Did Deceased Author Belittle Brutal Mafia Killer?

Tommy Pitera, decades in prison.
Tommy "Karate" Pitera was unique in the annals of the American Mafia, or Cosa Nostra.

He is suspected by law enforcement of committing as many as 60 murders. His nickname is derived from his love of martial arts, including karate.

He also had more in common with a serial killer than a mobster in terms of how he killed and dismembered his victims, and kept "trophies." In one case, supposedly he kept the ears of one victim. When threatening someone for whatever reason, Pitera would supposedly throw the ears down on the table and tell his trembling target to: "Talk to him."

But in one of those bizarre quirks of fate, Tommy was not blessed with a deep masculine voice. He didn't sound like the big, bad killer he was.

Rather, he sounded more like Mickey Mouse.



"He had a particularly high-pitched effeminate falsetto voice that was compared by biographer Philip Carlo [in his book The Butcher] to Michael Jackson's but having even more falsetto. Mob associate Frank Gangi thought Pitera sounded more like Mickey Mouse or Minnie Mouse."

Lots of questions have been raised by credible Mafia historians -- such as David Critchley and Alexander Hortis (and many others) -- about many pieces of heretofore "established" facts, especially related to the formative years of Cosa Nostra.

Now, for some reason, there is a small surge of revisionism going on among Mafia enthusiasts regarding Tommy Karate's voice.

Now, it is well known that Carlo has gotten facts wrong in the past. However, there seems to be the belief that a level of animosity existed between the author and his subject in the case of Carlo's book, The Butcher.

This belief would likely be based on a couple of things. One would be something Carlo wrote in his last book, The Killer Within: In the Company of Monsters, which was published posthumously. Carlo died on Nov. 8, 2010; his last book, "The Killer Within," was released Jan. 6, 2011.

As noted: Toward the end of his life, Carlo was doing a lot of thinking -- about the subject of an earlier book of his, Bonanno mobster Thomas Pitera. Carlo had learned that Tommy had somehow gotten an early copy of the book, titled "The Butcher." He had read it in his prison cell -- and didn't like it very much. Word on the street was that Tommy "was pissed off" and had maybe reached out -- perhaps wanting Carlo whacked for writing "The Butcher." (Not sure if Carlo had specific information or a general concern.) 

"Pitera is the last person in the world you'd want mad at you," Carlo wrote. 

"The fact that he went to trial... and never opened his mouth about what he knew -- and he knew a lot -- does not bode well for me... Essentially what that means is that he still has connections and friends, confidants, on the outside who respect him and will do his bidding." 

Pitera had already been away for 20 years when Carlo was writing this. "I thought that most people he knew who could be a threat to me were long gone, and forgotten, but I may have been wrong."

Additional fuel for the supposed fire of animosity burning between Carlo and Pitera can be found in this interview with Carlo, wherein it's revealed:

You've said he makes even you nervous. Why is that, as he's in prison?  
I tried to work with him early on. I tried to interview him, and his position was that he was innocent, which I know is a bald-faced lie, so ultimately, I sought out the people who testified against him, and I worked extensively with the DEA, specifically with DEA agent Jim Hunt, who was in charge of the investigation.
You asked why I'm concerned about Pitera. He's pissed off at me. He's angry. I talked about his love life. I talked about the death of his woman, in great detail. I put photographs of her in the book. He's pissed off. I'm hearing stuff - his cousins, his mother. They're all angry. My attitude is "you did the crime." It's all public record.

It's a biography after all. 
Yeah, give me a break. But I came along after the fact, opened the dirty closet and started bringing things out. But I really don't care. I would never let a person like that stifle me. I'm aware of the possibility of problems, but I'd never let it stop me. Never. But I've taken certain precautions. At this point, I have a terminal disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease), which is far worse than anything anyone can do to me. He knows that.

But would Carlo honestly stoop to concocting false information -- say, belittling Pitera by inventing the whole notion of the big bad Mafia killer having a Mickey Mouse voice?Too many people would know the truth and taking such a petty route would destroy his credibility. Making a mistake is one thing; lying is something else entirely.

There is other corroboration for what Carlo wrote. In the book Bringing Down the Mob: The War Against the American Mafia, by Thomas Reppetto, Pitera's voice is described as similar to that of the character Tommy Udo, who was portrayed by Richard Widmark making his acting debut in the 1947 film noir classic "Kiss of Evil." This actually supports Carlo's claim. (See clip below and decide for yourself.)

I spoke to two sources who knew Tommy "Karate" Pitera during his bloody years on the street. Sources who I can identify and who I know were in a position to know the facts. One requested anonymity. 

My second source has gone on the record. He is Frank Gangi, Tommy's partner for years.

"It was no fun dealing with Thomas Pitera," Frank told me. "I still live with nightmares. I was young, dumb and full of cocaine back then."

I asked Frank directly: "Did Tommy really have the Mickey Mouse voice? People say Carlo made it up."

"Yes, he did [talk like that]," Frank said. "But Carlo wrote what he wanted to write in that book... "

Clips of leads Richard Widmark and Victor Mature in Kiss of Death. Does Widmark sound
like a cartoon character or not. You decide...

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