Murderous Times For Colombos: Recalling Botched Hit On Father Of Former Federal Prosecutor

William I. Aronwald—a former Assistant DA in Manhattan who was Chief of the Justice Department’s Strike Force Against Organized Crime in the 1970s and whose father was slain with bullets meant to have his name on them—died of cardiac arrest near his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on October 29. He was 79 years old.

Colombo acting boss Joel (Joe Waverly) Cacace 

The alleged motive for the mistaken identity murder of his father was disrespect that angered a mob boss, who wanted payback for the perceived slight.

William’s father, George M. Aronwald, was a 78-year-old hearing officer for the Parking Violations Bureau in Queens when he was shot to death in a gangland-style hit in a Long Island City, Queens, laundry in 1987.  The hit, a piece of Colombo family business, wasn't solved until many years later.

At the time of the murder, William Aronwald had left the DA's office and was working as a criminal defense lawyer in White Plains representing Michael Raymond, aka Michael Burnett, a government informer who for decades worked on both sides of the law.

In March 1987, Greorge Aronwald had just arrived to pick up his shirts at Young's Chinese Laundry, at 33-17 Crescent Street, when the shooting occurred, at 2:10 p.m. (Aronwald lived in a cooperative apartment building across the street from the laundry, where he had been a customer only once before.) A woman in her 60s was helping Aronwald at the counter when another man appeared at the front door. The woman buzzed him in, and after the man opened the door, he began firing at Aronwald, who either turned or was spun around. He was shot twice in the head and three times in the chest and body.

The gunman wordlessly ran to a light blue Chevrolet Monte Carlo that was double-parked with a driver on the one-way street, and the car raced away.  (The gunman was described by witnesses as a fair-skinned white man in his early 20s, about 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighing 190 pounds. He was wearing a grey waist-length jacket and faded jeans.)

Aronwald was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting.

William Aronwald learned of his father's death while he was in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in connection with his representation of Raymond. Aronwald was taking a legal deposition with Raymond in a courthouse when a secretary (who had received a call from his White Plains office) slipped him a note.

Early this year, former Colombo acting boss Joel (Joe Waverly) Cacace was released after completing the 20-year prison sentence handed down to him for copping to four gangland slayings, including the 1987 mistaken identity murder of Aronwald after William Aronwald supposedly angered imprisoned for life Colombo boss Carmine Persico.

As we recalled, in 2004, the onetime consiglieri, facing a sweeping indictment and devastating turncoat testimony, copped to racketeering charges, including ordering the Aronwald murder. (Cacace had  personally scouted the Manhattan law office that the two Aronwalds shared at the time of the hit.)

William Aronwald
William Aronwald.

(In 2013, Cacace, almost a decade into the racketeering sentence, was acquitted of the one murder charge he fought in court: the execution of NYPD officer Ralph Dols, who was shot five times and killed  in 1997 by a Colombo hit team near his Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, home. The killing of a member of the NYPD caused anger across the city, and not only among cops. Prosecutors alleged that, according to confidential informants, top figures in other New York crime families were furious over the high-profile Dols slaying -- and some of those figures were demanding that the Colombos murder whoever shot the cop.)

William Aronwald likely raised the ire of many a wiseguy back in the day. But what he did to specifically inflame Carmine Persico, the then-imprisoned boss of the Colombo crime family who died in prison in March 2019, seems to remain an unsolved mystery to this day...

.Persico had more than enough power to write a death warrant for just about anyone..... In the Aronwald case, he passed it to Cacace, who gave it to the brothers Enrico and Vincent Carini, both Colombo soldiers, and Frank Smith, an associate who was close friends with Vincent Carini. The trio tracked not the intended victim, but his father.

Botching such a piece of work for a mob boss was an error of near-biblical proportions.

Joe Waverly responded to the botched hit by ordering more hits, on the Carini brothers. 

Then Cacace sent a shooter to kill those hit men. Yes, Cacace ordered a hit on the hit men who killed the hit men.... (To read more about that stuff, you might want to check here...)

Prosecutors detailed the Aronwald murder in court filings...

''Murders are never forgotten,'' Roslynn R. Mauskopf, the then US Attorney in Brooklyn, said at a press conference to announce the charges against Cacace and 12 others, which included several murder allegations and various organized crime schemes such as extortion and gambling. (Two Luchese wiseguys were among the indicted.)

Aronwald told the New York Times that he had never personally prosecuted Persico and was perplexed about why Persico had apparently found him disrespectful. There had always been suspicions, he said, that his father's killing involved people who had meant to kill him.

''It's difficult under any circumstances,'' he said. ''But it makes it more difficult when he was basically an innocent victim of something that was intended for me. That just makes it more painful.''

While Aronwald had once prosecuted Carmine's brother, Alphonse (Allie Boy), the case had ended in an acquittal, as he recalled.