this day in crime history: june 20, 1947

On this date in 1947, Bugsy Siegel got whacked. Iced. Taken out. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel — who hated that nickname, by the way — was shot while sitting next to a window in the Beverly Hills house he shared with girlfriend Virginia Hill. According to his death certificate, the cause of death was “cerebral hemmorage” (apparently spelling was not a high priority at the L.A. County Registrar’s Office) due to “gunshots of the head” (neither was grammar, I guess). One shot hit Siegel right near his eye. If he saw it coming, he didn’t see it for long.

The murder was never solved, but theories abound. Who was behind it? Was it Meyer Lansky? Lucky Luciano? Some investors who were less than happy about the profitability of the Flamingo Hotel and Casino? Author Warren Hull has a theory about the identity of the trigger man. Check out this interview with Hull.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – Bugsy Siegel

Wikipedia – Bugsy Siegel

Family Secret, by Warren Robert Hull

this day in crime history: june 19, 1975

On this day in 1975, Chicago mob boss Salvatore Giancana, aka “Momo,” aka “Mooney,” aka “Sam the Cigar,” aka “Sam Flood” and aka “Sam Gold,” was killed in the basement of his Oak Park, IL home. Giancana was due to testify before a Senate panel later that month. He was shot several times, once in the back of the head, and several times in the face.

Further reading:

Gangsters Incorporated: 1975:Murder of Sam Giancana

Find-a-Grave: Sam Giancana (1908-1975)

American Mafia: Sam Giancana

Wikipedia: Sam Giancana

this day in crime history: june 9, 1930


On this date in 1930, Chicago Tribune reporter Jake Lingle was murdered in the Illinois Central Train Station underpass. Lingle, a “leg man” who gathered the information and phoned it in to news writers, covered stories from Chicago’s underworld. It was first thought that Lingle’s murder was related to the news stories he covered. It soon emerged that Lingle was on the payroll of local mobsters.

A hoodlum named Leo Brothers was arrested for the crime. He was tried and convicted of Lingle’s murder and sentenced to fourteen years in prison. He was paroled in eight. The light sentence was due to the belief that Brothers was taking the fall for someone else.

A popular theory of the motive for the murder is that Lingle was attempting to blackmail Al Capone in order to get money to pay off large gambling debts. If that was the case, Lingle learned the hard way what most people in the Windy City already knew: You don’t cross Big Al.

Further reading:

American Mafia – The Lingle Killing

Chicago TribuneThe shooting of Jake Lingle

TimeThe Press: Martyr Into Racketeer

this day in crime history: may 13, 1977

On this date in 1977, mob boss Michael “Mickey” Spillane (not to be confused with the guy who created fictional P.I. Mike Hammer) had a run of very bad luck on Friday the 13th; he was shot and killed outside his apartment in Queens, NY. Spillane, who headed the Westies gang, had moved to Queens from Hell’s Kitchen out of fear for his safety. The previous year, his three top lieutenants had been taken out on orders from Genovese crime family boss Fat Tony Salerno. Salerno coveted control of construction contracts for the Jacob Javits Civic Center, which was being built in Spillane’s territory. Spillane’s killing was rumored to have been carried out by Gambino crime family associates Roy DeMeo and Danny Grillo. After Spillane’s demise, mobster Jimmy Coonan took over as head of the Westies. Coonan had previously challenged Spillane for control of the group. After he took control, Coonan formed an alliance with the Gambino family, in a deal brokered by the newly-“made” Roy DeMeo. Coincidence? Um… probably not.

Further reading:

The Westies, by T.J. English

The Serial Killer Calender – Roy DeMeo

Wikipedia – Mickey Spillane (gangster)

this day in crime history: may 11, 1920

BigJim

On this date in 1920, Chicago mobster Big Jim Colosimo was shot and killed in his restaurant while waiting for a delivery. Colosimo, who had built his south side gang into a criminal organization to be reckoned with, balked at getting into the bootlegging business. He was making enough money through more traditional criminal enterprises like gambling, prostitution and protection rackets. Besides, he was also making a pretty penny selling illegal hooch in his restaurant. He saw nothing but potential trouble in setting up a distribution network that might attract the attention of the feds.

Unfortunately for Big Jim, his underboss, Johnny Torrio disagreed. Torrio arranged for Big Jim to be at the restaurant to take delivery for a shipment of booze. But the only thing Big Jim took delivery of was hot lead from a hired gun. The shooter was never arrested and the murder remains technically unsolved. Likely candidates for the shooter include Torrio’s right-hand man, Al Capone, and New York wiseguy Frankie Yale. (Between you and me, my money’s on Yale.)

Further reading:

My Al Capone Museum – Colosimo’s

American Mafia History – Giacomo “Big Jim” Colosimo

Wikipedia – James Colosimo

this day in crime history: may 4, 1932

On this date in 1932, “Scarface” Al Capone boarded a train for Atlanta to start serving his prison sentence for tax evasion. Big Al learned the hard way that there are some lines you shouldn’t cross. Lie, cheat, steal, bribe, bootleg, murder–knock yourself out, dude. But you’d damn well better PAY YOUR TAXES!

Capone was released from prison in November 1939 after 7 1/2 years behind bars. The repeal of Prohibition put a hurting on his business. Syphilis put a hurting on his brain. He died of cardiac arrest in 1947.

Lessons learned from Big Al:

1. Pay your taxes
2. Diversify your business
3. Wear a Jimmy hat

Further reading:

My Al Capone Museum – Al Capone’s tax trial and downfall

Al Capone at Chicago Historical Society

Al Capone on Wikipedia

this day in crime history: march 19, 1943

On this date in 1943, Chicago mob boss Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti committed suicide. Nitti, who rose to prominence as Al Capone’s right hand man, was facing a prison sentence for shaking down several Hollywood movie studios. Severe claustrophobia, which had surfaced during a previous eighteen month stint in prison, made the mobster terrified at the thought of being locked up again. On the morning of March 19th, after his wife left for church, Nitti began drinking heavily. Once he had enough liquid courage, Nitti got his gun and went for a walk. He wound up at a rail yard several blocks from his house. He sat down on the ground, put the gun to his head, and pulled the trigger.

Further reading:

My Al Capone Museum – Frank Nitti

Find A Grave – Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti

Wikipedia – Frank Nitti