December 23, 1969-
It is surprising Zinna lasted as long as he did. He was a small fish swimming in a small pool with some much larger killer fish. Maybe it is hard for some people to leave town. But when you know your life is not worth the cost of a postage stamp you should think about leaving. In April 1969, nine months before his murder, a gangster with a shotgun took a run at him. Zinna was wounded but not critically. Zinna would not disclose the identity of the assailant. Perhaps he thought that keeping quiet would inure to his benefit. Zinna should know there is only one way to get off the “hit list” and that is to get hit.
Back in 1955, 29-year-old Zinna got the bright idea to set fire to an empty house in East Boston. If you know that section of Boston, you know that each house is separated from another by no more than a narrow alley. You understand that a house may be empty of occupants but houses on both sides may be filled with them. Zinna pleaded guilty to setting fire to the house in the rear of 291 Sumner Street which fire also burned three other houses. He was sentence to five to seven years in State Prison. His companions in the conspiracy to set the fire were 20, 18 and 17 years old.
The next time we hear of Zinna is in 1961. He was charged with possession of burglar tools and larceny from the Bell-in-Hand tavern in Boston. He was out on bail from charges of illegal possession of a gun and burglar tools. In January 1962, the case against him is thrown out because the police were unable to locate a critical witness.
He has all the makings of a low-level hoodlum who will spend his life committing less serious felonies and going in and out of prison. Prison does not hold the terror for him that it would for an average citizen. He would have close friends there waiting to welcome him back. However, there’s more to Zinna than meets the eye. He was getting anxious to make the big bucks as he neared his forties. He needed to think bigger than his usual pursuit of larcenies and breaking and entering.
He wondered how he could make more money. He decided to holdup the suckers involved in poker and other card games. Even though the games were under the protection of the Mafia, the players were usually not the heavy criminal types. They were guys like Rocco DiSigllio – guys who enjoyed gambling but did not carry weapons. These games moved locations and starting times so one needs an inside man to disclose when and where they will occur.
Zinna, Richard DeVincent and Marino (Mario) Lepore joined Zinna to do the holdups; they enlisted Rocco DiSeglio, an inside man and invitee to the games, to join for a cut of the proceeds. The three gunmen would rob the games under the belief that the risk was low because the victims were not hoodlums like themselves. They erred greatly when they hit the wrong card or dice games. The players at this game had paid Jerry Angiulo for protection.
One day Angiulo called Zinna into the “Doghouse,” another name given to Angiulo’s office by the hoodlums. Angiulo told Zinna that they had to stop holding up the games and they had to kill Rocco DiSeglio. If they didn’t, they would be killed. Friendship runs shallow among criminals. Although the three men were friends of DiSeglio, their self-preservation came first. They lured DiSeglio to a quiet site and murdered him.
Zinna told Joe Barboza about murdering DeSeglio under the assumption that Joe would keep his mouth shut. Barboza did keep the secret until he got a deal with the government that he could not refuse. Part of the deal given to him by the federal prosecutors and FBI was that he would testify against Zinna and the others who killed DiSeglio. In exchange, the authorities would shower him with all type of goodies.
Zinna was indicted based on Barboza’s testimony, arraigned and brought to trial. The jury did not buy Barboza’s testimony. Zinna and the co-defendants, including Angiulo, were acquitted on January 18, 1968.
After the trial, Angiulo was asked how he felt. He replied, “I never really knew why I fought in World War II until today. But I found out from what happened in that jury room.” Later he added: “I am innocent. I felt all along this would be the outcome.”
He could very well have been innocent in the picture painted by Barbosa. There’s little doubt Angiulo was behind DiSeglio’s murder. However, it was Angiulo’s practice to have others give his orders and unlikely he would have brought Zinna into his office. It is more likely Barboza added him into the mix to get his deal from the FBI.of It is hard to figure out what exactly he meant, and he was not about to explain. He would later be convicted by a federal grand jury and spend many of the remaining years of his life in prison. After his federal conviction he probably again wondered why he fought.
Zinna walked out a free man. He had kept his mouth shut as did the other defendants. He surely must have felt someone high in the Mafia owed him for being a standup guy. But he did not understand the gangsters would not be pleased that he told Joe Barboza about how DiSegalio was murdered. It showed his gratitude in April 1968. Zinna was sitting in his car. A guy approached with a shotgun and fired at him. He had time to duck down and escaped injury.
Zinna apparently stayed on the hit list but we hear little about him for a year and a half. He may have left town for a bit. On the day of his death, Zinna parked his car on Ocean Avenue near Beach Street in Revere, a relatively busy street. Darkness had fallen over the area. A person walked up to his car and fired through the glass hitting him in the head. He fell over on the seat. The person opened the door and put three more bullets into his head. After doing his job the person dumped the gun – a Colt .38 Special Police Positive revolver with a four-inch barrel – into a trash barrel in Revere where it was found the next day.
The police speculated that given the time and location of the murder, there had to have been witnesses. They did not think anyone would step forward. They were right.