Saturday, July 21, 2007

Multiple Murders Detailed by Mob Hit Man

Friends of ours: Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, Nick Calabrese, Frank Calabrese Sr., James Marcello, John "Bananas" DiFronzo, Sam "Wings" Carlisi, Joe Ferriola, John Fecarotta, Jimmy LaPietra, Louis "The Mooch" Eboli, Louis Marino, William "Butch" Petrocelli, Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro

Stepping into a suburban basement as his brother was wrestled to the floor, mobster Anthony "the Ant" Spilotro realized he had walked into a fatal trap and made a final plea. "He said, 'Can I say a prayer?' " mob turncoat Nicholas Calabrese, testifying Wednesday at the landmark Family Secrets trial, said he overheard the feared Outfit killer say.

The dramatic testimony was the first public account by an insider of one of the most infamous Outfit killings in Chicago history. The Spilotros had run afoul of mob bosses for bringing too much heat on the Outfit's lucrative Las Vegas arm, headed by Anthony Spilotro, Calabrese said. Days later the brothers' bodies, one on top of the other, were discovered buried in an Indiana cornfield.

In two full days on the witness stand, Calabrese has laid out many of the 14 murders that he says he personally took part in. He has implicated his brother, Frank Sr., who is on trial with four others, in many of the murders, but not the Spilotros' killings.

Nicholas Calabrese said he had already tackled Spilotro's brother, Michael, around the legs when he heard Anthony ask to say a prayer.

What happened next?, a prosecutor asked. "I didn't hear anymore," Calabrese said, still looking more like an average senior citizen than a hit man. He spoke calmly, almost in a monotone at times, and occasionally crossed a leg on the witness stand.

Calabrese said as many as 10 others joined in the 1986 fatal beating of the Spilotros, including defendant James Marcello, identified by authorities in recent years as the mob's top boss in Chicago.

In the months before the Spilotros were slain, a team of mob killers, Calabrese among them, had traveled to Las Vegas in hopes of killing the brothers there, Nicholas Calabrese said. The hit men tracked the brothers' movements, following Anthony Spilotro to his lawyer's office, located near the federal building in Las Vegas, and to the cul-de-sac on which his home was located.

At first, the plan was to use explosives or a silencer-equipped Uzi submachine gun, Calabrese said, but those attempts never panned out. Instead, he said, the Spilotro brothers were lured back to Chicago under the ruse that they would be promoted—Michael into the mob's inner circle as a "made" member and Anthony as a "capo" or captain.

Calabrese said he was told by mob hit man John Fecarotta that Anthony Spilotro had been targeted for having an affair with the wife of a Chicago bookmaker. Spilotro was also rumored to be involved in moving drugs with a motorcycle gang, he said.

Calabrese testified he had just returned to Chicago from a mob hit on an informant in Phoenix when he learned he had been tabbed to be part of the team to take out the Spilotros. He immediately told older brother Frank Sr., who has been charged in as many as 13 gangland slayings. "He got upset and said, 'Why didn't they ask me? I wanted to be there,' " Nicholas Calabrese said of his brother.

Calabrese said he was told to wait at a shopping center on 22nd Street, west of Illinois Highway 83 in DuPage County, to be taken to the killing site. With him were Fecarotta and mob boss Jimmy LaPietra, a leader of the 26th Street mob crew that included the two Calabreses as members.

Marcello picked the men up in a "fancy blue van," Calabrese said. It was early in the afternoon on a Saturday, June 14, 1986, he said. Calabrese said the men drove north to a Bensenville subdivision, turning left before reaching Irving Park Road. There were homes and brick walls, he said he remembered, and one with a garage door up. They entered and were greeted by a group of top mob leaders—John "Bananas" DiFronzo, Sam "Wings" Carlisi and Joe Ferriola, he said.

Carlisi commented about Calabrese's tan from his Phoenix foray and made a passing remark about how much money Fecarotta had burned through there. Fecarotta dashed into a bathroom, perhaps fearful the bosses had it in for him, Calabrese said. "He come out, he was pale," Calabrese said. "I figured he thinks this is for him."

But it turned out Fecarotta wasn't yet a marked man. He would be killed three months later after botching the Spilotros' burial.

Joining the others in the basement were mob figures Louis "The Mooch" Eboli and Louis Marino as well as three individuals Calabrese did not recognize. All of them were wearing gloves, he said.

It was only 30 minutes before the Spilotros arrived upstairs.

"I remember hearing talking and somebody coming in and saying 'hello' to everybody," said Calabrese, exhaling audibly on the stand. "I'm wound up because I'm tense. I'm focusing on what I'm gonna do."

Marcello had no noticeable reaction as courtroom spectators hung on to Calabrese's every word.

First down the stairs was Michael Spilotro, Calabrese said.

"I said, 'How you doing Mike?' because I knew him," Calabrese said. Then Michael took a few steps toward Marino and the others, Calabrese told jurors. "I dove and grabbed his legs," he said. "I noticed right away that Louis the Mooch had a rope around his neck."

It was then, Calabrese said, that he heard Anthony Spilotro behind him, asking for a final moment with God.

Calabrese said he handed DiFronzo a pocket-size .22-caliber revolver taken from Michael Spilotro's body. Michael's Lincoln was moved to a nearby motel, he said.

Calabrese said he wiped up a small spot of blood from where Anthony had fallen and had been beaten. He had nothing to do with disposing of the bodies, he said.

After the killings, Calabrese said he went for a cup of coffee.

The testimony came after Calabrese had described his rise in the Chicago mob—from helping his brother run street gambling to his initiation as a "made" member and sometimes bumbling hit man. He continued to weave a vivid tale of Outfit life, with all its customs and characters on display.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Mitchell Mars walked him through a series of murders, including that of mobster William "Butch" Petrocelli and Hinsdale businessman Michael Cagnoni.

Petrocelli was killed for being "too flamboyant," Calabrese said. In 1980 the mob figure planned a downtown party with hookers on which his bosses frowned.

Calabrese said he, his brother and other crew members decided to use a remote-controlled bomb to kill Cagnoni after finding his movements too unpredictable for more old-fashioned methods.

Cagnoni, a trucking executive, died in June 1981 when a bomb under the seat of his Mercedes-Benz auto was detonated as he drove on a ramp from Ogden Avenue to the Tri-State Tollway (Interstate Highway 294), scattering body parts and metal pieces across the highway. The crew practiced using remote firing devices and blasting caps to determine how close they would need to be to set off the explosives, he said.

Calabrese acknowledged he was the gunman who shot Emil Vaci in Phoenix in 1986. Fecarotta was supposed to be involved, too, he said, but had headed to Las Vegas after becoming skittish.

Calabrese also described for jurors his own "making" ceremony, saying he he was driven to a restaurant on Roosevelt Road and led before a table of Outfit kingpins, including Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa.

Spread out before him were a gun, a knife and a candle, he said. Aiuppa threw a burning religious card onto the palm of his hand, Calabrese said, and had him repeat the same phrase. "If I give up my brothers," he said, "may I burn in hell like this holy picture?"

Thanks to Jeff Coen

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