1.
- "LaMare's slayer still at large," Escanaba MI Daily Press, Feb. 12, 1931, p. 2.
- "Mob leader 'put on spot,' belief of investigators," Detroit Free Press, Feb. 8, 1931, p. 1.
- "Police death warrants out," Detroit Free Press, June 4, 1930, p. 9.
- "Police slay thug who defied search," New York Times, Jan. 20, 1931, p. 5.
- "Riddled by lead slugs," Detroit Free Press, June 1, 1930, p. 1.
- "Tip says one of Saturday's victims is wanted for murder," Detroit Free Press, June 2, 1930, p. 3.
- Chester Sapio Lamare Death Certificate, Michigan Department of Health Division of Vital Statistics, State office no. 140778, register no. 1599, Feb. 7, 1931.
- Gaspare Milazzo birth certificate, Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, July 18, 1885.
- Gaspari Milazzo death certificate, Michigan Department of Health Division of Vital Statistics, Reg. No. 7571, June 1, 1930.
- New York City Extracted Death Index, certificate no. 2435, Jan. 19, 1931.
- New York City Marriage Index, certificate no. 12669, Nov. 4, 1914.
- Passenger manifest of S.S. Luisiana, departed Palermo on March 5, 1910, arrived New York on March 21, 1910.
- Passenger manifest of S.S. Prinzess Irene, departed Palermo on Oct. 25, 1913, arrived New York on Nov. 6, 1913.
- Rosario Parrino Certificate of Death, Michigan Department of Health Division of Vital Statistics, Register no. 7449, May 31, 1930.
- United States Census of 1930, Michigan, Wayne County, Detroit, Ward 16, Precinct 33, Enumeration District 92-523.
- United States Census of 1930, Michigan, Wayne County, Detroit, Ward 21, Enumeration District 82-791.
- United States Census of 1930, New York, Kings County, Enumeration District 24-888.
- Vito Tocco Marriage Certificate, Detroit, Michigan, Certificate no. 256195, license dated Sept. 19, 1923, ceremony performed Sept. 26, 1923.