Diane Pappas learned that Chicago isn't Camelot a lifetime ago when a tugboat captain found her sister's murdered body in the Chicago River. Eugenia "Becca" Pappas was only 18.
So last week, 46 years after Becca's death, when Diane heard the German was dead, she knew what to do: Drive out to the cemetery, to Becca's grave in the shade of a giant Norwegian pine, and talk to her little sister. "I'm going to the cemetery right now," Diane said. "I've got to be there. Now I want to tell Becca. The big, tough man. The big killer. The murderer of my sister. The German. The murderer of a girl."
If Frank "The German" Schweihs ever wondered about hell, he's not wondering now. He died last week, at 78, of cancer, waiting to stand federal trial in the Family Secrets case.
The FBI considers him the Babe Ruth of Outfit hit men, with dozens of Outfit victims, mobsters from New York to Los Angeles, murderous bosses and their turncoat business associates. Other hit men were terrified to be near him, even when he was sleeping. A glimpse of the German in Los Angeles, a chance sighting in a car window, frightened Jimmy "The Weasel" Frattiano so much that the mobster ran shrieking into the federal witness protection program.
Schweihs the enforcer was the reason those frail, old men could run things without worrying about ambitious underlings. He's the reason they made fortunes, and a president and mayors and judges.
The list of the German's dead is a history of organized crime in America. Except for Becca Pappas, a beauty, tall, slim, black eyes, black hair. "I know he killed her. I just know. She was in his car. She was driving his car the last time anyone saw her. His car disappeared. Then it was auctioned a month later, totally stripped clean, washed down," Diane said.
Becca's murder was investigated by corrupt Chicago lawman Richard Cain. This being Chicago, Schweihs was released without charges. Still, I agree with Diane that Schweihs killed her sister.
Why? Because, as explained to me by mob-watchers and former FBI agents, no man in Chicago, or anywhere else, would have dared approach the German's girlfriend. Not even to say hello. They wouldn't have allowed their brains to think of it. Not one. Schweihs would have skinned them alive with a paring knife.
The German is said to have later shotgunned Cain at Rose's Sandwich Shop. And killed Jimmy "the Bomber" Catuara. Teamsters lawyer Allan Dorfman died in a parking lot, shot in the head with a .22. Joe Testa was blown up in his car. Sam DeStefano's arms were shotgunned off in his garage. Patsy Riccardi, Chucky Nicoletti, the list continues.
The Chicago Outfit's flamboyant Hollywood connection, Johnny Rosselli, was found stuffed into an oil drum, floating at sea. Angelo Boscarino was shotgunned, though his son was later given a piece of the failed Rosemont casino deal.
If I've missed a few names, Schweihs didn't miss.
In the late 1980s, he was held in the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center at the same time as Outfit member-turned-federal informant Gerald Scarpelli. The official story is Scarpelli committed suicide. He must have seen the German in the day room and then decided to tie his own feet and hands and choke himself to death with a plastic bag in the shower. The German is also credited with torturing and killing several burglars who dared rob the home of Anthony Accardo.
"He never informed. He killed who they told him to kill. And if he was involved in the killing of that young woman—it sheds an entirely new light on his personality," said FBI Special Agent John Mallul, a supervisor of the Organized Crime Unit. "No criminal ever wanted to see this guy around. Even if they knew that Frank was coming around and knew why, they were still terrified."
Law enforcement says that just about his only friend was Chicago political figure Peter Schivarelli, currently the manager of the rock group Chicago and the former 43rd Ward supervisor of Streets and San. Schivarelli is reputed to have been around Outfit types all his life and is the nephew of late mobster Johnny "The Bug" Varelli.
One night, Schweihs was arrested after fighting with police. "Schivarelli came down to the station trying to get him out, throwing his political clout around, and all hell broke loose," former FBI agent Jack O'Rourke recalled a while back. "It was a madhouse."
"That's not my recollection," Schivarelli said when I tracked him down. He talked on the phone as if I held a subpoena. "But I'd rather not debate it. I'll respectfully decline to comment."
Too bad. I was waiting to hear that the German was kind to tiny children and animals and helped old women cross the street. None of it matters to Becca Pappas' sister. "Schweihs still lived 46 years when he shouldn't have. And people glorify him, and they glorify the mob with their movies and TV shows. But all he was, was a killer. That's all. A killer of a girl."
Thanks to John Kass
Monday, July 28, 2008
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