John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

Hartford’s “Bobby the Cook” and the Half Billion Dollar missing art

There are several very good reasons to steal art. Stolen art has an enormous underground market, enough so that Interpol ranks art crime as the 4th highest-grossing criminal trade. Buyers run from crooked dealers, greedy collectors, forgers,  and terrorist groups.  Secondly, art, which is essentially untraceable and relatively easy to conceal, can be used in place of cash when buying enormous quantities of drugs or arms.  Museums will also pay millions to have stolen art returned and usually are willing to keep the law out of the theft unless there are cheated in the return deal. 

In October of  1990, a group of New England mob knock-around guys fell back ass wards into the score of a lifetime when the pulled an art heist that gave them, a total in today’s value, of $500,000,000 in stolen works from a small Boston museum. The entire operation took less than an hour and half to pull off. Two decades, later the paintings are still missing,  and the robbery remains the largest art-heist ever.

It happened at around midnight on Sunday morning, March 18, 1990, when a battered red Dodge Daytona pulled up near the side entrance of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a small but elite and privately-funded precious-art museum in downtown Boston. A century-old Italianate mansion was filled with uninsured art and was protected by an outdated security system. 

At around 1 a.m., a security guard named Richard Abath returned to the front desk after patrolling the museum to switch positions with a fellow guard, the only other person in the building. The second guard on duty that night had recently earned a masters in performance from the New England Conservatory of Music and was working at the museum to earn a few extra dollars. He wasn’t scheduled to work that night but was called in when the regular night man called in sick.

What little that is known about the events just prior to the robbery is that two men with fake police uniforms waited for at least an hour in the battered red Dodge Daytona, trying to avoid being noticed by people leaving a Saint Patrick's Day party nearby. At 1:24 a.m., one of the two men walked up to the museum and pushed a buzzer near the door. When guard Abath answered, he was told by the man in police uniform that they had a report of a disturbance in the museum courtyard and wanted to check it out.
David Turner

Willie Merlino

Abath knew he was not allowed let uninvited guests inside, but he was unsure on whether the rule applied to police officers. Several people who worked security at the museum when it was robbed told the cops that there were no rules against having personnel visitors come around at night after the museum closed, although Jon-Paul Kroger, head of security training at the time, was astounded that one of his guards would open the door to the museum after hours,  even for police officers. As he explained to the FBI, the proper protocol was to take the officers names and badge numbers, call the police department and verify their identity, and only let them in if there were a legitimate reason.

By then, the second man had exited the car and was also standing at the door waiting to be let in. Abath could see the men and their uniforms and believed them to be police officers. With his partner on patrol and not around to consult with, Abath decided to buzz in the men.

When the two fake cops arrived at the main security desk, one of them told Abath that he looked familiar and that he was sure there was a default warrant out for his arrest and demanded Abath step out from behind his desk, where the only alarm button to alert police could be accessed. He was asked for his ID, ordered to face the wall, and then handcuffed. Abath later said believed the arrest was a misunderstanding until he realized he hadn't been frisked before being cuffed, and one officer's mustache was made of wax.

The second security guard arrived minutes later and was also handcuffed, after which he asked the intruders why he was being arrested. The thieves explained that they were not being arrested, but rather this was a robbery, and proceeded to take the guards to the museum's basement where they were handcuffed to overhead pipes and had duct tape wrapped around their hands, feet, and heads.

Since the museum was equipped with motion detectors, the thieves' movements throughout the museum were recorded and this is what the cops learned;  After tying up the guards, the thieves went upstairs to the Dutch Room. As one of them approached Rembrandt's Self-Portrait (1629), a local alarm sounded, which they immediately smashed. They then pulled the painting off the wall and attempted to take the wooden panel out of its heavy frame. Unsuccessful in the attempt, they left the painting on the floor. Due to the manhandling ways the criminals conducted the robbery, cutting the paintings from their frames and smashing frames for two Degas sketches, investigators believe the thieves were amateur criminals, not experts commissioned to steal particular works.

The detectors also showed that the thieves made two trips to their car with artwork during the theft, which lasted 81 minutes. Before leaving, they visited the guards once more, telling them "You'll be hearing from us in about a year," although they were never heard from again. The guards remained handcuffed until police arrived at 8:15 a.m. later that morning. At that, the thieves climbed into a red car and disappeared.

That was it. The greatest art heist in history was over.

Among the missing pieces where a Vermeer, a Manet and five drawings by Degas. Two of the paintings — "Storm on the Sea of Galilee," Rembrandt's only known seascape, and Vermeer's "The Concert" which was Gardner's first major acquisition and one of only 34 known Vermeer works in the world. A  bronze finial was taken from the top of a Napoleonic flag, possibly appearing like gold to the thieves. The museum is offering a $100,000 reward for this piece alone. The thieves passed by two Raphael’s and a Botticelli painting. Titian's The Rape of Europa, which is one of the museum's most well-known and valuable pieces, was not stolen. The selection of works stolen puzzle’s the experts, specifically since more valuable artworks were available; why was that assortment of items was stolen despite the thieves being in the museum for enough time to take whatever they wished? The take from the robbery could have been double, even triple what it was but it became apparent that the thieves had no understanding of the art world and as result left behind more valuable pieces in the museum.

The thieves left behind virtually no clues at all. The view clues that were left were sent to the FBI's Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, for retesting with the hope of finding new DNA evidence to identify the culprits of the theft. However, in  June of 2017, The Boston Globe reported that some of the crime scene evidence collected by the FBI was missing. Even after an exhaustive search, the FBI were unable to locate handcuffs and duct tape used to immobilize the museum's two security guards that could have contained traces of the thieves' DNA material.

The reason the evidence was sent to Quantico was because the Federal Bureau of Investigation took control of the case on the grounds that the artwork would likely cross state lines. The bureau believed then and now that the heist was planned and carried out by the Patriarca mob and that for the first few years after the heist, the paintings were shuffled between Boston, Connecticut, Maine, and Pennsylvania by representatives of both the Patriarchs and the Philadelphia mob.

At first, the FBI’s primary suspect was guard  Richard Abath, a rock musician moonlighting as a security guard. Abath was 23 years old and on duty as a security guard the night that the museum was robbed.  It was Abath who opened the door for the two robbers. Also, a surveillance video shows a security guard, whom the FBI believes is Abath, admitting an unidentified man into the Museum the night before the infamous 1990 art heist. Abath remains a suspect because, among other things, the motion detector equipment didn’t register that there were intruders in the museum’s Blue Room, where a Manet portrait was stolen from.  It did register that the last person in the room was Abath. His footsteps were registered on his initial patrol rounds before the robbery began. However, he has, over almost three decades, cooperated fully with investigators.  Two Boston-area antique dealers, after seeing that same surveillance video, said that they believe the second person with Abath is someone in the antique trade but was known to be living in Florida who "likes to brag about his relationship to a pair of notorious Boston art thieves"

 Donati (above and below)

 Off the record, the Bureau’s prime suspect has always been Robert A. Donati, AKA “Bobby D,” a lifelong hood and Made member of the New England Mob and part of Boston’s  North End crew which was then, at the time of the robbery, under capo Vincent “Vinnie the Animal” Ferrara. Ferrara took over the North End when the Angiulo brothers,  New England mob underboss Jerry Angiulo and his four sibling lieutenants, were jailed in the 1980s.

Among Donati’s other criminal talents…which included murder for hire and flim-flam scams, he and his brother  “Dickie D” Donati were accomplished second story burglars. Shortly before the robbery, Donati was seen at a nightclub with a sack of police uniforms.

What probably led Donati to the Gardner heist was a story going around in lower circles that the museum's security was ridiculously poor, although the FBI is fairly certain Donati learned the story from a degenerate gambler who once worked as a janitor at the Gardner and was into the mob for a load of money. But the  Donati’s were “Ham and eggers” low-level mob guys, a step above, but not too far above, smash and grab artists. For them, the world of extremely high-end art was far out of their realm of understanding, which led law enforcement to conclude that there was a higher power behind the theft.


Also among the mountain of suspects was  Brian McDevitt. The second guard has always insisted that it was a McDevitt who tied him up that night. McDevitt’s fingerprints would be among the first to be sent to FBI headquarters in the wake of robbery. Raised in Swampscott, Massachusetts, McDevitt dropped out of Bates college after a year and became a crook, stealing $100,000 from a Boston lawyer’s safe deposit boxes. He used the money to finance a scam in Glens Falls, New York, where he masqueraded as a Vanderbilt and concocted an elaborate plan to empty The Hyde Collection of more than 70 masterpieces.

McDevitt was living in the Beacon Hill neighborhood when the Gardner Museum was robbed. He was also seeing a young woman named St├ęphanie Rabinowitz. McDevitt  told her that he was a staff writer for the television show “The Wonder Years.” And three days before the Gardner robbery, he told Rabinowitz he was going down to New York City for the Writers Guild Awards ceremony, and that he’d be out of touch all weekend.

On March 18, 1990, the day the museum was robbed McDevitt begged Rabinowitz to be his alibi to explain his whereabouts when the museum was robbed but she refused. Two years later he told  Rabinowitz, that he had been paid $300,000 to rob the Gardner Museum, and that he had left the country. McDevitt died at the age of 43 in Medellin, Colombia, in 2004.

Another suspect was Myles Connor, Boston’s best art thief as well as an accomplished all around a professional burglar.  Connor, the son of a decorated Policeman, robbed his first museum at age twenty when he was still a member of the 60’s rock group The Wild Ones. His daring escape from a Maine jail and his daylight shoot-out with Boston police made him a walking legend in the New England underworld. According to Connor, the Donati’s came to him with their tip on the lax security at the Gardener and said they were interested in robbing the place. Connor claims that he and the Donati’s cased the museum in 1974 but decided to rob the Boston Museum of Fine Art across the street instead. They did, however, case the gardener again in 1989. But then  Connor was locked up in January 1990 on a series of racketeering and art-theft charges and sentenced to serve 20 years in prison and the deal was off.   Connor, who was  known to have committed burglaries dressed as a police officer in the past,  was also adept at using stolen art as a bargaining chip to secure immunity from prison and after being jailed in 1990, told the Fed’s he could get the Gardener art back  in exchange for being released from prison as well as receive the cash reward, but the government turned him down.

 George A. Reissfelder

George Reissfelder had also been considered a suspect. Reissfelder was a mob associate who had once served 16 years in the can for a crime he may not have committed.  His lawyer in the retrial was John F. Kerry, later Senator John Kerry, who won by drumming up publicity for the case to use to promote his budding political career. But once freed, Reissfelder, a died in the wool thug, returned to crime and drug addiction after his release. According to an informant named Robert Beauchamp, Reissfelder and another mob associate named David Turner visited him in Massachusetts state prison and told him they were planning a major robbery and asked how they might hide the valuables in the immediate aftermath. The Fed’s admit that Reissfelder did bare a remarkable resemblance to the sketch drawn of one of the thieves. Right after he died of a cocaine overdose in July 1991 Reissfelder’s brother told investigators later that he had seen what he thought to be Manet’s “Chez Tortoni,” one of the 13 artworks stolen from the Gardner, as having hung for a time over his brother’s bed.

Another version of the theft is that it was not a low-level job but rather that it was a mob operation through and through. That theory starts with David Houghton, an enforcer and street-tax collector and knew Bobby Donati for a mob hangout in Dorchester, TRC Auto Electric, a car repair shop owned by Patriarca hood Carmelo Merlino AKA The Auto Man. Merlino had been convicted of robbing a Brinks armored truck in the late 1960s and opened the garage when he was paroled in the 1980s. Houghton was also a friend of Myles Connor who in turn introduced him to Bobby Donati. Connor claimed that Houghton was the other robber in the Gardener heist, but that very doubtful because Houghton, who weighed-in at well over 300 pounds,  didn’t look anything like the men caught on the museum cameras. That took Houghton out of the picture.

Myles Connor

So, in the end, almost all of the little evidence that was available in the robbery pointed to Bobby Donati.

 When Joe Russo, boss of the Boston mob, went to jail, “Cadillac Frank” Salemme took over. Instead of balancing the badly shaken mob, Salemme first order of business was to kill  anyone who had been even remotely involved in a botched assassination of him during the internal wars involving his nemeses, the jailed Vincent Ferraro.  One of the first Ferraro supporters he intended to deal with Bobby Donati, who occasionally acted as a driver and bodyguard for Ferraro. Donati’s badly beaten body (his throat was slit) was found in the trunk of a car on September 24, 1991.

State Police figured the killer was an East Boston gangster named Mark Rossetti, an FBI informant who would rise to the rank of Capo in the organization. A year later, David Houghton, Donati’s probable partner in the robbery, died of cancer (other have it as a heart attack) in 1991. That left Carmelo Merlino AKA The Auto Man.

Tony Romano was a small-time criminal with drug problems. He had been paroled from the Massachusetts state prison after helping the FBI locate four priceless books, including a family Bible stolen from the John Quincy Adams family estate. Upon parole Romano either stumbled into a job at Carmello Merlino auto repair shop in Dorchester or was somehow planted there by the FBI.  It was from Romano, who was wearing a wire, that the feds learned that Merlino was plotting to rob a nearby armored car depot in Easton and that he had overheard Merlino talking about recovering the stolen Gardner Museum art. Over the entire year, Romano recorded dozens of conversations of Merlino planning out the armored car robbery.

The FBI moved in and arrested Merlino in 1994 for operating a coke ring out of the garage. After the arrest, agents made it clear that all charges could be dropped if Merlino led them to the stolen art, but the gangster didn’t take the offer, meaning he either feared for his life if he cooperated or, more likely, he was lying on the tapes about knowing the location of the works.  Instead, Merlino told the FBI that he was sure that a hood named Richard Chicovsky AKA Fat Richie, could lead them to the stolen art. The problem with that was that Chicovsky was a paid FBI informant who had previously told the FBI that he assumed that Merlino could lead him to the stolen artwork. Jailed for five years afterward, Merlino never came forward with any more information and died in prison in 2005.  As for Romano, the FBI’s snitch,  the Bureau relocated him to Florida, but his drug habit continued, and he died shortly afterward of a brain aneurysm.

According to the FBI informants, Merlino’s supposed overseas buyer backed off when the Gardener robbery made international headlines for months and the FBI joined the case.  Right after that, Merlino’s bosses in the mob, Vincent “Vinnie the Animal” Ferrara, and Joseph Russo, along with 19 others, were indicted on federal charges a week after the robbery. All of them were sent to jail eventually, in fact, Russo would die in prison, so the stolen art was the last thing anyone in the mob hierarchy cares about.  So, Donati, Houghton, and Merlino stored the stolen artwork in Revere and went about the business of finding another buyer.

But despite what he may have said, Merlino had no actual experience in locating buyers for stolen multi-million dollar artwork but when Donati and Houghton died, the stolen art fell under Merlino’s control and he didn’t want it. Enter “The Three Bobby’s”   “Bobby Boost” Guarente, the uncle to Bobby Donati’s suspected killer Mark Rossetti, “Boston Bobby” Luisi, Jr. and  “Bobby the Cook” Gentile of Hartford. After an initial meeting with Merlino, police suspect that the Three Bobby’s made it their business to unload the painting to a buyer.

Merlino’s right-hand man was  “Bobby Boost” Guarente, a professional criminal and Mafia member with a rap sheet a mile long who served jail time for leading a  bank-robbery ring that took down at least 36 banks and/ or armored-trucks.
The Boost’s best friend and partner in crime was Bobby "The Cook" Gentile (He says that his nickname, "The Cook", comes from his passion for good food.)  who was out of Hartford. On the books, he was employed in the concrete-pouring business and, oddly enough,  his company was well known for their quality workmanship. Gentile's arrest record began during the Eisenhower administration, although most of his involvement with the police occurred in the 1960s. Convictions include aggravated assault, receipt of stolen goods, illegal gun possession, larceny and gambling. He beat a counterfeiting case.

He is handicapped by back pain, probably the result, according to multiple sources, of a blow his father delivered with a metal bar when he was 12 years old. He left school two years later to work for his father's masonry business and became the youngest bricklayer and cement mason to join the International Union of Brick Layers and Allied Craft Workers. Gentile and his brothers had a reputation as top concrete finishers, according to friends. When union construction slowed in the 1970s, he went to work for a builder of swimming pools in greater Hartford. He moved from swimming pools to used cars which is where he met Bobby Guarente, at one of the automobile auctions where dealers buy inventory. Gentile then took a stab at the restaurant business in the 1970s, but closed his place, the Italian Villa in Meriden, after two years. He also ran Clean County Used Cars and the cars lot, on Franklin Avenue in the Hartford's South End, was a local Hartford mob hangout.  He put a stove and a refrigerator in a service bay and, as he wrote in a court filing, "cooked lunch for the boys. I like to cook," Gentile once said. "Macaroni’s. Chicken." The list of attendees at his luncheons in bay No. 1, according to someone familiar with the events, could read like a federal indictment. Among others: Hartford tough guy and mob soldier Anthony Volpe and John "Fast Jack" Farrell, the Patriarca family's card and dice man.


After Guarente got to know Gentile he introduced him to Robert “Bobby” Luisi, the Boston mobster who would sponsor Gentile and Guarente for membership in the Philadelphia mafia. Around 1997, Guarente and Gentile went to work for Robert Luisi, Jr., AKA Boston Bobby, a capo in the Philadelphia mafia operating in New England.

While in prison, Luisi, met some members of the Philly mob in prison who eventually inducted him into their family, something the Patriarca never offered. Under the infamous Philadelphia boss Skinny Joe Merlino, Luisi was promoted to Capo and allowed to put together his own crew in New England. Luisi inducted his son, Bobby Guarente and Bobby Gentile into the mob on the same day in the same ceremony.


Guarente and Gentile mostly acted as bodyguards and cocaine distributors for Luisi, whose father and brother were murdered in November 1995 in a Charlestown restaurant, two of the final victims of the Patriarca family war. Guarente eventually became Luisi's second in command and Gentile became a soldier in his crew.

The Crew didn’t last long. Luisi, Jr. was arrested on a narcotics distribution conspiracy charge and almost immediately gave up Guarente, Gentile and Boss Skinny Joey Merlino himself. In the end, everybody went to jail. Luisi agreed to cooperate with the government.

Luisi was a major reason federal authorities believed the key to recovering the stolen Gardner artwork lay with Bobby Guarente and Bobby Gentile.  According to Luisi, he told the FBI that Guarente had asked him at the time if he knew how to fence stolen masterpieces as he had buried two of them beneath the concrete slab of a house in Florida. Luisi said he didn’t, and forgot about the conversation – that is until he was approached by the FBI upon release from federal prison in 2012. Within weeks, the FBI was raiding Gentile’s home outside of Hartford but did not find the art.

When Bobby Boost Guarente was released from prison in December 2000 and moved to a  farmhouse was in north Portland, Maine, far in the woods. He would die there from cancer in 2004. Six years later, in March of 2010, Bobby Guarente’s widow told the FBI that she saw her husband hand Bobby The Cook Gentile of Hartford two of the stolen Gardner paintings outside a restaurant in Portland, Maine, sometime between 2002 and Guarente's death in 2004.

The feds believed the widow. The way the police heard the story from other sources, was that Boston Bobby Luisi Jr. one of the three Bobby’s, moved at least some of the art work out of New England where things were too hot, down to Philadelphia while Bobby Boost Guarente moved some of the work over to Hartford Connecticut into the waiting hands of Bobby the Cook Gentile. Then, just before Bobby Boast Guarente went to prison, Bobby the Cook took the art up to Bobby Boast’s place in Maine for safe keeping.

When the widow came forward , Bobby the Cook Gentile was finishing a 30 month prison sentence after FBI agents raided Gentile’s Manchester home and found handguns and ammunition and unregistered silencers, none of which a convicted felon should have had in his possession. They also charged him with selling illegally obtained prescription pain medication to a law enforcement informant.

Gentile would later admit that he attended the Portland meeting but denied taking the paintings. Gentile told the FBI that in March of 2002, he drove from Boston to Portland, Maine to meet Guarente for dinner. He said he went because Guarente was sick, broke and in need of a loan. "Bobby Guarente always needed money," Gentile said. "One day he calls me. He said he needed $300 for groceries. That's what he used to call it, 'Groceries.' He was sick at the time."   Gentile picked up the check for the dinner and complained for years that  Guarente's wife, Elene, ordered an expensive lobster dinner. I'm a sucker," Gentile said. "I'm the one picking up the check."

According to Guarente’s widow, Elene Marie,  immediately after finishing their meal at a Guarente passed at least two of the stolen paintings to Bobby the Cook Gentile in the  parking lot. Bobby the Cook Gentile is said to have taken at least one piece, maybe more, and returned it to Connecticut.  Bobby Gentile said that Elene Marie was a liar and that she made the story up to get back at him because after her husband died, Gentile, suffering from his own maladies, was unable to continue sending her money. Gentile also told the FBI that he has been victimized due to the competition for the $5 million reward, which, he said, is all that Elene Marie is interested in. He said that when she made the accusation she was, essentially, rolling the dice in hopes that Bobby Gentile had the paintings and the FBI would find them in his possession after her story gave the feds probable cause to conduct  another raid.

Investigators searched Guarente's farmhouse in Maine and found nothing but the widow's session with the FBI in early 2010 brought life back into the investigation and brought the otherwise low level and unknown Bobby the Cook Gentile, into the center of it all.  

A month after Guarente’s widow was interviewed, the FBI sent in an undercover agent to Gentiles operation who recorded the gangster saying that he had access to two of the stolen paintings that he would be willing to sell them each for $500,000. To bury himself even further, Gentile was also recorded boasting that he is a sworn mafia soldier in the Philadelphia family. Publicly, and later in court,  he denied knowing anything about the theft or the location of the stolen art. An undercover  FBI agent, posing as a marijuana seller, asked Gentile why he was willing to sell the paintings rather collect the $5 million reward. The agent told prosecutors  "The answer, based on Mr. Gentile's own words, was he felt that the feds were going to come after him anyway, even if he was going to turn in the paintings for the $5 million reward"

After that, Sebastian "Sammy" Mozzicato, a Connecticut mobster and his cousin were enlisted by the FBI to spy on Gentile. In return, the bureau promised Mozzicato that if and when the paintings were recovered, he could have the $5,000,000 in reward money. Among other things, Mozzicato told the FBI that in the late 1990s, he was instructed to move a package of what he suspects were paintings between cars outside a Waltham, Mass., condominium used by him, Gentile, fellow mobster Bobby Guarente.  A day or two later, Mozzicato said Gentile and Guarente drove the purported art to Maine, where Guarente owned a farmhouse.

Not long afterward, Mozzicato said he listened to an animated discussion between Gentile and Guarente about whether they should give what they referred to only as "a painting" to one of their Philadelphia mob bosses as "tribute." Mozzicato said Gentile argued that the painting was "worth a fortune" and told his old friend Guarente "You're out of your (expletive) mind" to give it away.  Also in the late 1990s, Mozzicato said Gentile gave him photographs of five stolen paintings and asked him to act as an intermediary in recruiting a buyer. Mozzicato said the potential buyer was shocked by the paintings and complained, half-jokingly, that they could be arrested just for talking about them. Mozzicato said Gentile then cut him out of the deal but acknowledged later that the deal fell through. Mozzicato said he and his cousin saw, on repeated occasions, what he believes was the gilded eagle, cast two centuries ago in France as a finial for a Napoleonic flagstaff. He said they saw it often on a shelf at Gem Auto, the used car business Gentile formerly owned on Route 5 in South Windsor. Mozzicato said he thinks Gentile later sold the eagle. Mozzicato said he identified the finial from a photo provided by the FBI.

In the end, Gentile grew suspicious of Mozzicato and froze him out. However, the feds now had enough solid information from Mozzicato to get a third search warrant for Gentile’s property. During search agents found explosives, a bullet-proof vest, Tasers, police scanners, a police scanner code book, blackjacks, switch-blade knives, two dozen blank social security cards, a South Carolina driver’s license issued under the alias Robert Gino, five silencers, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a California police badge, three sets of handcuffs with the serial numbers ground off, police hats and what a federal magistrate characterized as an "arsenal" of firearms. The agents also noted that there was a surveillance camera trained on the approach to his home. Hanging from a hook inside the front door was a loaded, 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun with a pistol grip. Further inside the house, they found two snub nose, .38-caliber revolvers and a .22-caliber derringer.  In the 2012 raid, a large cache of prescription painkillers that he had no prescription for, a hand-written list of each of the stolen pieces of Isabella Gardner artwork accompanied with their estimated black-market values and a copy of the March 19, 1990, Boston Herald, which included major coverage of the Gardner heist.

Gentile has gave a simple explanations for the presence in his home of  a dozen weapons and related paraphernalia.  He said some of it had been there so long he forgot about it. He added that other material probably was dropped off by a friend who is a "dump picker."

Gentile's lawyer added the laughable excuse that Gentile is a hoarder. But neither the lawyer nor Gentile had an explanation for the list and estimated value of the stolen paintings. However, an infamous art thief from Massachusetts said that he wrote the list and that Gentile probably acquired it, in a transaction not directly related to the robbery that may have been nothing more than an attempted swindle.

In 2015, Gentile submitted to a lie detector test, denying advanced knowledge of the heist or ever possessing any paintings. The result showed a 0.1% chance that he was truthful. Gentile also reportedly failed an FBI-administered lie-detector test regarding his knowledge of the whereabouts of the  art work

In 2018, Gentile, at age 81, was sentenced to 54 months in prison on federal gun charges. Right afterward, dozens of FBI agents swarmed over Gentile's front and back yards and found an empty hole in the back yard someone had dug and then tried to cover up by placing a storage shed over it, but it proved to be nothing but another dead end lead. A 2018 excavation of a lot in Orlando, Florida, that Guarente had frequented also failed to uncover any trace of the stolen works.

There is the possibility that neither Bobby Gentile or Bobby Guarente didn’t steal the art work, nor did they know where it was but that they had every intention of collecting the $5 million reward that the museum was offering for the recovery in the late 1990s. Both men were reported to be obsessed with the reward money.

The museum initially offered a reward of $5 million for information leading to the art's recovery, but in 2017 this was temporarily doubled to $10 million, with an expiration date set to the end of the year. That was extended into 2018 following helpful tips from the public. No one has taken them up on the offer.

Almost three decades later, the theory is, rumor actually, that the paintings are in Ireland, having fallen into the hands of the IRA which hoped to use the art work to finance pensions for their members who fought in the guerrilla wars against the British in the 1960s and 1970s.

One way or the other, the case is cold now. Although the FBI reports, vaguely,  that several sightings of the missing art had been recently authenticated, the hundreds of clues that started it off are done, all of them having been proven useless. The statute of limitations in the case have expired long ago. No single motive or pattern has emerged through the thousands of pages of evidence gathered.

Connecticut History: Alfred Terry

Most people have heard of the 7th Cavalry’s George Armstrong Custer and his last stand at the Little Big Horn but fewer know that the egomaniacal Custer’s commander was a Connecticut Yankee from New Haven.
Alfred Howe Terry (1827-1890) was born in Hartford in 1827, to a prosperous family who relocated to New Haven in 1828.he was educated at the prestigious Hopkin School in New Haven and trained as a lawyer. After graduation, he worked as the clerk of the Superior Court of New Haven County in the 1850’s.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Terry raised a regiment of Connecticut volunteers and led them into battle at First Bull Run, as well as other engagements in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. His success on the battlefield earned him a promotion to brigadier general during the war.
In 1866, Terry became military commander of the Department of Dakota and would play an important role in the army’s long and ruthless campaign against the Indians to gain control of the northern plains.
Terry then left the Dakotas for a post in Georgia, where he was a commander in the reconstruction activities and strong opponent of the emerging Ku Klux Klan. By 1872, however, he returned to command of the forces in Dakota Territory, providing military protection for the Hayden survey of the Yellowstone region and a survey of the Canadian border. A year later, in 1873, he became George Armstrong Custer’s commanding officer.
in 1873, when the Seventh Cavalry was posted to the Dakotas, and the following year, he found himself caught up in controversy when Custer’s well-publicized expedition into the Black Hills triggered a gold rush onto land that had been set aside for the Lakota under the Fort Laramie Treaty, which Terry, himself, had helped negotiate.
Terry then became a member of the Allison Committee, which attempted to purchase the Black Hills from the Lakota in 1875, and following the committee’s failure, he directed the 1876 “campaign”…..assault would be a more accurate word, to force the Lakota and their allies onto reservations.
After the massacre at the Little Bighorn, Terry was the target of unwarranted criticism for Custer’s defeat. Rather than tarnish Custer’s reputation, Terry took full responsibility for the fiasco that Custer arranged.  Terry also ordered the court-marshal of Major Marcus Reno, Custer’s second-in-command, although most historians now agree that Reno’s persecution was unwarranted.

In 1886, Terry was promoted to major general but due seriously illness, retired from the army. He returned to his home at 68 Prospect Street in New Haven where he died in 1888. He is buried in Grove Street Cemetery.


Sometimes the best ideas occur to you while your mind is occupied with something completely different. Pieces of the puzzle can suddenly fall into place.
David Lagercrantz

Hartford’s “Pistol Pete” Eaton, Fastest Draw in Indian Territory by John William Tuohy

Hartford’s “Pistol Pete” Eaton, Fastest Draw in Indian Territory


John William Tuohy

Frederick Eaton was a legendary cowpoke, Indian fighter, U.S. Deputy Marshal, scout, gun for hire, a farmer and an author. He was also the fastest and deadliest gun in the Oklahoma territories.  

Eaton was born on October 26, 1860 (Some sources say October 16) in Hartford and at age 8, moved with his family to a homestead in Twin Mounds, Kansas. Later that year, his father, Frances Lenard Eaton, a Union Army veteran and native of Hartford, became a vigilante and fell into a dispute with members of powerful local families the Campsey’s and the Ferber’s. The two clans had served with Quantrill’s Rangers and after the war, terrorized the local territory by declaring themselves “regulators”….self-appointed lawmen. Six of the regulators rode to the Eaton homestead, and while his son watched in horror, they gunned Eaton down and rode away.
A friend of the family, a man named Moses Beaman told the young Eaton “My boy, may an old man’s curse be upon you if you do not avenge the death of your father”  
Beaman taught the boy to shoot and handle a gun, no easy chore since Eaton been born with a crossed left eye. Still, by the age of 15, Eaton’s shooting skills were remarkable, and locals swore he could shoot the head off of a snake twenty yards away. He was so good with a gun that he was able to travel to  Fort Gibson, Oklahoma to compete shot with the some of the cavalry’s best marksmen, beating them every time.
Eaton was taken in by a Delaware Indian named Jasper Exendine who wore a large round hat with long braids hanging out of it; wore large sheepskin chaps; had a handkerchief around his neck. He also carried tow colts. Eaton would emulate Jaspar’s
characteristics and dress for the rest of his life.

 At age 17, Eaton tracked down and killed five of the six men who murdered his father. The last of the group, the sixth man,  had been killed in a card game before Eaton could find him. After that, he was dubbed “Pistol Pete, fastest gun in the Indian territory”
 That same year he appointed one of the youngest U.S. Deputy Marshals ever commissioned in the Western District at Fort Smith, Arkansas. Serving under “hanging judge,” Isaac Parker, his territory extended from southern Kansas to northern Texas.
Eaton moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma and took up with a girl named Jennie who gave him a crucifix to wear around his neck for protection.  One day a bank robber fired on Eaton and the cross, remarkably, deflected the bullet. “I’d rather have” he said, “the prayers of a good woman in a fight than half a dozen hot guns: she’s talking to Headquarters.”
Jennie died of pneumonia later that year.
Eaton rode the Chisolm trial, working as a cowhand for his friend Rollo Goodnight, a noted rancher. He and Goodnight had worked together as teens, roping and selling buffalo to the train companies. Afterward, Eaton went to work as a scout for the US Army during the Geronimo Apache uprising.

Rolla Goodnight and Eaton 

During his career as a lawman, Eaton was involved in many gunfights and he was never found without a pair of loaded Colt .45 pistols on his hips. When asked how it was that he was never killed he replied “By throwin’ a lot a lead fast and straight”

At age 29, Eaton joined the Oklahoma Land Rush and settled southwest of Perkins, Oklahoma where he served as sheriff and later became a blacksmith and married Orpha Miller of Guthrie, Oklahoma and the couple had two children. Orpha died

of a lung disease seven years into the marriage. He remarried sometime later and had more children, in fact, he had ten children, 31 grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren all the while working part-time as a marshal, a sheriff or a deputy sheriff until late in life.  By the time his career as a lawman was completed, he reportedly had some 15 notches on his gun belt. (Although he said repeatedly that he had only shot and killed 11 bad men.)
He continued to carry his loaded pistols until his death and was still said to be extremely quick on the draw when he was in his nineties. He died on April 8, 1958, at the age of 97.

A simple story

A simple story
John William Tuohy

 The smell of freshly brewed coffee relaxed the cop as he sat at the counter, removed his hat and turned his radio down. Taking a plastic covered menu from its holder, he glanced it over and put it back. He knew the menu by heart. He’d eaten every selection on it this past year and what an awful year it was. He looked into the mirror in front of him that ran the length of the counter. He felt himself going there, to that miserable place where his daughter cried, and wife no longer loved him. And realizing he was going there, he pulled himself away by pressing his fingers hard into the counters linoleum cover.
He looked into the mirror again and recognized the man sitting one stool away from him on is right. Without turning to look at the man, he said, “Aren’t you one of the O’Donnells brothers?”
“I haven’t done anything, I’m just sitting here” the man answered without lifting his gaze from the counter.
“I didn’t say you did anything wrong” the cop answered calmly “I just asked a question, that’s all, no point in getting all rambunctious on me” and as soon as the last part of that sentence spilled out, he was sorry he said it.
The waitress poured the cops coffee and set a place for his breakfast.
The man turned to face the cop and said, “I’m Mick O’Donnell. Is that okay?”
The cop shrugged and made a motion with his hands that asked O’Donnell to calm down “I was just ask’n” the cop said, “That’s all.”
They stared straight ahead at the coffee pots for several minutes, each feeling uncomfortable with the other’s presences.
“Where are your brothers? Use to see you guys all together all the time”  The cop asked, “There was two of them”
“Three” O’Donnell answered “Their dead.  They died”
The cop turned in surprise to look him directly in the face “Dead?”
“Yeah” O’Donnell said with a slow nod to his reflection in the mirror.
“How?”  The cop asked, genuinely surprised “What are you guys? In your forties, maybe?”
O’Donnell spoke without looking at the cop “Rory died a few years back, lung cancer. Cigarettes. Lonny died in prison doing time on an armed robbery charge. He was always sickly ”
“I remember that,” the cop said. “And the third one? You said there were three”
“Michael” O’Donnell answered. He tilted his head a bit to the cop “He was the youngest” and then looked back at the coffee pots “He was shot in California. Went out there to start over and ......that’s that….some kind of dispute with his girlfriend’s family; we still don’t know what it was all about”
“I’m sorry. That’s hard luck.” The cop said, and he meant it. He watched O’Donnell count the change in his pocket and then order a cup of coffee and Danish. When the waitress came to take his order the cop said “get me bacon, two eggs over, toast and home fries” and then cocking a thumb at O’Donnell he added, “He’ll have the same, my check”
“You don’t have to do that” O’Donnell.
“I know” he answered, “I don’t have too, I want too”. He thought about what he had just said and remembered his pledge to tone down his edges and to strive to be a kinder, gentler person. He turned to O’Donnell and said “I guess I should’a asked you first”
“That’s all right,” O’Donnell said waving it off.
“Still” the cop replied “I would appreciate it if you would allow me to pick up breakfast”
“Sure,” O’Donnell said softly. He was hungry.  “Any reason?”
“Well” he answered, picking up his coffee and taking the empty stool next to  O’Donnell “I guess it’s my way of saying thank you, without the O’Donnells  breaking the law every other week, I’d be without a job”    
It was a well-intended but risky, quick intimacy, but O’Donnell pulled his head backwards and  smiled broadly.  
“So what are you doing now days?” the cop asked
“I’m a house painter,” O’Donnell said happily and reached into his worn shirt pocket, pulled out a white business card and handed it to him.    
“Kids?” the cop asked as he took the card.
“A daughter” he answered “You?  Married?”
 “Separated” the cop answered “I got a temper issue, stress related and I also have issues relating to people’s situations. What’s that…? Um…em..”
“Empathy?” O’Donnell asked.
“Yeah!” the cop answered “There you go, that’s it. I’m work’n on it, you know”
O’Donnell leaned in close to the cop and said softly   “Hey, listen. No shame in a day’s effort for a good thing, right? We all got stuff we’re working on” 
Their breakfast arrived, and they fell into silence for a second, a nice, soft silence that caused them both to relax and lower their shoulders. Each of them wore a small, satisfied grin.
“You know,” the cop said “It feels good to say that out loud, the guys I’m seeing for my issues…. he halted abruptly “He’s a therapist guy, not a psychiatrist. I’m not nuts”   
O’Donnell shrugged, Valley speak for “Its okay”  and they both set about shoveling their breakfast off of it plate in mighty swings of their forks.
“But” the cop continued,  “He says I’m supposed to talk about it, about what’s going on, you know? But who gonna talk to about that? I’m little embarrassed to tell you, I don’t have anybody I can talk to about that, but it goes on inside of you, you know?
“I know, I know”
“But let me say this, that’s why women live longer” he put down his fork and pushed his plate aside  “Because women build what they call communities, like when their kids are little ones, toddlers, they have stay at home, Moms build communities, and walking clubs and all that. And that’s how they make new friends, that’s how they have a live outside of themselves. But men…”
“We don’t do that” O’Donnell continued for him “And that’s not good, you think too much, you get all inside of yourself, you get a heart attack and you die”
“And we should do that” the cop added “Somebody should organize that for guys, like a…um”  
“Like a Priest or something”
“Yeah like a priest or something”
The cops radio called out. He listened to the noises coming out of the contraption and sipped the last of his coffee.
“That you?” O’Donnell asked with a nod to the radio.
“Yep, that me. What would they do without me?” he smiled.
“God only knows,” O’Donnell said and smiled in return as the cop peeled off several bills and left the on the counter.
“Hey, listen,” O’Donnell said as he stood to his feet “Thank you for breakfast. You working the day shift I guess huh? Well look, why don’t we grab some dinner, here, tonight, about six, you can talk, you know, empathize and all that, how’s that sound to you?...its better than eating alone right?”
The cop stretched out his hand and they shook “It is. I’ll see you then”