Boston Gang Wars-Loan Sharks and Bookies: Edward Rothstein

EDWARD ROTHSTEIN, 41                                                 April 5, 1960

Edward Rothstein’s body was found “stuffed in a trunk” in Merrimac, MA a town on the border of New Hampshire and not too far away from where the body of Goldstein was found in East Kingston, NH. The similarity of the locations is probably more coincidental than otherwise. There was no reason Goldstein would be anywhere near East Kingston; but Rothstein was said to have had an appointment in Haverhill, MA at 10:00 p.m. the night before his body was found.

Rothstein was murdered in his car. Blood was observed all over the inside. He was found in the trunk. Like DeMarco, he was a victim of the trademark killer. “Five bullets were pumped into his head in an area about the size of a silver dollar.” A skill possessed by no more people than the fingers on your hand.

It might not be too far wrong to say whoever murdered DeMarco also murdered Goldstein. It was a hired killer. The motive, however, may have been somewhat different. DeMarco was murdered because he was a nuisance to the Mafia; Rothstein was an example.

Rothstein was a gambler. He was in deep debt to the bookmakers. He was making frantic efforts to raise money in the days before his death. The newspaper reported “the FBI had received a tip six months ago that” he was going to be killed. The Brookline police warned him of it but he “seemed little concerned.” Another report said he asked for protection from the FBI a year earlier. Going to the FBI when dealing in the business of the Mafia is a guarantee for a truncated life. The guarantee was especially solid in the Boston FBI office as we will learn had its array of problems in keeping information in house.

On the evening he was murdered, Rothstein dropped a business colleague off at the colleague’s home after leaving work about 4:30 p.m. He then went to Medford between 5:00 and 7:30 p.m. to play poker with his buddies in a Medford social club. Rothstein told the table about his 10:00 p.m. Haverhill appointment.

Normally you do not want to murder a guy who owes you money. When you do, you will never have a chance to collect the money. On the other hand, killing him sends a message to others who may be delinquent.  The message is painfully expensive. But, then again, if you think a guy is informing on you, you not only send a two-pronged message but save lots of time and money in the long run with this one-time hit. The Mafia had likely decided that Rothstein was so desperate that he had gone over to the FBI to become an informant to save himself. If so, the money he owed would never be paid back in any event. The choice was easy.

One newspaper speculated on his murder: “[Rothstein] may have been killed, police say, to prevent his exposure of bootlegging operations in Massachusetts.” Later it noted that it was suggesting this because “agents of the Alcohol Tax Division, Treasury Department” joined the state investigators. The bootlegging idea is farfetched and misguided. “Bootlegging operations” had gone out with the end of Prohibition. The agents from the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) were there not because of alcohol or tobacco, but because of firearms. The ATF would be involved to assist in identifying the firearm used.

We know Rothstein had a planned meeting at 10:00 p.m. in Haverhill. It was an unusual place. Rothstein lived in Newton. It was also an unusual time for a meeting. It had to have been with a person either he trusted or had no choice but to meet. Perhaps, he was led to believe that his money problems could be solved. Obviously, he would not have done it if he feared for his life. It had to be a complete surprise when he showed up in Haverhill to find a hit man was waiting for him.

Elmer Burke

Three months earlier on January 14, 1960, three New York men, Thomas P. Hyland, Terrence F. Flynn, and his brother, Edward Flynn were arrested for threatening a Charlestown night club owner. Two of them had been questioned in the slaying of Tommy Sullivan and were said to be friends of the Hells Kitchen Trigger mam, Elmer “Trigger” Burke. They were also questioned about the slayings of Joseph DeMarco and Gaetano J. Di Nicola.  A machine gun clip was found in the car they were driving. Nothing seemed to come of the arrests.


Things quieted down for a year as far as I can tell. There are always people who go missing and are never found. The Buccelli, Cameron, Johnny Earle and Affanato killings had solved the waterfront drug problems; in the gambling and loan shark area DeMarco, DeNicola, Goldstein, Rothstein and Vazza made it clear the North End was tightening control over its operations.