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The Murder of Diane McDermott

The Murder of Diane McDermott


In February of 1967, a 20-year-old woman named Diane Florence McDermott died of a gunshot wound to the back of the head. She was rushed to St. Mary’s Hospital but died within the hour.

A gun found in Diane’s left hand, even though she was right-handed. The size of the gun was too small to have created the damage to her head and the weapon that did kill her had been pressed to the left side of the back of her head. There were no nitrates (by-products of burned gunpowder) on her hands.

The house was a triple-decker at 11 Walnut Street Waterbury’s North End. Diane McDermott, Nee Marino, had grown up there when the neighborhood was still respectably working class and largely Italian but by the early 1960s, it was in the midst of a transition into a rundown, crowded black area. 


The apartment, her mother’s apartment actually, was near the corner of Cherry Street, a rough part of town in a very rough city. In those days, lower Cherry Street was renowned for its street hookers and Walnut Street had its share of illegal after hour bars and a few brothels on the far upper end of the street.

Diane lived there with her son, Dylan, the future television and film star, then 5 years old, an infant daughter and her boyfriend John Sponza. Diane had been separated from her husband, Rich McDermott for a while, they just teens when Dylan was born.



It was a Thursday night. Sponza, who was known to the cops, said Diane had shot herself as a suicide and then amended the story to say that he was cleaning his pistol while Diane peeled potatoes over the sink in the kitchen. He said that she entered the room where Sponza was sitting, she was carrying the peeling knife. She picked up the weapon, for no known reason, and it accidentally fired a few seconds later. The paring knife was found beside her body.

The murder scene 

Remarkably, not only did the cops buy Sponza’s version of what happened, they didn’t bother to test his hands for gunpowder residue. Sponza told the cops on the scene that he and Diane never argued. Yet virtually everyone who knew the couple said they argued constantly and that the arguments were “very violent and very vicious”

On at least one occasion, Sponza choked Diane when she didn't move fast enough to get his cigarettes. Friends recalled that Sponza terrorized her son Dylan, struck him and once pushed a gun in the boy’s face. On the night Diane died, Sponza ordered 5-year-old Dylan out into the cold night while he and Diane argued.

John Sponza

Sponza’s second wife, Naomi, said that Sponza beat her and once put her in a chair, cut her and threatened to kill her.   “John had also hit me several times with a vacuum cleaner pipe.” She said “This was after John was involved in a car accident. John trusted me but would tell me if there came a day he didn’t trust me, he would kill me. The way I knew John though, I knew he didn’t shoot her (McDermott) by accident. I knew he killed her.”
No one who knew her believed that Diane killed herself, accidentally or otherwise and virtually everyone who knew the situation believed that Sonza had killed her. The problem was no one could prove it

The slight (just under five foot seven) tattoo covered Sponza was a typical street punk, wise-guy-wanna-be.  In 1962, he was sent to Cheshire reformatory for breaking and entering and theft of a motor vehicle. Two years later, was jailed for a year in Hartford on a charge of breach of peace. In 1967, he was convicted breaking and entering and larceny and served several months in the can. A heroin addict, other reports say he pistol-whipped a victim in a medical clinic and allegedly shot another man in the face. The few friends that he had, acquaintances would be a better word, he met in jail. “He liked to project the image of a gangster,” one of them said.

In December of 1964, Sponza and two other men tracked down a man named James Little to a bar in Waterbury and bear him severely him because he had testified that he had sold a stolen television set to former Waterbury deputy sheriff, Francis Palladino, who once ran as the Republican candidate for high sheriff of New Haven County. Waterbury police reported that Sponza and the other two hoods, Paul Fontaine and Ronald Colasanto were “near and dear friends of Palladino” according to Waterbury Chief Inspector of Detectives Byrnes.
That incident, selling stolen goods to law enforcement officers, happened in 1964. Four years later, a crime ring developed in Waterbury that sold thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise to police officers.

Chief Inspector of Detectives Henry Byrnes, a gruff, political cop, decided to believe the beat reports about the murder of Diane McDermott. He officially determined that the death accidental and the Coroner’s office, relying on information from the police, agreed. In effect, the cops had inadvertently covered up Sponza's involvement in the crime. But why?

Byrnes

Two years after Diane was killed, Byrnes and Deputy Superintendent Paul Moynahan were suspended from duty after being convicted on breach of peace charges and public intoxication. The two men, both armed, locked up after banging on the front door of States Attorney Francis McDonald on Christian Road in Middlebury. Twelve state police cars answered McDonald’s frantic phone calls.

The reason Byrnes and Moynahan were there was that they had learned that McDonald was investigation the Waterbury Police Department involvement in accepting stolen goods in lieu of arrest, gambling, and loan sharking. Reports of the investigation had leaked out and rumor had it that the State Police were about to arrest 14 members of the Waterbury police force. Several hours before showing up at McDonald’s house, the two cops had gone to the home of the State Policeman who had been assigned to investigate the case.

In the end Retired Waterbury Chief Justice P. O'Sullivan, acting as the grand juror linked the scandal to the Mafia. He accused the Watertown chief of police and assistant prosecutor in Waterbury Circuit Court of destroying records in the case. Ninety-four persons gave testimony and 17 others refused to testify

Of the 33 arrests made in the case, mostly cops or city hall connected characters, twenty were convicted. Six persons were found innocent, one case was not prosecuted, 4 cases were dismissed by the Superior Court, one was declared a mistrial and one never went before the court because the defendant skipped town.

Moynahan and his son, Attorney and politician Timothy Moynahan were arrested for receiving stolen goods. The grand jury determined that the senior Moynahan "used his position as a police officer to protect the operations of Charles Vemale." 

Vemale was a mob associate who dealt in hijacked goods a pornography distribution. Timothy Moynahan, the son, knowingly received a stolen $200 air conditioner which was put in his law office. He was acquitted on perjury charges arising from the grand jury probe. The court also dropped the larceny charge because of a mistrial and subsequent "double jeopardy" ruling. Paul Moynahan was found guilty of larceny and was sentenced to one year and one day in jail. It is not known how long he actually served. Welcome to Waterbury.
Chief Inspector of Detectives Byrnes missed a bullet in the dragnet and he was given special treatment in the handling of the McDonald harassment case and was eventually given a suspended jail term. By the end of the year, he was gone from the force. The official story was that he was suffering from heart problems and was allowed to retire from the force with full benefits. 

If John Sponza was involved in the scandal, and it’s very, very possible that he was, his name was never mentioned in the investigation which focused almost exclusively on the involvement of the police officers and not the hoods who were involved. If Sponza was involved in handing over stolen goods to the police, it would go a great way in explaining why the investigators in the case decided that Diane McDermott killed herself.

On March 7, 1970, John Lonza was arrested for possession of heroin and slammed away to Somers maximum security prison 3 to 5 but only served 11 months on a modified sentence. He was discharged on parole in February of 1971. Sponza told his parole officer that he was buying wholesale merchandise in New York City and selling it at market rates in Connecticut and Massachusetts. There is no evidence that was true. He also listed his place of work as the Trailer Truck Salvage Company, a questionable firm that was actually in business or at least had an office, in Hartford, but no one there had ever heard of him and denied he ever worked there.

Sponza was under court order to attend a methadone clinic in Hartford. “He came in every day for nine months to pick up his medication.” A counselor recalled “He was a loner, he never came in with anyone. He was a little cocky and always felt uncomfortable and threatened.” Sponza was eventually tossed out of the methadone program because he failed to attend required sobriety meetings

In October of 1971, he married Naomi Balkan in a civil ceremony in Tolland.

On August 6, 1971, Lata, his girlfriend Linda Ziomek and John Sponza, robbed the American Savings and Loan Co. on Rt. 64 in Middlebury of $18,485. Sponza and Lata rushed into the bank wearing masks and black gloves while Ziomek waited in the getaway car. Immediately after the Middlebury robbery, Sonza, Lata, Ziomek and Stuart “Birdsey” Smith, of Meriden robbed another bank in Meriden of $68,000 on December 13, 1971.

 In early June of 1972, Sponza crashed his Cadillac on Interstate 84 and rented a car, a Dodge Charger, from National Car Rental in Hartford on June 5 and then vanished. After a week, the car rental employee in Hartford who loaned the Sponza car registered the car as missing when Sponza failed to return it on time.

Sponza had rented the car because he needed it to kill Peter Ladas and anyone else who could finger him for the string of bank robberies they had been involved in and then there was the matter of the stolen loot. Lonza wanted it all for himself.

Sponza called Ladas, William “Billy” McNellis and Alexander “Skinny” Dziadowicz and told them it was time to split the contents of two stolen safes. With James Lata driving, Sponza took the group to an isolated area in eastern Connecticut, the rural end of the state. Sponza was sitting in the front passenger’s seat. The car was parked. He turned suddenly, pistols in both hands, and opened fire on the three men Skinny Dziadowicz got hit, McNellis and Ladas, who was grazed in the head by a bullet, jumped from the car. Dziadowicz was never found.

Lata and the others weren’t going to let Sponza live after that. Linda Ziomek, Lata’s girlfriend, lured Sponza to Waltham, Massachusetts.  She told him she needed his help casing some banks in the area. Several days before Sponza disappeared, witnesses said they saw James Lata at a Waltham motel.

On June 16, 1972, a Friday, Sonza’s body was found in the trunk of a car that had been left in a shopping plaza in Waltham Massachusetts. He had been tossed into the trunk and then shot through the back three times. The gunmen were more likely Lata and McNellis.
By the time they found the body, Sponza’s wife said he had been missing about a week. The body was decomposing for about a week. The foul odor is what led the local police to the scene. Based on the condition of the body, police estimated that Sonza had been murdered in or about June 10th. His wife identified him, by phone, by his rings and body tattoos. He died with $1.12 in his pocket, a fake diamond ring on his finger. Sponza is buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Waterbury where Diane McDermott is also buried.


The Waterbury police reopened the case in 2011 but the investigation was weakened by the fact that the official files and pictures from the time were lost or had disappeared, and the main suspect, John Sponza, was dead. But the investigation did go on and the correct picture of what happened that day became very clear, very fast. John Sponza had murdered the young Mrs. McDermott. In fact, there is a possibility, although not much of a possibility, that some members of the Waterbury police had purposefully covered up Sponza’s guilt. The final determination in the reopened case, based on what information was available, was that Diane McDermott was probably murdered by John Sponza

PLAYWRIGHTS OPPORTUNITIES **

[nycplaywrights_group] NYCPlaywrights February 3, 2018

*** PLAYWRIGHTS OPPORTUNITIES ***

The Castillo Theatre (NYC) sponsors the Mario Fratti-Fred Newman Political Play Contest and reading series bi-annually. In its tenth year, the political play contest is intended to encourage the writing of scripts for the stage that engage the political/social/cultural questions affecting the world today and/or historical events and issues that impact on our heritage.

***

The University of Arizona’s MFA Generative Dramaturgy inaugural cohort invites playwrights to submit proposals for 10-minute play projects responding to the concept, process, or effects of erasure. Proposals may be a description of a concept, a short summary, or an explanation of your ideas and/or responses to the idea of erasure. We leave the interpretation up to you, but we’ve listed potential topics and material for inspiration.

***

Help us crown the Best of the Worst at ANOTHER Taste of Rotten Theatre! Laughed out of the writer's group?  Great!  Told it would never be staged?  Amazing!  Sure it doesn't work?  WE'LL give it a try!  Dig through your trash with the rest of the rancid meat and find the most terrible, inscrutable, incoherent play you’ve ever written.

*** FOR MORE INFORMATION about these and other opportunities see http://www.nycplaywrights.org ***


*** TED TALKS THEATER ***


My journey from Marine to actor

Before he fought in the galactic battles of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Adam Driver was a United States Marine with 1/1 Weapons Company. He tells the story of how and why he became a Marine, the complex transition from soldier to civilian -- and Arts in the Armed Forces, his nonprofit that brings theater to the military. Because, as he says: "Self-expression is just as valuable a tool as a rifle on your shoulder." Followed by a spirited performance of Marco Ramirez's "I am not Batman" by Jesse J. Perez and Matt Johnson. (Adult language)


***

Why women should tell the stories of humanity

For many centuries (and for many reasons) critically acclaimed creative genius has generally come from a male perspective. As theater director Jude Kelly points out in this passionately reasoned talk, that skew affects how we interpret even non-fictional women's stories and rights. She thinks there's a more useful, more inclusive way to look at the world, and she calls on artists -- women and men -- to paint, draw, write about, film and imagine a gender-equal society.


***

A Flirtatious Aria

Can opera be ever-so-slightly sexy? The glorious soprano Danielle de Niese shows how, singing the flirty "Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss." Which, translated, means, as you might guess: "I kiss so hot." From Giuditta by Frans Lehár; accompanist: Ingrid Surgenor.


***

Why the live arts matter

How can the magic of live theater, live music, live dance compete with the always-on Internet? Ben Cameron offers a bold look forward to a world where live arts matter more than ever -- to link humans together at a primal level of shared experience.


***

Building a theater that remakes itself

Can architects re-engineer their design process? Joshua Prince-Ramus shows how the results can be spectacular. He walks us through his fantastic re-creation of the Wyly Theater as a giant "theatrical machine" that reconfigures itself at the touch of a button.



More…

Whitey Tropiano: The Mafia comes to Connecticut




Ralph “Whitey” Tropiano was born in New Haven, August 15, 1912. The family lived mostly around Grand Avenue. In 1919, his father, Biaggio, an immigrant from Naples and a barber by trade, was arrested for his vague part in producing and selling wood grain alcohol during the temporary prohibition of 1919. Over 70 people were poisoned from the hooch which was traced to Sabatini’s Cafe in New Haven. He was released after a bombing destroyed the Café and any evidence the state may have had, but he was arrested and jailed in 1921 on a narcotics charge, driving the family into poverty.
Around 1922, Whitey’s family moved to the Bath Beach section of Brooklyn, where his mother had relatives. His father eventually joined the family in New York and died in 1953, a year after his wife, Lucia Vingiano, passed away.
Tropiano’s first pinch (He had racked up 15 by 1944) came when he was 12 years old for stealing a bicycle. After that, he became a runner for local bottlers and in 1929, at age 16, he robbed a corner store and took a prison sentence.
The state prison system gave Whitey, who had perhaps a fifth-grade education and was probably a function illiterate, an intelligence test and somehow came to the remarkably wrong conclusion that the hood, who was the prison barber, was a “mental defective.”
Under state law, a person designated as mentally defective could only be imprisoned for minor crimes and as a consequence, the extremely shrewd and highly intelligent gangster was released from prison.
In Mid-October of 1933, Whitey and three others made off with a truckload of silk valued at about a half of a million dollars, kidnapping the hapless driver along with the load.  He was tossed back into prison and released again in 1938 when he was paroled to work in a Brooklyn bakery. The FBI figured that it was probably around this time that Whitey started to work, occasionally, for Murder, Incorporated.
Murder Incorporated was the enforcement arm for the Underworld. Its killers were mostly made up of Italian-American and Jewish gangsters from Brooklyn. The recognized leader of the group was Louis "Lepke" Buchalter (Below) and later by Albert Anastasia. In total, its believed that Murder Inc. killed between 400 and 1,000 people.


In 1945, he was now dubbed Whitey because of his preference for white suits, was sentenced to 14 years in Sing Sing prison for carrying a loaded pistol and two coils string of picture wire (For strangling).  He served a fraction of that time. The arrest came after Whitey was chased through the streets of New York by a dozen squad car after he was found trying to murder another street hood named Carlo Speracino. He had also tried to murder Ernest “The Hawk” Rupolo to keep Boss Vito Genovese out of jail. The fact that a court recognized that Whitey was gunning for Rupolo and the ridiculously short terms he was serving in prison probably means that Whitey was already working as an associate of the Profaci organization.
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Ernie The Hawk, Rupolo

According to what Whitey told federal agents, he was running a successful handbook operation, a profitable wire room and a loan sharking business when a thug from the Profaci Family picked him up off the street and brought him to see Joe Profaci who offered him membership in the family which had only been organized in 1928-1929.

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Joe Profaci

Whitey said he turned Profaci down because “Membership in the family did not bring with it instant riches, and, in fact, the members were expected to ‘make it on their own. Membership meant simply that you were assured no interference from outside individuals, that is being under the protective wing of the family, but on the other hand, it meant sharing wealth with the family.”
He added that after he declined Profaci’s offer, the cops began to harass his gambling operations. Because they were not getting paid off by the mob to protect his operation, they weren’t making any money, they explained to him. Whitey said the harassment grew so bad that he closed down his gambling operation. One of Profaci’s men again suggested he join the family, but he said he again refused.
The fact was that Whitey was right about Profaci. A mean money hungry disciplinarian, he was widely hated within his own family. Making matters worse he demanded each member pay him $25 a month up and above the percentage he was already taking from their various crimes and schemes. Profaci insisted that the money, about $50,000 a month then, would be used to provide an income for his Soldiers families whenever they were sent to prison. But that was a lie. Profaci kept every penny of the money for himself. Anyone who complained, about the tribute or virtually anything else, was killed.
His greed sparked the Gallo uprising of 1959 when Profaci ordered the Gallo Brothers, a fraction within the Profaci organization, to murder a gambler named Frank Abbatemarco because Abbatemarco refused to pay Profaci anymore tribute.
Crazy Joe Gallo, left, and his brother Larry. The scars on Larry's mouth and face were the result of an attempted murder in a Manhattan bar room by Profaci's men. The attack was stopped when a patrolman walked in on the killing. The near-murder was later reenacted in The Godfather, Part 11.

 So Profaci told Larry and Joey Gallo that if they killed Abbatemarco, they could have his highly lucrative rackets.

Frank "Frankie Shots" Abbatemarco  above and below

After the Gallo’s murdered Abbatemarco, Profaci cheated them and keep the bulk of Abbatemarco’s scams for himself.  The Gallo’s declared war that lasted, intermittently, until 1975.  
While it is true that working for Profaci, a notoriously greedy and abusive boss, had few benefits, it’s doubtful that a common street hood like Whitey would have turned an offer that would grant him virtual autonomy in the underworld and eventually make him rich.  
Ernest “The Hawk” Rupolo was a low-level thug who, in the 1930’s, was used as a hitman for the Luciano crime family (Later renamed Genovese) 
In 1934, Vito Genovese ordered Rupolo and another gangster named Willie Gallo to kill a gambler named Ferdinand "The Shadow" Boccia because Boccia had the audacity to demand his fair share from a rigged card came he and Genovese had pulled off.   

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Vito Genovese

On September 19, 1934, Gallo and Rupolo shot Boccia to death in Brooklyn and tossed his body into the Hudson River. 

Ferdinand "The Shadow" Boccia

After that, Rupolo was on the cop’s radar and when he was locked up on another mob-related murder charge several years later, Rupolo assumed the Mafia would get him cleared by leaning on the only witness to the crime. But the mob did nothing. Rupolo was looking at fifty years in Sing Sing so he turned states witness and named Vito Genovese as being part of the Boccia murder. The judge ruled the testimony unreliable. But in 1937, Genovese panicked and fled to Italy and Rupolo was given nine years for the Boccia murder.
In 1944, Rupolo named mobster Peter LaTempa as a corroborating witness to Bocia's murder and LaTempa, under pressure, agreed to testify against Genovese but only because LaTempa knew the extent of Genovese’s power and never expected him to face justice. But in 1945, the US Army, which had arrested Genovese for running a massive black market, extradited him back to New York. LaTempa demanded protection and the States Attorney placed him protective custody in the Raymond Street Jail. It didn’t do any good. He was dead in less than a week, having ingested enough rat poison to kill “At least eight horses, maybe more.”  The Genovese mob had somehow managed to slip the poison in LaTempa’s gallstone medicine.
Four days after the trial opened against, June 9, 1946, the bullet-riddled body of Jerry Esposito alongside a highway just outside the city. Esposito was scheduled to appear as a surprise witness in the case against Genovese.
With LaTempa and Esposito out of the picture, there was no one left to corroborate Rupolo’s testimony…. New York State laws required corroborating where there is lack of proof…the government dropped its charges against Genovese.
Twenty years went by before the mob murdered Rupolo. He was found dead on August 24, 1962, floating in Jamaica Bay in Queens. They had tied his hands behind his back and after shooting him to death sank the body by tying it to two concrete blocks. (Below)


Everyone in the know assumed that the Genovese Mob got their revenge but that doesn’t appear to be what happened. But it wasn’t the Genovese mob. Instead, the murder was more than probably order by Sonny Franzese, a capo in the Colombo crime family. (Below)

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Rupolo’s brother said “I don't think Genovese had a thing to do with killing my brother. Ernie knew (Sonny Franzese) from when they were kids. And he hated him. The reason, he said, "While I was away doing sixteen years that bastard was out making money." Sonny never did a day, so Ernie figured Sonny was reaping the harvest while he was away doing time. They hated each other. They really, really did. Also, I think Ernie was stepping on Sonny's feet. Ernie couldn’t make money in Brooklyn anymore and he needed money and he figured he'd go out into Queens and start in Queens in whatever Sonny was doing-bookmaking, muscling in on bars, whatever. And Sonny didn’t want that.”
After the attempt on Rupolo’s life, Whitey was arrested on November 14, 1948, for brutal 1947 murder of Alfred “Allie Shots” Lofredo, 24 years old. His bullet-ridden body (Once behind the ear, three times in the back and twice in the left shoulder) had been dumped in an empty lot on Harway Avenue 2th Street. Whitey knew Lofredo. He was arrested with him in 1942 on suspicion of robbing mob bookies.


At the time that Lofredo was killed, Whitey was already under indictment for the murder of John Tufarlello, an auto mechanic with a police record as a small-time bookmaker and gambler. Someone had put a bullet through the back of his head. Tufarlello may have been the lookout in the Lofredo murder.
Now the cops had Whitey on second murder. Prosecutors beamed but then, less than two weeks later, Whitey walked away from it all. The charges against him were dropped. According to an informant, Lofredo and Tufarlello were the last of Whitey’s old gang that had been robbing Profaci run crap games. The Profaci’s pulled Whitey in and gave him a choice, kill all his running mates or be killed himself then and there.
So, after killing Lofredo and Tufarlello, Whitey went after the other members of the gang. Carlo Zarcone, 27, an ex-convict, was found shot through the head in a parked car at 2035 E. 61st St.  (Below)

Emanuel “Turl” Montalbano, 32, swaggering small-time gambler and racketeer who ran an auto theft ring, was found slain at the! wheel of a car in 1 45th St. front.  Anthony Imperiale and Angelo Esposito were also killed.
 - Emanuel Montalbano

 It took two years to finish, but by 1948, Whitey was suspected of murdering eight of his former running partners. In one killing, the cops thought they had finally him had after the girlfriend of one murdered man agreed to testify against Whitey. But the Profaci’s paid the homicide detective in charge of the case $20,000 to murder the witness (about $250,000 in today's value) and the case was dropped.


Bullet Promotion
According to the New York City Police Department, the Profaci’s, perhaps even Profaci himself, told Whitey that they had one more mission to accomplish, he had to kill Willie Moretti. (Below)

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Moretti was the underboss of the Genovese crime family. In mob lore, Moretti is most remembered as the hood who pushed along Frank Sinatra’s career. Sinatra's first wife, (Below) Nancy Barbato, was a paternal cousin of John Barbato, a Moretti associate. Barbato had used his contacts to Sinatra get bookings in New Jersey clubs in return for kickbacks.

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In 1939, Sinatra signed a recording contract with bandleader Tommy Dorsey (Below with Sinatra) and by 1940 he was a national sensation. Sinatra wanted to sign a more lucrative recording contract, but Dorsey refused to release him from their existing contract.

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Sinatra's strong-willed and politically connected mother went to see John Barbato who took her to see Moretti, who by then controlled large parts of the East Coast entertainment industry. In fact, by the early 1940s, the national syndicate still held a virtual lock on the entertainment business unions nationwide and Mobsters were always looking to expand their control of the industry by managing the careers of promising entertainers.
 Moretti saw that Sinatra's prospects were good and agreed to get the young man released from his contract with Dorsey for a cash payment from Sinatra, plus a percentage of his future earnings.
Working through Jules Stein, Moretti's first offer to Dorsey was $60,000 cash. When Dorsey turned that down, Moretti, decided to take matters into his own hands and make the band leader an offer he couldn't refuse.    One night after a show, Moretti pushed his way into Dorsey's dressing room, put a gun in the band leader's mouth and told Dorsey to sell Sinatra's contract. Which he did. For one dollar.   As for the $60,000 paid by MCA to release Sinatra, supposedly that money, in cash, went directly from Dorsey's bank account into Moretti's greedy little hands, after Dorsey paid the taxes on it.
 Sinatra always denied the story to and claimed he barely knew Moretti, who lived only a few doors away from him in suburban New Jersey.    Dorsey spent the rest of his life denying the gun in the mouth story, but in 1951, right after Moretti was killed, Dorsey only added credence to the tale, when he told American Mercury Magazine that he signed the contract releasing Sinatra because one night, three men paid him in his dressing room, placed Sinatra's release in front of him and said, "Sign it or else!"
In 1950, Moretti appeared before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Organized Crime, the so-called Kefauver Committee. Moretti made a fool of himself before the televised committee and the nation. His free-wheeling appearance and lose moth shook up the other Dons. According to Joe Valachi, Vito Genovese said that Moretti had lost his mind to advanced syphilis and that the National Commission had decided that he had to go. Actually, only Genovese and Albert Anastasia, the two most powerful members of the Commission called for Moretti’s death. Frank Costello (Who had been Moretti’s best man at his wedding and Godfather to one of his children) and Joe Adonis, although they agreed Moretti had lost his mind, simply wanted him removed from power.

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Frank Costello

Another version is that Moretti, a notorious cheapskate, had reneged on a dope deal that was financed by the Sicilian mob and they demanded the Commission pay them for their lose and take Moretti out as well. There might be some validity to the story. Moretti was a major drug dealer and had been under surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics since at least 1931.
A third and more likely possibility is that Albert Anastasia, (below) ruthlessly ambitious as well as a major narcotics dealer, wanted Moretti’s lucrative rackets and murdered him without permission which in turn led to his own death a while later.

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On October 4, 1951, at 11:28, while Moretti drove himself to Joe Elbow Room Restaurant in Cliffside Park, New Jersey. (The building still stands and is still a restaurant but under a different name)
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His regular driver and bodyguard, Harry Shepherd, had been loaned out to Albert Anastasia who told Moretti that he needed to be driven into the city for a Doctors appointment and his own driver was out sick.
After Moretti parked a young man came out of the restaurant and shook his hand and the pair went inside and took a table near a window where three other men were waiting. The waitress on duty, Dorothy Novack went into the kitchen to retrieve more menus. At that point, one of the men stood from the table and fired several shots into his face and neck, killing him.
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Image result for willie moretti dead
Image result for willie moretti dead

No one knows who the killers were but John Robilotto, a member of the Anastasia Crime Family, was a suspected gunman in the murder. The cops found a few fedoras left on the  table and traced one of them to dry cleaners on 6th Avenue in New York. (The hat didn’t fit Robilotto) One of the detectives noted that Robilotto’s brother, a cop, lived across the street and that Johnny Robilotto sometimes lived there. 

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Robilotto

The cops arrested Joe LiCalsi and Robilotto and charged them with the murder but had to drop the charges due to lack of evidence.
The Mafia bosses never liked Robilotto. When he was sponsored for membership in the Luciano organization by Boss Tony Bender, Frank Costello blocked him because his brother was a cop, but Anastasia allowed Robilotto into his organization without asked for approval. After the mob killed Anastasia in 1957, they tracked Robilotto down to Brooklyn and shot him dead on the streets.
Possibly as a reward for taking out Moretti, Whitey, at age 39, was inducted into the Joe Profaci family and given New Haven to rule over.

 The Return of Whitey Tropiano

By the summer of 1952 Whitey, less than a year after Willie Moretti was gunned down, Whitey was in Connecticut, married to Katherine, his former sister in law, and came to the attention of law enforcement. The new Haven cops had heard that a new Made man was in town and had gone after the local bookies with such vehemence, New York had to step in and tell him to back off a little. Then a lead came in that the same hood, Whitey Tropiano, was hiding a mob killer at his home in Point Beach, Milford.
The hood they were looking for had gunned down a hapless 24-year old clothing store salesman named Arnold Schuster in February of 1952. The word was that Whitey had known the killer from their days in Murder Inc. and that New York had forced Whitey to hide the shooter until the heat blew over.


 Schuster (Above) was riding a subway when he spotted the infamous machine gun-toting bank robber Willie Sutton (Below) whose wild exploits had made him a living legend. In 1950, Sutton escaped from Philadelphia County Prison, where he was serving a life sentence for his fourth bank robbery conviction. He was placed on the FBI's Most Wanted Fugitives list and the agents, noting Sutton's taste for natty dress, circulated pictures of him to haberdashers.

Schuster was working in his father’s Sunset Park tailor shop after a stint in the Coast Guard. On February 18, 1952, while taking the R train uptown, Schuster looked up and saw Sutton seated directly across from him. When the train stopped he followed Sutton to his hideout and then found Patrolmen Donald Shea and Joe McClellan in sitting in their squad car and told them “You'll probably think I'm crazy, but I just saw Willie Sutton,"
Detective Wiener Willie Sutton, Patrolmen Donald Shea and Joe McClellan

Shea and McClellan drove to where Sutton was, they found him out on the street trying to charge a car battery and asked, “Are you Willie Sutton?”
“No” Sutton answered, “Of course not”
 Back at the station, the cops told their story to Detective Louis Wiener, who went to the address the cops had been to and arrested Sutton. That night, Schuster heard on the radio that not only had the police arrested Sutton, Shea, McClellan and Detective Wiener were all promotions and probably a cash reward as well. Schuster went to the newspapers with his story and the papers took it to Police Commissioner George Monaghan who rewrote the press release to include Schuster and within hours, Arnold Schuster was the most famous man in New York City.
Police Commissioner George Monaghan and Schuster 

On Saturday, March 8, Schuster closed up his father’s store at 8:45 p.m. and boarded a 50th St. crosstown bus, rode to dark Ninth Avenue and walked to 45th Street where he lived. At 9:10 he arrived at his front door. A killer walked up to Schuster and fired four shots, two through his testicles and one in each eye.




New York’s Mafia run Mayor, Vincent Impellitteri, who hailed from Ansonia said, "This murder, above any crime in my memory, was an offense against all the decent people of the City of New York, with the possible exception of the Lindbergh baby,"
Police conducted an exhaustive investigation, 1,700 interviews in three months, interviewing more than 4,000 people, and traced the murder weapon to a batch of revolvers stolen from a boat headed to Japan. The cops figured that Mafioso John “Chappie” Mazziotta (Bellow) provided the weapon.

A full decade after the Schuster murder, mob informant Joseph Valachi told investigators that Albert Anastasia, who was entirely unassociated with Willie Sutton, had seen Arnold Schuster on the television news and screamed to his underlying "I can't stand squealers. Find that guy and kill him."
The murder was more than probably carried out by Frederick J. Tenuto, at the time on the FBI's list of 10 most wanted criminals. Tenuto had a police record dating back to the age of 16 and had been in prison several times. He escaped several times, the last time, in 1947, was with Willie Sutton. Tenuto (Below)  disappeared shortly after the Schuster murder. His body had never been found. 


Killing Pinocchio

In about the mid-1950s, Whitey was introduced to a new Haven hood named Billy Grasso. They two men took to each other immediately and Whitey took the young Grasso (Below)  under his wings and mentored him in the criminal life.
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Whitey set the ground rules Grasso, who was then known around town as Mickey Grasso. The lessons were simple. Be disciplined and cunning. Keep your thoughts to yourself. Don’t brag. Keep your private life quiet, conventional and private. If you’re going to drink, don’t get drunk. Don’t get pinched for anything.  If a lowly patrol cop smacks you around, put up with it and say and do nothing.
Grasso was intelligent and a quick study. He married, had a son, moved to the suburbs, kept a low profile and for decades he kept a cover job as a clerk at a New Haven appliance and television store. But he was also ruthless, greedy and deadly viciousness. The other hood who worked him recalled him as completely humorless, rare in the Mob underworld. But it paid off. By the late Fifties and early 60’s, Billy Grasso was Whitey’s right-hand man, just in time to take care of the Pinocchio problem. 

Tommy “Pinocchio” Rispoli, 32 was an ex-con and second story burglar and gambler who lived at 79 Williams Street in New Haven. He was trouble. His criminal record went back to his teen years. In 1954 he was arrested for helping four inmates escape from the New Haven County jail and providing them with clothes and cash. In 1959, he started a brawl in a Spring Street Restaurant. He married, and his wife bought a small corner grocery store in New Haven, Skippy’s and Rispoli worked there, delivering groceries. 
Image result for frank pepe's wooster street new haven 1960s
On November 11, 1962, Rispoli showed up at Whitey’s Wooster Street hangout to collect $1,600 on a horse bet, almost $14,000 in today’s value. But Whitey refused to pay out. He told Rispoli that the bet went south because Rispoli had “past-posted” the race, meaning he placed the bet after the race had finished but before the winner was announced. Whitey said he would pay the young hood $100 plus his original $200 bet.
Understandably Rispoli, who stood 6’ 2” and weighed nearly 200 pounds, threw a fit. Words were exchanged and Rispoli beat Whitey mercilessly and put him in the hospital.  When Billy Grasso, not a large man and never a street fighter, jumped up to defend Whitey, Rispoli knocked him out cold.
After that, realizing he had delivered a beating to a member of the Profaci Crime Family, Rispoli started carrying a pistol.
On November 19, Rispoli borrowed a car and drove to the gas station at State and James streets in Fair Haven. A squatter watched Rispoli leave his car and get into a car with New Jersey license plates that held three men.
On November 25, a Branford policeman, John Kelley, made a routine check at an abandoned house on Bushy Plain Road and noticed freshly turned dirt in the basement. An hour later, a squad of cops had dug up Tommy Rispoli. He was naked, doused in lime and wrapped tarpaper. Although he had been missing for five days, he had been dead about two days, leading the police to suspect that he had been tortured before he was killed. The killer had smashed in Rispoli’s skull and fired three shots into him. One in his chin, another into his right cheek and the third in his neck.
It didn’t take the cops long to figure out who the corpse was and why he had been killed. They put an around the clock tail on Whitey and Grasso and interviewed a couple of dozen people, but nothing was produced.
Governor John Dempsey offered a $3,000 cash reward.
Grasso was questioned by his cousin, a Connecticut state trooped and on January 3, 1963, the cops hauled Whitey to the State’s Attorney’s Office and leaned on him, hard over Rispoli murder. But Whitey said nothing and showed no emotion. Fed up, the cops let him go after a half hour of questioning.
“We have no witness and no leads,” New Haven State’s Attorney Arthur Gorman said later in the day “the investigation has come to a dead end. This is mainly due to the fact that people are afraid to talk”
And that was the end of the investigation of the Rispoli murder.
A month later, Rispoli’s cousin Bobby Rispoli, was arrested after a running gun battle with New Haven police who found him stealing a car. He was sentenced to 20 years for the crime.

Greasing the Cops

In 1964 Steve Ahern’s New Haven Police Special Services Division had made over 1,600 vice and gambling arrests and they showed no signs of slowing down their campaign. By then, Whitey’s gambling operation was, for the most part, being run by his protégé Billy Grasso while Whitey, now Capo with the newly named Colombo Family, busied himself with developing his legitimate businesses which he would use as covers to cloak his massive income from his rackets. He tossed a small fortune into the New Haven Grape Company, which had a monopoly on distribution of grapes used in making traditional Italian homemade wine. He also had a large interest in a Branford shopping center, a construction firm, an after-hours club and a car dealership.
To help Grasso out with the Ahern problem and keep the cash following, Whitey called Paul Licari, owner of the Mobbed-up University Grille and West Hartford hoods Tony DiBella, Pasquale Gugllelmo and Alfred Amasio. DiBella and Amaio were considered to be the biggest bookie in Hartford. It was decided to send out feelers to Ahern and to Francis Reynolds, the Chief of the West Hartford Police. 
The two cops met and decided to play along and sent word back to Whitey that they would agree to meet and talk things over. In the meantime, to secure the case, the New Haven FBI planned to place a bug in Whitey office at the New Haven Food Terminal, but the request was denied by Washington. However, what the feds did learn was that Billy Grasso had spent a considerable sum of money buying state of the art electronic surveillance equipment including a phone bug, a miniature listening device that could be attached to clothes and a receiver that an FBI memo called “superbly engineered”. The Bureau never determined what Grasso intended to do with the equipment.
During the bribery investigation, one of the hoods described Whitey Tropiano to the cops in a recorded telephone conversation: "Well, you see, Whitey-- nobody is ever gonna catch him. Whitey is got operations going that he ain't got part of himself and they're running because no matter how many times they catch his men are -- they'll die without him the town don't run."
Over a series of meetings that took place in parking lots and fast food joints in New Haven, Wallingford, Avon and New Britain, the hoods told the cops they wanted their handbooks and after-hours bars left alone and that they wanted to expand into central Connecticut unmolested. They offered Ahern, probably the most influential cop in New England at the time, $500 a week in bribe money, about $4,000 in today’s value. Without any verbal agreement from the two cops, they stupidly handed over $2,000 as good faith money.
In 1965, Whitey, Licari and DiBella were arrested and eventually sentenced to six years on the bribery charge. Amaio and Licari were acquitted Guglielmo worked a deal to have extortion charges in another case dropped if turned state’s evidence on Whitey.
Whitey managed to delay his trial for a stomach operation. And as his army of lawyers ensured that the case against him made its way very slowly through the court system, Whitey and Billy Grasso decided to organize and shakedown the private garbage-hauling industry in the Bridgeport area.
The shakedown was working but Grasso, as usual, got greedy. He threatened a hauler named Leonard Caron who went to FBI. In March of 1968, a federal jury indicted Whitey, Billy Grasso and Bridgeport hood Larry Peliegrino for restraint of trade. Whitey hired F. Lee Bailey, who was originally from Hartford, to handle his appeal, but Bailey dropped the ball and on December 9, 1968, Whitey was convicted of shaking down trash collectors, was given a 12-year sentence and a $10,000 fine. Billy Grasso got a ten-year term and $7,500 fine. Pellegrino got 8 years and a $5,000 fine.

Exit Whitey

Whitey, ill, angry and old, couldn’t take Leavenworth prison. He got word to the New Haven FBI that he was ready to talk in exchange for some considerations, although exactly what he wanted or what he got, if anything, is unknown.
What is know is that he gave the feds what they wanted and more although he skipped over his years as a street gangster, the murder of at least ten of his fellow gangsters, his years in Murder Inc. and the assassination of Willie Moretti in New Jersey and claimed that his refusal to join the Profaci organization is what pushed him to New Haven. However, he said, Old man Profaci himself had once come to New Haven and introduced Whitey to Raymond L.S. Patriarca, head of the New England Mafia. He said that with Profaci’s urging, that he occasionally collected debts for Patriarca.
He taught the FBI that gangsters referred to each other as “Good fellows” and that he knew virtually all the Good fellow’s in the family he belonged to, the Colombo Crime family.
The name change came when Joseph Profaci died of cancer in 1962, his brother-in-law, Guiseppe Magliocco took over the family although the real power behind the organization was probably Joe Bonanno. Bonanno, who wanted to rule the entire New York underworld, told Colombo to murder Carlo Gambino, Thomas Lucchese, and Stefano Magaddino.
Instead, Colombo took Bonanno’s message to Carlo Gambino who called a meeting of the New York families in which Bonanno and Magliocco were to stand trial. Only Magliocco showed up at the meeting and was fined $50,000 and forced to retire. As for Colombo, Gambino exerted pressures and the young Colombo, only 40 at the time, was given control over the Profaci family.
Colombo inherited a family, (then called the Profaci Crime family) that was falling apart due to internal warfare and dissent and basically under control of the maniacal Carlo Gambino. However, Colombo proved to be an exceptional Don and soon held tight control over his family and became a multi-millionaire in the process.
Whitey named the acting head of the Colombo family, the underboss and five capos and estimated the family to be about 100 strong, the Lucchese family at about 85 members, the Genovese at about 800 and the Gambino family 1,000. He dished the dirt, some of it inaccurately, on the Bonanno family, he named some of the leadership and discussed the endless internal rivalries within the varied mob fractions.
He said that Nicholas Patti of Ansonia was with the Gambino crime family and was the overall boss of the Naugatuck Valley towns. Patti was born in Italy in 1895 and arrived in New York in 1913 before moving up to Connecticut in 1914 and ran a grocery store as a front. His lieutenant seems to have been Angelo Ulma who died in 1962. Patti outlived several of his Capo before retiring in 1970. But even after that he was consulted regularly on Family issues and reminded close to Carlo Gambino until Gambino’s death.

Joe Arcuri, Capo for the Naugatuck Valley

Whitey also put the finger on Joseph LaSelva and Joseph Guerrerrio whom he identified as Made members of mob along with Bridgeport’s Frank Piccolo, whom he said was with the Gambino’s.

Gambino captains Frank Piccolo (L) and Frank Dapolito. 

He also boasted that the mob had bought off members of the New Haven Blades professional hockey team, that the Mob controlled virtually all gambling in Connecticut and he blamed his downfall on Billy Grasso’s greed. Several years later when the FBI approached him for more information, Whitey turned them down.
Several years later, with his federal sentence for garbage racketeering finished, Whitey was sent back to Connecticut to begin his term for the attempted bribery of Steve Ahern ten years before. He served three years of the six he was sentenced to on the bribery charge. He was finally paroled in November of 1974.
His stomach problems had worsened and for several years he more or less went into semiretirement seldom venturing far from his East Haven home. That changed in 1979 when the FBI got word that Whitey was back out on the streets, putting out money to loan shark and financing big cocaine deals.
Billy Grasso, Whitey’s one-time understudy, was released from prison in 1973 and was now a made member of the Providence Mafia under Raymond Patriarca. Grasso, and immediately went about the business of making New Haven-Bridgeport his territory.  He had too. The criminal scene in Connecticut had changed radically. The Colombo’s, the family that he and Whitey had answered to, now had to share the state with the Lucchese, Genovese, Gambino families out of New York as well as the DeCalvacante’s out of Northern New Jersey. In total, the mobs were taking about $220 million dollars a year out of Connecticut from porno distribution, fencing, narcotics, gambling and labor infiltration.
With Raymond Patriarca’s permission, Grasso started to organize New Haven. The first to go was Ippolito Paul Agresta of Stueben Street in Bridgeport, a representative of the Gambino’s gambling operation vanished on July 4, 1974, and is presumed dead.
Next John “Slew” Palmieri, another Gambino member, was murdered, blown up in his car on a Saturday morning on Eastern Street in New Haven. The 59-year-old hood who said he was a fruit and produce dealer, had driven the Pontiac three blocks from his home when the bomb, hidden in the car trunk, went off hurling the car 300 feet. The blast was heard ten miles away in Milford.
Palmieri was strongly suspected in the 1963 bombing that destroyed a car belonging to Nicky Alberino. Alberino owned Arnold Cigarette Service, a vending machine company, one of the mob’s favorite investments. At some point, Alberino had a conflict over placement locations with John Connelly owner of the Ace Vending Company and his “consultant” none other than John Palmieri.  
Connelly and Palmieri had followed Alberino to a coffee shop in New Haven and tried to rough him up, which led to all three men being arrested. A week later, someone set fire to Connelly’s car.
In 1971 Palmieri was sentenced to five years in a New York State prison for extortion, although in total he had spent 25 years of his life behind bars mostly for armed bank robbery. He had only been paroled seven months before and was living in a low-income Seniors housing complex. The police suspected that Palmieri had heard that with Whitey Tropiano in prison that New Haven was wide open for the taking but Billy Grasso thought otherwise.
The only opposition left to deal with was his old Boss, Whitey Tropiano. Grasso drove up to Rhode Island and made his case before Patriarca. Whitey, he said, was a deterrent to business, he did things the old way and the FBI was all over him. He had to go.  Patriarca, never reluctant to sanction a murder, agreed.
On April 2, 1980, Whitey was back home in Bath Beach, the Brooklyn neighborhood where he’d grown up and made his bones as a mafioso. It was about 2:25 p.m. when he left a business owned by a family and, accompanied by a nephew, strolled down 63rd Street. They stopped at 1062 63rd Street when two cars pulled up. Two men with stockings over their faces got out and started shooting. The nephew fled, unhurt, as the men peppered Whitey with bullets to the head, back and stomach. Whitey, 67, was pronounced dead at the scene. He was buried several days later in New Haven where his onetime underlying Wildman Billy Grasso was the reigning Capo.
A few days later, on April 7, Seymour’s Gambino Mobster Billy Shamansky was shot dead on the Merritt Parkway in Stratford after a high-speed chase with his killer. A bullet fired into his rear window killed the hood.  
On April 11, the cops found Joey Rabbitt, Rabbitt, 37, of Bridgeport, slumped dead over the wheel of a car with Vermont plates in a Howard Johnson's restaurant parking lot in Stamford, his gun holster empty. Somebody put two bullets in his head. The cops were sure that Rabbitt, a known freelance killer for the Genovese and Gambino Crime Families, played a role in the Shamansky execution.
Police suspected that the architect behind the murders was Vincent Diorio, of Shelton, a reputed member of the Gambino mob. State Troopers and FBI agents raided Diorio’s home a few days after the murders and seized a cache of weapons as well as Diorio's blue Cadillac.

Diorio’s previous record included a September of 1960 he caught up in a scam in which Diorio and two others were arrested in Bridgeport as part of a scam wherein a woman named Betty Welch lured men to her apartment and Diorio burst in pretending to be the outraged husband. Then a third man, Aurelio Carmolingo, pretending to be a neighbor, would enter the apartment and save the victim from Diorio’s wrath for a one-time payment of $2,000. All three were sent to prison as a result. He was arrested again in 1976 for failure to turn over lottery receipts.