Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dead Mob Hit Man, Larry Neumann, Declared "Prime Suspect" in Double-Murder at McHenry County Bar

The baby-sitter, it turns out, got it right.

The McHenry County sheriff's office has concluded that a now-dead mob hit man named Larry Neumann, in all likelihood, killed two people in 1981 in the small town of Lakemoor -- a long-cold case that was reopened last summer on the basis of a tip from Holly Hager, who baby-sat for the children of one of the pair back then.

Authorities now say Neumann is the "prime suspect" in the double-murder -- and that no charges will be filed because he's dead.

"I knew from the start that's what it was," Hager, now 42, said of their conclusion.

On June 2, 1981, the bodies of 37-year-old bar owner Ron Scharff and 30-year-old Patricia Freeman were found, shot to death, in the back of Scharff's bar, the PM Pub, named for his sons Paul and Michael.

Hager's father Jim had been Scharff's best friend, and she baby-sat for Scharff's boys.

Last summer, on a car trip to Arkansas, Hager was talking with her father, and he mentioned Neumann, once a feared enforcer for the Chicago Outfit.

When she got back home, Hager searched for Neumann's name on the Internet. It turned up on a serial-killer site. And Neumann, she learned, was from McHenry County. What convinced her this was no coincidence was the 2007 autobiography of Frank Cullotta, "Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster and Government Witness," a mob burglar and hit man-turned-government informant. In it, he wrote about Neumann killing two people in 1981 at a McHenry County bar.

Hager told authorities, and they reopened the case.

Neumann had been a part of Cullotta's Las Vegas burglary crew, working for Outfit boss Tony "The Ant" Spilotro. Cullotta said Neumann was mad that Scharf had kicked his ex-wife out of the bar, drove to McHenry County and shot Scharff. Freeman, a divorced mother of two, died because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was her first night working at the bar to supplement what she made as a school bus driver.

Hager's tip wasn't the first time Neumann was implicated in the killings. Cullotta said he told McHenry County authorities the same story in 1982, when he became one of the government's best witnesses against his old organized-crime brethren.

"I did what I had to do at the beginning," Cullotta said by phone. But the chief investigator for McHenry County at the time, according to the just-concluded sheriff's report, questioned Cullotta's credibility.

"I think the investigation should have taken care of this back in '82, '83, and nothing happened," Paul Scharff, who was 10 when his father was killed, said by phone from Texas, where he lives.

After spending nearly 1,300 hours on the renewed investigation, the investigators now have concluded: "Frank Cullotta provided information that was credible and accurate."

Neumann died in prison in 2007 at 79. He spent the last 23 years of his life locked up for killing a jeweler.

Paul Scharff said he believes charges could have been brought against others who had information at the time about the murders. Still, he's glad to know who the killer was, even if it's too late to make a case in court.

"The families and friends of Ron Scharff and Patricia Freeman didn't forget about them," Scharff said. "We find some peace in that."

Thanks to NewsRadio780

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