this day in crime history: december 18, 1931

On this date in 1931, gangster Dutch Schultz finally got his wish. “Ain’t there nobody that can shoot this guy so he don’t bounce back?” Dutch once asked about his rival, Jack “Legs” Diamond. Old Legs, whose other nickname was “Clay Pigeon,” had this annoying habit of surviving assassination attempts.

By 1931, Legs had moved upstate to start bootlegging and narcotics operations. He spent the night of December 17th partying in Albany, after having just beaten the rap in a kidnapping trial. He left his girlfriend, showgirl Marion “Kiki” Roberts, around 11 PM, and went back to the boarding house on Dove Street, where he had been staying. Around 5:30 AM, two men entered the boarding house, went to the second floor room where Diamond was sleeping it off, shot him in the head multiple times and fled the house.

The murder of Legs Diamond remains unsolved, but there were multiple theories about who was responsible. Dutch Schulz was an obvious choice. Lucky Luciano was another likely candidate. Some think it was local Albany thugs, or that the hit on Legs was ordered by Dan O’Connell, the head of the notorious Albany Democratic Machine. The Machine not only controlled politics in Albany, they also ran the local rackets. And they weren’t open to the idea of competition. This being the case, the hit may have been carried out by members of the Albany Police Department. Double-crossed ex-partners are always a good bet too, and Legs had some of those out there gunning for him. The best theory I’ve seen so far can be found in Pat Downey’s book, Legs Diamond: Gangster, available from Amazon in paperback and ebook editions.

The picture above, which I took eight years ago today, is of the house at 67 Dove Street in Albany, where Legs Diamond was killed. It now belongs to author William Kennedy.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Jack Diamond (gangster)

Gangster City – Jack “Legs” Diamond

Brooklyn Daily EagleDIAMOND IS SLAIN AFTER ACQUITTAL

My 2012 interview with author Pat Downey

Advertisements

this day in crime history: december 16, 1985

BigPaulC

On this date in 1985, Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano and his underboss/bodyguard Thomas Bilotti, were shot dead outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan. The hit was reportedly carried out at the order of John Gotti, a captain in the Gambino family. Following Castellano’s death, Gotti would take over as the family’s teflon-covered boss. The teflon wore off in 1992, when Gotti was convicted of thirteen counts of murder, including those of Paul Castellano and Thomas Bilotti.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Paul Castellano

Gangsters, Inc. – John Gotti

Sparks Steak House

this day in crime history: december 9, 1935

walter-liggett

On this date in 1935, newspaperman Walter Liggett was murdered in an alley behind his home in Minneapolis. Liggett, editor and founder of a weekly newspaper called The Midwest American, published stories that exposed the links between government officials and organized crime. Liggett persisted, even after multiple warnings that included an assault and a trumped-up prosecution for a rape that never happened. On December 9th, Liggett’s enemies took action to silence him once and for all: they shot and killed him as he returned home from a shopping trip that evening. Liggett’s wife and 10 year old daughter witnessed the shooting. Mob boss Isadore “Kid Cann” Blumenfeld and one of his associates were identified as the shooters, but a (possibly intentionally) sloppy prosecution prevented their conviction.

Further reading:

“Hunt Gang in Slaying of Crusading Editor”Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 10, 1935

Stopping The Presses: The Murder Of Walter W. Liggett, by Marda Liggett Woodbury

Wikipedia – Walter Liggett

Wikipedia – Kid Cann

this day in crime history: november 14, 1957

On this date in 1957, New York State Police in Apalachin, NY interrupted a meeting of about 100 mafia luminaries from the US, Canada, and Italy. The meeting was held at the home of Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara, boss of the Scranton-Wilkes Barre, PA mob family. Over 60 of the attendees were detained by police, with an estimated 40 more fleeing into the woods.

Further reading:

Apalachin, NY

Gangsters, Inc. – Mob Meeting at Apalachin: The Big Barbeque

Wikipedia – Apalachin Meeting

this day in crime history: november 10, 1924

On this date in 1924, Chicago North Side gang boss Dean O’Banion was shot and killed in the back of the Schofield flower shop (pictured above), which served as his headquarters. Apparently the Chicago Outfit, which ran the South Side, decided it didn’t like the competition. They sent some of the boys to visit O’Banion in his shop. They gunned him down as he was working on a floral arrangement for mob luminary Mike Merlo’s funeral. The hit touched off a gang war between the two factions that would last five years, and would come to an end in the wake of the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

My Al Capone Museum – Dean Charles O’Banion

Wikipedia – Dean O’Banion

Graveyards of Chicago – Dion “Deany” O’Banion

this day in crime history: november 4, 1928


On this date in 1928, notorious gambler Aronold Rothstein lost his biggest bet. When Rothstein, thought to be the brains behind the 1919 World Series fix, showed up at room 349 at the Park Central hotel in Manhattan, he was greeted with a bullet to the abdomen. The shooting was allegedly motivated by an unpaid gambling debt. As the story goes, Rothstein–the ultimate gambling fixer himself–thought that the poker game where he lost three hundred large was rigged. As a result, he balked at paying. Another theory has it that the Rothstein hit was perpetrated by rivals looking to take over his rackets. Either way, Rothstein died a couple days later. He refused to name the shooter, and no one was ever convicted of his murder. The case remains officially unsolved.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Arnold Rothstein

DavidPietrusza.com – Rothstein

Gangster City, by Patrick Downey

this day in crime history: october 23, 1935

On this date in 1935, Arthur “Dutch Schultz” Flegenheimer and three members of his crew were shot in the Palace Chophouse Restaurant in Newark, NJ. Word on the street was the hit on the Dutchman was ordered after he asked NYC mob chieftains for permission to kill prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey (he’s the guy who did NOT defeat Harry S. Truman in the 1948 Presidential election). But let’s face it, the Dutchman had a bunch of enemies, and they each had their own reasons for wanting him dead.

Schultz and his henchmen were taken to a hospital, where they all later died of their wounds. Schultz was reportedly worth about $7 million when he died, but no money was ever found. Rumor had it that Dutch and his bodyguard buried a waterproof safe somewhere in upstate NY.  I haven’t found it yet, but I’m still looking.

Further reading:

FBI History – Arthur Flegenheimer

GANGSTER CITY PROFILES – Dutch Schultz

J-Grit – Dutch Schultz – Jewish Gangster

Wikipedia – Dutch Schultz