According to underworld legend, brothers James, Joseph and Salvatore DeMarco each attempted to dominate the Italian underworld of Manhattan and each lost his life as a result.
The DeMarcos once were allies of the Morello Mafia in East Harlem but then became a bitter rivals after 1910, as various underworld organizations struggled to dominate the rackets in lower Manhattan's Little Italy neighborhoods. James DeMarco was killed in 1913.
At least two attempted were made on Joseph DeMarco's life in 1913-1914. Both of those occurred in the vicinity of a notorious stable on East 108th Street. Joseph recovered from gunshot wounds both times.
DeMarco launched counterstrikes against the Morello leadership. In November of 1915, Nicholas Terranova (known as Nicholas Morello) was shot from behind by a sawed-off shotgun. Terranova was seriously injured but recovered.
Joseph DeMarco boldly moved into downtown rackets. He opened a restaurant at 163 West 49th Street and then opened two gambling rooms - one on Mulberry Street and another at 54 James Street. On the afternoon of July 20, 1916, police were called to the James Street room and found the lifeless bodies of Joseph DeMarco and his friend Charles "Nine-Fingered" Charlie Lombardi seated at a card table. Ten other chairs were scattered about the room. Ten hats were hung on wall hooks behind the table.
Authorities concluded that DeMarco had been killed for attempting to secure for himself the position of East Harlem's top underworld and political boss, which had recently been vacated by the murder of Giosue Gallucci. They learned much later that DeMarco's death was secretly agreed upon by Sicilian Mafia and Neapolitan Camorra leaders who wished to divide the Manhattan territory between them.
DeMarco's old rival Nicholas Terranova was murdered September 7, 1916, as he made a visit to Brooklyn Camorrists he believed were his allies.
Salvatore "Toto" DeMarco disappeared following the death of his older brother. He was not seen again until days after the Terranova murder. Perhaps fearing he would be targeted by a Morello vendetta, he reportedly decided to meet with New York Police Detective Frederick Franklin on Oct. 14, 1916, and tell him all he knew about the underworld feud. Toto did not make it to the meeting. Early on Oct. 13, his mutilated corpse was found by a street cleaner on the Astoria side of the Queensboro Bridge.
Toto DeMarco's head had been cracked open with an axe-like instrument. A razor slice across the throat had nearly severed the head from the body.
Brought to the scene, Detective Franklin remarked, "He'll never tell who killed his brother now."