New Orleans musician Bill Bonham pled guilty to manslaughter this week in the murder of Big Easy mobster Kent (Frenchy) Brouillette, a larger-than-life gangland character tied to Carlos (The Kingfish) Marcello, the city’s longtime mafia boss who died back in the 1990s after attaining worldwide infamy for bragging of his role in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The 52-year old Bonham stabbed Brouillette to death inside a local flophouse on December 3, 2015 during a fight over Brouillette pawning a number of Bonham’s instruments to feed his drug habit. Brouillette was 79.

Bonham faces up to seven years in prison when he’s sentenced in the fall. Those around the city’s music scene knew Bonham as a guitar player in a series of area rock and jazz bands. Upon his return home from a trip out of state in late 2015, he found his collection of expensive instruments pilfered and proceeded to attack Brouillette, blaming him for the theft.

Flashy and colorful, Brouillette served as a political fixer, pimp and narcotics lieutenant under Marcello, but in his later years fell into severe squalor because of his substance abuse. In 2014, he published a book titled Mr. New Orleans – The Life of a Big Easy Underworld Legend with author Matthew Randazzo. Spending money as fast as he made it, Brouillette often vacillated between living lavishly and being in the poorhouse.

The Marcello crime family is an organization of the past, having pretty much dismantled in the years following the syndicate’s namesake and patriarch passed away from natural causes in 1993. Mob activity in New Orleans is a miniscule enterprise these days in contrast to Marcello’s heyday when the crime family was massively powerful and controlled vice inside the French Quarter and well beyond. New Orleans was the first American city to have an Italian mafia presence with mob affairs dating back to the 1800s.

Marcello and other mafia dons have been suspected of conspiring to kill President Kennedy, blown away by sniper fire in November 1963 as he paraded through the streets of Dallas. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald had known connections to the New Orleans mob.

Brouillette acted as Marcello’s go-between with corrupt politicians and policemen, including Louisiana Governor and U.S. Congressman Edwin Edwards. He took pinches for running prostitution rings in 1964 and then again in 1971.

Carlos Marcello

Leave a Reply