THE AMERICAN MAFIA - Article
The Good Killers
1921’s Glimpse of the Mafia
Copyright © 2007
The shout drew Michael Fiaschetti’s attention to the figure silhouetted in the dim gray light passing through the hotel window.1
Fiaschetti was on self-imposed guard duty, ostensibly protecting barber Bartolo Fontano from gangsters who wished him dead but secretly working to squeeze a big confession out of the small, skinny 28-year-old who had requested his help.
A detective sergeant in official rank with the New York Police Department, Fiaschetti was serving at the time as acting captain in charge of the department’s Italian Squad. In that job, the 39-year-old Brooklynite had large shoes to fill. Previous Italian Squad leader Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino had become a legend since being martyred in March 1909 on an official trip to Palermo, Sicily.2
Fiaschetti, however, was well equipped for the job. He was tall and muscular – he once described himself as “husky enough to make a reputation as a piano mover.”3 So his was a particularly imposing presence among the generally moderate-sized residents of New York’s Little Italies.
Fiaschetti was both street smart and savvy to the internal politics of the police department. Another asset was his relationship with the press.
Newsmen in that highly competitive era for print media were hungry for sensation, and the cigar-chewing Fiaschetti knew how to deliver it, while keeping his name conveniently attached. Finally, Fiaschetti possessed the ability to crawl into the mind of a perpetrator. That knack served him well in his dealings with Fontano.
The detective, sleeping lightly in his Broadway Central Hotel bed with a revolver under his pillow, had been awakened earlier by the sound of Fontano’s pacing. But he remained still, feigning sleep and listening, until the barber stopped at the window and shouted at the late summer dawn.4
Fontano ranted most likely in a dialect of his native Sicily. Fiaschetti, born in Rome, Italy, and brought to the United States as a child,5 was able to approximate the meaning of the monologue:
“My God! He was my friend, my brother, and I killed him. But you know, my good God, I didn’t want to do it. I had to do it. They made me kill him.”6
That was enough for Fiaschetti. Conscience had done its work at last, and Fontano seemed in a talkative mood. Fiaschetti rose, switched on the light and approached the window. He asked nonchalantly why Fontano was up so early.
When Fontano mumbled and appeared likely to clam up again, the detective decided it was time to end all charades.
“You know what has been going on, and they know all about it at headquarters,” he disclosed to Fontano.
“They know all about how you killed Camillo Caiozzo and threw his body in the river.”
That information, the detective revealed years later in his autobiography, had been supplied to him by a Brooklyn girl named Carmela Pino, in love with Fontano but rejected by him.7
Fiaschetti had been quietly holding onto the specifics while escorting Fontano to a Broadway show, taking him to dinner and then staying with him at the hotel that night.8
Once the detective started on Fontano, he didn’t let up. He threw everything he had, voiced every detail Carmela Pino had supplied about the barber’s life, his involvement with gangsters, his fears, his love affairs. There was nowhere left for Fontano to hide. Then Fiaschetti played his ace: “I don’t want to see you go to the chair, when you are not to blame. ...They are to blame, and I want to get them. I want to get them for having made you kill your friend.”9
That morning, Bartolo Fontano told the story of the murder of Camillo Caiozzo and of the gang of assassins he referred to as the Good Killers.
Window into the underworld
The story of the Good Killers has intrigued many through the past eight and a half decades, as it is one of a very few glimpses of the American Mafia in its formative stages. While Fontano’s confession cleared up the Caiozzo murder, his statements about the Good Killers gang also shed light on more than a dozen other murder cases in New York City and Detroit, Michigan,11 and helped to define an interstate network of Sicilian immigrant criminals.
The story became a national sensation, arguably the highlight of Fiaschetti’s career (certainly the high-water mark 12), as authorities followed the bloody trail of the Good Killers through the Northeast and the Midwest. The assassins’ tracks reportedly turned up in western New York State, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, even Colorado.13
Americans were confronted with a vast criminal conspiracy that appeared to be controlled through a Mafia command structure stretching back across the Atlantic Ocean to Sicily.14
That they were not already fully aware of such a conspiracy may be considered evidence of a persistent head-in-the-sand mentality.
As early as 1890, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency connected the assassination of New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy to the work of a widespread Mafia organization in the United States. Robert J. Linden, superintendent of Philadelphia’s Pinkerton office, composed a memo in that year documenting the discovery of the Mafia:
“[Agent Francis P.] Dimaio tells me that the Mafia is quite strong in this city [Philadelphia], also in New York, but the Sicilians go to New Orleans, as it is the headquarters, and is better than Philadelphia or New York.”
Posing as a captured Sicilian counterfeiter, Dimaio was later able to win the trust of one imprisoned New Orleans Mafioso and learn the details of the Hennessy assassination conspiracy.15
Within two decades of the Pinkerton revelation, the U.S. Secret Service unearthed Mafia segments in the Northeast that had been engaged in counterfeiting and blackmail. Those segments were also linked to underworld activities in Illinois; Louisiana; and Palermo, Sicily.16
The Postal Inspection Service followed quickly in 1910 with discoveries concerning a band of Sicilian extortionists in Ohio, which had alleged connections in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana and North Dakota.17
By 1921, when the country learned of the Good Killers, there was an abundance of evidence of Sicilian criminal societies organized at regional (possibly national or transnational) levels. Americans, however, seemed determined not to assemble the pieces of the puzzle and appeared genuinely shocked at each fresh revelation through the early 1960s.
Who were the Good Killers?
The organization known as the Good Killers gang was comprised of immigrant Mafiosi of the Bonventre and Magaddino families of Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, and their allies, Fontano revealed. Divided into crews of about 15 men, it had been in a state of war for a decade and a half since its leader, a Brooklyn baker named Bonventre, was brutally murdered by the rival Buccellato clan, also of Castellammare.
Five of the 'Good Killers' gang:
(top) Fontano, Lombardi,
(middle) Magaddino, Bonventre,
Bonventre’s corpse was mutilated, though sources disagree on the method and the extent of the mutilation. It appears that the body was dismembered, possibly also burned in one of Bonventre’s own bakery ovens. (The members of his organization subsequently adopted terms relating to burning as metaphors for murder.18
The resulting gang war was conducted on both sides of the Atlantic, back in Sicily, as well as in cities in the U.S., such as New York and Detroit, where there were significant Castellammarese populations.
Joseph Bonanno, a native of Castellammare who would rise to rule a New York crime family,19 explained the situation in his autobiography. He noted that his cousin Stefano Magaddino and Magaddino ally Gaspar Milazzo were important men in the Brooklyn-based Bonventre underworld faction.
“As my cousin Stefano and Gaspar Milazzo made their way up, they came into conflict with rival groups in our world. Very often, these rivals were friends and relatives of enemies in Sicily. The Magaddino family was not alone in having members in America; the Buccellato family did also. They were archenemies in Castellammare, and archenemies they remained in Brooklyn.”20
Fontano began associating with the organization probably around 1913-14, when he lived in a Castellammarese colony in Detroit, Michigan,21 and went by his given name of Bartolomeo Fontana.22 It seems unlikely that he ever became a full member of the group, but he watched as it pursued its vendetta against Buccellato men. Fearful of being linked with the murders, the Good Killers either terrorized young immigrants into working as assassins or sponsored the immigration of men who would do the bloody work. The assignment often turned out badly for the assassin.“Whether he obeyed or not, his life was forfeit,” Fontano said. “They would kill the immigrant just to be sure he wouldn’t tell.”23 When a group of Good Killers moved from Detroit to Brooklyn, Fontano went along.24
The barber gave Fiaschetti the details he could remember of fifteen murders committed by the gang and of the one he was ordered to commit under the threat of death. He provided the names of six Good Killers gang leaders who had compelled him to slay his boyhood friend Caiozzo. Three of the leaders lived on Roebling Street in Brooklyn. They were Stefano Magaddino, 29, Magaddino’s brother-in-law Bartolo DiGregorio, 32, and Vito Bonventre, 46. The other three were all from Manhattan: Giuseppe Lombardi, 41, of Elizabeth Street; Mariano Galante, 27, of 198 Orchard Street; and Francesco Puma, 35, of East Twelfth Street.25
The Caiozzo murder
Camillo Caiozzo was born to Giuseppe and Maria Pepitone Caiozzo of Castellammare on Nov. 29, 1894. His was a farming family, but his paternal grandfather, also named Camillo, was a minor public figure,26 a possible indicator that the Caiozzos had some political clout.
Caiozzo was deemed responsible for the death of a Magaddino relative back in the old country. This alleged crime appears to have been the unsolved 1916 murder of Stefano Magaddino’s brother Pietro. The Magaddino clan seemed to have initially attributed that murder to the treachery of the Buccellatos, into whose family Pietro had married, and several Buccellato clansmen met their ends in 1916.27
As Caiozzo arrived in Ellis Island aboard the steamer LaSavoie on June 28, 1920,28
likely fleeing Magaddino retribution, word of his offense was sent from Sicily. The Good Killers were assigned to carry out the vendetta.29
Caiozzo initially settled with his mother Maria and siblings on East 12th Street in Manhattan.30 Apparently sensing his danger, he steered clear of Good Killers gang member Francesco Puma, who lived in the same neighborhood. After a year, the Good Killers apparently decided they could get to Caiozzo easiest by using his boyhood friend Fontano to catch him off guard.
Fontano claimed he learned of the murder plot when three of the gang leaders backed him into a hallway, “pressed the muzzles of their pistols into his stomach and told him to swear to commit the crime or they would blow him to pieces.”31
Fontano had seen enough of the Good Killers’ actions in Detroit to know the grave position he was in. He gave in to the pressure and took an oath to murder Caiozzo.
The two old chums became reacquainted in summer of 1921 and might even have moved in together briefly.32 In late July, Fontano proposed a combination business trip and vacation in New Jersey. Caiozzo had recently sold an embroidery business, earning $600 to $700, and Fontano urged him to invest the proceeds in a “disorderly house” (1920s term for a brothel).33 He offered to put his old friend in touch with a New Jersey acquaintance who managed such an establishment near Shark River in Monmouth County. Fontano suggested they spend a few days there and enjoy some hunting in the countryside.
The pair arrived Thursday, July 26, at the Riverview Inn in Neptune City. The inn was managed by Salvatore Cieravo (known locally as Salvatore Rose), who also ran the “disorderly house” located in the next municipality, Asbury Park.34
On Saturday, Caiozzo took a train back to New York City. The purpose of his trip is not known, but while in the city, he visited his family. It was the last time Maria Caiozzo would see her son alive.35
During his absence, Fontano told his host how the Good Killers had demanded he kill Caiozzo. Cieravo knew of the gang and understood that Fontano had no reasonable option other than to murder his friend. The innkeeper offered Fontano the use of a shotgun and recommended that the deed be done in the woods away from the inn.36
Caiozzo returned to Neptune City on Sunday, and he and Fontano went duck hunting the following day. The two men ventured toward an overgrown and marshy area along Shark River. Fontano, holding Cieravo’s shotgun, lagged just a step behind Caiozzo as they hiked. When the men were out of sight of the inn, Fontano put the muzzle of the shotgun against his old friend’s back and jerked the trigger.
The weapon seems to have been loaded for more than birds. Lead slugs ripped a large hole through Caiozzo’s back and side.37
Panicked and stricken with guilt, Fontano rushed back to the inn, leaving Caiozzo where he had fallen. Close to 2:30 p.m., Cieravo saw him and asked if everything was all right. Fontano said it was. Cieravo wanted to know where the killing had taken place, and Fontano indicated, “Right over there,” pointing to a spot not far off.
Cieravo was angered: “I told you to go far away. You’ll spoil my house.”
Leaving murder victims lying around the property wasn’t good for business. Cieravo grabbed a shovel and had Fontano lead him to Caiozzo’s body. When they reached the site, Cieravo tried to have Fontano bury his friend. Fontano refused. Disgusted, Cieravo dragged the body a dozen or so paces away and hid it in some brush.38
The two men then walked toward Cieravo’s home on Embury Avenue, stopping along the way for Cieravo to have a brief discussion with his friend Giuseppe Lombardi, a member of the Good Killers gang. Lombardi immediately departed for New York.39
Before dawn the next morning, Lombardi returned to Neptune City accompanied by Francesco Puma. With help from Fontano and Cieravo, they located Caiozzo’s remains, tied stones to the body and sank it in the water of Shark River. The men then adjourned to a 4 a.m. breakfast at Newton’s Luncheon near the local train station and returned via train to New York.40
As he reached the city, Fontano became concerned for his future. Lombardi and Puma reportedly urged him to visit Brooklyn with them. Fontano imagined himself thrown alive into a Bonventre bakery oven and understandably declined the invitation.41
A mystery unravels
Isaac Sorrell of Neptune City, NJ, and his buddies Charles Bennett and John Gant were crabbing about 250 feet from shore in a Shark River inlet known as Tucker’s Cove on Aug. 8, when something beneath the water caught Sorrell’s eye. He called to his comrades and the three men were able to draw from the water the body of a man.42
The authorities were called, and the body was taken to the funeral home of Thomas Hardy in Belmar. There Monmouth County Physician Charles E. Jamison, a 34-year-old resident of Corlies Avenue in the town of Neptune, performed an autopsy, assisted by 54-year-old Dr. Joseph Ackerman of Grand Avenue, Asbury Park. The doctors determined the victim was probably Italian, about 25 years of age and had been in the water approximately two weeks. They extracted a number of large shot from a gaping wound on the body’s left side. Death was clearly the result of homicide.43
The doctors noted that clothesline had been used to secure two red sandstone weights to the victim, causing the body to remain submerged in the cove. A 27-pound stone was tied to the neck, and a 25-pound stone was tied to the knees.
In a coat pocket was found an envelope mailed from Mahaffe, PA, and addressed to “Caizzo, 44 Twelfth St., New York City.”44
Monmouth County detectives had no trouble tracing the clothesline and the peculiar red sandstone to the inn run by Cieravo. A pile of sandstone – similar in color, size and shape – was used around the base of a prominent plant stand in the inn’s yard. The very same clothesline, from which pieces had evidently been cut, hung from trees and poles in Cieravo’s yard.45
They also learned that New York Police had a missing person report on Camillo Caiozzo dating from Aug. 1. Two of Caiozzo’s relatives, Julius Caietta of New York City and Paul Ladonna of Elizabeth NJ, were called in to identify the body.46
Cieravo was taken into custody on the morning of Aug. 12 as a material witness to the killing of Caiozzo. He was confined in Red Bank borough jail for a few hours and then transferred to Monmouth County Jail in Freehold, where he was held without bail.47
As New Jersey police set to sorting out Cieravo’s role in the Caiozzo case, Bartolo Fontano entered New York Police Headquarters seeking protection from a gang of killers he was certain meant to murder him. Whether he obtained protection at that time is not known for certain. Fiaschetti claimed to have spent the weekend with him, but the detective’s claims were disputed by others.48
Three days later, a hearing was held before Monmouth Judge Rulif V. Lawrence on a writ of habeas corpus. Cieravo’s attorney J. Mercer Davis argued that his client knew nothing of the homicide and should be released. County prosecutor Charles F. Sexton revealed the connections between Cieravo’s roadhouse and Caiozzo’s submerged remains. Judge Lawrence dismissed the habeas corpus writ and set bail for Cieravo at $10,000.49
|“I’ll burn you up for this yet! You won’t get away with it!” |
The same day in New York City, Fontano confessed to Fiaschetti and was placed under arrest at Broadway and 37th Street. The Italian Squad quickly developed a plan to trap Stefano Magaddino. Fontano telephoned the Good Killers leader, said he believed the police were on to him and asked Magaddino to bring some money to Grand Central Station so he could get away.
Magaddino took the bait and brought $30 for Fontano to a Grand Central Station filled with undercover police detectives. Detective Silvio A. Repetto, pretending to be a traveler, lurked nearby as Magaddino handed the money to Fontano and told the barber to take a train to Buffalo, “where he would be well cared for by the chief there, who would be notified.”
Detectives immediately surrounded Magaddino. He resisted arrest but was overpowered. The Italian Squad then rounded up the rest of the Good Killers’ alleged leadership: Bonventre, Lombardi, Galante, Puma and DiGregorio.50
During processing at the police station, the arrested men were all in close quarters. Magaddino suddenly lunged at the much smaller Fontano, yelling, “I’ll burn you up for this yet! You won’t get away with it!”
Fiaschetti attempted to block Magaddino’s charge and was kicked in the stomach. Carleton Simon, deputy police commissioner in charge of narcotics cases, rushed to Fiaschetti’s aid and wrestled for a moment with the prisoner. Fiaschetti recovered and resolved the matter with his nightstick. Magaddino was struck soundly on the head and momentarily lost consciousness. He also lost a bit of blood and required stitches to close a wound to his forehead.51
Police later said three of the prisoners made admissions concerning the Caiozzo murder. Details of the prisoner statements were not released. All seven men were locked up in the Tombs Prison.52
Back in Monmouth County, Detective Jacob B. Rue learned of Fontano’s confession and of his accusations against the Good Killers gang. Rue reportedly made out a complaint against Fontano, Magaddino, Bonventre, Puma, Lombardi and Galante. Curiously, he omitted DiGregorio from the complaint. Justice of the Peace Edward W. Wise reviewed Rue’s paperwork and reportedly issued a warrant for the arrest of the named men.53
A preliminary hearing was held before Magistrate Joseph E. Corrigan at the Tombs in New York City on Aug. 17. Corrigan decided that the six men wanted by Monmouth officials would be held on a charge of fugitive from justice. He acknowledged a Sullivan Law weapons possession charge against DiGregorio.
During the proceedings, defense attorney Edward A. Wynne called the court’s attention to injuries sustained by Magaddino and Puma since their arrest. Magaddino’s head was stitched and bandaged, his hat and shirt stained with blood. Puma’s arms and eyes were blackened with bruises. Puma also removed his shirt, revealing black and blue marks on his back.54
Wynne did not comment on the possible cause of the injuries. The New York Times, however, understood that revealing them was an effort to counteract the reported admissions of the prisoners.55 Since nothing more was ever said about the three statements, it seems Wynn’s strategy was sound.
All of the men were held without bail. Fontano was shuttled off to Raymond Street Jail in Brooklyn so that he could not be intimidated by the others. The remaining six men went back into the Tombs Prison.56
Other crimes revealed
While at Raymond Street Jail, Bartolo Fontano spoke with visiting Detective Lieutenant Bert McPherson, head of Detroit’s Italian Squad, and with Nicholas Selvaggi, first assistant district attorney for Kings County (Brooklyn), NY.57
Fontano acknowledged setting a number of arson fires in Detroit years earlier and provided what information he could remember of 16 Good Killers attacks.58
In Manhattan, he said the gang had been responsible for the Dec. 29, 1920, slaying of Salvatore Mauro in front of 232 Chrystie Street;59 the May 1921 killing of Vincenzo Alfano on Delancey Street; the Feb. 28, 1921, killing of Joseph “Longo” Granatelli in front of 189 Chrystie Street; and the murder of a man named Casileo, the details of which he could not recall.60
In the Bronx, the gang had recently shot Angelo Lagatutta. Unbeknownst to Fontano or reportedly to the Good Killers themselves, Lagatutta survived the attack and was recovering in a hospital.61
Fontano indicated that Good Killers were responsible for the deaths of Joseph Ponzo and Francesco Finazzo in Brooklyn, but he could not provide dates and locations for those murders.
|“A few months ago a score of new faces appeared suddenly among Detroit Sicilians. ...With their coming began the relentless succession of assassinations... |
His memory of Detroit slayings was helped by information Lieutenant McPherson was able to dig out of police files. It was established that the Good Killers had murdered three Buccellato brothers, two Giannola brothers, father and son Pietro and Joseph Bosco, Luca Sarcona and Andrea Lacatto.
In his revelations concerning the murders of Joseph, Felice and Salvatore Buccellato, Fontano reportedly failed to mention another man, Mike Maltisi, who was shot to death alongside Joseph on May 4, 1919, about two years after the deaths of Felice and Salvatore.62
Antonio “Tony” Giannola was shot down as he stepped from his automobile at Rivard Street on Jan. 4, 1919. He was said to be on his way to pay respects to the family of Pietro Bosco, recently killed in Bosco’s garage at Trumbull Avenue and Ash Street. The two men who served as Giannola’s driver and his bodyguard that day vanished after Antonio was killed. They were suspected of performing or cooperating in the assassination.63
Joseph Bosco soon followed his father. Salvatore “Sam” Giannola was eliminated following an Oct. 3, 1919, bank visit. The gunmen did a thorough job. He reportedly was shot 28 times. Nine bullet wounds were found under his left arm, indicating to the coroner that Giannola saw his attackers and put his hand out in front of him. Luca Sarcona was reportedly killed in the same year, though details of his murder appear lost.64
Andrea Lacatto’s death was significant for several reasons. He reputedly was one of the more accomplished members of the Good Killers gang. The July 24, 1917, murder of a Detroit police officer, Detective Sergeant Emanuel Rogers, was attributed to him.65 Lacatto was also believed to have been one of the two men who betrayed Antonio Giannola.66 He might also have been involved with the later slaying of Detroit mob boss John Vitale.67
Lacatto was killed about mid-October of 1920.68 Detroit’s McPherson revealed to the press that Lacatto was tortured – his arms reportedly were cut off – before he was buried alive.69 Such extreme physical mistreatment seems to indicate a disciplinary killing.
Shortly after the original list of 16 Good Killers’ victims was extracted from Fontano’s confessions, several additional names were added to the growing public dialogue. While Fontano’s memory might have improved with the passage of time and/or the press might have inserted names that in some way fit the Good Killers’ profile, it seems more likely that police departments perceived an opportunity to dispense with a number of high-profile unresolved murder cases.
The Detroit killing of Mike Maltisi was added to Fontano’s list, appropriately if the Good Killers had been responsible for the slaying of Joseph Buccellato. Other additions from that city included Giannola brother-in-law Pasquale Danni, and father and son John and Joe Vitale.
Danni was slain during a Feb. 2, 1919, attempt on the life of Sam Giannola. The two men were ambushed as they entered Giannola’s home at Goddall Street and Biddle Avenue that evening. Danni was hit by four slugs, two in his chest, one in his stomach and one in a leg. Giannola escaped that attack unharmed.70
The Vitales were dispatched during a wave of gang violence in the summer and fall of 1920, when Fontano was reportedly in New York City and unable to witness the incidents.71 Gunmen in a second floor window opened fire on the Vitales as they entered their car in front of 2080 Russell Street on the morning of Aug. 18. John Vitale was wounded. His son Joe, 17, was killed instantly.72
John Vitale was successfully executed a month later. Police decided that he was thrown from an automobile on Fourteenth Avenue near Marantette Avenue before dawn. His body was found in the street with 12 bullet holes in it. Police linked the killing with the earlier appearance of six Sicilian men at the Michigan Central Depot just blocks away. When a patrolmen asked the men why they were in Detroit, they informed him they had just arrived from Buffalo and Niagara Falls to attend a funeral. An automobile then came by and picked them up. Authorities speculated that Vitale might have been driving.73
Additional murders in New York were also linked to the Good Killers. Those included the apparently already solved Brooklyn slayings of Antonio Mazzara and Antonio DiBenedetto on the evening of Nov. 11, 1917. Fiaschetti told the New York press that Fontano statements connected Mazzara and DiBenedetto to Good Killers activities.74
Mazzara and DiBenedetto had both been born in Castellammare del Golfo and their families were tightly knit. DiBenedetto’s clan was also linked through marriage with the Bonventres and Magaddinos.75 (DiBenedetto’s son Charles “Charlie Buffalo” DiBenedetto was a soldier under Salvatore Maranzano and Joseph Bonanno in the Castellammarese War of 1930-31.76)
The two men were shot at close range at North Fifth and Roebling Streets, within sight of the Bonventre family home. Mazzara fell dead instantly. DiBenedetto lingered until he arrived at Eastern District Hospital. Police Detective James Kenny, on his way home from work, heard the attack and chased two men. He managed to apprehend Antonio Massino, who was in possession of an empty revolver. Police kept an eye on Massino’s Manhattan apartment and arrested Giuseppe Martinicio as he entered it at 2 a.m. Two teenage girls, who witnessed the shootings, identified Massino and Martinicio as the gunmen.77
Much of the story attributed to Fontano’s confession borders on unbelievable. Certainly, the small barber would have required psychic abilities to acquire details of murders committed in the Midwest while he was in the East. Today, 85 years after the Good Killers were exposed, much of Fontano’s story remains in conflict with commonly accepted Detroit underworld history.
It is widely believed and was generally reported in the press of the time that a gang war erupted between Detroit’s Giannola and Vitale-Bosco underworld factions in 1919 and 1920. The feud reportedly stemmed from Vitale bitterness over being cheated by Giannolas in a business deal.78 A number of the killings listed by Fontano as being performed by the Good Killers have traditionally been attributed to the war between the Giannola and Vitale factions.
If Fontano’s story is accepted as true, the Good Killers would represent a third party in the Detroit underworld conflicts, possibly allied at different times and for different reasons to one or the other of the warring mobs. Interestingly, this view seems to be supported by a report in the Detroit Free Press following the September 1920 assassination of gang boss John Vitale:
“A few months ago a score of new faces appeared suddenly among Detroit Sicilians. They came from Pittsburgh, New York, Paterson NJ and elsewhere. And with their coming began the relentless succession of assassinations that steadily and surely broke the power of Vitale, enemy and successor of Sam Giannola.”79
The American press, perhaps not fully recovered from its “yellow” period,80 appeared to delight in sensationalizing reports of the Good Killers investigation. Print journalists accepted and printed as fact the speculations of law enforcement officials, grossly exaggerated the gang-related death toll and expanded the gang’s stomping grounds without any apparent cause aside from a motivation to sell papers.
From the single homicide reported in the newspapers Aug. 9-16, the story justifiably grew to the 17 murders in Detroit, New York City and New Jersey that were defined in Fontano’s initial confession. While such a figure should have been stunning enough, the number subsequently grew to fantastic levels.
As early as Aug. 17, there were published claims that the Good Killers might have been responsible for as many as 70 deaths. That figure was the result of tallying the number of suspicious Italian deaths in Detroit between 1917 and 1921.81 The following day, one paper upped the total to 87, while another hit the streets claiming 100 were killed.82 To reach the century mark, the newspaper had to expand the known territory of the Good Killers gang from New York, New Jersey and Michigan into Pennsylvania and Illinois.
Not to be outdone, the New York press decided on Aug. 19 that 125 people were massacred by the gang.83 Those included the estimated 70 from Detroit, 20 believed killed in Chicago, 18 in Pittsburgh and 17 in New York.
The press quickly tired of inflating numbers and moved on to other unwarranted and irresponsible assertions.
After McPherson learned from Fontano that some Good Killers’ victims had been buried secretly in the area of Seven Mile Road and Gratiot Avenue on the outskirts of Detroit, newspapers proclaimed a nationwide search for gang burial grounds.84
Fiaschetti fanned the flames of sensationalism. He pronounced the Good Killers’ bust as “the most important capture ever made by him and his men.”85
On Aug. 20, without any apparent justification, he announced to the New York media that the break up of the Good Killers band could finally lead to a resolution of the Petrosino assassination of 1909. Possibly revealing a lingering inferiority complex relative to Petrosino, Fiaschetti took the opportunity to reveal that his life, too, had been threatened during a recent visit to Italy.86
For weeks, newspapers across the country reacted hysterically to any report of homicide related to Italians. Each was said to be linked in some way with the Good Killers.87
Throughout the press coverage, the Good Killers gang was represented as a murder-for-hire mob, a society of paid assassins, though little evidence was ever offered in support of the claim. It appears far more likely that the organization known as the Good Killers was merely a single crew or an enforcement arm of a Castellammarese criminal syndicate that later evolved into crime families in Brooklyn, Buffalo and Detroit.88
It would probably be going too far to state that payments were never provided to gang gunmen. (Joseph Ales, another confessed killer associated with the Castellammarese gang, told police in 1921 that he was paid $30 each for killing two men.89) But Fontano made clear in his confession that Good Killer slayings were typically motivated by vengeance rather than profit. He indicated that assassins were compelled to act through their gang allegiance or through threats of violence against them.
By mid-September, long before the courts had resolved any of the issues relating to the gang’s alleged crimes, the story had been played out, and the major newspapers had lost interest. There would be little coverage of actual legal proceedings in the case.
The press puzzled for just a few days over Magaddino’s mention of a “chief” located in Buffalo, NY.
Coverage of that portion of the story seemed to peak on Aug. 18, when the New York Telegram stated, “The chief, alleged leader of the Camorra murder gang charged with eighty-seven killings in New York and Detroit, is being sought with two companions in Buffalo today … ‘The Chief,’ who is a mysterious figure even to the members of his own gang, is the man who issues the murder orders, and he receives his directions from the headquarters in Sicily. He is declared to have at his disposal a fund exceeding half a million dollars and to be on intimate terms with seemingly respectable merchants…”90
Buffalo Police Chief James W. Higgins and Detective Chief Zimmerman met with newspapermen that day to dispel the rumors. They characterized stories linking Buffalo criminals with crimes in other areas of the country as “bunk” and denied the existence of the gang “chief”:
|“Neither Chief Higgins nor Zimmerman had heard anything of a report that a man known as the chief was in this city and being sought by the New York police...” |
“Neither Chief Higgins nor Zimmerman had heard anything of a report that a man known as the chief was in this city and being sought by the New York police for his connections in several recent murders there.”91
While the police denials eventually ended the press’s speculations, they cast little light on Magaddino’s Grand Central Station comment to Fontano, overheard by New York City police detectives. Whether Buffalo police wished to acknowledge it or not, in their midst was a man reportedly referred to by Magaddino as “chief.”
Who was this mysterious gang leader?
Obviously, he was a Buffalo-area resident deeply involved in organized crime and known to Magaddino. Perhaps less obviously, he was a man over whom Magaddino had some measure of control. During the meeting at Grand Central, Magaddino told Fontano to head off to Buffalo and announced that he would notify “the chief” of Fontano’s impending arrival. If Magaddino was not a superior of the Buffalo chief, or at least an influential peer, he could not reasonably have assumed the chief’s cooperation and made such a statement to Fontano. So, if Magaddino used the term “chief,” he likely meant to convey the individual’s leadership within the Buffalo underworld rather than to designate him as Magaddino’s own superior or as the overall leader of the gang.
Another important consideration is the strong probability that Magaddino did not speak the English word “chief” at all. He and Fontano probably did not confer in English. The two immigrants, born of the same Sicilian hometown, would have been more comfortable speaking, particularly about underworld matters, in their shared mother tongue. While the precise wording used by Magaddino apparently has been lost, it seems likely that “chief” was Detective Silvio A. Repetto’s quick translation of some foreign utterance. One common Italian equivalent to the word “chief” is “capo.”
Given these reasonable assumptions, two men emerge as contenders for the title of Buffalo mob “chief” at that time, Joseph DiCarlo Sr. and Angelo “Buffalo Bill” Palmeri. There seems little reason to prefer one choice over the other. Both had sufficient local influence to find work for Fontano and to provide him with a new identity and a place to stay. Both were leading figures in the local Mafia.
In Palmeri’s favor is his Castellammarese origin. He also was apparently well acquainted with the Magaddino-Bonventre-Bonanno clan, as Joseph Bonanno pointed out in his autobiography,92 and a number of other important Mafia families93. Against this selection is Palmeri’s decision in 1919 to move to Niagara Falls after about seven years as a Buffalo saloonkeeper.94 While he most likely retained business interests and political connections in the Buffalo community, his personal sphere of influence became the growing Castellammarese community in Niagara Falls.
DiCarlo, on the other hand, was regarded as the boss of the Sicilian underworld of the City of Buffalo in 1921. If anyone was deserving of the title “chief” it was DiCarlo.95 It stands against DiCarlo that he was not Castellammarese by birth. However, he maintained a close relationship with the Castellammarese community, was related by marriage to Angelo Palmeri96 and is believed to have conducted underworld enterprises arm-in-arm with Palmeri.97
But attempting to determine precisely who Magaddino had in mind when he uttered the term “chief” or “capo” might be missing the point. If, as Fontano suspected, the Good Killers mistrusted him and planned to kill him, Magaddino would not have exposed the organization further by sending Fontano to meet any important member in the Buffalo area. It is more probable that he willingly would have parted with the $30 in order to lower Fontano’s guard and to deliver him into the hands of a mob underling in a remote location. In that scenario, Magaddino’s only thought would have been to reassure Fontano that he was being looked after until the moment he could be eliminated.98
New York authorities held six men – Fontano, Magaddino, Bonventre, Galante, Lombardi and Puma – as fugitives from New Jersey justice and awaited the processing of extradition orders. When extradition papers were officially filed, however, only Fontano, Lombardi and Puma were named.99
While Monmouth County Detective Jacob B. Rue was said to have been interested in all six men, the New Jersey State Archives has paperwork relating only to the three. There are some oddities in the surviving documents. Rue’s individual complaints against the three fugitives were signed Aug. 16, 1921. Warrants based on those complaints were issued by Justice of the Peace Edward Wise the same day. No surviving document from that day refers to the wanted men collectively. So, complaints and warrants for the other three men held in New York might have been produced and later discarded. The individual documents were not notarized until 10 days later, the notary certification of each document being printed on a separate sheet and then attached.100
In the interim. the Monmouth County prosecutor’s office became involved in the case. Prosecutor Charles F. Sexton produced a written affirmation for his files on Aug. 24 that the Rue complaints and Wise warrants were true copies of the originals. That was done two days before those originals were notarized. The first New Jersey document to refer to the fugitives collectively was created on Aug. 25. It defined the case of “State of New Jersey vs. Bartolomeo Fontana, Francesco Puma, Giuseppe Lombardi.” There was no mention of Magaddino, Bonventre or Galante.101
Sometime between the New York City arraignment on Wednesday, Aug. 17, and the filing of the complaint with the Monmouth County Court of Oyer and Terminer, the decision had been made to abandon a broader conspiracy case against the Good Killers and to focus only on those who had been physically present in New Jersey for the murder of Camillo Caiozzo and the disposal of his remains the next day.
Magaddino, Bonventre and Galante were released.
Francesco Puma’s legal problems doubled as he was awaiting extradition. He was implicated in September along with Vito Caradonna, 34, in the April 14, 1914, stabbing death of Vito Buccellato in the basement of Buccellato’s home, 203 Chrystie Street, Manhattan.102
Lombardi was the first of the three fugitives to be returned to New Jersey. His extradition papers were approved by New York Governor Al Smith early in September. Detective Rue and Detective Charles C. Davenport escorted Lombardi from New York’s Tombs Prison to the Monmouth County lockup in Freehold on Sept. 7. Fontano and Puma followed soon after.103
Pleading not guilty to the charge of concealing a murder, Puma and Lombardi both appear to have been freed on bail.104 Though Fontano had confessed to the premeditated murder of Caiozzo, he pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder charge against him, possibly hoping that prosecutors would allow him to plead guilty to manslaughter in exchange for his testimony against the other accused.105
All hope for a plea bargain was dashed when Prosecutor Sexton reportedly concluded that an appearance of a quid pro quo would make Fontano’s testimony worthless.106
On March 22, 1922, Fontano appeared in court to change his plea from not guilty to non vult contendere, announcing that he would not contest the first-degree murder charge.107 He was immediately convicted and sentenced by Judge Samuel Kalisch to life in prison at hard labor.108
Later that same day, Fontano was brought back into court to testify against innkeeper Salvatore Cieravo.109 Cieravo’s alleged participation in the Caiozzo murder triggered indictments for accessory before the fact, accessory after the fact and murder. The charges were divided into separate cases, with the accessory before the fact charge heading to trial first.110
As Fontano reached the stand, he curiously refused to swear to the truthfulness of his testimony or to place his hand on the Bible. Sexton asked Judge Kalisch to compel the witness to take the oath. An amused Kalisch asked what he could possibly do to compel Fontano after having already sentenced him to life in prison. A brief recess was called, after which the witness was more accommodating.111
Fontano testified to his conversations with Cieravo the day before Caiozzo’s murder. He told of Cieravo’s offer of the shotgun and his instruction to perform the murder away from the Riverview Inn. He also testified about the innkeeper’s role in the temporary hiding and subsequent disposal of Caiozzo’s remains, and about the stones and rope that were taken from inn property in order to keep the body submerged in Tucker’s Cove.112
Judge Kalisch took issue with portions of Fontano’s testimony, informing the jury that the current trial was on the charge of accessory before the fact. Any evidence to Cieravo’s activities after Caiozzo’s death were of no consequence.113
Cieravo took the stand in his own defense. Questioned by his attorney J. Mercer Davis, he denied ever speaking to Fontano about the murder, even of knowing Fontano aside from the short vacation he and Caiozzo spent at the inn. Cieravo also said he did not know Giuseppe Lombardi.
“I first learned of the murder from a taxicab driver on Springwood Avenue, who told me that a dead man had been found near my place,” he stated.114
As the trial concluded, defense attorney Davis told the jury to disregard Fontano’s testimony. As a convicted murderer, Fontano’s words should carry little weight, he argued. Davis insisted the Good Killers gang story was “bunk,” cooked up by Fontano in an effort to deflect the blame for Caiozzo’s murder. Fontano, said Davis, murdered his old friend merely to rob him of his several hundred dollars.115
Cieravo’s jury deliberated for four hours on March 24 before returning a verdict of not guilty.116 Sexton, realizing that his chief witness had an enormous credibility problem, promptly dropped the other charges against Cieravo. The innkeeper was freed just as Fontano began his life behind bars.
The trials of Puma and Lombardi, initially scheduled for the end of the January, 1922, were repeatedly delayed. Neither case would ever be heard in a courtroom.
On Nov. 4, 1922, Puma took an evening walk from his home at 508 East 12th Street, Manhattan. With his hands in his pockets and a cigar in his mouth, he strolled around the corner onto Avenue A. Five gunshots sounded from close by. Several slugs passed into Puma’s chest, abdomen and right wrist. One stray shot wounded a 12-year-old girl playing nearby.
Puma drew his own handgun and spun to face his assailant. At that moment, the blade of a knife entered his stomach. He fell, bleeding badly, and lost consciousness, his cigar smoldering on the sidewalk beside him. He died of his wounds at Bellevue Hospital.117
With the report of his death, the New York Times revealed its suspicion that Puma had been cooperating with authorities on an investigation of the Sicilian-American underworld. A previous attempt had been made on his life a month earlier. Puma kept the incident secret from all but his close family.118
One month after Puma’s death, Monmouth County Prosecutor Sexton caused Lombardi’s bail to be discharged and dropped the case against him.119
The Good Killers gang was quickly forgotten by Americans and their press. Bootlegger conflicts in major cities and gangland murders resulting from the Mafia’s so-called Castellammarese War at the start of the next decade grabbed the headlines.
While he was out of the news, Stefano Magaddino continued to rise through the Sicilian-Italian underworld. He settled in western New York State in 1922 soon after DiCarlo’s death. Mafia rackets in Buffalo and Niagara Falls quickly fell under his control.120
His proximity to Canada, where quality liquor could be legally obtained, and his leadership of the Castellammarese colony throughout the U.S. combined to make him one of the more influential mob bosses of the Prohibition Era.
Magaddino would remain an underworld power until the early 1970s, when his great personal arrogance, Apalachin- and Valachi-related revelations during the McClellan Senate subcommittee hearings and dissension within his crime family diminished his power.121 He died peacefully at the age of 82 on July 19, 1974, having served as titular boss of the Buffalo-Niagara Falls region for more than half a century.122
Vito Bonventre continued to be a leading figure in Brooklyn’s Castellammarese underworld for a decade after the Good Killers case. During the 1920s, he amassed a fortune through bootlegging. He was assassinated at his home by an unknown gunman on July 15, 1930.123
His murder and that of senior Castellammarese leader Gaspar Milazzo in a Detroit fish market a month earlier124
– both of which appear to have been orchestrated by Manhattan-based underworld rival Giuseppe Masseria – are often considered the opening salvo of the American Mafia’s Castellammarese War.
Michael Fiaschetti, the press-hungry leader of the Italian squad, went on to found a successful detective agency in New York.125 In 1932, his old newspaper friends sought him out for comments relating to the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby.126 A short time later, he was named New York City deputy commissioner of public markets,127 a post created in the LaGuardia Administration to halt underworld monopolies on wholesale produce. Sadly outliving his only child,128 Fiaschetti retired to the lecture circuit in the late 1930s and attempted without success to convince Hollywood to make a movie of his life. He lived into his seventies, dying in July 1960.129
Of all the accused assassins in the Good Killers case, only Fontano – the informant – ended up doing considerable prison time. He was confined – under his given name of Bartolomeo Fontana – at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, beginning on March 25, 1922.130
It is widely believed that he died there.
However, prison inmate registers show that he was paroled temporarily Dec. 15, 1939, after almost two decades behind bars. He was readmitted for observation Aug. 1, 1940, and then permanently released Jan. 21, 1941.131 World War II draft registration record from 1942 shows Bartolomeo Fontana residing at 860 Sutter Avenue in Brooklyn.132
Though his parents, Giuseppe and Giacoma Salvato Fontana, reportedly died years before the Good Killers story hit the newspapers,133 Fontano remained in touch with his family. On his draft registration, he listed his sister Anna Arena of Brooklyn as the person who would always know his address. Anna, whose given name was Sebastiana, had married Vito Arena and had produced a houseful of nieces and nephews to Fontano.134
Fontano’s death appears not to have been noted in public records.
Where is Tucker’s Cove?
The location of Tucker’s Cove, the Shark River inlet New Jersey where Camillo Caiozzo’s submerged remains were discovered in 1921, has been a minor mystery for many years. No portion Shark River now bears that name.
Newspaper reports of Caiozzo’s discovery, which included mention of Avon-by-the-Sea, Belmar and Asbury Park, only confused the issue. However, our investigation into the story of the Good Killers turned up evidence that the cove adjoined the riverbank in Neptune City, NJ.
There still can be found Tucker Drive, the approximate location of the old Tucker farm on West Sylvania Avenue, and Riverview Avenue, which shares its name with the Riverside Inn visited by Caiozzo and his killer Bartolo Fontano. Shark River still bows in the area. And much of the bank remains wooded, though housing developments have sprung up nearby in recent years.
The bank was probably a fair stretch of woods and marshland in the 1920s, a suitable spot for duck hunting, the sport in which Caiozzo was engaged when his friend Fontano killed him. A particularly wet semicircular area lies just to the southeast of Tucker Drive. That could have been the previous location of a bit of Tucker’s Cove, since reclaimed by filling. A 1914 subdivision map on file with the Monmouth County Archives shows the Tucker property bounded by East End Avenue and Tucker Drive. The map labels an adjoining inlet, “the cove.” That this small body of water became known, however briefly, as “Tucker’s Cove” seems logical.
1 Fiaschetti, Michael (as told to Prosper Buranelli), The Man They Couldn't Escape;: The Adventures of Detective Fiaschetti of the Italian Squad,, (London: Selwyn 1928), p. 81. The story of Fiaschetti and Fontano has taken a variety of forms. In “Three more admit death band killing,” New York Times, Aug. 18, 1921, p. 1, Fontano is said to have seen the ghost of Camillo Caiozzo and Fiaschetti is said to have prevented him from jumping out the window. Downey, Patrick, Gangster City: The History of the New York Underworld 1900-1935, accepted the ghost story but removed Fiaschetti from the hotel room, placing there instead an unnamed guard. In “Leader of murder gang is trailed,” New York Telegram, Aug. 18, 1921, p. 3, Fontano was said to have roomed with Detective Pelligrino and to have talked about Caiozzo’s murder in his sleep.
2 Petacco, Arrigo, translated by Charles Lam Markmann, Joe Petrosino, New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1974.
3 Fiaschetti, op. cit., p. 30.
4 Ibid. p. 81. The hotel was named in “Leader of murder...,” op. cit.
5 Fiaschetti, op. cit., p. 24.
6 Ibid., p. 81.
7 Ibid., p. 77-79. The detective stated that Carmela Pino was no more than 19 and lived in Brooklyn. She seems not to show up in the 1920 U.S. Census records. It is possible Fiaschetti changed her name. A Carmela Pinto does appear in the records.
8 Ibid, p. 80, has the detective spending several days with Fontano. “Three more admit...,” op. cit. and other published accounts have Fontano confessing at the end of the first night in the hotel.
9 Fiaschetti, op. cit., p. 82-83.
10 “Italian band held for killing of 16,” New York Times, Aug. 17, 1921, p. 1, and other newspaper stories of Aug. 17 appear to be contain the earliest published references to the gang name.
12 A year after Fontano’s confession, Fiaschetti was reduced in rank to patrolman as the NYPD’s Italian Squad was merged with its Bomb Squad. The reduction in rank was believed to carry with it a reduction in pay of just over $1,000 a year: “Fiaschetti reduced in police shake-up,” New York Times, Aug. 26, 1922, p. 5. “‘Nemesis of Blackhand’ is demoted in police shake up,” Bridgeport CT Telegram, Aug. 26, 1922, p. 4. “Fiaschetti, terror of N.Y. blackhanders is reduced in rank,” Buffalo Morning Express, Aug. 26, 1922, p. 2.
13 While initial reports focused on New York City and Detroit, “100 murdered by ‘Good Killers,’” Lima (Ohio) News, Aug. 18, 1921, p. 2, claimed that investigators were looking into connections in “Pittsburgh, Chicago, Buffalo, Detroit and several cities in New Jersey.” Pittsburgh, Chicago and Buffalo were also mentioned in “125 murders now charged to band,” New York Times, Aug. 19, 1921, p. 3. Bridgeport CT was mentioned in “Seek Newark clue to band of killers,” New York Times, Aug. 20, 1921, p. 3. Cleveland was added to the list in “To arrest ‘Camorra’ in Buffalo,” Buffalo Times, Aug. 21, 1921, p. 39.
14 “Organized to commit murder,” Mansfield (OH) News, Aug. 17, 1921, p. 1.
15 Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency Papers: Case File: Hennessy, David, Murder of. Box 114, Folders 4-6, Library of Congress. Also Employee Records: Dimaio, Francis P. Box 114, Folder 1, and Box 28, Folder 1, Library of Congress.
16 Flynn, William, The Barrel Mystery (New York: The James A. McCann Company, 1919).
17 The reach of the Ohio-based black hand group known as the Society of the Banana was discussed in “Effort to stamp out ‘Black Hand’ society,” Marion Weekly Star, June 12, 1909, p. 5; “Tell of paying the money over to band,” Marion Daily Star, Jan. 22, 1910, p. 3; and “Hastened away to Leavenworth Prison,” Marion Daily Star, Jan. 31, 1910, p. 10.
18 Downey, op. cit., p. 96. “Guilt in feud murders may mean ‘chair’,” Detroit Free Press, Aug. 18, 1921, p. 1.
19 Bonanno was practically born into the Mafia. His father was descended from an influential Mafia family. His mother Catherine was a Bonventre. His maternal grandmother was a Magaddino. At Bonanno’s baptism, Buccellato patriarch Felice Buccellato served as godfather, a vain effort by the Bonanno and Buccellato clans to mend fences: Bonanno, Joseph (with Sergio Lalli), A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno (New York: Simon and Schuster 1983), p.24 -28.
20 Ibid., p. 63.
21 “Link confession to 70 murders,” Lima (Ohio) News, Aug. 17, 1921, p. 1. Fontano stated that he associated with the Good Killers in Detroit beginning eight years after their start, which he placed about 1906: “Italian band held...,” op. cit.
22 His given name appears on his Sicilian birth certificate, on the Ellis Island manifest of the Themistocles, Aug. 23, 1912, and on a draft registration card from 1942. Detroit Detective McPherson discovered that New York’s Bartolo Fontano used the name Fontana while in Detroit, “Link confession...” op. cit.
23 “Sixteen murdered by ‘Good Killers,’” Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, Aug. 17, 1921, p. 4.
24 “Italian band held...,” op. cit.
25 “Three more admit...,” op. cit.
26 Birth record from Castellammare del Golfo.
27 The marriage of Pietro Magaddino to Anna Buccellato was recorded in Chiesa cattolica Maria Santissima del Soccorso in Castellammare del Golfo. Church records include mention of Pietro’s death at age 32 on July 20, 1916. Giovanni Buccellato, 28, died July 13, 1916, just a week before Pietro. Pietro Magaddino’s brother Antonino was arrested in connection with a Castellammare double homicide on Aug. 14, 1916. Newspaper reports from 1921 (beginning with “Italian band...,” op. cit.) looking back on Pietro’s murder seemed convinced it occurred around 1920.
28 Ellis Island records.
29 “Italian band held...,” op. cit.
33 “Expect Fontano to enter guilty plea,” Long Branch (NJ) Daily, March 21, 1922.
34 In summer of 1921, it was reported that Cieravo was already under indictment for running the brothel located at Springwood Avenue, Asbury Park: “Suspect held in Belmar shooting,” Long Branch (NJ) Daily, Aug. 13, 1921, p. 13.
35 “Fontano balks at taking oath,” Long Branch (NJ) Daily, March 23, 1922.
37 The details of Fontano’s actions are described in “Italian band held...” op. cit. The nature of Caiozzo’s wound is described in “Confessed slayer is chief state witness,” Asbury Park (NJ) Evening Press, March 23, 1922.
38 “Fontano balks...,” op. cit.
39 "More details of crime told of,” Long Branch (NJ) Daily, March 24, 1922.
40 Ibid; “Fontano balks...,” op. cit.
41 “Organized to commit...,” op. cit. “Exposes murder gang,” Buffalo Times, Aug. 17, 1921, p. 1.
42 “Fontano balks...,” op. cit. “Body of murdered man is found in Shark River Cove by crabbing party,” Long Branch (NJ) Daily, Aug. 9, 1921, p. 1. “Body of missing man found sunk in cove,” New York Times, Aug. 10, 1921, p. 9.
43 “Body of murdered man...,” op. cit. “Body of missing man...,” op. cit. “Confessed slayer...,” op. cit.
44 “Body of murdered man...,” op. cit.
45 “More details...,” op. cit.
46 “Body of missing man...,” op. cit.
47 “Arrest in Caiozzo mystery,” New York Times, Aug. 13, 1921, p. 4. “Held in Belmar murder,” New York Times, Aug. 13, 1921, p. 9. “Suspect held in Belmar shooting,” Long Branch (NJ) Daily, Aug. 13, 1921, p. 13. “Road house proprietor is held under $10,000 bail on murder charge,” Long Branch (NJ) Daily, Aug. 16, 1921, p. 1.
48 Fiaschetti op. cit. p. 80-81. Monmouth County NJ Prosecutor Charles F. Sexton expressed skepticism over Fiaschetti’s story in “Defer legal action in multiple murder mystery until Fontano arrives,” Long Branch (NJ) Daily, Aug. 18, 1921. One account replaces Fiaschetti in the hotel story with Detective Pelligrino: “Leader of murder gang is trailed,” New York Telegram, Aug. 18, 1921, p. 3. Another account has the police sending Fontano away after he approached them for protection on Aug. 12: Downey, op. cit., p. 95.
49 “Road house proprietor...,” op. cit.
50 “Italian band held...” op. cit. “Assassin roundup bares plans for six new murders,” New York World, Aug. 18, 1921.
51 Downey op. cit., p. 97. “Murder gang informer attacked by prisoner,” Brooklyn Standard Union, Aug. 17, 1921. “Three more admit...,” op. cit.
52 “Three more admit...,” op. cit. “Death ring may have killed 87,” New York Evening Journal, Aug. 18, 1921.
53 “Three more admit..,” op. cit.
56 “125 murders laid to band as police get new details,” New York World, Aug. 19, 1921.
57 “Seek Newark clue to band of killers,” New York Times, Aug. 20, 1921, p. 3; “5 more murders by Camorra here, Fontano declares,” New York World, Aug. 23, 1921, p. 4.
58 “Confesses he set two Detroit fires and new slayers,” New York World, Aug. 20, 1921, p. 5.
59 Police considered Mafia big shot and bootlegger Giuseppe Masseria as the primary suspect in the Mauro case but could not find sufficient evidence linking him to the crime: Downey, op. cit.
60 Lists of victims were published in “Italian band held...,” op. cit., and “Guilt in feud murders may mean chair,” Detroit Free Press, Aug. 18, 1921, p. 1.
61 “Italian band held...,” op. cit.
62 “Gang sought booze control, gunman says,” Detroit Free Press, Aug. 17, 1921, p. 1. “Police reopen old mysteries on revelations of death ring,” New York American, Aug. 20, 1921, p. 1.
63 Ibid. “Gives details of Giannola murder,” Long Branch (NJ) Daily, Aug. 24, 1921. “Knows slayer, brother hints,” Detroit Free Press, Jan. 5, 1919. Detroit Free Press initially reported that Giannola was assassinated on his way to the home of Giuseppe Braziola, killed by his own son-in-law Leonard Chiavelo (“Gunmen murder ‘Tony’ Giannola, feudist leader,” Detroit Free Press, Jan. 4, 1919). The same newspaper amended the story the following year, saying Giannola was on his way to offer condolences to to Pietro Bosco’s widow (“Feudist chief falls to foes; another slain,” Detroit Free Press, Sept. 29, 1920, p. 1).
64 “Italian band held...,” op. cit. “Sam Giannola, feudist, slain; shot 28 times,” Detroit Free Press, Oct. 3, 1919. “Guilt in feud murders may mean ‘chair,’” Detroit Free Press, Aug. 18, 1921, p. 1. “Eight were slain in Detroit,” New York Times, Aug. 18, 1921, p. 5.
65 “12 shots kill Vitale in feud,” Detroit News, Sept. 28, 1920, p. 1. “Killer gives clue to Petrosino death,” New York Times, Aug. 21, 1921, p. 17.
66 “Gives details...,” op. cit. Lacatto’s suspected accomplice in the Giannola murder, Mimi Cruciante, was also discovered murdered.
67 Rice, Dennis. “Andrea Licato,” Find A Grave ( http://www.findagrave.com/ cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=licato&GSbyrel= all&GSdyrel=all&GSob= n&GRid=7814161& )
68 “Gives details...,” op. cit.
69 “ ‘Good Killers’ gang buries slayer alive,” Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, Aug. 25, 1921, p. 1. “Victim of ‘Good Killers’ band is buried alive,” Clearfield (PA) Progress, Aug. 24, 1921, p. 1.
70 “Giannola escapes bullets of foes,” Detroit Free Press, Feb. 3, 1919.
71 In August 1921, Fontano stated that he was last in Detroit 18 months earlier, setting the latest date of his presence in that city at about February 1919: “Confesses he set two Detroit fires and knew slayers,” New York World, Aug. 20, 1921, p. 5.
72 “Ambuscaders kill 1, shoot 1,” Detroit News, Aug. 18, 1920.
73 “12 shots kill Vitale in feud,” Detroit News, Sept. 28, 1920, p. 1. “Feudist chief falls to foes; another slain,” Detroit Free Press, Sept. 29, 1920, p. 1.
74 “Four more killings laid to death band,” New York Times, Aug. 23, 1921, p. 12. “Band accused of killing four more,” Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, Aug. 23, 1921, p. 7. “4 more murder mysteries solved,” New York Evening Journal, Aug. 23, 1921, p. 2.
75 Antonio DiBenedetto’s daughter, Antonina, married into the Bonventre clan of Castellammare. Another marriage between the House of DiBenedetto and the House of Bonventre was documented in the early 1900s. That was the union of Vito DiBenedetto wtih Francesca Bonventre. According to Sicilian marriage records, Joseph Bonanno’s maternal grandparents earlier brought together the bloodlines of the Bonventre, Magaddino and DiBenedetto families. His grandmother was a Magaddino, while his grandfather was descended from the Bonventre and DiBenedetto lines. The kinship ties among the Bonventre, Magaddino, DiGregorio and Bonanno clans are noted in Bonanno, op. cit., p. 27, 56, 63.
76 Bonanno, op. cit., p. 105.
77 Mazzara and DiBenedetto certificates of death, Department of Health of the City of New York, Bureau of Records. “Two died in street battle,” Brooklyn Citizen, Nov. 12, 1917, p. 2. “2 die, victims of vendetta,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov. 12, 1917, p. 3.
78 “Knows slayer, brother hints,” Detroit Free Press, Jan. 5, 1919. “Ambuscaders kill 1, shoot 1,” Detroit News, Aug. 18, 1920.
79 “Feudist chief falls to foes; another slain,” Detroit Free Press, Sept. 29, 1920, p. 1.
80 The era of yellow journalism gave way to jazz journalism about 1920: “History of Newspapers – Part II – Historical Perspective,” CyberCollege (http://www.cybercollege.com/frtv/newsp2.htm).
81 “Link confession to 70 murders,” Lima (OH) News, Aug. 17, 1921, p. 1.
82 “Death ring may have killed 87,” New York Evening Journal, Aug. 18, 1921. “100 murdered by ‘Good Killers’,” Lima (OH) News, Aug. 18, 1921, p. 2.
83 “125 murders now charged to band,” New York Times, Aug. 19, 1921, p. 3. “125 murders laid...,” op. cit.
84 “Seek Newark clue...,” op. cit. “Seek graveyards of ‘Good Killers’,” Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, Aug. 20, 1921, p. 2.
85 “Italian band held...,” op. cit.
86 “Killer gives clue...,” op. cit. “Confessions here give new clue to Petrosino slayer,” New York World, Aug. 21, 1921, p. 1.
87 Some examples: “New York police suspect Good Killers active,” Clearfield (PA) Progress, Sept. 6, 1921, p. 4; “’Good Killers’ shoot New Jersey merchant,” Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent, Sept. 29, 1921, p. 1; “Fear ‘Good Killers’ did stabbing and shooting,” Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent, Oct. 31, 1921, p. 1; “’Good Killers band feared in action again following two more murders,” Clearfield (PA) Progress, Nov. 1, 1921, p. 1.
88 Bonanno, op. cit., p. 63, traces the Castellammarese crime families in Brooklyn and Buffalo and a Castellammarese wing of the Detroit crime family to a common ancestor organization based in Brooklyn.
89 “20 murders bared, two at $30 apiece,” New York Times, Sept. 11, 1921, p. 1.
90 “Leader of murder gang is trailed,” New York Telegram, Aug. 18, 1921, p. 3.
91 “No secret orders connected with Buffalo murders,” Buffalo Morning Express, Aug. 19, 1921, p. 4.
92 Bonanno, op. cit. p. 131 indicates Palmeri was a member of the Magaddino crime family in Buffalo; p. 312 describes honeymoon visit to Palmeri home by Joseph Bonanno and his new bride Fay.
93 Brooklyn-based Mafia boss of bosses Salvatore “Toto” D’Aquila and Brooklyn Castellammarese leader Salvatore Maranzano are linked with Palmeri through an index of Erie County pistol permit applications. On their applications, the Brooklynites apparently used as their own a Jersey Street, Buffalo, address that belonged to Palmeri.
94 “Record funeral is expected as hundreds mourn Palmeri,” Buffalo Evening News, Dec. 22, 1932.
95 Joseph DiCarlo is established as Mafia boss of Buffalo until his death in 1922 by “Organized crime: 25 years after Valachi,” Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, U.S. Senate, 100th Congress, Second Session, April 1988 (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1990), p. 296.
96 Palmeri married Rosaria Mistretta, cousin of DiCarlo’s wife, on Oct. 5, 1913.
97 “Black Hand involved in federal case,” Buffalo Morning Express, April 14, 1924, p. 4; “Buffalo Bill, police figure, dies in his car,” Buffalo Evening News, Dec. 21, 1932, p. 1; “Palmeri funeral services Saturday,” Buffalo Times, Dec. 22, 1932, p. 15.
98 Interestingly, a Buffalo resident involved in Palmeri and DiCarlo rackets was named Gaetano Capodicaso (referred to in the press as “the Killer”). If Detective Repetto had overheard Magaddino referring to that low-ranking individual, he might have misinterpreted the surname as a title, giving birth to the “chief” story. Capodicaso lived in Brooklyn for several years before moving on to Buffalo and could have been acquainted with Magaddino. He was charged along with Joseph DiCarlo Jr. and Palmeri in two separate cases in 1924: “Black Hand involved in federal case,” Buffalo Morning Express, April 14, 1924, p. 4.
99 New Jersey State Archives, Department of State, Secretary of State's Office, Extradition Records 1844-1968, Requisitions February 1921-1922, Box 77. State of New Jersey vs Bartolomeo Fontana, Francesco Puma, Giuseppe Lombardi.
102 “Indict 2 as slayers; Mafia crime charged,” New York Times, Sept. 15, 1921, p. 3.
103 “Camorra slayer now in Freehold,” Monmouth (NJ) Democrat, Sept. 18, 1921.
104 Monmouth County Quarter Sessions Minutes, 1920-1922: “State vs. Joseph Lombardi,” p. 507, January term 1922; “State vs. Joseph Lombardi,” p. 29, October term 1922. “Held in $10,000 bail in Neptune murder,” Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, Dec. 17, 1921, p. 5. “Foes shoot gunman full of bullets,” New York Times, Nov. 5, 1922, p. 32.
105 “Seek extradition of slayer Fontano,” New York American, Aug. 22, 1921, p. 9.
106 “Salvatore Rose acquitted,” Monmouth (NJ) Democrat, March 30, 1922.
107 “Confessing murder gets life sentence,” Monmouth (NJ) Democrat, March 23, 1922. “Acquit Cievarro on serious charge,” Long Branch (NJ) Daily, March 25, 1922.
108 “Acquit Cievarro...,” op. cit.
109 “Confessed slayer is chief state witness,” Asbury Park (NJ) Evening Press, March 23, 1922.
110 “Acquit Cievarro...,” op. cit.
111 “Fontano balks...,” op. cit.
112 Ibid. “More details...,” op. cit.
113 “Salvatore Rose acquitted,” op. cit.
114 “Verdict of not guilty given after four hours’ deliberation,” Asbury Park (NJ) Evening Press, March 25, 1922.
115 “Salvatore Rose acquitted,” op. cit.
116 Ibid. “Acquit Cievarro...,” op. cit. “Verdict of not guilty...,” op. cit.
117 “Foes shoot gunman...,” op. cit. “ ‘Murder farm’ Italian is slain during stroll,” New York Tribune, Nov. 5, 1922, p. 9.
118 “Foes shoot gunman...,” op. cit.
119 Monmouth County Quarter Sessions Minutes, 1920-1922: “State vs. Joseph Lombardi,” p. 29, October term 1922.
120 Magaddino’s assumption of the leadership of the DiCarlo organization is stated in “Organized crime: 25 years after Valachi,” op. cit.
121 Bonanno, op. cit., p. 291-292.
122 Social Security death records.
123 Bonanno, op. cit., p. 96, 102-103. Bonventre certificate of death, Department of Health of the City of New York, Bureau of Records.
124 Bonanno, op. cit., p. 93. Milazzo certificate of death. Michigan Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics.
125 Delaney, Pam F., Fiaschetti relative, recalled in an interview that Fiaschetti’s second wife Jean served as secretary for the detective agency. Fiaschetti’s first wife died shortly after giving birth to their daughter Anna.
126 “Fifty thousand dollars in bills ready for kidnappers,” Sheboygan (WI) Press, March 4, 1932, p. 2.
127 “Market clean-up starts,” New York Times, Jan. 9, 1934, p. 1.
128 Delaney, Pam, op. cit. “Fiaschetti,” obituary, New York Times, Nov. 16, 1936, p. 19. Anna Fiaschetti died Nov. 15.
129 “Michael Fiaschetti dies at 74; ex-detective led Italian Squad,” New York Times, July 31, 1960, p. 68.
130 New Jersey State Archives, Department of Institutions and Agencies, New Jersey State Prison at Trenton: Inmate Registers 1894-1975, Register I (1920-1926) #6166-#9547, Vol. 13; Inmate Registers 1894-1975, Register M (1940-1945) #21414-#24764 and #53A-#152A, Vol. 17; Inmate Registers 1894-1975, Descriptive List No. 6 (1921-1923) #6484-#7663, Volume 29.
132 U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, Ancestry.com online database, 2006.
133 Giacoma Fontana died of liver cancer in the Bronx, NY, on Nov. 28, 1916: Certificate of Death, Department of Health of the City of New York, Bureau of Records. Her husband Giuseppe predeceased her, dying in Castellammare before her immigration on Nov. 22, 1913: Ellis Island records of the Perugia.
134 1930 U.S. Census records.
Acknowledgements: The writers wish to express their appreciation to Bette M. Epstein of the New Jersey State Archives and to Mary Ann Kiernan of the Monmouth County, NJ, Archives for their valuable assistance. Broadway Central Hotel photograph used with permission from Randall’s Lost New York City: http://www.lostnewyorkcity.com/. Map of Shark River area by Thomas Hunt. This article was first published in the On the Spot journal of crime and law enforcement history, spring, 2007.