Unsolved 1970 Hit Heralded Years of Murders in New York Mafia

The dead man lay on his back, his arms frozen in an odd, upward position, away from the body "as if he were reading a newspaper." He wore an overcoat over a green suit replete with white dress shirt and dark necktie. He was dressed in layers of clothes, with pale-blue-colored pajamas underneath.

The corpse's clean-shaven face looked like it had recently entered middle age. Rubber galoshes were stretched over his shoes. The sum of $156 in cash was found in his pocket. But the body held not a single piece of paper that identified who it was.

The victim seemingly had done something decidedly impractical. Though his face was intact, it was discovered that he'd been shot in the back of the head four times with a .25 caliber pistol. Someone had pulled an old Saturday Night Special on him and finished him off. Those once-ubiquitous cheap portable guns packed little stopping power, which didn't matter if the weapon was used properly, meaning up close and personal, maybe inches from the target.

Like when a mob hit is carried out.

Sketch of how victim looked before he was murdered.

The icy snow had preserved the body, a seemingly good omen, investigators initially thought. They also believed he'd been killed somewhere else and was then driven to the embankment and dumped.

"He was found in great condition," New York State Police Investigator James Browne said.

"We just don’t know who he is."

Yet, as the end of 2016 approaches, nearly 47 years have passed without a single development in the case, even though police have the victim's fingerprints and DNA, among other pieces of evidence.

Possibly the unidentified victim of a gangland hit, the man was later buried in an unmarked grave in a local cemetery, as the New York Times noted.

Back in 1971, it seemed the homicide would be an open and shut case. Investigators were jolted with a shot of adrenaline after a tip arrived that three Mafia members had killed a narcotics courier who was of either Italian or Cuban descent.

The implication was that the unidentified body found in West Saugerties was the doomed courier.

This past March, police hired a sketch artist to pencil a portrait of the man's appearance -- the way he would have looked prior to his murder. The sketch (above) was released to the public in April of this year.

In another earlier development in the case, the investigation was passed on in 2014 to Investigator Andrew D. Kinderman.

New York State Police Investigator Browne had handed him the case, then the two investigators put their heads together and sifted through the bags of evidence, which comprised "a startling display of possible — yet thus far fruitless — clues found on the man’s person."

Evidence found at the crime scene.

The man killed execution style in 1970 had had a decent roll of cash on him but apparently he was of modest means.

Among the evidence found on the body:
  • The $156 wad consisted of five bills: three fifties, a five and a single.
  • Leather shoes (imitation).
  • Underwear with a single hole that was mended via needle and thread.
  • His wardrobe was a "hodgepodge of international trade. The tag on one shirt was marked “Hering,” from Brazil; another, “Rimrock” from Taiwan. The galoshes were from Canada, his underwear from Korea and his tie from Playboy Neckwear." (For Men Who Think Young was etched onto the tie tag.
  • Letters and numbers noted under the dress shirt collar, apparently the markings of a dry cleaner. Investigators tried to trace the shirt to a New York City dry cleaner, but we're unsuccessful.
  • Sundry items found included a plastic comb, a toothpick and a tiny key.
  • A gold ring with a red stone made in Portugal.
  • An Omega Seamaster watch (worn on the left wrist).

Wristwatch and ring of victim.

Investigators, working with Omega, were able to trace the watch to the store that had sold it. Only the store turned out to have been located in Portugal.

As for ballistics, the bullets were fired from a .25-caliber pistol that "resembled those produced by the ammunition maker Companhia Brasileira de Cartuchos, based in Brazil."

The pale-blue pajamas gave them food for thought.

"One theory could be he was home sleeping, he was confronted by some individual at his home and made to throw a suit on, and 'come with us' type of deal," Browne told the Times.

"But if that was the case, had the man been allowed to shave first? And tie a necktie and pull on galoshes and pick up a toothpick and comb and cash? These are not the acts of a man in a hurry with a gun pointed at him."

Considering the manner in which he'd been dressed, it's theorized he might have been new to New York, having arrived from a warmer climate.

Potential Mafia Connection 

In 1971 a Green Haven Correctional Facility inmate claimed to know details about those responsible for the murder.

The inmate, Edward Sullivan, then 42, was serving time for a manslaughter conviction in Queens. He claimed he'd overheard some inmates in the prison yard discuss an alleged gangland hit pulled off by three mobsters who supposedly had whacked a narcotics courier of Italian or Cuban descent, then dumped his body upstate.

Sullivan even named the three mobsters who were mentioned in those overhead conversations. They were: Alphonse (Allie Boy) Persico -- whose brother, Carmine, was named Colombo crime family boss -- Jerry Langella, and Hugh McIntosh. (The Persico brothers, Jerry Lang and Mac were a tight-knit crew in the 1960s and 1970s.)

Investigators were pleased with this information. The jailhouse snitch's story fit.

2016 version: Omega Men's Seamaster Watch is priced at $3,200.

The Persico family owned a farm in Saugerties, located relatively near where the body was found.

But law enforcement first needed to take a closer look at the source of this information, to ensure its credibility. Sullivan came up short on that count. He'd already testified in three murder trials by the time he came forward with his latest information.

Investigators were skeptical about the inmate, believing he was seeking to offer "helpful" jailhouse tips to get a reduction in his prison sentence.

Over the years, the Colombo mobsters Sullivan named were arrested on other charges; each one was questioned about the body found in the snow. Each denied having any knowledge whatsoever about the case.

"At least one of them may have been incarcerated at the time of the killing. All have since died, as has the inmate who spoke their names," the Times noted, incorrectly. (Yep, even the New York Times makes mistakes.) Colombo boss Carmine Persico still lives.

His brother Allie Boy died in 1989; Jerry Lang met his fate in December 2013.

The hulking Scotsman named Hugh McIntosh (the guys called him Mac -- while the police supposedly called him Apple) had served as Carmine Persico's real-life Luca Brasi, Kenji Gallo noted.

McIntosh died of natural causes at a Springfield, Missouri hospital, in November, 1997.

In the intervening years, the Persicos "sold off most of the property on the farm," lawyer Mathew J. Mari told the Times.

"No one in the family ever heard of it," Mari said about the killing.

The 89-year-old caretaker of the Persico family's farm, with its allegedly dwindling acreage, said he recalled working there in 1970, and that he'd never heard a word about the body.

As if they'd just blurt something out -- presuming they had something to blurt...

Alphonse Persico, the boss's brother, who died in 1989.

In 2015, the dead man’s body was exhumed as part of the cold-case investigation.

He'd been buried in the Blue Mountain Cemetery in an unmarked grave, which "coincidentally, (is located) just outside the Persico family farm. They collected DNA from the man’s bones to check it against a worldwide registry in hopes of finding a relative," the Times reported.

No such relative was found.

One thing is clear, aside from the coincidence of the Persico farm's proximity to the body's location, Persico mobsters, as well as Colombo crime family members in general, were about to go through a violent convulsion on the street. It began after Joe Colombo, Colombo boss, had been shot in the head during the summer of 1971.

Then Joseph (Crazy Joey) Gallo was hit on the night of his 43rd birthday, on April 7, 1972.

The American Cosa Nostra went through one of its most prolonged periods of violence since perhaps the Castellammarese War in 1931.

However, the list of those murdered over the next year or two seems to indicate that more than the second Colombo crime family war was being fought.

What was going on, exactly, has not been detailed anywhere I could find.

A lot of gangland hits took place in 1971-1972 in New York.

Frank "Punchy" Illiano, above, a Brooklyn capo with the Genovese crime family, died in January, 2014, at age 86 of natural causes in New York. He'd been a key member of the Gallo faction. In the mid-1970s, as per a peace agreement made with Carmine Persico, the Genovese crime family welcomed Illiano, Albert Gallo and other Gallo crew members into its ranks. Punchy and Kid Blast had previously established a good relationship with Genovese bosses like Anthony "Tony Bender" Strollo, Matthew "Matty the Horse" Ianniello and Gigante. Illiano and Albert Gallo soon became made men, and Illiano also was appointed a capo.

April '72 Arrests at Colombo Farm

By April 1972, the FBI was beginning to actively pursue Colombo mobsters, as the crime family had once again split into factions, with the Gallo crew shooting it out against the family's loyalists.

Five people were arrested by FBI agents and state police, including Alphonse Persico, Jerry Langella and Charles Panarella, an acting captain in the Colombo crime family.

Also nabbed by agents were April Ballanger, Panarella's girlfriend, and John Pate (later associated with longtime Colombo capo/informant Gregory "The Grim Reaper" Scarpa, Pate flipped for the Feds).

The  Colombo mobsters and the one lady friend had been leaving the farm that actually was a "hide‐out and arsenal" for the Persico's and some other Colombo loyalists, the FBI reported.

They were driving away, in two cars, from Blue Mountain Manor Farms, the name of the main estate owned by Carmine Persico in Saugerties.

The FBI had a federal warrant for Persico's arrest. He faced charges related to providing a bank with false information in the acquisition of a loan.

Langella was charged with possession of fireworks (?) -- and the other men faced possession of firearms. (Two guns were found in one of the cars.)

FBI documentation, which pegged the farm's value at $300,000, noted that it had grown into a hide‐out for Colombo family mobsters following the murder of Crazy Joe Gallo.

In the days prior to the April arrests, several Colombo mobsters were observed staying at the Persico farm, the warrant application said. They were viewed carrying rifles and shotguns whenever they stepped outside the buildings.

In the five weeks prior to the FBI raid, Alphonse Persico and Langella made four trips to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta to see Carmine, who'd begun serving a 14‐year stretch for hijacking.

Describing the second Colombo crime family war, the FBI's search warrant application said that "at least two Gallo men have been killed and five more reportedly have been marked for death."

Gennaro Ciprio was shot to death outside his Brooklyn restaurant three days after the Gallo murder.

There were more than 15 homicides in the year following Joe Colombo's shooting in Manhattan. The 15th murder was Genovese front boss Thomas "Tommy Ryan" Eboli.

Some of the murders can accurately be attributed to the Colombo war, but some news reports sought to link unrelated killings to the Colombo war.

"The war was on," as Time magazine proclaimed, after Crazy Joe was hit. But so was something else.

Hugh McIntosh

Colombo lieutenant Gennaro Ciprio left his Brooklyn restaurant and headed toward his car when he caught three bullets in the head and fell to the street dead. A rooftop sniper apparently had opened fire on him, probably because Ciprio had been caught spying on the Colombo faction for the Gallo brothers.

Four other mobsters were killed shortly afterward, some on the same day. Not all the victims seem even possibly related to the Colombo war, though they were noted as such in some news reports.

Bruno Carnevale was a Gambino crime family soldier and only 29 years old when he was killed. His head was blasted apart with a shotgun on April 6, 1972; near his Queens Village restaurant.

When his body was recovered he was found with a pistol and $14,000 in $100 bills. Carnevale was hit while he was out on bail for the alleged burglary of a post office and for trying to bribe a policeman.

Reporting the murder, the Times noted: "While there was considerable mystery about the reason for the slaying, Queens District Attorney Thomas J. Mackell said the victim had been shot because an organized‐crime group mistakenly thought he was giving information to the authorities about criminal operations."

City and federal prosecutors confirmed his status as a Gambino member, though Carnevale was of little importance, according to law enforcement.

But while he wasn't an informant, he was known to have "boasted of his influence in organized crime." He also allegedly ran Long Island-based gambling operation.

Carnevale's body was found after someone made an anonymous call to police.

The very same day.... April 6, 1972.... 

Thomas (Tommy Edwards) Ernst, a Staten Island mobster who reportedly belonged to the Persico faction, was killed. There'd been unsuccessful attempts on his life previously.

As Rick Porrello noted on his AmericanMafia website: "Just after 10 p.m. that night, as (Tommy and his wife departed his wife's) father's house on Jumel Street and approached their car, she spotted a figure emerging from behind a hedge. According to Advance files, she yelled for her husband to "look out" and they both ran for the house.

"It was too late. Tommy Ernst was shot to death and there was nothing his wife could do about it. The shooter ran toward Giffords Lane and was never apprehended.

"We both ran. I said, 'Run, Tommy!," Terry Dee said. "We got ambushed."

"To this day, despite strong suspicions, Terry Dee is not 100 percent sure who killed her husband. Shortly after Ernst was killed, well-known mobster "Crazy Joe" Gallo, who Ernst knew, was gunned down in a Little Italy eatery.

"That Ernst reported the Pennsylvania incident (a failed execution attempt) to cops was fresh in his wife's mind. Not long after his death, she found a slain cat in her new Cadillac -- an underworld message telling her what could happen to a female with loose lips."
Crazy Joey was slain the very next day, on April 7, 1972. 

Three murders in two days.....

Two more mobsters were slain on April 10, 1972, the day of Crazy Joey's funeral.

As Porrello noted "Other mob executions took place that week as well."

Another dozen or so took place over the next year, actually.

Frank Ferriano. a 340-pound New Jersey laundryman, was found in a lower West Side parking lot, minus half his head, which had been ventilated with a shotgun. Due to similarities to the Carnevale murder, police believed the same shooter was behind both hits.

"Both (victims) had arrest records, both had been shot in the head, and both were found with large sums of money in their pockets. The police said this showed the motive for their murders was revenge, not robbery," the Times reported in a story titled: 3 More Gangland Killings Bring Total to 6 in 5 Days

Hours later that same day, Richard Grossman, an alleged credit-card swindler in cahoots with the Colombo crime family, was found in the trunk of a car in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. His head had been blasted with a shotgun as well.

On Aug. 27, 1972. the Chicago Tribune waded into the bloody New York underworld with its coverage. In New York Mafia Civil War Gets Bigger, Meaner, published on Aug. 26, 1972, it was noted that for more than a year, "the New York Mafia" had been fighting a civil war.

"There are skirmishes nearly every day. The battle has not been won and the end is not in sight. But now the war has touched innocent people, and New York has put the 'heat" on organized crime with the greatest intensity since the racket-busting days of Thomas E. Dewey nearly 40 years ago.

"Years of relative underworld peace have been cast into ruins by strife, which began on the sultry summer day, June 2, 1971," with the shooting of Joseph Colombo during a rally for his Italian-American Civil Right League.

"The slaying of Gallo opened the door to the pent-up pressures which had been building. Some two dozen men died between that day and mid-summer. Bodies kept turning up everywhere."

The story makes some assumptions. It's never been proven that Gallo was involved in the Colombo shooting. (Carlo Gambino is a likelier suspect; he lent his support to the first rally but had since changed his mind.)

A Gambino source told me in conversation that, on the morning of the day of the second rally, when Colombo was shot, he'd been told not to attend the rally. The source was angry; he had wanted to participate. It didn't take long for him to realize he'd been given some excellent advice.

The Chicago story also alleges that Persico-Colombo loyalists were behind the Gallo hit. That scenario is likely the case.

Still, while the Gallo and Colombo hits definitely fueled a dramatic increase in the levels of violence in New York's boroughs, there were murders that have no overt links to any developments within the Colombo crime family war. This was all going on while The Godfather film was playing in theaters during its original run.

Neapolitan Noodle Massacre

On Friday, Aug. 11, 1972, a hit man walked into the Neopolitan Noodle, an Italian restaurant on Manhattan's East 79th Street. He'd waited until it was the crowded dinner hour.

The film The Godfather still played in theaters some five months after its debut.

The hit man, who was from Las Vegas, thought that four businessmen seated at the bar were actually the men he'd been brought in to murder. The Colombo foursome, which included the crime family's acting boss, Allie Boy, was inside the restaurant, safely seated at a table.

Hefting two long-barreled pistols into the air, the gunman started blasting away, killing two of the four businessmen seated at the bar. Instead of taking out ruling members of the crime family, he'd slain two kosher beef wholesalers from Westchester County and Long Island. Their two companions were wounded but survived.

The Neapolitan Noodle shooting, around 45 years ago, is "one of the few times in the mob's long, bloody history when truly innocent bystanders were killed in a hit gone wrong."

Flushed with fury, New York Mayor John Lindsay demanded that "the romanticization of the mob must be stopped and the gangsters run out of town."

In July 1972 Thomas (Tommy Ryan) Eboli, front boss of the Genovese crime family, was gunned down in the Crown Heights district of Brooklyn. Eboli operated mainly in Manhattan. His key duties were to ensure that the Genovese crime family got its cut from the West Side docks as well as from its bar and nightclub interests.

Tommy Eboli, aka Tommy Ryan, Genovese front boss 

His body was found at 1 am, sprawled face down on the sidewalk in front of 388 Lefferts Avenue. Five bullet holes had been fired into Eboli's face and neck. He'd been hit while leaving a mistresses home.

Since the Colombo shooting, 15 men with alleged Mafia links—including Eboli—were killed in what law enforcement viewed as a continuing gangland war.

Theories abound regarding why Eboli was murdered.

That Carlo  Gambino ordered the murder of the ostensible Genovese crime family boss over an unpaid loan of millions of dollars doesn't make the most sense.

Then I have my own theory, as previously noted. A street source -- from Manhattan's Greenwich Village; he lived about one block away from the Triangle social club -- told me that "Tommy Ryan" Eboli was whacked because of The Godfather film. He'd actually mentioned this a few times over the years. In a previous story I noted that there was a basis for the claim.

From left, Al Pacino, Genovese capo Patsy Eboli and Al Lettieri. 

Interestingly, according to Eboli's FBI files, on March 28, 1972, four "well-placed informants" had revealed that the "most powerful figures in organized crime, including Thomas Eboli, Santos Trafficante, Vincent Aloi (all Cosa Nostra 'bosses') and others are to meet in Miami in the next few days."

The long string of murders that started with Joe Colombo's shooting had to have been the reason for what likely was a meeting of the Mafia's National Commission. 

The FBI made the most of the intel from its informers. In an a FBI memo, it's noted that "this advance information presents a unique opportunity to strike a crippling blow against the hoodlum hierarchy." Also noted: two upper-echelon informants -- "our most valuable" -- were traveling to Florida for the meeting; permission was sought for their FBI handlers (one from New York, the other from Newark) to follow them. This was from March 30 to April 2, 1972.

The FBI was granted the authority to utilize electronic surveillance. Agents installed recording devices in several rooms in Miami's Playboy Plaza Hotel and another nearby hotel.

The meeting was slated for the night of April 2.

Nothing further is noted about the meeting in the Eboli files.

Pasquale (Patsy Ryan) Eboli disappeared in 1976. A Genovese crime family member himself, Patsy once headed Local 958 of the Laborers International Union, according to law enforcement affidavits the Daily News published.

Gangland Violence Returned in Late 1973

Then, in November 1973, three gangland hits rocked the city. Law enforcement grew concerned about whether the Colombos were back at it again. But two of the three hits, at least, were of members of the Gambino crime family.

One victim, a 60‐year‐old gambler, was discovered shot to death from very close range. He was found slumped in the back seat of a blue Cadillac that was parked near Central Park on 97th Street.

Gaetano Delia of New Rochelle, N.Y., was found at 12:30 am by two patrolmen. He had been shot "more than twice" in the side of the head. Since he'd had more than $100 in his pocket, police ruled out robbery.

Delia  had a record of six arrests in New York City and one in Mamaroneck, New York.

The police in New Rochelle reported they knew little about the man. "He seemed to just live here, moving up in about 1962?" a detective lieutenant said.

The day before, a Brooklyn man in his mid-30s with known mob ties was gunned down in a Borough Park, Brooklyn, bar.

"Detective sources here cautioned against speculative conclusions that the two murders signaled any renewal of underworld warfare," the Times reported.

"However, one detective at the department's organized crime control office remarked, 'Anytime you get two shootings of unsavory characters just a few hours apart, you have to assume it's not just a coincidence.'" the Times reported.

Initially, Delia was thought to have been associated in some way with either the Genovese or Luchese crime families. But Lieut. James F. Gallagher, who lead the investigation, said that police later believed that Delia was a soldier in the Gambino family.

Gambino soldiers were killed during the Colombo civil war no. 2.

Delia also was known to have spent many years as an associate of Anthony (Fat Tony) Salerno.

About 25 detectives from the West Side homicide squad, plus other police units, moved to investigate Delia's slaying. Sources had described him as tough but not well liked.

Sources close to the investigation said Delia, 60, was “very friendly” with Albert Streppone, 37, of the Bronx, whose body was found in his car in front of Public School 144 in the Bronx.

Both men were discovered in the back seats of their cars; both had been shot twice in the head. Unlike Delia, however, Streppone had been wrapped in a seat cover and then tied with wire. 

Delia, said to be the head of a $50‐million numbers rackets in Harlem, had been questioned in connection with Streppone's death one week prior to his own, sources said.

The man slain in the Brooklyn bar was identified as Anthony Carreccia, an underling in the Gallo gang.

A ski-masked gunman had entered the bar and fired 12 bullets from a 9 mm automatic weapon into Carreccia, killing him.

Carrecia, according to the police, was arrested four times between 1970 and 1972 on charges that included forgery, possession of stolen property and unlawful possession of currency.

Tensions were reported in the past between the Gallo and Colombo factions, but Federal law‐enforcement officials who monitor organized crime here said the slaying came at a time when those tensions appeared to be easing.

A lot of mobsters were whacked back then. Was Carmine Galante fighting a war against the Gambinos for control of drug smuggling? If so, Gambino never retaliated. That seems unlikely to be the case.

Random murders in the Mob? It'd seem that ruling out that theory is the simple fact that too many were slain in too brief a time period.

Some gangland secrets will never be known....

As for the body found by children playing in the snow, it seems unlikely he was killed by the Periscos and other Colombo mobsters, though the fact they were close by with so much weaponry likely preparing for a shooting war with the Gallos makes you wonder....