"He must have done something. They don't kill you for nothing." - Chicago Gangster Ted Newberry. Rubbed out January 7, 1933

Monday, March 31, 2014

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. Somebody outside called 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.

What is this Augie-Dropper feud I speak of? Check out Gangster City.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A boss buys it

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 84-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.

For more on Piraino check out Gangster City

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

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, 2014

Harlem Shuffle

 On this date in 1931, Andrew D'Amato, the twenty-four year old proprietor of The Bible Club, a Harlem speakeasy, was erased from the underworld landscape. It was assumed that Andrew was put on the spot in a restaurant or speakeasy because after three bullets were drilled into his skull a tablecloth was wrapped around his head to prevent a bloody mess. What was once Andrew 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.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bag job

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.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Pulpy goodness

Guess who? I'll give you a few hints. He wears a mask, claims to be a detective and sits idly by watching bad things happen to innocent people. If you guessed "The Phantom Detective", this post is on the house.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Mad men

On this date in 1927 Sam 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 Sam returned to the clubhouse, which was crowded with various club members including his brother Harry. While in the hallway somebody came up to Sam and shot him in the face twice and once in the body.  Rushing into the hallway, Harry and other gang members found Sam and carried him outside to a cab for a rushed trip to the hospital. All was for naught however as Samuel had been killed instantly.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Let's be Frank

On this date back in 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. [Long time readers of DGIS have probably already figured out what it was]. Investigating, he made the grisly discovery that it was a frozen DGIS 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. [Moran and Piteo were definitely on the hit team. There was a third man but as of yet he hasn't been positively identified]

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  and one  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.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

He man woman haters club

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 gang member Scotty Jones did just that 103-years ago today and was confronted by fellow gang members William 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, 2014


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, 2014

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.