McLaughlin Murders – CORNELIUS HUGHES

Connie Hughes was one of the feared Hughes brothers.  The Hughes brothers were the tough guys in the McLaughlin gang that people feared the most. Frank Salemme would say in his deposition that “the Hughes brothers, they were dangerous guys, just enough to keep your distance, you know.” Like the McLaughlins, they were also longshoremen. They were the guys who took out Buddy McLean the week after the death of Edward “Punchy” McLaughlin. The Hughes brothers and the McLaughlins brothers started their criminal activities together in their teenage years in Charlestown

Connie had his run ins with the law. He was arrested with George McLaughlin when he was 19 years old and George was 21. On September 9, 1946, Connie and George assaulted and robbed two Boston and Maine railroad employees. They netted $8.00. They were quickly indicted, tried and found guilty in Suffolk Superior Court on October 29, fifty days after they committed the crime. Connie received a sentence of five to seven years in prison, McLaughlin was sentenced to five years and a day at Concord Reformatory.

That is how justice was at one time: swift and sure. Now it has changed. With the myriad numbers of motions, requests for investigators, and judicial indifference, by the time an offender is brought to answer for his crime a year or two has elapsed. By the time of teh sentencing, the offender has only a tenuous connection with his criminal act in his mind.

Connie was not out of prison too long when at 23 years old, he was again arrested on March 23, 1953, for shooting Allan Fidler, 33, in Charlestown on March 17. Fidler was hit in the thigh and stomach. Fidler told the police that as his assailant pointed the weapon at him, he said, “You’ve got the wrong guy.” Fidler told them at the hospital that he never saw the guy before. Police initially said it was a case of mistaken identity.

It was not a case of mistaken identity.  It was a case of Fidler wanting to live.  In the middle of May, Fidler found himself indicted for two counts of perjury by the grand jury in Boston. The indictment alleged that before he was shot, Fidler was in an automobile with Hughes after they had in a Charlestown Café.  But, obviously Fidler wasn’t going to finger Hughes as the shooter. Fidler lived in Charlestown.  he knew the street rules and wanted to stay alive. Later, Fidler would be arrested in November 1958 for running a booking operation at the Thompson Square Tavern in Charlestown.

In March of 1966, Connie drove up to his home in Malden with his brother Steve.  The word on the street was that they were ambushed. Rumor had it that Joe Barboza and Joseph “Chico” Amico were the gun men.  Others dispute that rumor. Steve Flemmi in his debriefing said that Connie, who escaped without a scratch, shot his brother Steve because they got in a dispute over a woman. Another story had Wimpy Bennett as the shooter while another had unknown men in a car. Steve ended up in the hospital for almost a month recovering from gunshot wounds. Connie dropped out of sight for a week.

There was little doubt his time was running out. On May 25, a little before 4:30 in the morning, he was driving his automobile in Revere north on Route 1. He had just gone past the Chelsea line when another car pulled up aside him and unloaded on him with an M-1 rifle. Police theorize he was heading home to his house on Hancock Street, Malden. He very well could have been coming from a joint in Charlestown.

Salemme would claim that he wiped out almost all the McLaughlins and the Hughes brothers. Was one of them Connie? Or was he murdered by Barboza and Jimmy Flemmi who were involved in the DiStasio hit in Revere.

Some have suggested that Connie was murdered by the Somerville group that was now under the control of Howie Winter. Steve Flemmi puts it on Howie Winter and Jimmy Sims but there is nothing I saw that indicated they had a familiarity with an M-1. Another story has Joe McDonald and Jimmy Sims firing fifteen shots at Connie. McDonald and Sims story seems more likely since Joe might have fired an M-1 in the military. Another has it that two cars from the Winter Hill Gang came up on either side of him and fired sixty shots at him. The problem with the latter is the Winter Hill Gang did not exist at that time. Only the Howie Winter gang.

The time of his death, the location of his travel, the speculation that he was at an after-hours joint in Charlestown would tend to make one lean toward the Howie Winter gang. The problem is there is little evidence they were involved in murdering people at this time. However, they certainly had the motive. He murdered their former leader Buddy McLean.

They were not the only ones with the motives. Connie’s brother was one of the shooters at Jimmy Flemmi. Although I lean toward the Winter Gang I cannot rule out Frank Salemme and Steve Flemmi because of the type of rifle used in the murder. Steve was an expert in the use of an M1 carbine. Also, given the time of the killing, I figured most of the hoodlums would have been pretty hammered by that hour but Steve Flemmi was not one who drank to excess.

One Comment

  1. Was that Allen Fidler the same Suitcase Fidler who was the bookie at Connor”s Tavern in Savin Hill? He was the regular bookmaker there. But on Sundays when the bar was closed a college student took the action for NFL games. He was known as briefcase.