Mob Book Helped Solve Double Murder

Larry Neumann: Despite mountains of evidence, was never
Charged for a double homicide he committed when someone
"disrespected" his ex-wife. He was a member of Frank Cullotta's
crew in Las Vegas, the Hole in the Wall Gang.

June 2, 1981. Morning. An apartment located behind the P.M. Pub drinking establishment in Lakemoor, Ill. (If a reader recalls another apartment located behind a bar, it wouldn't be inappropriate.)

Two people are found dead in the living room. One of the dead had been the owner of the P.M., 37-year-old Ronald Scharff; the other was barmaid Patricia Freeman. The previous evening was actually her first night working at the pub.

As noted on the website Murder in McHenry, Lakemoor, situated about 50 miles northwest of Chicago, was then a community that had served as home to around 800 souls.




The 1981 murders were the first reported homicides since the town's 1952 incorporation.

McHenry County Sheriff’s investigators quickly found suspects. Jim Hager, a friend of Scharff's, had advised them to look at barmaid Freeman’s boyfriend or Larry Neumann, a McHenry County native then living in Las Vegas (and working in Frank Cullotta's crew. Dubbed by the press The Hole in the Wall Gang, they were known for their ability to rob jewelry stores and other places where wealth resided.)

Dennis Griffin's first book written with Frank Cullotta cracked the case wide open, but local law enforcement's reaction has been enigmatic at best.

This crew was actually outsourced muscle of Chicago Outfit enforcer Tony Spilotro, who had been sent to Las Vegas to watch the skim. Since Spilotro's name quickly found a place in the city's "black book," he needed Cullotta and his crew to be able to go inside the casinos to handle any problems, including protecting guys like Frank Lawrence "Lefty" Rosenthal (June 12, 1929 – Oct. 13, 2008), probably better known as the character in Casino named Sam "Ace" Rothstein (played by Robert DeNiro).

Unofficially, Rosenthal was running the Stardust for the Chicago Outfit; the owner of record was actually California businessman Allen Glick.

"The Chicago Outfit put Rosenthal in. They used the nickname "Crazy" when they spoke of him," noted Jane Ann Morrison in the Las Vegas Review Journal in 2008. Interestingly, while she knew both Rosenthal and Spilotro--she actually found "the fastidious" Rosenthal scarier than Spilotro:

The few times Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal and I spoke, he looked at me as if I were a worm he'd like to step on, except the ensuing goo would dirty the sole of his shoe. Actually, I found the fastidious Rosenthal scarier than mobster Anthony Spilotro, and no one accused Rosenthal of killing dozens of people. 
Now I've been on the receiving end of plenty of cold stares, but Rosenthal really gave it his all and his cold stare did a number on me when I was a federal court reporter between 1978 and 1984. Our first face-to-face encounter was during that period when he was unofficially running the Stardust... 
He had various titles, from food and beverage director to entertainment director, but it was no secret he was concerned with more than how many blueberries were in a blueberry muffin and how tall the show girls were.



Anyway Spilotro needed Cullotta and his team to watch his back. Still, they all had to earn a living, out there in the middle of the desert. So they did what they knew best: organized robberies.

"Neumann," as the website notes, "had previously been convicted of a 1956 triple murder in Illinois. And although he received a sentence of 125 years, he had miraculously been paroled after serving only about 16 years. Hager had thrown Neumann’s name into the mix because he had witnessed an altercation between Scharff and Neumann’s ex-wife in which Scharff threw the woman out of his bar. Hager felt that to a guy like Neumann, that incident could be construed to be a personal insult demanding redress."

 Spilotro probably never guessed the level of infamy he'd reach

Which was, in fact, quite correct.

Still, for reasons unknown, the police reportedly ramped up the focus on the boyfriend, who was known to have been in the lounge across the street from the P.M. Pub on the night of the killings.

At any rate, no charges were filed and the case was still open, when in May 1982, Cullotta, during a debriefing,  told FBI agents and Las Vegas police that Neumann had killed two people in a McHenry County tavern the previous June.

"McHenry County authorities were notified and interviewed Cullotta at the federal lockup in San Diego," the website notes.Despite this, and many other corroborating pieces of evidence, Neumann was not charged.

The murders remained unsolved.

The dominoes didn't start tumbling until 26 years had past. The tipping point was the 2008 release of the book Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster and Government Witness.

On page 130 of that book [Jim Hager's daughter] found Cullotta’s account of what turned out to be the Ron Scharff murder. For Paul, who was a young boy in 1981, this was the first time he’d heard the story about Larry Neumann being his father’s killer. After talking with Jim Hager and reading the book himself, Paul is convinced Neumann was the man who took the lives of his father and Pat Freeman. That acceptance has brought him a certain amount of closure. 
But now he’d like the police to name Neumann —who died in prison in January 2007 — as the perpetrator and close out the cold case. He’d also like an explanation as to why the police seemingly never seriously went after Neumann all those years ago. Frank Cullotta and his former FBI handler Dennis Arnoldy, have agreed to assist Paul in his efforts if needed.

Paul Scharff, Ron's son, and Keith Bettinger wrote this story into a book, called Murder in McHenry.





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