Chicago gangster Ted Newberry says: "He must have done something. They don't kill you for nothing." Ted was rubbed out on January 7, 1933

Arrest of Francis 'Two Gun' Crowley

Meet Kiki

Monday, March 31, 2008

Out like a lion

Thirty-seven year old Louis Greenberg, who had a long police record and was known as a bookie, was hanging out in an East Village pool hall on this date in 1924. He heard somebody outside calling for him so he and his friend Max Kanowitz, who was also the proprietor of said pool hall, went outside. Across the street was a taxi. Two men were inside and two men were standing on the running board all opened fire on the duo. Greenberg dropped dead with a bullet in the head and Kanowitz dropped with a couple of wounds and died en-route to the hospital. Police felt that the killers had intended on just getting Greenberg and that it was Kanowitz bad luck for following him outside. The only motive the cops could come up with was that it was either a bootlegging feud or some more warring between the "Little Augie" gang and the remnants of "Kid Dropper's" gang.

For more info on the Kid Dropper/Little Augie feud check out Gangster City

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bakers policy

Joseph Madonia aka, Giuseppi Ferraro, was involved in both policy and a bakers union racket. It was said that if bakers didn't buy flower from vendors designated by Madonia they could expect damage to both their property and themselves. Madonia, 45, lived in Brooklyn where he also had a macaroni and bread store. At a little after midnight on this date back in 1931, a Queens resident heard what she said could have been a gunshot or a car back firing. It was the former. The next morning another Queens resident went to his garage and found Madonia in his back yard with a single bullet wound to his left temple.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A boss gets bumped

Known as "The Clutching Hand" because of gnarled fingers on his paralyzed right mitt, Giuseppe Piraino was most likely a victim of the Castellemmarese War. Piraino came to America around 1911 after escaping from a prison in Palermo where he was sentenced to 25 years for an undisclosed offense.
Piraino lived in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn and by 1930 he was said to have been in charge of the Bay Ridge area's wholesale liquor traffic. A trade he inherited from Frankie Uale after the latter's death. Although they didn't say how they knew, the New York daily's said that Piraino was attending a gathering of bootleggers just prior to his death 78-years ago today. When the meeting broke up "The Clutching Hand" was walking down the south side of Sackett Street in Brooklyn, sporting a $2000 diamond stickpin and $1000 diamond pinky ring. As he crossed the street and approached no. 151 numerous shots rang out. Three bullets pierced his heart, two more slammed into his chest and a fifth and final came to rest in his thigh. The Brooklyn crime boss dropped to the gutter dead.

For more on Piraino check out Gangster City

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Elmer's tune

Called a "card sharp and petty racketeer" by police, Forty-three year old Elmer Johnson was also a bandit and it was his part in a speakeasy robbery that cost him his life on this date in 1933. Johnson was rushed to the hospital at 2:00am with five bullet wounds in his back after being shot down on the street. Since he was just a petty racketeer, Elmer did not feel bound by the unwritten rules of the underworld and broke the first gangster commandment, Though shall not squeal and named his attackers. They were Ernest Snyder and Carl Christianson. A squad car was sent out and the two men were quickly apprehended and brought to the hospital where Johnson identified Snyder as the actual shooter before dying. Snyder of course remained mum on the issue but Christianson admitted seeing Snyder do the shooting and reported that it was the result of Johnson's participation in a speakeasy job.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Harlem shuffle

Andrew D'Amato was the twenty-four year old proprietor of The Bible Club, a Harlem speakeasy. On this date in 1931, while he was in a restaurant or speakeasy three bullets were fired into his skull and then a tablecloth was wrapped around his head to prevent a bloody mess. He was then loaded into a car, driven outside of the city and tossed out near Mt. Vernon where a passing milkman found him early in the morning.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Public Enemy w/ Johnny Depp now filming

For some pics and video of the filming go here.

Thank you Mario!

Kitty gets scratched

In 1931 Irving "Kitty" Yager was a beer runner on Manhattan's lower east side. On this date both his twenty-year old wife and mother had a date to meet him at a speakeasy and when they arrived the place was empty except for Irving who was laying dead on the floor with four bullet wounds.
The proprietor returned to the speakeasy and was questioned along with Yager's wife and mother and said that he had left the twenty-six-year old gangster in charge of the bar so he could go get something to eat. Other than that he could offer no information about the murder. Yager's wife, and the mother of his two-month old child, then became hysterical and was taken away.
The police had two theories behind the murder, that Irving was a victim in the war between the Wagner Brothers and the Italians or that he was a squealer. The second theory was based on the fact that the day before his murder, agents arrested eight men on an eastside pier with a truckload of beer. The police felt that the agents might have been tipped off by Yager.

For more on the Wagners check out Gangster City

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Two bootleggers put out of business

Alky runners Joseph Calligari and Frank Russo carried their last load on this date in 1933. The two men, both in their thirties, were found in Westchester County by a farmer a short distance from the highway on a remote road known as Green Lane between the towns of Bedford Hills and Mount Kiscoe. Judging by the tire tracks found at the scene what appears to have happened is that Calligari, who had just been paroled from Sing Sing the previous Tuesday, and Russo were transporting a truckload of booze when they were over taken by two large sedans. The men were forced from the truck and then systematically executed. Both men had been shot twice in the chest and once in the forehead practically in the exact same spots leading police to believe that a machine gun was used. The killers had a macabre sense of humor because the dead men were then lifted over a small stonewall and placed near a tree that had a sign that read, "No dumping"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Top O' the Mournin'

And mourning on St. Patrick's Day back in 1912 was what Ignacio Scrivani's clan was doing after the aforementioned lad was found in an empty lot with twenty deep stab wounds and a stilleto sticking out of his neck. Ignacio O'Scrivani (everyone wants to be Irish on St. Patty's Day) was a burglar who was regularly in police custody but rarely convicted although a number of his associates ended up behind bars. Therefore police believe that squealing was the motive behind his murder. Police said that he had been killed in another part of the city and then dumped in the lot. Afterwards the killers went out for some corned beef and cabbage which they washed down with a few pints of green beer.

Clang clang clang went the trolley bang bang bang went the gun

Ninety-one years ago today, Mafia man Joseph "Joe Chuck" Nazzaro was lured to Yonkers by his "friends" under the pretext of killing one of their own. This was a lie however because Navarro was the one on the spot. The four men were seen walking down the street at 10:00pm when the supposed victim complained of a stomach ache and fell behind. When he was in the rear he pulled out a pistol and fired into Nazzaro's back. The remaining gangsters took out their guns and fired into the doomed hoodlum as well. In an attempt to obliterate his identity the killers dragged the dead man onto some street car tracks. A car came along and ran Nazzaro over and dragged him for about a hundred feet. Although he was badly mangled (it took a crew about a half hour to remove "Joe Chuck" from the front of the car) his finger prints were still intact and he was properly indentified.

For more on Joe Chuck and his pals check out Gangster City

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Ded Baron

On March 14, 1930 twenty-nine year old William "Baron" Simpson was added to the list of murder victims in Brooklyn's White Hand* territory when his body was found in an alleyway leading from Furman Street to pier 16 on the East River. Someone had come up behind him and placed a .38 to the back of his head and pulled the trigger. Although the murder took place at around noon next to a tin can factory with two hundred employees that were on lunch break there were no witnesses.
"Baron" was the boss of a small group of dock workers and had a reputation as a fierce street fighter. According to his brother, "Whitie" Simpson, "Baron" had gotten into an argument with three men at a near by pier about an hour before the murder. The argument turned into a fistfight and "Baron" proceeded to savagely beat all three men until they ran away. Simpson was last seen, alone, turning into the alleyway in which he was found a short time later.
Even with the story about the fight with the three men, police stated that they believed that Simpson was another in the long line of Irish thugs murdered in the unending battle for leadership of the dock rackets.

* For more info on the Irish White Hand gang check out Gangster City

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Its in the bag

On this date in 1921 Louis D'Amico was killed in what would become a Murder Inc. m.o. in the following decade. He was struck over the head with a heavy object to take the fight out of him then a sash cord was wrapped around his neck, pulled down and tied around his knees. He was then placed in a gunnysack where he strangled himself by flailing about. The killers then loaded him in a car and tossed the sack over a fifteen foot embankment.
The following day two Eastchester farmers were traveling on the same road when they stopped to inspect some discarded car parts. One of them noticed the sack in the ravine and climbed down to investigate. Opening the top they saw Louis's head and this not being something they could sell at market proceeded to call the police.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Gambler he broke even

On this date in 1930, Tony Bonventre of the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn was found in the back seat of a car with four bullets in his head and chest. The police assumed that the murder was the result of a gambling feud due to the fact that three decks of marked cards were found on the dead man. Bonventre's record showed that he had been arrested for delinquency back in 1907 and again in 1917 for vagrancy.
It is also possible that Tony was a victim of the Castellemmarese war. He shared the same last name as Vito "the King" Bonventre*, who was the boss of the Castellemmarese mafia family and would himself be shot down in due time, and he was found just down the street from where "the King" lived.

* For more info on King Bonventre and the Castellemmarese war check out Gangster City

Friday, March 7, 2008

He's not heavy, he's my dead brother

On this date in 1927 Samuel Raplansky, a thirty-year old member of a gang called the Madison Street Boys, was hanging out at the mobs HQ, the Madison Street Boys club, until about 10:00 pm when he left for a while. At around midnight Raplansky returned to the clubhouse, which was crowded with various club members including Raplansky's brother Harry. Before he made it to the main room however a number of shots rang out. Rushing into the hallway gang members found Sam on the floor with bullet wounds to the left eye, chin and body. Harry and some others put Sam in a cab and rushed him to the hospital. All was for naught however as Samuel had been killed instantly.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Fat lady sings for the fat man

The day after Frank Devlin's body was discovered in 1929 [see yesterday's entry] Thomas Walsh, another portly New York gangster, was knocked off in Coral Gables, Florida. Besides girth, "Fatty" or "Fats" as he was also called, had another thing in common with Devlin, both men had ties to Arnold Rothstein.
Walsh, who was thirty-three at the time of his death, was a former body guard of Rothstein's who moved to Florida a few weeks after the latter's death. In the Sunshine State Walsh and another New York gangster, Arthur "Chick" Clark, owned a piece of a gambling room ran out of the Biltmore Hotel. In addition to an anonymous partner two other men, K.L. Gaylord and Eddie Wilson were also involved in the enterprise.
At 12:20 a.m., as Walsh and Clark were seated amongst the gamblers watching the nights play partner Eddie Wilson appeared in the doorway brandishing a pistol. Once he sighted Walsh he raised the gun and fired five times. Two of the bullets hit the stout gangster in the abdomen and one nicked Clark in the arm. Walsh tried to get on his feet but fell forward on his face dead. The first reaction of the press and the police was to say that the killing was some how related to the Rothstein murder but as the investigation went on it was determined that Eddie Wilson was unhappy with Walsh because the latter was trying to shake down Wilson's share in the gambling enterprise.

For more info on Fats Walsh and Arnold Rothstein check out Gangster City

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Lets be Frank

On March 5, 1929 a man was walking in a field near what was known as the Somerville-Clinton Highway in Whitehouse, New Jersey when he saw what he thought to be a pile of clothes near a clump of pine trees. Investigating, he made the grisly discovery that it was a frozen dead man who had been shot in the left temple three times.
Police identified the dead man as Frank "Blubber" Devlin and figured that he had been "taken for a ride" roughly forty-eight hours earlier. The condition of his pants and coat showed that he had been dumped from a car and dragged to his resting spot by the pine trees.
"Legs" Diamond was credited with killing Devlin although it was never proved. Revenge was given as the reason because Devlin, supposedly on orders from Arnold Rothstein, was sent to Denver, Colorado with fellow gangsters Eugene Moran and Joe Piteo, to kill Legs' brother Eddie who was convalescing there from with tuberculosis.
Devlin had an extensive record dating back to the September 6,1921 murder of Walter Vogel with whom he shot it out with at the Transfer saloon. Since that time police said that he had been involved with Owney Madden's gang as well as keeping busy as a robber. When he left his home for the last time on February 6, he had three indictments against him from the previous year, one for assault and robbery, one for robbery from and one from for grand larceny. Where he was going that February 6, is unknown but after he said good-bye to his mother and brother he went to the bank, withdrew $1000 and disappeared.

For more info on Arnold Rothstein and Legs Diamond check out Gangster City

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Classical Gas

William Lysaght was a member of the Gas House gang and was killed in an internecine feud by fellow gang member Scotty Jones. Jones in turn was found guilty of the murder after another gang member aided the District Attorney in his prosecution.
Back in 1911 the Gas House gang had a rule stipulating that none of the members were allowed to bring a woman into their hangout, Pickett's saloon, but Jones did just that 97-years ago today and was confronted by fellow gang members Lysaght, John Tivnan and John Stevens. The trio asked him to step into a side room and when he did they frisked him to see if he was carrying a gun. When they didn't find one they told him to go out into the street to get "what was coming to him". The men started to fight and Jones pulled out a gun that he had hidden on his inside pant leg. He fired first at Tivnan and hit him in the shoulder, then he aimed his gun at Lysaght, who turned to run away, and shot him in the back, the bullet passing through his lung. He then fired at Stevens but missed.
Jones was picked up by the police and brought to the hospital so Lysaght could identify him but the police really didn't need any help because Jones couldn't contain his disdain for his fellow gang members. When standing next to the wounded man's cot he turned to the nurse and said, "See the dog suffer." Then back at the police station he saw Tivnan and said, "If I could have gotten you I'd have been satisfied."
Jones incriminated himself even worse by writing a letter to a fellow gang member from the Tombs that read in part, "…I'm only sorry I didn't drop a few more. It wasn't my fault. I tried hard enough. I don't know how I missed." His friend however was more loyal to Lysaght and turned the letters over to the D.A. to be used as evidence. Jones was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to between twenty years and life. After his conviction he told reporters, "I killed the only man in the gang that had any nerve. I'd like to be out for awhile just to get that dog that I thought was my friend and who gave my letters to the District Attorney."

Monday, March 3, 2008

Spider Man, Spider Man

John "Spider" Murtha, called "The toughest man in Brooklyn" by detectives, was gunned down by killers from Murder Inc. on this date in 1935. Born circa 1898 Murtha dubbed himself "Spider" while a featherweight boxer in his youth but it was his exploits outside of the ring that made the plug-ugly an infamous Brooklyn character. It was said that Murtha enjoyed being pointed out in taverns as a "Cop beater" and that he never carried a gun choosing instead to rely on a razor or any weapon he could improvise out of broken beer bottle or mug.
The boys from Murder Inc. caught up with Spider at 10:30 a.m. when he and his girlfriend, Marie Nestfield, were returning from an all night outing, they had just exited a hotel when the two gunmen quietly walked up behind them. As one of them pushed Marie aside the other one exclaimed, "Now we got you Spider!" and the two men fired a total of five shots into Murtha hitting him twice in the head and three times in the chest. "Spider" stumbled for a moment then collapsed dead next to an elevated subway pillar.

For more info on Spider and Murder Inc. check out Gangster City.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Up on the roof

Salvatore Natoli was a twenty-four year old drug dealer who had served a term in the Elmira Reformatory for a robbery and, at the time of his death, had a Federal narcotic charge pending against him. The impending drug trial may have been the reason Natoli was bumped off. Perhaps the men he worked for were afraid of what he might say when in custody. Whatever the reason, at about 8:30pm on this date in 1935 Natoli was lured to the roof of a Harlem tenement and shot in the head. He was found about eight hours later by one of the building's tenants.