SCOTT BURNSTEIN’S ‘HIT LIST’
Top 5 New England Mob Murders of All-Time
1 William (Billy the Wild Man) Grasso – The volatile underboss of the New England mafia, Grasso was the victim of a power play and the first body to drop in a five-year mob war that tore across Massachusetts and Connecticut in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Grasso, who headquartered out of New Haven, was killed on June 16, 1989 by Boston” button man” Gaetano Milano as they drove in a van on a local expressway, shot in the head, his body tossed in a local riverbed. Known for a bloodthirsty and unstable demeanor, the Wild Man sided with boss Raymond Patriarca, Jr. and future don Francis (Cadillac Frank) Salemme in the conflict that saw capos, Joseph (J.R.) Russo and Vincent (Vinnie the Animal) Ferrara, try to wrestle control of the crime family for themselves. Russo, soon promoted to consigliere as a conciliatory gesture, organized a time-coordinated hit, where hit teams were sent to whack Grasso and Salemme on the same afternoon. Salemme, recently released from prison at that point after serving 17 years for a car bombing, survived nine gun-shot wounds in an attack that took place in the parking lot of a suburban Boston International House of Pancakes.
2 The “Connecticut Capos Murders” – Legendary Genovese Family Connecticut captain Salvatore (Midge) Annunziato and longtime Connecticut-based Colombo captain Ralph (Whitey) Tropiano were both killed within the same year period between 1979 and 1980, victims of changing times in the East Coast underworld and the aspirations of complete statewide mafia dominance harbored by up-and-coming Patriarca Family mobster Billy Grasso: Annunziato, 61, disappeared on June 19, 1979, never to be seen again after getting into a car at his East Haven home chauffeured by his lieutenant Thomas (Tommy the Blonde) Vastano – clipped himself months later. The following year, on April 3, 1980, Tropiano, Grasso’s mentor, a former member of Murder Inc. and a suspect in taking part in literally dozens of murders in his lengthy gangland career, was slain by gunmen jumping out of a car on a corner in Brooklyn when the 67-year old underworld chieftain was crossing the street.
3 The Marfeo Brothers Murders – A pair of insubordinate Providence bookmakers, both gangster brethren engaged in a bitter feud with New England mob boss Raymond Patriarca, costing them their lives. Willie Marfeo outright refused to pay tribute to Patriarca, cursed him and assaulted Patriarca’s consigliere, Henry (The Referee) Tameleo when he came to discuss the issue, which led to him being shot-gunned to death on July 13, 1966 in a phone booth at the Korner Kitchen Restaurant in the city’s famous Federal Hill neighborhood. Less than two years later, in the midst of trying to avenge his brother’s death, Rudy Marfeo and his buddy, Anthony Melei were killed inside a Providence grocery store on April 7, 1968 by Patriarca-dispensed hood John (Red) Kelley. Patriarca was convicted in connection with both slayings, although his conviction in the Rudy Marfeo-Anthony Melei hits were eventually overturned when it was discovered Kelly perjured himself at trial and the FBI knew about it and covered it up.
4 Richard (Richie the Hatchet) Devlin – Tough-as-nails Irishman and the primary enforcer for Cadillac Frank Salemme when he took power as boss in 1991 and began his reign of terror avenging his assassination attempt two years prior, was found shot in the back of the head behind the wheel of his Buick Skylark in a Providence parking lot on March 31, 1994. Devlin, a suspect in several of the gangland slayings related to the New England mob war he lost his life as a part of, was wearing a bullet-proof vest when he was killed. He acquired the ominous nickname “The Hatchet,” due to a manslaughter conviction he took in the 1970s where the victim’s headless, handless and hatchet-impaled corpse was discovered floating in Boston’s Dorchester Bay. While imprisoned in Walpole State Prison, Devlin was considered the top suspect in the stabbing death of Albert DiSalvo, better known as “The Boston Strangler.”
5 Kevin Hanrahan – High-profile Patriarca Family strong arm and hit man, the feisty and dangerous Irish-born Hanrahan was killed by gunmen on Atwells Avenue in the heart of Providence’s historic Federal Hill “Little Italy” on the evening of September 18, 1992. Hanrahan was allied with Cadillac Frank Salemme in the New England mob war and shot four times in the face at point-blank range moments after leaving a dinner at a nearby eatery in the middle of the incendiary dispute that would last for another two years.
Honorable Mention: Frank Piccolo, Ralph Mele, Raymond (Baby Ray) Curcio & Robert Candos hit, Arthur “Tash”, Bratsos & Tommy De Prisco “Nite-Lite Diner hit”, John (Johnny Slew) Palmieri, Thomas (Tommy the Blonde) Vastano, Thomas (Tommy the Enforcer) De Brizzi, Raymond (Slick) Vecchio