Where Have All The Gangland Murders Gone: Long Time Passing?

When was the last time you picked up the newspaper or went on line and read about a gangster being gunned down in his car? Over the past fifteen or twenty years do you recall reading about any? I’m sure they must have happened but if anyone remembers them I’d like you to refresh my memory.

When was the last time you read about a criminal gang?  The newspapers at one time would tell us about the Mafia – does it still exist. I read somewhere that it does but how has it remained so mightily invisible. What about gangs from neighborhoods? At one time the criminal gangs were known for the neighborhoods that the came from: the Mullens from Southie – one of the shortest existing gangs; Winter Hill from Somerville; the McLaughlins from Charlestown, the most vicious one of all of them the Roxbury Gang; and, of course, the Patriarca family – a Mafia group with a main office in Boston’s North End.

Don’t guys get together anymore to do criminal acts? Are they all playing gangster in computer gangs? Has human nature changed so much that gangs are not necessary? What about gangs robbing banks? Or armored car robberies? Things like that seem to have gone out with the advent of the internet.

You’ve all heard of the Boston gang wars or the Irish gang wars. Dem were da days. Going back and reading about some of the murders during that time shows how different things have become. Frank Salemme would say about that time: “It was kill or be killed.” I’ve done a rough tally of the number of guys and gals murdered during those days. It does not include those who are missing or those whose deaths were not reported like the one I heard about a few years ago when a woman wrote to the blog and suggested Whitey might have murdered her father who was found on the banks of the Neponset River.  I could find out no information on him.

Leaving those aside, there were within a twenty year period from 1956 to 1976 eighty-seven people murdered which can be associated with gangland action. Between Labor Day 1961 and 1971 there were 58 people murdered. In deciding how to write about the Boston gang murders I had to choose a cut off date and an ending date.

Many start with the Labor Day dispute in 1981 between the McLaughlins and McLean gangs. This allows them to call it an Irish gang war. It obscures that less than ten people were murdered as part of that war; what about the other 77 people murdered. I tried to take it back five years earlier because the murders committed then can be traced to people or gangs that were part of the gang wars later.

Another decision is to figure out when to end it. There were murders after 1976 but by that time the gang wars had all but simmered down. We saw in 1980 that the Bulger-Flemmi duo was lying down with the Boston Mafia family under Angiulo in the Lancaster Street garage in Boston’s North End, the heart of the Mafia territory. The gang wars, the last one being between Gerry Angiulo and the Angelli gang where Gerry hired the Winter Hill gang like the British hired the Hessians to do its fighting for it, ended in 1974. The next two years saw some wrap up murders but not much after that.

There were eight other murders of note after 1976 but those weren’t gang murders. They were the ones committed by Steve Flemmi, John Martorano,  or Whitey Bulger. The last time anyone was  gunned down in public was when Whitey Bulger murdered Brian Halloran and Michael Donohue in 1982.

It is an interesting trip through those twenty years. Two things are clear. It was not an Irish gang war; and, the Mafia was heavily involved in it through its proxies.  Gerry Angiulo the Mafia head who absolutely hated Irish people bragged shortly before the FBI put him out of business how he had wiped out the Irish gangs putting them out of business.


8 thoughts on “Where Have All The Gangland Murders Gone: Long Time Passing?

  1. Matt
    In answer to your questions a lot of crime is committed not with a gun in hand but with a laptop. Cyber crime is huge right now. Securities fraud. Drug smuggling is still lucrative. Illegal gun racket.Plus the “new”Mafia are the Albanians/Russians/Chinese/etc etc.Meaning the old school Italian mafia has been replaced by International criminal organizations no?

    Excellent post.

  2. Matt
    Where do you get the archives for ALL 87 murders? I for one would like to read and research the news clippings.The book RIFLEMAN(by Howie Carr) and DEADLY ALLIANCE (by Ralph Ranalli) discuss some of these murders but not all if I am correct. I always thought an excellent movie could be made about the “Irish Gang War”. Can you list ALL 87 murder victims with short explanation of each one(maybe a Series?)

    On a side note. Any chance El Chapo gets a new trial now that one juror has spoken about other jurors looking at media DURING the trial? If not why not?

    1. Jerome:

      I don’t want to give away all my trade secrets but I have been going to libraries and looking up old papers as well as using the archives of other papers. I’m going to put out a book (I hope) about the Boston gang wars. By the war the more I studied it I’ve come up with a time period of 1956 to 1976 during which 89 or 90 people were murdered by the gangsters (not counting any that Whitey, Martorano, or Flemmi murdered in the 1980s). There were wars within the wars. The best I can come up with as victims for the Irish (McLaughlin) v. Irish (McLean) gang war that was supposed to have started on Labor Day 1961 is six people murdered, yes, six. That’s how propaganda is spread by labeling it an Irish war when less than 10% died in that war.

      Remember Rifleman is Martorano’s telling the tales of his murders from his perspective. Joe Barboza has said that Martorano murdered Margaret Sylvester and that was the reason he decided to kill the witnesses to it. That makes sense. His explanation in the book doesn’t. His brother Jimmy was convicted of being an accessory after the fact. Also, Martorano telling of the one-on-one gun fight with Tony Veranis omits that Tony was held and pistol whipped before being forced to kneel and a bullet was put in his head.

      I’m not familiar with El Chapo trial, as I’ve told you. He wouldn’t get a new trial unless somehow he can show prejudice because the jurors viewed some media – hard to do. The juror who made the allegation may be faced with 11 others denying it is true; or we’ll find out that the juror may have an ulterior motive (perhaps $$$$) in making the claim. I’d suggest if anything happens it will be a long way down the road and the biggest burden El Chapo will have to overcome is the judges unwillingness to have such a long trial retried.

      1. Matt
        I guess I will have to get your NEW book that discusses the infamous Irish Gang War. Then you can reveal your sources

        I think you should read RIFLEMAN by Howie Carr. That’s the Steve Flemmi history book. Perhaps use it as a cross reference

        Martorano book is HITMAN

        El Chapo trial was no where near as interesting as Whitey Bulger trial. Why? No discussion of his murders in depth and no Top Echelon fiasco. My 2 cents

        1. Jerome:

          Your two cents are on the money. I’ve added up the persons murdered in the Irish Gang War (McLaughlin v McLean0. The total comes to six after adding in one that may have nothing to do with it. Total murdered in all during the period I deal with is 95 and I’m leaving out other murders that look like gangland murders but I can’t find other stuff to back it up. Martorano’s book is a good reference for some of his actions although he twists everything in his favor. AS I mentioned before Rifleman is the federal briefing of Flemmi when he was making a deal. He knew of all the evidence that had gone on before so much of what he said is tailored to meet that. Remember Martorano had little contact with Bulger when he fled after he was indicted. His contacts in Boston were Joe Yerardi and Steve Flemmi and George Kaufman and John Callahan.
          Also remember Martorano wrote in his book that the prosecutors and their investigators gave Martorano such a gift of a sentence that they had to cover it up they told him they were going to say that he also gave information on some drug dealers from Southie Martorano said that was fine because he had no idea who the people were they were talking about.

          1. Matt
            I look forward to your NEW book. I plan on taking a screenwriting course. With the two books of RIFLEMAN and HITMAN plus your new book I sense an epic gangster movie is a possibility

            On a side note Please include pictures in your new book. As many discrepancies as there are in Carr’s books it is excellent that he includes photos

            Do you believe that Steve Flemmi book RIFLEMAN is pretty accurate? I don’t see why he would lie in his sharing I go with the Feds to avoid the death penalty.

            Anyway your blog is back where it belongs!!!! Focusing on New England Organized Crime. My 2 cents

            1. Matt

              Checkout GANGLAND BOSTON by Emily Sweeney. I suggest that to get more ideas of how to structure your book.

              Have a great weekend

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