Margaret Sylvester was a 35-year-old waitress, mother of a 14-year-old son, an attractive blonde, five foot eight inches weighing 140 pounds. She had been a waitress for a long time at Luigi’s.  She was found wrapped up in a rug on November 10, 1964, having been stabbed in the abdomen three times.  Boston police discovered her body in a search of a third-floor room over Luigi’s Restaurant on Washington Street, looking for stolen fur coats.

The day before she was murdered, she was in Luigi’s restaurant according to Patricia Cowell, a witness at the trial of John Martorano’s brother, Jimmy Martorano.  Jimmy Martarano was being charged as an accessory after the fact to her murder. Cowell said Sylvester was in a “loud and argumentative mood.” She was leaning on Jimmy Martorano and at one point fell off her bar stool. Jimmy Martorano told her to go home.

Apparently, she did go home but went back to Luigi’s the next night. She must have resumed the argument with Jimmy. John Martorano, who was always protective of his younger brother, most likely stepped into the middle of it to shut her up. Given what we know about John, it is hard to dismiss the idea that he was the one who murdered Sylvester. Murder was not Jimmy’s cup of tea but right up John’s alley.

John was known to carry a knife. In his book about his life, referring to himself in the third person John said, “out of habit he carried a blade.” John, in his book, said that he had the knife on him the night he murdered Jack Banno.

The first thing to do after the murder is to hide the body. Luigi’s was on the second floor and accessed by a long stairway from the street.  Getting the body out of the building could not be done simply. The best alternative was the third-floor room until a better plan could be made. After hiding the body, the next thing would be to get rid of the witnesses as we will see John Martorano did.

Martorano did though testify at FBI Agent John Connolly’s trial that “the investigation was also focusing on me.” Joe Barboza, one of John’s friend, said that John murdered Sylvester. John said he was alone at home and could not have done it. John’s alibi was unlikely. As John said in his book, by 1962, he was never at home. He was always hanging around Luigi’s.

John, in his book, indicates that Jimmy “the Bear” Flemmi murdered Sylvester. Gangsters often put their crime on dead guys. Jimmy Flemmi was known for his habit of mutilating people. That was not done to Sylvester.

The cops had good evidence against John’s brother Jimmy as an accessory after the fact. John would say that Jimmy “had a problem.” The evidence showed he replaced a rug at Luigi’s the morning after Sylvester was murdered. Jimmy Martorano must have known who stabbed Sylvester. He kept his knowledge to himself. It is hard to escape the conclusion this may have been John’s first murder.

John writes about the murder. He hints that maybe his brother Jimmy might have been involved but not to the extent to put his brother in jeopardy because he is still living. John claims to have clean hands in Sylvester’s death. John cannot admit doing it because he knows it is bad form to be known as someone who killed a woman, especially with a knife.

What adds to the idea that John murdered her is that John Martorano would murder the two guys who were witnesses to Sylvester’s murder. Putting it all together – we know John packed a knife, Sylvester was stabbed to death, John had to be at Luigi’s when Margaret was murdered as he said he was there every night, he had to help carry her body up to the third floor and he knew who witnessed him stabbing her.

Finally, John said he had to investigate to find out that the witnesses, Bobby Palladino and John Jackson, had been at Luigi’s that night. But, that is just another lie as he tries to piling them on to cover his murder up.  He would not have to have investigated to find out the witnesses. He would know the bartender because he was there almost every night.  Plus, he’d know other patrons, either from personal knowledge or from his brother Jimmy.

First murder for John Martorano.


  1. I hope there is more soon and I really appreciate the research that Matt did for these murder cases.

  2. The deal the Feds gave Martorano was about the worst law enforcement act in history. The Globe noted about his testimony at the Connolly trial that not one word he said was believed by the jury. The biggest hit man in Boston history was rewarded for his evidence against an innocent FBI agent. An FBI agent he never met. He only recited fabricated hearsay stories of other gangsters. His testimony should never have been presented. How corrupt were the Boston DOJ, DEA, FBI, State Police and Customs in the 90s to engage with this killer?