May 31, 2021 – Police in Rhode Island are pursuing new leads in the 1984 New England mob murder of Providence bar owner John (Tilly King) Gomes, per a report by WPRI. Gomes disappeared November 21, 1984 – he was found shot in the back of the head in a field near the state line dividing Westport, Rhode Island and Dartmouth, Massachusetts five months later.
Authorities believe Gomes’ slaying is mafia-related. Over the years, police in Rhode Island have fielded tips that the Gomes hit was linked to mob enforcer Kevin Hanrahan and the Patriarca crime family’s Ouimette crew, per sources. Hanrahan died in a hail of bullets in Providence’s Federal Hill neighborhood one late night in the early fall of 1992.
Gomes’ bar and nightclub, Tilly King’s, was a Providence area hot spot in the 1970s and early 1980s located in the city’s Fox Point district. According to FBI records from that era, the establishment was also a place where drug deals went down and stolen merchandise was moved through the backdoor. Tilly King was described as a fast-talker and colorful character who was able to charm people of all different races and religions .
Gomes was last seen leaving a diner where he had eaten lunch the day before Thanksgiving and getting into a car with two individuals. When he never showed up to open his tavern for the busiest bar night of the year, his family got nervous and reported him missing. The vehicle Gomes was observed being shuffled into had a Massachusetts license plate. Gomes’ autopsy revealed he was killed execution style, shot once behind the left ear.
Less than a decade later, Kevin Hanrahan died a suspect in numerous New England mob hits, including the Tilly King Gomes homicide. Hanrahan was recently connected to another unsolved mafia slaying — the 1991 murder of Boston bookmaker and mob associate Howard (Chinky) Ferrini — via DNA testing and finger prints belonging to Hanrahan found on the plastic bag left over the victim’;s head.
Per FBI records, Hanrahan was linked to the Patriarca crime family’s Ouimette crew run by Gerard (The Frenchman) Ouimette and his younger brother “Gentleman John.” The dashing and daring Ouimette brothers pulled off the infamous 1975 Bonded Vault heist in Providence on behalf of the region’s longtime Godfather Raymond Patriarca. John Ouimette did 10 years in prison for his role masterminding the multi-million dollar robbery of a secret stash of safety deposit boxes used by Rhode Island criminals to keep their ill-gotten riches before his conviction was overturned.
Although neither Hanrahan nor the Ouimettes were Italian, Patriarca himself used them for many of his toughest assignments. Gomes was known to fence Ouimette crew stolen goods through Tilly King’s, according to Rhode Island State Police files. Two separate sources claim Gomes was accused by the Ouimette crew of stealing hijacked inventory, specifically a haul of leather jackets.
Gerard Ouimette died in prison in 2015 (serving a life term under a habitual offender statute), known as one of the most powerful and respected non-Italian organized crime players in east coast history. John Ouimette passed away in 2017, a free man more-than-content with his name being forever synonymous with the Bonded Vault robbery.
*WPRI’s Tim White, the resident Rhode Island mob expert and historian, penned a great book on the robbery titled, The Last Good Heist, with a pair of local journalists (Randall Richard and Wayne Worcester) that is being developed into a Hollywood film. The 2019 Chazz Palminteri and Don Johnson movie Vault tells the story of the heist as well.
The legendary Patriarca was felled by a heart attack in 1984. Hanrahan’s murder is also getting another look by investigators and a federal grand jury has been convened in the case for several years now, according to sources in Rhode Island law enforcement.
Anyone who has information about John Gomes’ murder is urged to contact the Providence Police Department at (401) 272-3121 or the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office at (508) 961-1918.