Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Day Mobsters Killed a Father

Friends of ours: Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo

Joseph Seifert's only memory of his father, Daniel, is the day the mobsters killed him.

It happened Sept. 27, 1974. Joseph Seifert was 4 years old.

The little boy had been excited that morning. He didn't like pre-school and was feeling under the weather, so his mother decided they would spend the day at his father's fiberglass factory in Bensenville. Joey Seifert brought his Matchbox cars and toy garage.

When the family arrived at the factory, not far from their home, the little boy and his mother entered first. Coming behind was Daniel Seifert with a vacuum cleaner he had picked up from the car's trunk.

In the minutes that followed, masked killers gunned down Seifert. The murder ripped apart a young family, leaving its surviving members grappling with anger and loss to this day. "It follows you forever. That's what people should understand," said Nick Seifert, the oldest of Daniel Seifert's three children. "We've never gotten over this," he said. "Father's Day, we think about it. Mother's Day, we think about it. His birthday comes around, we think about it. The 27th comes around, we think about it. When our kids have birthdays, we think about it."

What's more, the man allegedly behind the slaying was once of Daniel Seifert's closest friends -- mobster Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, according to federal prosecutors.

Lombardo had baby-sat Seifert's children. Lombardo was the godfather to Joseph Seifert. In fact, the little boy had been named after him, according to the Seifert family. "It's never bothered me," Joseph Seifert said. "I think I've done the name more justice than [Lombardo] has."

Nick Seifert -- who was in school at the time of the shooting -- can recall Lombardo and his girlfriend taking him to Ringling Bros. Circus, to restaurants for dinner and to a White Sox game. But Daniel Seifert, his father, was cooperating in a federal criminal case against Lombardo and other mobsters, and Outfit leaders decided he had to go, authorities say.

Joseph and Nick Seifert, who share the same father but have different mothers, spoke for the first time at length in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times about their father's murder. They want to strip away any glamor of Outfit life and tell people of the devastating impact the murder had on their family. Their comments come on the eve of the Family Secrets trial -- likely to be the last major Outfit case in Chicago history, starting June 19. Top mobsters have been charged in connection with 18 unsolved Outfit hits, including Seifert's slaying.

Joseph Seifert, now 37, remembers masked men struggling with his father in the factory the day of his death. He remembers seeing blood. He remembers being shoved with his mother into a factory bathroom.

He recalls being whisked from the factory in a car and looking out the window as the car pulled away. "I remember seeing my dad lying in the grass," Joseph Seifert said.

Joseph Seifert doesn't remember seeing his father shot, although Daniel Seifert suffered gunshot wounds. The gunmen chased him, bleeding, through his factory and into a neighboring one. He made it outside, gravely wounded. There, Daniel Seifert fell to the ground, and a gunman delivered the final shot at point-blank range to his head.

Joseph Seifert, now a father himself, still marvels to this day how his mother stayed composed and protected him.

Lombardo contends he had nothing to do with the murder. His attorney, Rick Halprin, said Lombardo has a rock-solid alibi. At the time, he was reporting a stolen wallet to police. Halprin said investigators have the same evidence today they did in 1974.

Daniel Seifert, who was 29 when he died, was a tough guy and no angel, his sons acknowledge. While he may once have been involved in Chicago mob life at the periphery, they said, by the time he had set up his business in Bensenville he was doing his best to get away from mobsters. He was cooperating with the feds, but not out of fear.

"He was not afraid. Lombardo didn't scare him. That was the reason for his demise. They threatened him, tried to intimidate him, and they only had one option left," Nick Seifert said.

When Daniel Seifert died, the feds lost their star witness against Lombardo, and the case was dropped against him. The day after the murder, Lombardo was smacking golf balls on a driving range. He allegedly said: "That S.O.B. won't testify against anybody now, will he?" according to an account provided to the government by an informant.

After Daniel Seifert's murder, the family rarely talked about it. Since all the killers were masked, they didn't know who was involved. The family tried to ignore all of it, hoping the pain, anger and confusion would go away. It only grew. Their mother was left with hardly any money and had to find a full-time job while raising three children on her own.

Over time, the bad feelings built and created problems for the children, the Seiferts said. The thirst for information sparked an obsession in Nick Seifert to find out what happened and why. Since no one had been charged, the killers were getting away with murder, he felt. Law enforcement wasn't sharing theories with the family.

Now, at trial, for the first time, the Seifert family hopes to get the most complete picture of what happened to Daniel Seifert that morning -- of who was involved and why.

"It created a monster inside us," Joseph Seifert said. "We're looking for closure."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

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