By Thom L. Jones
Copyright © Thom L. Jones & Gangsters Inc.
No body knows for sure, just how the name came about.
I picture it a bit like this:
Michael Fiaschetti (photo right), 'Big Mike,' the boss of The Italian Squad, lounging back in a chair in his office, Police Headquarters, at 240 Centre Street, in downtown Manhattan, feet up on a pillar, doing a Henry Fonda like in 'My Darling Clementine,' jiggling his boots back and forth, doing a polka on the woodwork, the sharply creased hat, he always wore, tilted forward over this eyes, a stogie sticking straight out of the side of his mouth, like he always sucked on them, his big, ham fists, locked behind that slab of a head, talking to his squad, sitting around doing the bull. Nodding at Irving O'Hara, the plug of an Irishman, his personal bodyguard.
'They're smart, that's for sure. Got to give 'em that. Good at what they do, the guys. Good killers, no doubt on it.' Nodding his head, 'The Good Killers, that's what they are. Irv,' turning to his Irish aide,' why don't you scoot down to the front desk; see if that Times reporter is hanging about. He's always around looking for information. We'll give him something to wet his pencil.
It's a thought.
Castellammare del Golfo.
Castle by the Sea, in English, one hundred forty feet above sea level at its highest point on Monte Inici, above the town, a fishing port on the north west coast of Sicily. Settled over a thousand years ago by the Arabs, sailing in from Tunisia, leaving behind their legacy in the brilliant blue painted door and window frames on the hundreds of houses, jostling for space above the sea. Seafood restaurants crowding the sandstone harbour, crammed with fleets of blue and white fishing boats, moored and bobbing, on the tranquil, turquoise waters. Hot Scirocco winds blowing from the Libyan deserts across the Mediterranean Sea, over the mountains and hills of Trapani, carrying the scent of grapefruit and lemons.
To-day, a seaside resort of maybe 14000 people, a favourite tourist spot for travellers eager to leave the dirt and noise of Palermo behind, a town where you can eat some of the best fish in Sicily and see some of the best sunsets.
A place to start looking for the provenance of The Good Killers.
For this small, bucolic town, well off the beaten path, has produced, for its size, an disproportionate number of members of the Italian-American underworld, and it was these kind of men who probably made up this other secret organization, that became known as The Good Killers.
Petro Bosca of Detroit, Antonio Magadino of Buffalo, Bartolo Guccia from Joe Barbara's bunch in upstate New York, (Joe was also from the gulf,) Pasquale Turrigiano, Michelangelo Vitale, maybe a round dozen or more who made their mark in New York, these were just some of the men who came from this location, into what we know today as the American Mafia. Gavin Maxwell, the famous English author, claimed that in the early, 1950's, 80% of the male population of the town had spent time in prison, and that 30% had committed murder.
Striking statistics for a town that in those days numbered less than 10000. How it must have been fifty years earlier? It's hard to know for sure, but just as bad if not worse.
Ten miles north-west of the town is the fishing village of Scopello, where every year, the fishermen would take part in La Matanza, the massacre of the fish. Thousands of tuna would be herded through the gulf by boats linked to each other by nets, to men waiting in waist -deep water, armed with clubs and spikes. They would club the fish to death, turning the blue sea a rusted red.
Sixty years after the Good Killers were a forgotten memory, La Matanza would become a metaphor to explain how the Mafia slaughtered the social conscience of a country, as they went to war against the state.
There are at least three men of the American Mafia, whose names are perpetually linked into this community in Western Sicily:
Joe Bonanno, who led his own crime family in New York for over thirty years, his cousin Stefano Magadino who headed up the Buffalo mob, 'The Arm' as it was sometimes called, along with his brother Antonio, and was probably the longest ever serving Don in the American Mafia, fifty-two years in the chair, and Carmine Galante, who although not born in del Golfo was linked into it through his parents who came from there. The man who probably killed Carlo Tresca; one of the FBN's biggest targets, a drug dealer and trafficker without equal, except for the times he got caught!
Joe Bonanno assumed the leadership of his crime family from Nicola Schiro, another del Golfino, and was at times, helped and advised by Frank Garofola, born and raised in the port. Joe's cousin, John Bonventre, was a close aid, and in the years to come, his own great nephew, Cesare Bonventre would come to play an crucial role in not only the ultimate fate of Galante, but also the biggest drug investigation in American history, we now know as 'The Pizza Connection.'
Salvatore Maranzano, the man who would claim the first ever shot at the Boss of Bosses title in America after the conflict in New York in 1930-31 which came to be known as 'The Castellammarese War,' was born in the town in 1886. Gaspare Milazzo, who rose to prominence in Detroit before he was gunned down having lunch in the Vernon Highway Fish Market, grew up on the gulf.
So many of them.
They almost all, started their lives in this small fishing town, far away, so isolated, and yet important as a link into the history of America's never ending obsession with a criminal organization, so unique and in some ways chimerical in its concept, that it's hard to truly understand how it came about in the first place.
The other point you have to understand about Sicily, is that long before the Mafia, there was this thing called vendetta. In its simplest form this was a bitter, destructive feud between families or clans that arose out of a killing, something perpetuated by retaliatory acts of revenge. What we would call a blood feud.
And at the heart of the story about The Good Killers that's what we will find.
A killing for a killing, which leads to more killings. Eighty years down the way, it's hard to know for sure just where it all began, but there were maybe three or four families at the heart of the matter:
The Bonannos, Magadinos, Bonventres and the Bucellatos. The first three were allies against the fourth, in some form of feudal altercation whose origins are lost in the torturous social history of the island of Sicily. Interestingly, in to-days town records at del Golfo, the most common surnames include Galante and Bucellato, but not Bonanno and Bonventre.
Both the patriarch of the Bonanno crime family, Giuseppe, or as he is more commonly referred to, Joe, and his son Salvatore, better known as Bill, refer to these early days in their separate biographies. Bill's is clouded by the passage of time, and Joe's, like a lot of his book, is narcissistic in its application to examining the truth. He touches on parts of the family feuds, yet never allows us the whole picture of just what was going on among these different clans.
There was without doubt, killings in and around Castellammare during the period towards the end of the nineteenth century and into the first decade of the twentieth, that involved these families, and an desire to perpetrate revenge followed some of the men as they made their way to America and New York and other cities, and new lives as criminals in the promised land.
One of these acts of vengeance was the murder of a man in New Jersey. He was called Camillo Caiozzo, sometimes reported as Carmelo Caizzo.
Information had been forwarded from Sicily by cable, that Caiozzo was on his way to live in New York, fleeing from retaliation for a vendetta murder which had occurred near Castellammare del Golfo.
Stefano Magaddino's brother Pietro had been ambushed along with their father, Stefano Snr. (photo right) The father escaped unhurt, the son was killed. Carmelo was the supposed murderer, or maybe just related to the killer, maybe his uncle, maybe a cousin, either way, he was marked for death by his enemies. Joe Bonanno claims in his book Pietro was killed in 1916. Other sources say 1920.
Whatever the date, Caiozzo carried the stigmata.
His killing set in motion events which for three months gripped the American public, as little by little, they learned through breathless newspaper reports, of a putsch taking place in the criminal underworld involving dozen of men, and so many bodies falling down, it was just too hard to keep track of it all. Corpses were turning up or disappearing all over New York, and Detroit, and New Jersey along with those going down in Chicago and Pittsburgh, Bridgeport and Buffalo, along with stiffs turning up in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois. The only region these guys weren't killing anyone looked to be Greenland.
Caiozzo's murder which occurred in July 1921, near Neptune City, was in fact the latest in an ongoing series of killings that may have dated back fifteen years. The police departments of the various cities involved, and the press, never quite got to the bottom of the complex, interrelated series of historical assassinations that may have been going down for so long, and eighty odd years after the events, it's impossible to say with any degree of confidence just what was happening to who and for why.
Newspapers of the time, raised the ante from 17 reported killings in early August, up to 125 by August 23rd. Some of these men, shot, knifed, garrotted, chopped up and buried alive, may have been victims of The Good Killers, some, the result of internecine warfare among the various Italian-American criminal gangs infesting these cities. There is no way of knowing for sure the exact body count.
But I think it's save to assume it was considerable.
Official records are sketchy. Newspaper publications are filled with names and dates and assumptions, but the actual connecting facts are few and far between. None of the dots can be linked together to give us an accurate picture of what might have happened. As in a lot of newspaper reporting, information changes from paper to paper, along with names and dates and events. No two newsmen ever see the same image in the same frame. These guys are lousy at getting the names right. Vowels change places. Consonants get lost along the way. It makes it difficult to sort out the wheat from the chaff.
I find it in a way, like 'Alice through the Looking Glass' played out in a steamy bathroom. There's images there, but it's hard to conceptualize the changes in time and spatial direction that are taking form. There's substance without weight, energy lacking mass. It's a mythological fable, but without an Aesop to lead us through it. It's a compelling story, but that may be all it is, a story.
Once the initial rush of interest abated, the media went off to pursue more headline- grabbing stories. There was no good paradigm in the story of the Good Killers. Everyone was a bad guy, so Joe Public soon lost his curiosity.
Prohibition was moving into its first year, filling news spots with tales of bootlegging, gangland killings and more. Al Capone was waiting in the wings in the Windy City. The first Miss America pageant was being held in Atlantic City, and Mongolia declared independence from China.
There was plenty of other things to keep the readers occupied.
And so, no one actually cared about digging real deep into this particular story, following it through, investigative journalism like we know today. It's a shame, because what went down with the Good Killers through those early years of the twentieth century was quite possibly the growing pains, part of the developing architecture creating the framework for the foundation of Mafia America. If only there had been Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on the job, or Murray Kempton or even Jimmy Breslin, what more would we know today?
Big Mike Fiaschetti the detective sergeant, brevet captain in the NYPD, head of the famous Italian Squad, reformed in 1918, became connected into the Good Killers case by spending the night in a hotel bedroom on Broadway, with a man called Bartola Fontana.
He was the one who murdered Camillo Caiozzo. That seems to be one fact that is undisputed.
Mike had made contact, some days before in early August, with a young woman called Carmela Pino who was in a relationship with this young barber who worked in a shop on Kenmare Street in Lower Manhattan. Her name may have been Pinto. She was, apparently nineteen and part of the mystery. She kick-started the whole thing.
The press naturally, would come to call Bartola, 'The Bloody Barber of Kenmare Street.'
She told Mike that Bartola, tortured by his guilt, had confessed to her the killing, a few weeks earlier, of his boyhood friend, who had arrived in New York the previous year. The murder had occurred across in New Jersey. The detective courted the barber, meeting up with him first in the Bronx Park, talking to him, gaining his confidence, taking him out to shows, treating him to meals, and when the nights got too late, staying with him in the Broadway Central Hotel, on Broadway and Third Street. He was also maybe guarding the young barber, who had confessed to being a target for the criminal underworld, and obviously had something he desperately wanted to remove from his conscience.
On the third night, Fontana cracked under the pressure, and confessed to murdering Camillo.
Fiaschetti wrongly identified Fontana as a Camorist, a member of the dreaded Naples based Camorra gang. He also gets him mixed up with the Black Hand movement somehow.
Bartola Fontana was from Sicily, from that port in Trapani province. If he was anything, he was a mafioso, but maybe, he wasn't even that. Just a man in waiting, connected into the Good Killers, originally in Detroit where he was part of a Castellammarese community based there. He'd become associated with their organization around 1914, two years after he'd arrived at Ellis Island in New York, and when a group of these men shifted to New York, he had moved there also.
Tormented by his anguish and despair over the terrible crime he had committed, Fontana a small, scrawny twenty-eight year old, confessed to the murder, and in doing so, disclosed for the first time, the existence of this society of Good Killers. The name of the band, looks to have first appeared in the New York Times edition of August 17th., and seems to infer that Fontana called them by this title.
But did he, and why?
As far as I can find out, no one actually knows. He could easily have called them 'The Evil Brothers,' or 'Men of Death,' or any number of combinations, but the Good Killers has a ring to it. It's a name like 'Murder Inc,' to be dreamt up by a newspaper reporter. Its fanciful, like the way Joe the Boss was found clutching that black ace, rimmed in red blood, or 'Lillo' Galante gets his last photo, in that grubby little garden in Bushwick, face up, left eye blown out, ubiquitous cigar sticking out at the port, or the way Tommy Billoti stretched himself into a forked cross, on the tarmac outside Spark's Restaurant.
It's good theatre.
Mike saw an opening and went for it. This could be the big one for him and the team. The one that would make his name. Get him up there with Joe Petrosino, the first head of the squad, twelve years before. The only New York cop ever to get himself murdered in the line of duty, outside America.
During his confession, Fontana identified six men who he claimed had forced him, under the threat of death, to carry out the killing. In the classic Mafia approach to removing a target, the mob set up the victim to be hit by his best friend.
It's also possible of course, that the murder was to enable Fontana to lay his claim to membership of this clan of killers. By doing this piece of work, clipping this man, Fontana would earn his badge, his membership into the Mafia.
Neither Fiaschetti, or anyone else as far as I know, ever pursued this line of investigation.
The barber claimed the men were leaders of this Good Killers society, and provided their names and addresses.
The group consisted of: Stefano Maggadino, his brother-in-law Bartolo DiGregorio, Vito Bonventre, Giuseppe Lombardi, Mariano Galante, whose family was related by marriage to Magaddino, and Francesco Puma. By the afternoon of August 16th., all of these men had been apprehended and arrested. They called themselves painters, and bakers and salesmen and barbers, and one identified himself as a 'merchant.' Three lived in Brooklyn, the others across the East River, in lower Manhattan.
There was a scuffle in the police fingerprint processing area, known as the Bertillon room, and Magaddino suddenly attacked Fontana. In the struggle that followed, Fiaschetti whacked Magaddino on the head with his billy stick. The police photograph of the men, taken the next day, shows Magaddino with a giant bandage across his head, under his soft hat. He looks (photo right) a bit like how I imagine 'Humpty-Dumpty' would have looked after his big fall, cracking his noggin.
Fontana was sent over to Brooklyn to be isolated at the Raymond Street Jail, and the others were locked up in the dreaded Tombs Prison, the Manhattan House of Detention, on the corner of Franklin and Centre Streets.
While incarcerated at the Brooklyn prison house, Fontana was transported back into Manhattan, to the police headquarters where he was interviewed by a detective from Detroit, Lieutenant Bert McPherson.
Some time on the 18th or 19th of August, the barber disclosed to the visiting police officer what he knew about a series of murders that had taken place in that city.
There had been at least seventy gangland killings in Detroit in the previous four years none of them solved. Fontana offered information on eleven men, including two bands of brothers and one father and son set. He was sure the Good Killers had done these hits. There may have been a additional five he knew about, including another family killing, that of John and Joe Vitale, but he wasn't able to provide much detail on these. The killings, he claimed were 'automobile jobs,' committed by gangsters in high-powered cars.
Shades of Robert Stack and 'The Untouchables!'
He either had been an extremely industrious gopher for the Good Killers, or a remarkably good listener.
One of the men killed, Andrea Lacatto, also known as Licato, was a fearsome killer, who had been part of the Good Killers, according to Fontana. Interestingly, Bert McPherson revealed to the press that Lacatto may have been tortured- his arms cut off, and then buried alive- extreme treatment indicating some form of gang retribution, sending out a message to others. Strangely, other sources state that Lacatto was shot dead on Joseph Campau Street, the long, main thoroughfare that leads down to the Cadillac Motor works in Detroit city. If the one-eyed man is king in the world of the blind, it goes without saying that the pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple, especially when delving into the confusion of mob history.
Things got so complicated, that at one point, The New York Times reported that two victims of the gang, Antonio Nazzara and Antonio Di Denetto, were ambushed and killed in Brooklyn, by two men, especially imported for the job from Detroit, one of whom was Giuseppe Buccelage ( Bucellato, I'm sure), who were then later killed by other nemesis of the gang. So here was the Good Killers, apparently hiring one of their arch enemies to shoot two other enemies, who then in turn got himself killed by some other enemy.
Charley Chan. Were where you when we needed you?
By this stage in the game, the police had also narrowed it down a bit, and were referring to the suspects as '......the Bonventre gang of good killers.' So at least someone had chosen a titular head to hang a hat on.
By the time it was all over, there didn't seem to be a lot to show for it.
Of the seven men arrested for the murder of Camillo Caiozzo, only the skinny little barber of Kenmare Street did any time. In March 1922, sentenced under his legal name, Bartolomeo Fontana entered the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton and would remain there until his release on January 21, 1941. He was last heard of living with a sister at 860 Sutter Avenue in Brooklyn, and then disappeared, from public record, at least.
The rest of the arrested suspects, eventually were all either acquitted, or their cases delayed, and atrophied under cumbersome legal manoeuvring in New Jersey. Francesco Puma was shot and stabbed to death on the night of November 4th, 1922. Vito Bonventre, the uncle of Joseph Bonanno, became a leading figure in the New York underworld and also became a victim of the ultimate violence himself, murdered in Brooklyn in July, 1930.
Of the remaining four, only Stefano Magaddino went on to become a figure of considerable importance within the American Mafia. He moved from New York, shortly after an attempt was made on his life. Some sources say he and his faithful friend Gaspare Milazzo, were coming out of a Brooklyn department store when a group of men, presumably Bucellato's or their allies, attacked them, firing at them. They both were unharmed although some people passing along the street were shot and injured, two of them dying of their wounds. Many crime historians maintain this incident never happened. There seems little evidence to support it, at least in newspaper files. Either way, Magaddino moved north to upstate New York and eventually became the boss of the Buffalo crime family based there. Like most of the major Mafia figures of the period, he operated in almost total obscurity, in terms of public awareness, until exposed in the May 1952 edition of 'Look Magazine.'
The Good Killers also disappeared, at least from public view. There was no further media activity of any consequence, and the public soon lost interest.
So just who were these Good Killers?
Were they a gruppi di fuoco, a fire-team, similar to the ones that would emerge fifty years later in Sicily under the direction of Luciano Leggio and then Salvatore Riina? Highly trained killers used by the Corleonesi to enforce their control and dominance not only of other Mafia clans, but to facilitate the killing of police and other state officials across Sicily. If the Good Killers were this kind of hit squad, how many of them were involved, and could there have been more than one group for each geographical region?
How did they choose their targets?
If as it has been suggested, they were in it for revenge, did they only go after Bucellato's and their associates? Of all the names listed in reports, that I have traced, only the three Bucellato brothers, Joseph, Felice and Salvatore murdered in Detroit between 1917 and 1919, carry that family name.
Like the characters in Michael Shaara's famous historical novel, 'The Killer Angels,' the Good Killers were soldiers in an army, fighting a war without a legitimate cause. A war they could never win, because it was endlessly driven by engines of revenge and hatred, un empowered by the consequences of the acts, obsessed only with its appetency to succeed. Some newspaper reports suggest that they hired off the jobs and then killed the men who did the killings. It's almost impossible to grasp the complexities of an operation of this magnitude. Yet other newspapers referred to them as '...the Camorra murder gang,' loosing the plot entirely in their misidentification of the real roots of the Good Killers.
Maybe, they were the Praetorian Guard of some major mob boss, whose identity has never been revealed. The New York press suggested he was based in Buffalo, and acted under direction from head office back in Sicily.
In August 1921, it reported:
" .......This is the man, the police have been informed, who has control of the $200,00 fund for the protection of members of the death syndicate and for the payment of hired assassins, who in turn, have been done away with, lest they confess to the police."
Not unlike headlines from 'Ripping Yarns.'
But just who was this 'big chief?'
Nothing ever emerged to identify him, if he indeed existed. There were only two men in Buffalo or nearby Niagara Falls at this time who might have fitted the bill, and neither ever stepped forward to claim the title. Hardly surprising.
Were the killings in Detroit, New York and other major centres, part of a coordinated ongoing project for the Mafia to discipline itself across the north-east area of the United States?
Some press coverage inferred the gang was a murder-for-hire outfit, hit men for sale. One suspect, Joseph Napoli, extradited from Detroit to New York on September 10th., 1921, allegedly confessed to Inspector Fiaschetti that he had been paid on at least two occasions, $30 to murder a target. One of these was Rosario Brigandi, shot dead at 21 Chrystie Street, near the Bowery, on June 27th., 1919. Was there any relevance in this theory, or were these killings just revenge on a personal basis, or more likely muggings gone bad?
Luigi Barzini the elder, father of the famous Italian journalist and reporter, emigrated to America and tried, without success to establish an Italian newspaper in New York. Amazingly, he and his family returned to re-settle in Italy, finding America too tough a place in which to live. On one occasion, he saved the life of a young criminal called Mike, who arranged for him to meet up with an powerful mob boss. This man lived in Brooklyn, and was referred to as 'Don Turi,' which could place him possibly as Salvatore Sarancino, a close friend of Salvatore Bonanno, the father of Joe, and apparently, a senior and much respected member of the Castellammarese community in Brooklyn. Barzini had told Mike that he wanted to explore the culture of the Mafia and find out how it had transplanted to America.
In point of fact, he was after an exposé.
'Mike says you want to defend the Sicilians' name from defamation,' said the Don, 'explain to the American public what laws we obey, and how we help each other like brothers in this strange, difficult and hostile country. It is a noble wish, we commend you. But I'm afraid the moment is not opportune. We're at war. We Sicilians in America must think of ourselves like the Jews in Egypt before the Exodus. Everybody around us is our enemy and our oppressor. We have to be very prudent.'
'Don Turi' may well have had a legitimate gripe. The Italians were the third most persecuted minorities in U.S. History.
If this was the perspective of a major crime leader in New York, it's a relatively short step to accepting The God Killers as defenders of that philosophy, and perhaps with a powerful boss in charge.
And finally, and most intriguing of all, where did they go?
After the Caiozzo investigation had run its course, it seems the Good Killers vanished. Was there a reason for this?
Had the heat generated by the arrests and trials convinced whoever was in charge, to call it a day and disperse the killers, or did they by natural attrition, simply blend in with the Castellammarese groups, which would gradually develop in different cities as Mafia crime families?
Perhaps, they kept on killing people, which apparently was what they were exceptionally proficient at, and law enforcement agencies just could not connect them into any kind of pattern. After all, they'd apparently been doing just this for nearly fifteen years without anyone latching onto it.
Following the New York underworld war of 1930-31, the biggest Castellammarese Mafia family by far, emerged under the leadership of Joe Bonanno, with its headquarters in their traditional neighbourhood of Williamsburg, in Brooklyn. The second largest was probably the one in Buffalo under Magaddino, Joe's cousin. There had also been one that had evolved in the motor city, controlled by Milazzo, Magaddinos friend, who had himself left Brooklyn after that shooting outside the store, and gone to live in Detroit. After his death, this one merged in with other factions that would be headed by Joe 'Uno' Zerilli.
Maybe, the men who had made up The Good Killers retired, and became part of these groups.
Then again, perhaps The Good Killers never actually existed.
At the heart of the matter, there is a lot of smoke, but not much combustion. The only evidence that I can see that pointed to this gang came from Fontana. It was his declaration made on the evening of August 16th., 1921, at police headquarters in New York, that started off the entire investigation. To my knowledge, no other member of the gang confessed and confirmed that these exterminators even existed, although The New York Times on August 18th., proclaimed that Bonventre, Galante and Maggadino had admitted complicity in Caizzo's murder.
They hadn't of course, but it made good copy.
No member of the so called Good Killers, other than Fontana, was ever convicted of any crime of any manner, least of all, multiple murder, that might have connected into this investigation. The links into the sudden deaths of Italians across that immense geographical region, in this possible time frame of 1905 to 1921 are insubstantial and stretch credulity when examined in close details. Lot's of men whose names ended in vowels died suddenly. Lot's of violence, plenty of hypothetical connections, but no real, solid evidence that groups of killers were roaming cities and countryside, assassinating on command, targets they had been assigned. An abundance of names on paper, but confirming no solid facts, no successful prosecutions, anywhere.
Even The New York Times, which covered the story in slavish detail, confessed:
'While the confession (Fontana's) was voluble and free, and backed up with a murder paper, on which Fontana had listed in ink the killings he said he knew the gang had achieved, it was sketchy in places.'
Sketchy indeed. One dimensional transparent is another way to explain it.
It was just the word of one, scrawny Sicilian nonentity, who worked as a barber on the teeming streets of New York, and one hot, Sunday afternoon, took a shotgun and blasted his friend in the back.
Perhaps he murdered this friend of his for another, entirely different reason?
They had lived together in Fontana's fourth floor apartment, at 36 St. Mark's Place, in lower Manhattan.
Did Caizzo perhaps make a pass at Fontana's girl friend, Carmelo Pino on the many times she must have visited?
Men have killed other men for far less.
Also Fontana had found out that his friend had just come into $700, a tidy sum when you consider the average hourly rate at that time for workers, was just forty-two cents. It's possible that Caizzo had brought the money with him the day of his murder. Fontana claimed he was trying to get Caizzo interested in a business proposition in the neighbourhood they were visiting that afternoon.
Maybe he killed his friend for a combination of greed and jealousy.
It is also feasible that having landed Fontana and having found out his background, Captain Fiaschetti convinced him to turn on the other six men. The detective perhaps was aware of them, regarding their criminal pedigree, men who might well be known to the Italian Squad. Having promised that he would make sure Fontana did not get the death penalty for the murder he had committed, perhaps the barber cut a deal.
Tenuous stuff no doubt, but hardly more so than the great, sprawling epic of mythical killers, roaming the Tri-state area and beyond.
Maybe Michael Fiachetti was just too eager to make his name on this investigation.
Newspapers reporting him as saying, the Good Killer arrests were ' the most important capture ever made by him and his squad.' Worth noting is the fact that he used almost the exact same wording two months before the arrest of Fontana, in connection with a Black Hand kidnapping and extortion plot involving five year old Giuseppe Varotta.
Fiaschetti managed to solve that one however, except poor young Joe turned up dead. An interesting fact about the case is that Big Mike, again used his billy club on the suspects, which helped bring forth the required confessions, although because of the use of force, their lawyers were able to arrange that the killers went away for life, instead of the mandatory big fry up at Sing Sing.
In the end, this Good Killer thing was all a bit of a fizzer.
Did Inspector Fiaschetti try too hard to make the facts fit the theory?
Did he want Fontana's evidence to make a case, or did he want to make a case out of the evidence, wherever it might lead him?
We'll never know.
The Good Killer phenomenon was unparalleled in the annals of the Italian-American criminal underworld. Nothing like it ever existed before, or has since.
In a way, imaging Sergio Leone's masterpiece of film making, 'One Upon A Time In America,' the story seems more like a illusion filled with pictures of dark, swarthy men, sporting bushy moustaches, heads adorned with boaters or bowlers, whose eyes never stopped moving, whose voices carried a patina of menace, and whose mere existence guaranteed their victims panic and terror.
Then, like some mythical creatures of someone's worst nightmare, they were gone on awakening.Acknowledgments:Thanks to Tom Hunt and Mike Tona for their generous help and support. However, opinions expressed here, are strictly mine.If you want to read a exceptionally good, in-depth report on The Good Killers, go to Tom and Mike's, at: http://www.onewal.com/a014/f_goodkillers.html