Killed Los Angeles, CA, Jan. 10, 1969
As a young man, Petro became involved in a gang of robbers and safecrackers in northwest Ohio. As a result of his illegal activities, he came close to death at least twice.
He survived an Ohio execution sentence handed down following his October 1946 conviction for murder. He was believed responsible for killing Theodore "Bobby" Knaus, his accomplice, following the robbery of $4,000 from Green's Cafe in Cleveland. While on death row, Petro won a retrial on appeal. He was acquitted of the murder on June 16, 1948.
Just three months later, Petro was identified as one of five gunmen who robbed the Green Acres casino in Struthers, just outside of Youngstown, Ohio. Two hundred and fifty patrons were inside the casino at the time of the 4 a.m. robbery on Sept. 17, 1948. An estimated $30,000 of cash and jewels was taken from the casino and its gamblers. According to rumors, a three-and-a-half-carat diamond ring belonging to Joseph DiCarlo was part of the loot. DiCarlo and regional gambling racketeer Frank Budak were believed to be the operators of the Green Acres.
During the robbery, shots were exchanged between the intruders and casino guards, and, on Sept. 18, Petro was brought into Cleveland's Emergency Clinic Hospital with gunshot wounds to his right chest and arm. Petro recovered from his wounds and went back to his old ways.
At 9:40 in the morning of Aug. 14, 1952, Petro and accomplice Joseph J. Sanzo stopped a car driven by Charles J. Foley, branch manager of Union Savings and Trust Company in Warren OH. The two men, wearing burlap hoods, approached the car. One broke the passenger window of the car with a sawed-off shotgun, while the other stood at the driver's side window with a revolver. Foley turned over a money bag containing $71,000.
Petro and Sanzo were identified fleeing from the scene. They had also been seen in the vicinity at the time of the robbery and previous to it. When arrested, each had in his possession money taken from Foley.
Petro was convicted of armed bank robbery and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He served about 13 years of that term, and was released in May of 1966.
Upon his release, he joined a number of Cleveland racketeers who had relocated to southern California. There he reportedly became an enforcer for a gambling operation. By the end of 1968, Petro was seen as a threat to John G. "Sparky" Monica, who ran the gambling rackets. Monica approached another former Cleveland-affiliated gangster, Raymond W. Ferrito of Erie, Pennsylvania, to deal with the threat.
On Jan. 10, 1969, Petro borrowed a 1966 Cadillac convertible from friend Roberta Miller in order to make a drive to Los Angeles International Airport.
Two days later, police were alerted to a man slumped over the steering wheel of a car in the airport parking lot. They found the man dead with a small caliber gunshot wound at the base of his skull. No identifying papers were found with the body. Through fingerprints, police identified the murder victim as Petro.
A federal grand jury was convened in Los Angeles in 1969 to look into the activities of the regional underworld, in particular the murder of Petro. Nick Licata, 72, believed to be the Mafia boss of southern California, was brought in for questioning early in July. Though granted immunity from prosecution, Licata refused to answer questions and was jailed for contempt of court.
Nine years later, Ferrito turned informant and admitted to being the gunman in the Petro murder. He pleaded guilty to second degree murder. He told authorities that John Monica paid him $5,000 to kill Petro. Monica denied ordering the murder. Ferrito also claimed responsibility for the October 1977 bombing murder of racketeer Daniel Greene in Cleveland.
- California Death Index.
- Demaris, Ovid, The Last Mafiosi, 1981.
- Dye, Lee, “Parolee’s murder mystifies police,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 16, 1969, p. 1
- Farr, Bill, “’Hit man’ admits murder at airport,” Los Angeles Times, May 19, 1978, p. 5
- Hazlett, Bill, “1969 gangland slaying case headed for trial,” Los Angeles Times, Feb. 8, 1982, p. C6.
- Hertel, Howard, and Gene Blake, "Reputed Mafia chief defies court, jailed," Los Angeles Times, July 10, 1969, p. 1.
- Hunt, Thomas, and Michael A. Tona, DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime, Volume II, 2013.
- "In the matter of proceedings to compel Robert J. McAuley as a witness in a criminal proceeding in California," Court of Appeals of Ohio, decided Aprl 12, 1979.
- "Informers said to give key testimony on crime figures," New York Times, Feb. 8, 1978, p. 16.
- Petro v. United States, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Feb. 12, 1954. (Also Joseph J. Sanzo v. U.S.)
- “Petro, freed in killing, is found shot,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sept. 18, 1948.
- Porrello, Rick, Superthief, 2006.
- Porrello, Rick, To Kill the Irishman, 1998.
- U.S. Census of 1930
- U.S. Census of 1940