June 16, 1966 –
Rocco DiSeglio was murdered on June 16, 1966. DiSeglio had no criminal record. Joe DeNucci, a popular middleweight boxer from Newton who would be elected Massachusetts state auditor and serve in that position longer than any other individual, said he knew DiSeglio as well as anyone. He worked to help him during his short-lived professional boxing career. He said, “Rocco was living on a merry-go-round . . . He traveled with a fast-moving crowd . . . It was always dice, horses or dogs. Rocco loved to gamble. . .. “
Joe DeNucci remembered meeting DiSeglio “for the first time in months” when he was working out on June 11, five days before his murder. The Friday evening before the murder, the 10th, a holdup of a dice game took place in Newton. DeNucci mentioned the card game to DiSeglio. DeSeglio told him he went to the game and got robbed like everyone else.
DeSeglio did not mention that afterwards he got his money back and split the rest of the proceeds. He did not live long to enjoy them. A Boston Globe article on his DiSeglio’s death stated: “It never occurred to anyone to wonder how he lived until his nattily dressed body was found slumped in his burgundy Thunderbird convertible on a lonely Topsfield road.”
Gambling seemed to be one of the common traits of criminals. But Rocco’s interest in gambling had another side to it. He liked to set up people running card and dice games. Usually, these games are not publicized beyond a few people because of the fear that the game may be held up. DiSeglio was one of the privileged few who was informed about the game.
DiSeglio became the finger man, the one who points out the targets, for three others to rob: Bernard Zinna, 34, Marino (Mario) Lepore, 48, and Richard F. (Vinnie) DeVincent, 34. The problem with holding up gambling games is that some of them are protected by the Mafia. Jerry Angiulo was supposed to protect two of the games that DiSeglio and his hoodlum friends held up according to testimony by Joe Barboza. The protected games were run by Jimmy “the Greek” Makris in Lowell and “Fats” Pelligrini, who owed Angiulo $20,000.
Barboza, as we have seen before, was being jammed in and looking for a deal. He would testify about DiSeglio’s murder. He implicated Zinna, Lepore, and DeVincent in it. He added in Jerry Angiulo as having ordered them to do it. As I mentioned earlier, a hoodlum like Barboza does not get much of a deal by turning in other low-level hoodlums. To make it worthwhile so he gets himself a good deal, he knew he should add in a Mafia honcho.
Barboza testified that Jerry Angiulo called in Zinna after he figured he was involved in the holdups. Zinna admitted the holdups and named the others. Angiulo said he wanted DiSeglio murdered and that it would be best if his friends did it. Zinna said they felt it was their lives or DiSeglio’s life. They set DiSeglio up. They told him they had a stolen car they wanted to pick up. When they stopped, Lepore got out of the car and DeVincent shot DiSeglio in the car. Zinna wanted to leave the car in Revere but they decided to drive it to the Danvers woods.
Barboza proved to be an ineffective witness. All the defendants were acquitted. Angiulo, who during WWII served in the Navy in the Pacific and saw combat, afterward said he never knew why he fought in WWII but now he understands. Apparently, he was referring to the ability to have a jury, rightly or wrongly, decide guilt or innocence.
Angiulo’s acquittal was big news. It was used by Frank Salemme to boost his standing among his fellow gangsters. He testified in a government deposition that during that trial he went to the Suffolk Court House one evening and gained access to it because he knew the head custodian. He said: “I knew one of the jurors, and I went in and spoke to that juror, with her husband, and got her – – her and her friend was the forelady of the jury, and they’d come back not guilty.”
Like most gangster stories, Salemme wants to take credit for a favorable happening by inventing facts that they think no one can disprove, like Whitey Bulger claiming to murder Donald McGonagle. Salemme might have known a juror or her husband since the names of the jurors were published in the newspapers. Other than that, the rest of his story is nonsense.
No one had access to the jury. It was sequestered. It would not have been at the courthouse at night. There are no accommodations there. The jury would have been housed in a hotel. The courthouse custodian has no access to the jury. If he let Salemme in, he would have been in an empty courthouse.
Further, all contact with the jury is barred. It would have been under the constant guard of the court officers. In addition, a simple check would have shown that the foreperson of the jury was Kenneth Matthews. It was not a woman as Salemme alleged.
Salemme’s story might be another gangster lie but Joe DeNucci’s concern for the young boxer Rocco DiSeglio was not. He died at age 78. He had retired from the state auditor’s job at age 70 because his mental health seemed slipping and it was determined he had CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) from his boxing career. His wife said “He had such a love for boxers. He’d often bring sparring partners home for dinner and later tell me, ‘These guys don’t have unions or pensions; they don’t have anything at all.’ And I could see how much it bothered him because Joe was such a compassionate guy who never forgot where he came from.”
Once when he had achieved prominence as the state auditor a former boxer came up to him to shake his hand saying: “You don’t know me, Joe; I was a nobody.” Joe who was at one time the 5th ranking middleweight in the world replied: “If you ever climbed into a ring, half-naked, to face a man who could take you out with one punch, don’t you ever call yourself a nobody! I have the greatest respect in the world for you, my friend.”
Many of the people who were murdered had been boxers earlier in their lives. How much did those punches in the head affected their ability to function after they could no longer earn a living in the ring? Joe was lucky he had many good years after his boxing days ended. Others were not so blessed.