Colombo, Joseph (1923-1978)

Born Brooklyn, NY, June 16, 1923.

Died Blooming Grove, NY, May 22, 1978.


Joseph Colombo was among the more outspoken of the New World Mafia chieftains. After rising to power in what was previously the Profaci Family in the mid-1960s, he founded the Italian-American Civil Rights League in 1970 and actively sought publicity. Claiming that reports and rumors of the Mafia were designed to damage the reputation of Italian-Americans, he conducted public rallies, spoke frequently with the press and used his League to picket the FBI offices.

It is believed that Colombo came to power through the influence of Carlo Gambino after Colombo informed on a plot by then-Profaci Family boss Joseph Magliocco and Joseph Bonanno to assassinate bosses Gambino and Tommy Lucchese.

The Commission, particularly Carlo Gambino, quickly grew tired of the media attention Colombo and the rest of organized crime were getting as a result of Italian-American Civil Rights League activities. It is believed that the Gambino-dominated Commission ordered Colombo's death in 1971. The rebellious Gallo element in Colombo's family (Joey Gallo had recently been released from prison) or a more conservative faction which wanted to take a harder line against the Gallo group were possibly involved in the murder.

Colombo was mortally wounded during a League Italian Unity Day rally on June 28, 1971. A man named Jerome Johnson, disguised as a news photographer, approached Colombo and shot him three times in the head and neck with an automatic pistol. Johnson was wrestled to the ground, and a second unknown gunman shot him to death with a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson. The second gunman escaped.

Colombo lapsed into a coma and remained unconscious until his death on May 22, 1978.

Joe Bonanno considered Colombo one of the instigators of trouble within the Bonanno Family in the early 1960s. Bonanno claimed that Colombo was working directly with Buffalo's Stefano Magaddino (a relative of Bonanno's) and indirectly with Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese to take over Bonanno's organization.

Colombo, born June 16, 1923, was raised in south Brooklyn. His father, Anthony Colombo, was a member of the Profaci crime family. In 1938, when Joseph was a teenager, Anthony Colombo and girlfriend Christine Oliveri were found strangled to death in Colombo's car.

Joseph Colombo had a brief and unsuccessful career in the Coast Guard, from which he was discharged due to emotional problems. He worked as a longshoreman and a real estate agent, and, for a time, as a salesman for a meat company run by the Gambino and Castellano families.


Civella, Nick (1912-1983)

Born Kansas City, MO, March 19, 1912.

Died March 1983.


During Nick Civella's reign, from 1953 to about 1977, the KC mob moved aggressively into Las Vegas casinos and reportedly had large interests in the Stardust (opened in 1955), the Fremont (opened in 1956) and later the Landmark Hotel (opened in 1969). The move west was done in concert with Mafia families from Cleveland and Chicago.

Kansas City-born Civella was closely tied to the Teamsters Union during Jimmy Hoffa's presidency and the later presidency of Roy Williams (1915-1988) and appears to have had access to the Teamster pension fund. (After the mob boss's death, Roy Williams told authorities that he was intimidated into doing Civella's bidding.)

Thanks to his skimming from the Stardust, Civella earned an early place on the Nevada Gaming Commission's Exclusion List. He, his brother Carl and nine others were the first to be named on the list in 1960.

Nick Civella is believed to have been an attendee at the 1957 Apalachin, NY, crime convention, though he was able to escape Joseph Barbara's estate without being noticed by authorities.

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Civella, Carl "Cork" (1910-1994)

Born Kansas City, MO, Jan. 28, 1910.

Died Kansas City, MO, Oct. 2, 1994.

Nick Civella's brother and Anthony Civella's father, Carl "the Cork" took over day to day activities of the Kansas City underworld as his brother Nick faced increased scrutiny from law enforcement in the mid-1970s.

Carl became full boss upon his brother Nick's death. He did not last long in the post, as he was sent off to a 10- to 30-year sentence in prison in September of 1984. Another 10-year sentence was immediately added through another matter.

Carl died in 1994, while his son Anthony was behind bars.

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Civella, Anthony "Ripe Tony" (1930-2006)

Born Kansas City, MO, Feb. 17, 1930.

Died Feb. 14, 2006.


Anthony Civella began to move into the Kansas City Mafia leadership as authorities moved his father Carl into a long prison stay late in 1984. Anthony was also convicted in the same casino-skimming case, but he was sentenced to just five years. During his imprisonment, some believe he worked through acting boss William Cammisano to control the KC rackets.

Like his father and his uncle Nick, Anthony Civella was at home in gambling rackets and kept the Kansas City family a key player in nationwide illegal gaming. But, in 1991, three years after his early release from prison, he strayed from the "family business" and involved himself in the reselling of fraudulently obtained prescription drugs on the West Coast. The endeavor resulted in an extended jail term beginning in summer of 1992.

During Civella's imprisonment, his father passed away. Civella was released from prison in 1997. Due to a criminal history that dated back to 1952, he was placed on the Exclusion List of the Nevada Gaming Commission in February of 1997. He was similarly prohibited from involvement in any Missouri gaming.

Civella died in mid-February 2006.

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Celantano, Anthony

b. about 1890.

Anthony Celantano, outwardly the owner of a busy shoeshine stand on Kenmare Street, actually was an important Italian-American gang leader in Manhattan's Little Italy in the 1910s.

In 1913-1914, his Kenmare Street Gang battled against the East Village-based Jimmy Curley Gang, led by James "Jimmy Curley" Carioggi (Carioggi was also known as "Gold Mine Jimmy" because of the gold-filled teeth in his mouth). Celantano was nearly killed in that conflict. On Feb. 12, 1914, seven Curley Gang members burst into the Tivoli Restaurant, 341 Broome Street, where Celantano and his wife were dining. Curley's men drew revolvers and robbed the restaurant and its patrons. One of the intruders drew a knife and repeatedly stabbed Celantano in the abdomen. The seven gangsters scattered, but police apprehended three of them, including Carioggi and underling Joe "Orlando" Lopanto. Celantano's wounds were believed at the time to be fatal, but he eventually recovered at St. Francis Hospital.

James Carioggi was not as fortunate. He quickly made plans to move his girlfriend Kate Wilson and himself to far-off Plattsburgh, New York. On March 2, as the couple packed, two gunmen showed up at their residence, 321 East 11th Street. Kate was able to convince the men that her boyfriend was not at home. The packing was completed, and Kate was sent on her way. Carioggi was to follow shortly. The next day, Carioggi paid a visit to his widowed mother and sisters at their apartment, 200 First Avenue. He left the apartment just before 7 p.m. A few minutes later, he was shot down on East 13th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A. Rev. Francis Edwards of Grace Chapel was having supper in his rectory, overlooking East 13th Street, when he was startled by the gunshots. He telephoned police.

When police arrived, they found that Carioggi had been taken inside the bookstore of John Morelli, 418 East 13th Street, by three bystanders: Tony Cordici, Andrew Enea and John Sicca. Carioggi was rushed to St. Francis Hospital with two gunshot wounds to his abdomen. He died shortly after arriving there.

Celantano was still recovering from his stab wounds at the same facility. Detectives questioned him about the Carioggi murder. "I don't know anything about it," was all Celantano would say. The Jimmy Curley Gang had a number of other rivals - police recalled that Carioggi was suspected in the 1913 shooting of Tommy Lynch of the Gas House Gang - and the authorities could not make a case against the Kenmare Gang.

Some time after Celantano returned to work, New York Police Detective Amedeo Polignano went under cover in an effort to penetrate his organization. Polignano in spring 1915 had dealt a blow to anarchist forces in New York by revealing a bomb plot against St. Patrick's Cathedral. Immediately after that, he turned his attention to organized crime and an interstate lottery (known to authorities as a "policy" racket) syndicate he believed was controlled by Celantano.

Posing as a new immigrant, Polignano went to work as a bootblack at Celantano's shoeshine stand, 10-12 Kenmare Street. He periodically played the lottery and expressed an interest in its operation. He always expressed gratitude toward Celantano for giving him work at the shoeshine stand. Eventually, he served as a trusted messenger for the policy syndicate and distributor of policy slips. He remained under cover until Feb. 10, 1917, when New York Police arrested twenty-one members of the policy ring, including Celantano. (One of the suspects, Pasquale Lampassa, a bartender from East Harlem, was charged with bribery, after he offered detectives $38 and promised them another $42 if they would let him go.)

Though Celantano was charged only with possession of policy slips, Polignano testified before Magistrate Corrigan in West Side Court that Celantano was the leading policy racketeer in the country. According to the detective, Celantano received winning lottery numbers by cable from Italy and then transmitted the numbers to associates around New York and across the country. Police Captain Thomas J. Tunney estimated for the press that the syndicate was bringing in profits of between $600,000 and $1,000,000 a year from the lottery.

Celantano attended his Feb. 15 arraignment dressed in a rich, fur-lined overcoat, with diamond rings glittering on his fingers. Polignano described his suspicions regarding the prisoner: "He kept to himself, save for a small circle of friends, and although we watched him for months, we were never able to connect him with enough to furnish conclusive evidence. But we were sure we had the right man in him. He was too prosperous. His shoe shining stand was busy enough to bring him in a good living, but it couldn't account for his automobiles and diamonds and his fine apartment."

The detective further testified that he learned of intense competition among gangs for control of the policy racket. He said more than twenty murders were committed in the rivalry, including a number that took place at the notorious Murder Stable up in East Harlem.

Sources:

  •  "Unarmed; held for murder," New York Sun, July 17, 1913, p. 14.
  •  "Gunmen stab enemy," Tacoma WA Times, Feb. 12, 1914, p. 1.
  •  "Diners are held up by gunmen in N.Y. restaurant," Pendleton OR East Oregonian, Feb. 12, 1914, p. 1. 
  •  "James Carioggi," New York City Death Index, certificate no. 7386, March 3, 1914.
  •  "East Side gang leader shot dead," New York Tribune, March 4, 1914, p. 2.
  •  "Gang ethics balk quest for slayer of 'good' gunman," New York Evening World, March 4, 1914, p. 4.
  •  "Noted gangster killed," New York Times, March 4, 1914, p. 1.
  •  "Policy kings taken in bomb squad raid," New York Sun, Feb. 12, 1914, p. 4.
  •  "Bootblack breaks up big policy ring," New York Sun, Feb. 16, 1917, p. 4.
  •  "Prisoner is accused as policy ring head," New York Tribune, Feb. 16, 1917, p. 13.

Catania, Joseph "Baker" (1901-1931)

Born Palermo, Sicily, 1901.

Killed Bronx, NY, Feb. 3, 1931.

"Joe the Baker" Catania, a relative of the Terranova family, rose to prominence within the Bronx-East Harlem Mafia of in the 1920s and was a key figure in the Castellammarese War of 1930-31. There appears to be no significant family relationship between Catania and "Joe the Grocer" Catania, who was murdered in Brooklyn in 1902.

Sons of Antonio Catania, who ran a Manhattan bakery, Joseph and his brother James were both known by the "Baker" nickname. The Catania family entered the U.S. gradually between 1900 and 1903. The family initially settled in the Arthur Avenue neighborhood of the Bronx, then moved short distances to Hughes Avenue and then to Bassford Avenue.

Catania was arrested numerous times for assault, burglary and disorderly conduct in the mid-1920s, but the charges were repeatedly dropped. In 1928, Catania was one of seven known criminals in attendance at a Bronx banquet held in honor of Magistrate Vitale. The presence of the hoodlums led to Vitale's downfall and helped bring an end to the Jimmy Walker Administration in New York City.

By the outbreak of the Castellammarese War, around 1930, Catania was a major force in the Bronx-East Harlem underworld. Evidence of his importance: When peace feelers were sent by Catania's superior, Mafia boss of bosses Giuseppe Masseria, to Castellammarese rebel leader Salvatore Maranzano, Maranzano stated that he could not end the war yet because Joe Baker still lived. It is often said that Catania earned Maranzano's hatred by stealing his liquor shipments. However, it seems at least as likely that Catania stood in the way of Maranzano allies in the Bronx.

The 29-year-old Baker was shot six times in the head and body by a Maranzano hit squad at 11:45 a.m. on Feb. 3, 1931, in front of 647 Crescent Avenue in the Bronx. He was rushed to Fordham Hospital, where he died.

With Ciro Terranova and his allies picking up much of the tab, Catania was given perhaps the most elaborate gangland funeral in New York history. The cost was estimated at $40,000, including a $15,000 solid bronze coffin (the cost of the coffin is obviously overstated). Forty cars were needed to carry the floral displays, the largest of which - a 13-foot-high creation bearing the words "Our Pal" - was purchased by Terranova.

Terranova was apparently deeply affected by the loss of Catania (his wife's nephew) as well as a trusted aide and friend. At the funeral home, Terranova reportedly put his hand on Catania's coffin and swore to avenge his death. Maranzano spies learned of this and attempted unsuccessfully to corner and eliminate Terranova at that location.

Catania, Joseph "Grocer" (c1862-1902)

Born Sicily, c1862.

Killed Brooklyn, NY, July 22, 1902.


"Joe the Grocer" Catania of Brooklyn is remembered inaccurately as the father of younger Mafioso "Joe Baker." No documentary evidence proves the two Catanias were at all related.

"Joe the Grocer" Catania, a green grocer by day, was among the earlier Brooklyn members of the Lupo-Morello Mafia. Catania was involved in the Mafia's counterfeiting operations.

The popularly accepted story of his demise: Catania, 40, became drunk one night and began talking too much about the counterfeiting racket. He was eliminated as a Mafia disciplinary measure. Largely unaware of his link to Lupo's gang, police decided that Catania's murder was the result of an old-country feud, ended by imported killers.

Oft-repeated and erroneous legend says his corpse was discovered packed with sawdust inside a barrel at 73rd Street at the bay on July 23, 1902. That legend is the result of the confused memories of some 1900s New York journalists and the mixing of the Catania story with that of Benedetto Madonia (who was found in a barrel). A muddled 1909 news report actually referred to a murder victim named "Benedetto Catania."

News accounts of the discovery of Catania's body by four boys heading to the bay for an early evening swim do not mention a barrel. According to New York Times, New York Tribune, New York Evening World and Brooklyn Eagle articles, Catania was discovered within a potato sack lined with floor mats sewn into the shape of a large bag. His throat had been cut. His right thumb and forefinger were missing, authorities said, apparently the result of an earlier accident.

Police arrested Sicilian immigrant Vincenzo Troia for the killing of Catania, since the two men recently had quarreled over a debt. But Troia was let go when the old-country feud theory emerged.

Castellano, Paul (1915-1985)

Born June 26, 1915.

Killed New York, NY, Dec. 15, 1985.


"Big Paul" Castellano was born in 1915 into one of the older Mafia clans in the U.S. His family, believed to have been part of the Toto D'Aquila organization, was already working the rackets in New York when a wave of Sicilian Mafiosi arrived fleeing from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in the early 1920s.

The Castellanos sponsored new arrival Carlo Gambino in 1921 (and Gambino eventually rose to lead the criminal organization). Paul Castellano grew up as an apprentice to Gambino and took over the powerful Gambino Family upon Carlo's death in 1976.

Castellano was a butcher by trade and built a legitimate meat distribution empire around the city of New York.

Castellano, who moved into a replica of the White House at 177 Benedict Road on Staten Island, became an important figure on the Commission and is thought to have held the clout of the traditional boss of bosses in the early 1980s. Castellano's rise to power (and his insistence that New York Mafiosi give up direct involvement in drug trafficking) displeased those in the crime group who had hoped Gambino underboss Aniello Dellacroce would lead the family.

Castellano was repeatedly targeted by FBI electronic surveillance. He discovered and destroyed FBI eavesdropping equipment at a Brooklyn industrial site in 1974. However, he did not learn until much too late that the FBI had also bugged his personal office within his home.
In 1975, he was arrested with eight other men on loansharking charges.

Evidence obtained by the FBI aided the federal prosecution of New York Mafia bosses in the 1985 Mafia Commission case.

John Gotti, later known as the "Dapper Don" and the "Teflon Don," was part of the unhappy Dellacroce faction. While Dellacroce was alive, he was able to keep the Gotti wing loyal to Castellano. But when Dellacroce passed away, Gotti set up the assassination of Paul Castellano and his bodyguard Thomas Bilotti in front of Sparks Steak House, 210 East 46th Street in Manhattan on Dec. 15, 1985. Castellano died instantly of gunshot wounds to his head, chest and abdomen. Gotti then grabbed the leadership of the Gambino Family for himself.

The hit on Castellano, while personally motivated on Gotti's part, also served the interests of the Mafia as a whole. Castellano had inadvertently supplied federal agents with a wealth of information about the inner workings of the Syndicate and the Commission by speaking openly about such things in front of FBI bugs. Mafiosi also reportedly feared that Castellano, who last served time after a 1934 robbery conviction, wouldn't be able to stomach a long haul behind bars.

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Cascioferro, Vito (1862-1943)

Born Bisacquino, Sicily, 1862.

Died Pozzuoli, Italy, c1943.


Cascio Ferro was an influential Mafia leader on both sides of the Atlantic. It appears that much of the growth and cooperation of the early American Mafia was due to his conscious effort. A political radical, as a young man he embraced leftist causes, including the rise of labor and the anarchist philosophy.

Cascio Ferro was raised in the interior of western Sicily and became well known in the communities of Bisacquino, in Palermo province, and Burgio and Bivona, in Agrigento province (all south of Corleone). He spent several years in New York and New Orleans before returning home. His influence over Mafiosi in the New World added to his underworld prestige in Sicily. He kept in close touch with Mafiosi in both American cities through the 1900s and apparently worked with the transplanted criminals on a counterfeiting racket.

His 1901 voyage to New York was reportedly triggered by increased attention to his activities by the Italian police. When in New York, he reportedly stayed with members of the Morello-Lupo Mob. The group's leader, Giuseppe Morello, had been a top lieutenant in the Mafia of Corleone, Sicily, before fleeing to the U.S. in the early 1890s to escape prosecution for murders and forgery. During Cascio Ferro's visits, he is credited with helping American mobsters refine their practices for extorting protection money from businesses. According to legend, Cascio Ferro showed the gangs they could maximize profits by extorting sums that were not financially damaging to the businesses - a practice called "wetting the beak."

He is believed to have visited Sophia Knieland Bresci at her New Jersey home. She was the widow of Gaetano Bresci, the anarchist assassin who took the life of Italy's King Umberto I before apparently committing suicide in an Italian prison.

On May 21, 1902, Cascio Ferro was arrested along with several other members of a coin counterfeiting gang, in which Salvatore and Stella Frauto were prominent members. The other suspects were convicted and sent to prison, but Cascio Ferro escaped prosecution. Police considered him a suspect in the New York City "Barrel Murder" of Benedetto Madonia in 1903, but Cascio Ferro avoided arrest in that matter by traveling to New Orleans. By 1904, he had returned to Sicily.

He is thought to have organized and participated in the assassination of Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino of the New York Police during Petrosino's official visit to Sicily in 1909. Legend says Cascio Ferro excused himself from a dinner party at the home of a Sicilian government official, borrowed his host's vehicle and went to deliver the coup de grace shot to the head of Petrosino. Then, he returned to complete his friendly visit with the official. Though arrested in connection with the slaying of Petrosino, Cascio Ferro's distant alibi prevented authorities from prosecuting him.

Police arrested Cascio Ferro during a round up of underworld characters during the First World War, but again they could not make charges stick. The underworld leader continued to grow in strength and influence. He is said to have assembled a fleet of merchant vessels that were employed in the transport of stolen cattle from Sicily to the coast of North Africa and to have corrupted politicians and police officials to provide a protective screen for his various criminal endeavors.

The authorities believed early in 1925 that Cascio Ferro was responsible for ordering the murders of two uncooperative extortion targets, Francesco Falconieri and Gioacchino Lo Voi. The 63-year-old Cascio Ferro was charged with ordering the murders, and 40-year-old Vito Campegna of Prizzi was charged with carrying out the orders. Cascio Ferro managed to arrange a release on bail, and the murder charges were briefly forgotten.

With Benito Mussolini's Fascists taking power in Italy, Cascio Ferro faced his most determined and ruthless enemy. The Mussolini government late in 1925 sent Cesari Mori to Sicily to serve as prefect of Palermo, a police position with extraordinary authority. Cascio Ferro was again arrested on the duel murder charges in the spring of 1926. He was held for several years before being brought to trial in 1930 - just as the Castellammarese War was breaking out in the U.S. Mafia. He was convicted in July and sentenced to spend nine years in prison solitary confinement. The Fascist government may have wanted him behind bars as much for his leftist political leanings as for his prominence in the Mafia underworld, and appears to have had no plans ever to release him. His prison sentence took him first to Ucciardone and then to Portolongone before a transfer to Pozzuoli, where he would spend the rest of his life.

The date of his death is generally given as 1945, but author Arrigo Petacco ("Joe Petrosino," 1974) found evidence of Cascio Ferro's demise in summer of 1943. Petacco said the Mafia leader was left behind in his cell when other inmates of Pozzuoli prison were evacuated in advance of the Allied invasion. The author says Cascio Ferro died of thirst. Other sources claim he was killed as a result of Allied bombing.


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Carolla, Silvestro (1896-1972)

Born Terrasini, Sicily, June 17, 1896.

Died New Orleans, LA, July 1972.

"Silver Dollar Sam" Carolla came to the United States as a young boy in early 1903. In his youth, he became affiliated with the regional Mafia organization run by Charles Matranga.
Carolla reportedly succeeded Matranga as boss of the organization upon Matranga's retirement in the 1920s.

Carolla is believed to have participated in bootlegging and narcotics trafficking enterprises as well as New Orleans fishing, shrimping and dock work rackets. He was convicted of bootlegging in 1921 and served a year and a day in Atlanta federal prison. He served two years in prison beginning in 1931 on a narcotics charge. For the 1933 attempted killing of a narcotics agent, he received another eight to 15-year sentence. That sentence was ended after one year by a governor's full pardon.

Just two years after the pardon, Carolla was once again a resident of Atlanta prison, having been sentenced to five years for another narcotics crime.

The federal government sought to deport Carolla in the early 1940s. Despite roadblock legislation introduced by Congressman James Morrison of Louisiana in order to keep Carolla in the U.S., officials succeeded in sending him back to Sicily in spring of 1947.

Louisiana and New York racketeers entered into lucrative agreements relating to casino and slot machine gambling during Carolla's reign.

Carolla's immediate successor in the New Orleans mob is uncertain. The government believed Carlos Marcello was in control of the family from about 1950 on, but some sources believe another boss worked behind the scenes until Marcello took the helm in the early 1960s.
The Carolla and Marcello families were joined through the marriage of Carolla's son Anthony and Marcello's niece Maria Zaniatta.

Carolla did not remain in Sicily. He was observed in Acapulco, Mexico, in 1949. He might have been attempting to run the New Orleans rackets from that location. Some claimed he was stationed there by Charlie Luciano as part of the worldwide drug trade. Carolla also was allegedly seen back in New Orleans as early as July 4, 1950.

(According to some sources, a rivalry developed between Carolla's son and Marcello's younger brother over who would succeed Marcello as New Orleans boss. Carolla was reportedly called out of retirement to mediate the dispute.)

Press accounts indicate that Carolla, back in the U.S. illegally, was briefly hospitalized in New Orleans after a heart attack in February of 1970. After the hospital, he is believed to have stayed with family in Louisiana until his death.

Carfano, Anthony (1897-1959)

Born c1897.

Killed Queens, NY, Sept. 25, 1959.

Anthony Carfano, also known as Li'l Augie Pisano, was a noteworthy associate of Giuseppe Masseria, Al Capone, Frank Costello, Charlie Luciano and Joe Adonis.

Carfano came to power in the Masseria organization of the late 1920s. A former prizefighter and a close friend of "Joe the Boss" Masseria, he became caretaker of Masseria's Brooklyn interests after the death of Frank Yale.

Upon the reorganization of the Mafia in 1931, Carfano established gambling interests in southern Florida, smoothing the ruffled feathers of the Tampa Mafia organization nearby. The extent of gambling operations was discovered in the 1950 investigation of the Kefauver Committee. In 1955, there was some evidence that Carfano was involved in siphoning union funds into underworld rackets, but charges were eventually dropped. Carfano was questioned and released following the 1957 assassination of Albert Anastasia in New York.

Carfano was murdered on Sept. 25, 1959. He and a female companion - former beauty queen Mrs. Janice Drake - were found dead in Carfano's black 1959 Cadillac. They apparently had been shot by gunmen hiding in the car's back seat. Carfano and Drake had been dining at Marino's restaurant on Manhattan's East Side when they were called away.