The Chicago Syndicate: Larry Neumann

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Showing posts with label Larry Neumann. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Larry Neumann. Show all posts

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

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Frank Cullotta Book Solves Two Murders

Dennis Griffin admits he's no Shakespeare, just a retired New York health care fraud investigator who had a story to tell and caught the writing bug when he retired in 1994.

Since then he's churned out 10 books, none of which will make you forget Hemingway or compare him to Steinbeck. But Griffin has done something none of those other mopes ever accomplished: He wrote a book, "Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness," that's helping to solve a real-life murder mystery.

Published in 2007 by Huntington PressCullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness, the work serves as the biography of Frank Cullotta, the childhood friend of Chicago Outfit enforcer Anthony Spilotro. Cullotta was an undistinguished street criminal who in the early 1980s joined Spilotro's violent Las Vegas street crew. He committed crimes ranging from robbery to murder, then became a key government witness in its investigation of the mob's influence in Las Vegas.

Fast-forward to 2008. An Illinois woman named Holly Hager picked up a copy of "Cullotta," and nearly screamed when she reached page 130, which gave details of the June 1981 murders of bar owner Ronald Scharff and waitress Patricia Freeman at the P.M. Pub in Lakemoor, Ill. Scharff was the best friend of Hager's father, Jim Hager. The murders had gone unsolved, and McHenry County detectives claimed to be stumped about the killer's identity.

In the book, Cullotta named Spilotro intimidator Larry Neumann as the murderer of Scharff and Freeman. And Cullotta would know. After serving time in prison with Neumann, Cullotta introduced him to Spilotro's gang. As Cullotta recalled during his law enforcement debriefing, Neumann admitted committing the murders because Scharff had thrown his ex-wife out of the tavern.

David Groover, then a Metro detective investigating Spilotro's crew, wrote five succinct paragraphs about the murders during Cullotta's debriefing. The alleged killer, a possible accomplice, and a motivation for the crime were given. Scharff had been killed for the perceived slight. Freeman was murdered because she was a witness.

Cullotta's Metro and FBI handlers didn't sit on the information. They quickly informed McHenry County authorities, who could not have been surprised to hear Neumann's name. After all, he already had been identified as a possible suspect by Scharff's best friend, Jim Hager.

Not only did the McHenry County detectives fail to act, they appeared to go out of their way to attempt to damage Cullotta's credibility.

These days Scharff's son, Paul Scharff, is aggressively seeking to have McHenry County officials finally name Neumann as the killer. It's not for justice, but for a sense of closure.

Neumann died in prison in January 2007 after a lengthy criminal career that included at least six murders, including a 1956 triple homicide from which he managed to gain release. The sheriff and detectives from McHenry County who criticized Cullotta back in the early 1980s are gone, too. But Paul Scharff, who was just a boy at the time of his father's murder, has lived with the dark memory every day since then.

In an review of "Cullotta," he wrote, "I have never written a review for a book before, but I never had a book IMPACT my life like this one. From the book 'Cullotta,' I discovered who killed my father and his barmaid 27 years ago."

That beats a New York Times review any day.

"It's actually very uplifting, particularly so since I've actually gotten to know Paul Scharff," Griffin says. "He's just a real super guy. That makes me feel all the better that perhaps the book will help him and his family."

It would be an ending most authors would reject as too implausible to be believed. For Griffin, it's just another twist in a very real story.

"Paul Scharff is convinced they (McHenry County detectives) are actually seriously looking into the events surrounding the killings," Griffin says. "We think it's more than just paying lip service. We think they're actually fully engaged with it."

By phone from an undisclosed location, Cullotta says it's about damned time. "It's taken them so long it's ridiculous," the 70-year-old reformed hoodlum says in his biting Chicago accent. "The kid wants closure, and can you blame him?"

For author Dennis Griffin, it would be an ending the literary greats would envy.

Thanks to John L. Smith

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Babysitter May Have Solved Murder by Chicago Mob Enforcer Committed in 1981

More than 27 years after a mob-related double murder in McHenry County, a little bit of digging by a 42-year old former baby-sitter has led authorities to reopen what was a very cold case.

The information supplied by Holly Hager, who is now a mural painter, has led McHenry County sheriff’s detectives to take a fresh look at the long-unsolved killings.

The 1981 murders of 37-year old Ron Scharff and 30-year-old Patricia Freemen were the first on record in the then-tiny town of Lakemoor.

“I know who did it,” Hager, who used to baby-sit Scharff’s young sons, said in an exclusive interview with the Chicago Sun-Times and NBC5.

The killer, she says, was Larry Neumann, a feared enforcer for the Chicago Outfit. The motive: revenge.

“I just thought my baby-sitter is one hell of a Nancy Drew,” Paul Scharff said on learning about Hager’s digging. “My father was killed on June 2, 1981. I would like [an] explanation of why this couldn’t have happened 25 years ago.”

In 1981, Ron Scharff was the owner of the PM Pub, named for his sons Paul and Michael. Freeman was a divorced mother of two and a school bus driver who was on her first night of work at the bar to earn extra money. Both died from gunshot wounds.

On a car trip to Arkansas this summer, Hager said she and her father, Jim, began talking about the killing of Ron Scharff, his best friend. Holly Hager said that’s when she first heard the name Larry Neumann.

Back home in McHenry County, she went searching for Neumann’s name on the Internet. “His name came up on a serial-killer site, and I thought that’s weird,” she said. “I was like, oh, my gosh, he’s from McHenry.”

The next discovery sealed things for Hager. It was the 2007 autobiography of Frank Cullotta, a mob burglar and hit man-turned-federal witness, in which he recounted how Neumann killed two people in 1981 at a McHenry County bar.

“I called my dad and said, ‘Dad, I know who murdered Ron,’ ” Hager said.

Born on the West Side of Chicago, Frank Cullotta became one of the mob’s best burglars. After doing time with Neumann in prison, they both landed in Las Vegas working for Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, who watched over the Chicago Outfit’s interests there. In 1982, Cullotta entered the witness-protection program and began telling the mob’s secrets — including the one about the McHenry County murders. Cullotta said that in the summer of 1981, he witnessed Neumann take a long-distance call from his ex-wife, back in McHenry County.

Last month, from an undisclosed location, Cullotta recounted for the Sun-Times and NBC5 what Neumann told him: “He said this guy that owns this pub threw my ex-wife out of there. He grabbed her by the throat and removed her from the place.”

Neumann, he said, felt disrespected and wanted revenge. Cullotta said he tried to talk Neumann out of returning to Illinois. “I believed, in my heart, after talking to him, he was not going to go back there to kill this guy. I was wrong.”

Upon returning to Las Vegas, Cullotta said Neumann told him, “I went in there to talk to the guy. . . . He says I got mad. I pulled the gun out. I shot the guy in the head. He said the girl looked at me. I immediately turn to her, shot her in the head. He said the guy gurgled, I shot him in the head again, he says, then I shot the girl, again.”

Cullotta said he told McHenry County authorities in 1982 what happened, but “it was like they didn’t want to hear what I was saying.”

Cullotta wasn’t the only one to tell McHenry County authorities about Larry Neumann. Jim Hager said he told sheriff’s investigators about the incident at the bar involving Scharff and Neumann’s ex-wife and that Neumann should be considered a suspect.

“Only thing I seen was arguing,” said Jim Hager, claiming Scharff never touched her. “Ron told her, ‘Get the hell out, and don’t come back.’ ”

As her father did 27 years ago, Holly Hager took the information to the McHenry County sheriff’s office, which reopened the case.

Gene Lowery, the current undersheriff in McHenry County, said that for the most part, no one from the original investigation remains with the sheriff’s department. But he acknowledged more should have been done decades ago.

“There was an inadequate response from our office,” Lowery said. “We can’t make things better. But we can try to make it right. . . . I want to make sure the survivors know we are in their corner.”

Neumann died in January 2007 at the age of 79. He had been in prison since 1983 for the murder of a jeweler. He was convicted, in part, on the testimony of Frank Cullotta.

Lowery said the sheriff’s office is working with the FBI and other agencies on the case, and “there is a fairly high probability of closing the case . . . with an arrest.”

With Neumann dead, it’s unclear who is left to arrest, and authorities did not elaborate.

For Paul Scharff, his focus is on Neumann.

“My hope is to get Larry Neumann named as the murderer of my father and Patricia Freeman,” said Paul Scharff. “And then I would like an explanation of why this couldn’t have happened 25 years ago.”

“To me, there is no question,” said the baby-sitter turned snoop. “Whether McHenry County closes the case or not doesn’t matter. It’s closed, in my mind; I know who did it.”

Thanks to Carol Marin and Don Moseley


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