McLaughlin Murders – JAMES “SPIKE” O’TOOLE

I lived on Belfort Street in Savin Hill, Dorchester, during my teenage years.  That street ran aside St. William’s Church from Dorchester Avenue to Saxton Street.  My house was three houses away from Saxton Street. It was a blue-collar neighborhood. Diagonally across the street from me lived Peter “Luke” McDonough. I was close with his brother Paul “Wimpy” McDonough who married the daughter of close friends of my parents John and Helen Ross.

From my front porch, I could see the Saxton Street three decker that the Lundbohm’s lived in. I was friendly with Bobby “Luzzy” Lundbohm. He had a twin sister named Roberta. I have been told one of the guys I convicted and sent to Walpole for twenty years was her son or son-in-law.  Unfortunately, he got messed up on drugs and involved much deeper in criminal activity than was wise.

Luzzy was a bartender most of his life. He married my first cousin Barbara Connolly. Whenever I would run into him at wakes and weddings, he would come up to me and say, “Matty, have you heard this one.” He would then tell me a few jokes. Thinking back, I remember when I was about twelve years old Luzzy was telling jokes then. Because Wimpy and Luzzy lived so close, I would pal around with them at times. I used to have a photograph of them with their backs against the baseball chain link backstop down at Savin Hill park before they put in the Southeast Expressway. They had to be about 12-years old. Both had cigarettes in their hands.

Thinking back to then, I realized how ethnically diverse my neighborhood friends were,- something I never considered at the time. For a long while my three best friends were Paul “Gindy” Gendrolis, a Lithuanian, Polsky, who was Polish, and Bobby Cannata who was Italian. Luzzy was Swedish, although I called him German whenever I got mad at him. That usually set him off because at the time we were still talking about the war with Germany.

When I was 14 or 15, two close friends were Bobby Romboli, Italian, and Al Desmarais, French, who introduced me to Glen Miller music. Then, we also had Ralph Veranis, either Greek or Italian. In sixth grade, my classmates at the John L. Motley School who I hung around with were Moe Como, who was French, and Patsy. I always thought Patsy stood for Patrick until I later found out it was Pasquale. Of course, there were lots of Irish friends.  But some, like Danny Sullivan, who played in the NFL for the Baltimore Colts, we thought was Irish was actually Irish-Ukrainian, his mother being Ukrainian.

Luzzy’s older brother was Joe Lundbohm. Luke McDonough and Joe would become Boston police officers. Both would be convicted in federal court for consorting in one manner or another with bookies. Both denied their guilt. One was set up by another Savin Hill cop, Jimmy Cox, who got caught taking money, so he wore a federal wire and entrapped his friend Joe.

Luke was caught talking on a telephone with a bookie John Bahorian who worked for Steve Flemmi. Both Flemmi and Whitey Bulger had been tipped off by FBI agent John Morris that they were going to do electronic surveillance on Bahorian’s phone. They most likely told Bahorian. Anything intercepted on a telephone after the target knows it is being listened to by the FBI or other law enforcement authorities does not reflect the truth. The target is then able to set a trap for anyone on the other line. The target can later bargain away that person to receive a better deal.

I was not aware of the evidence against Joe other than his neighborhood friend, Jimmy Cox, a lieutenant on the Boston Police, who had been grabbed by the FBI taking money, agreed to wear a wire. He met with Joe and engaged in a conversation that made Joe look like he was a bad cop. Joe would go to jail, Cox would keep his job. So much for friendships.

The main evidence against Luke were his admissions during his testimony, his bank account, and John Bahorian, the FBI target. Then end result was that Bahorian, the target, got himself a deal.  Luke went to prison.

Right across the street from me lived Jake O’Brien, another close friend. You might recall the Boston Marathon bombing by the Tsarnaev brothers who put backpacks filled with an  explosive device on the ground among the marathon spectators.. I am told the eight-year-old boy Martin Richard who was murdered by the explosion and his six-year-old sister who lost a leg were Jake’s grandchildren.

When Spike O’Toole met his death in 1973, he was living on Saxton Street. Muggsy Whitaker, mentioned earlier as the person I met carrying the Christmas gifts, lived on the top floor of the Lundbohm’s three decker at 75 Saxton Street. Muggsy came out of prison and went straight.

He was working construction when he saw a Boston police officer arresting a man. The man accused the officer of using unnecessary force on him. Muggsy testified for the police officer. He said he did not see the police officer hitting the man and at no time would he say police brutality was involved. He said he was using “the right amount of force.”

In cross-examination by the prosecutor, Muggsy was asked if he ever was in a fight. Muggsy answered he had been in 60 – 70 fist fights and had his nose and fingers broken in fights. One of those fights involved me at the corner of Savin Hill Avenue and Tuttle Street. Muggsy came out on top in our fight.  It was one of my losses.

The prosecutor then asked him, “Would you say you’ve mixed it up with more than the average person?” Muggsy answered: “Not in the neighborhood I grew up in.”

Spike did not grow up in Savin Hill but he hung around there a lot. He was born on Fifield Street in Dorchester in St. Peter’s parish which is located on Meeting House Hill, a neighborhood adjacent to Savin Hill.  (More on Savin Hill at the time here and here.) A few kids from that area hung around with us. One, Porky Lyons, was a another close friend of mine.

Spike’s oldest brother, William Patrick O’Toole, enlisted in the Navy in April 1943. He was on the submarine the USS Bonefish (SS-223) which was sunk by a Japanese depth charge attack off Toyama Bay on June 18, 1945, less than two months prior to the Japanese surrender in WWII. Spike was 15 years old at the time. His brother’s obituary indicated his father was also deceased. He had two other brothers.

When I was in my teens, Spike, who would have been ten years older, was pointed out to me in the coffee shop across from St. William’s church. “There’s Spike O’Toole” I was told in a way that denoted I should beware of him. I am sure everyone remembers the older guys you would whisper about and stare at with a mix of both fear and awe.  We knew him as a tough guy a little on the crazy side that one was best to avoid.

Spike was arrested in March, 1954, at age 24 for stealing more than five hundred dollars electrical materials and other items from cars parked on Geneva Avenue, Dorchester. By 1961, he was not keeping the best company. He was arrested in August 1961 along with three other guys from South Boston for attempted larceny from a truck. These guys were all what was called tailgaters in the local patois, they earned their living stealing items from the cargo bed of trucks.

After their arrests, they attempted to bribe police officers to let them go. Spike apparently was still living at the family home on Fifield Street. He was arrested along with William “Billy” O’Sullivan, 33, and Wilfred E. Delaney, 25, both men I write more about later, and Francis X. Murray, 34. As mentioned, Murray is the one who tells of his experiences in those days in a book called, “Gaga.” Murray would also be fired upon but not hurt as he was driving along the Southeast Expressway.

In January 1963, Spike was charged with two stabbings in South Boston. In the meantime, he was romancing Dorothy Barchard. He was implicated by some in the murder of Henry Reddington.  Spike was in jail with Murray in December 1964 serving two years for hijacking Gillette razor blades when he and Murray received death threats saying what happened to Harold would happen to them.   Harold referred to Harold Hannon who was introduced a bit earlier.  We will discuss more about Hannon’s gruesome death later.

Next, we see that O’Toole is arrested on February 24, 1965, for harboring George McLaughlin. O’Toole is charged with accessory after the fact. He is let out on bail. In September 1965, O’Toole is held on $25,000 bail for the shooting of John Flannery of Quincy. When it came time for the probable cause hearing, the case was continued because Flannery had fled. On November 2, 1965, O’Toole was sent to State Prison for five to six years for harboring George McLaughlin.

Spike, as mentioned, was one of the guys trying to kill Jimmy Flemmi. Frank Salemme said they made peace with Spike at some point. It was not a permanent peace. Spike knew his days were numbered. In 1965, a reporter visited him at his 8 Fifield Street three-decker home.  The reporter asked him if he could talk with him. Spike answered, “Beat it.” In May, two men lit a fire outside his first-floor apartment on the porch attempting to lure him out. One had a shotgun and the other a pistol.  O’Toole seemed to be safer in prison than on the street.

O’Toole would move from his Fifield Street home, which is now an empty lot, to 306 Savin Hill Avenue which was the beach side. We called it “over the bridge”. His new location was a couple of doors down from where Billy O’Sullivan lived when he was murdered. In September 1970, Spike got into a dispute with a former Boston policeman Robert Noonan. He shot Noonan in the chest, face and arm. Noonan ended up on the danger list at the Boston City Hospital.

The dispute took place at a joint on Dorchester Avenue and Hoyt Street a few blocks up from Savin Hill along Dorchester Avenue. My memory is that it was the Adelphia Café, but I could be wrong.  Noonan refused to tell the police who shot him even though it was well known in the neighborhood that Spike had done it. There were other witnesses. Spike was back in prison for another two or three years.

On September 25, 1973, he was living on Saxton Street. Apparently having left the Bulldog Lounge, Spike walked over the bridge on Savin Hill Avenue towards Linda Lane to get his car. A speeding car drove by and riddled him with bullets. He ended up at the Boston City Hospital on the danger list.

His wounds turned out to not involve any vital organs. He was released. We were told by the gangsters that he was back in Savin Hill having quite a few drinks at the Bulldog Lounge on Saturday December 1, 1973. That joint was owned by Eddie Connors also to be mentioned later. Word on the street is that Connors tipped off the Winter Hill Gang that O’Toole was there.

Steve Flemmi, who never forgave O’Toole for shooting his brother, would have had his chance for revenge. But at this time Flemmi was still hiding out in Montreal having the outstanding murder and car bombing indictments over his head. He was also not connected with Howie Winter at the time.

Steve Flemmi said McDonald, Winter, Martorano and Whitey Bulger caught up with O’Toole on Savin Hill Avenue as he was leaving Bulldog’s Tavern. Martorano says someone went inside Bulldog’s, saw O’Toole, and tipped the Winter Hill gang off that he was there. Martorano also said they were waiting for Eddie Connors, the owner of Bulldog’s, to tip them off.  Martorano said that he, Whitey and Joe MacDonald, went over to Bulldog’s. Martorano leaves out Howie Winter. He said they “watched Spike unsteadily leave the Bulldog and he reeled down to the corner to wait for the bus.” That was another of his lies because his story is so far off base that it appears he was not there.

Another gangster version has it that Steve Flemmi, Joe McDonald, Whitey Bulger and Howie Winter were waiting for O’Toole. That was wrong. Flemmi, as noted, was in Montreal.

The best evidence for me suggests the guys who were there would be the three members of the Winter Gang, Howie Winter, Joe McDonald and Jimmy Sims. Martorano told a story that is not believable because O’Toole was not at Bulldog’s nor would he be taking a bus since he lived in Savin Hill. As to Whitey being there, it’s unlikely. There’s a story he was but he forgot his gun and pointed his finger at a curious bystander to chase him away. I just do not see Whitey hanging on a Saturday night especially in 1973 because he was relatively new to the gang.

To get to the corner of Dorchester Avenue from Bulldog’s, Spike would have to walk by Saxton Street where he was living. That would make no sense if he had gone out to eat and then was returning to his home.

The truth is Spike did not leave Bulldog’s. According to his close friend Gaga Murray, who had been with him a few days earlier, Spike was hanging out at Galvin’s. Galvin’s is at the corner of Savin Hill Avenue and Dorchester Avenue. That is where Spike was murdered.

It was 7:30 on a Saturday night. Spike must have just finished eating and left the place. Outside Galvin’s, the hit squad waited for him. As soon as he came out, they opened fire. He tried to hide behind a mail collection box but was hit and fell. Then one of them, most say it was Joe MacDonald, went over to him to finish him off.

His killing once again shows not only the false information put out by these criminals but also the coordination among them in coming up with a story. A guy eating dinner at Galvin’s is not stumbling out of Bulldog’s over five blocks away. If you are there to murder a person you do not let him walk down the five blocks. The inept attempt to reconstruct the murder shows that those who wrote about it are guessing at it.

This shooting could have been put under the Winter Hill Gang murders. I prefer to think of it as the last of the Roxbury gang murders. The animosity that brought it about stemmed from those days. O’Toole was a diehard member of the McLaughlin gang. He was an ongoing danger while out on the street. Howie Winter knew he had to eliminate him as soon as possible. He had not been able to do it up to this time because O’Toole spent most of the time in prison.  The shooting on Linda Lane a little more than two months earlier after he left Bulldog’s probably caused him to relocate to Galvin’s. That is where he had his last meal. It was a few blocks away on the same street where I first saw him in the coffee shop across from St. William’s church years earlier.


  1. Hi Matt: Carly Carioli here, I’m a longtime Boston journalist — would love to speak to you to hear more about a few of the stories in these posts. My email is in the comments details.

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  3. What happened at Linda Lane is that Spike, Paul D and Jack C watched a sporting event at Jack’s apartment. Their custom was to watch a game then get in a car and drive to Galvin’s pub on Dot. Ave. for a few drinks. As they exited the apartment three men in hoods approached and opened fire at Spike hitting him five times. Paul ducked in the car and was not hit. Jack had bullets go through his clothing. The police arrived and asked for a description which could not be provided other than they had hoods on. Spike went to the hospital. The others went to Connor’s Tavern had several drinks and went home. They weren’t around much for several weeks. 2. Spike was at Bulldogs the night he was killed. He left with Paul P. Spike was heading to Galvin’s which he often frequented, Half way down Savin Hill Ave. Paul departed and went home. Spike kept going. Someone in Bulldogs disclosed Spike’s whereabouts on both occasions. 3. Eddie C had a conversation with Spike after he left the hospital. Spike said he knew those guys would try again. Eddie didn’t understand why Spike didn’t take off for a safer area.