Boston Gang Wars-Loan Sharks and Bookies: Edward Rothstein

EDWARD ROTHSTEIN, 41                                                 April 5, 1960

Edward Rothstein’s body was found “stuffed in a trunk” in Merrimac, MA a town on the border of New Hampshire and not too far away from where the body of Goldstein was found in East Kingston, NH. The similarity of the locations is probably more coincidental than otherwise. There was no reason Goldstein would be anywhere near East Kingston; but Rothstein was said to have had an appointment in Haverhill, MA at 10:00 p.m. the night before his body was found.

Rothstein was murdered in his car. Blood was observed all over the inside. He was found in the trunk. Like DeMarco, he was a victim of the trademark killer. “Five bullets were pumped into his head in an area about the size of a silver dollar.” A skill possessed by no more people than the fingers on your hand.

It might not be too far wrong to say whoever murdered DeMarco also murdered Goldstein. It was a hired killer. The motive, however, may have been somewhat different. DeMarco was murdered because he was a nuisance to the Mafia; Rothstein was an example.

Rothstein was a gambler. He was in deep debt to the bookmakers. He was making frantic efforts to raise money in the days before his death. The newspaper reported “the FBI had received a tip six months ago that” he was going to be killed. The Brookline police warned him of it but he “seemed little concerned.” Another report said he asked for protection from the FBI a year earlier. Going to the FBI when dealing in the business of the Mafia is a guarantee for a truncated life. The guarantee was especially solid in the Boston FBI office as we will learn had its array of problems in keeping information in house.

On the evening he was murdered, Rothstein dropped a business colleague off at the colleague’s home after leaving work about 4:30 p.m. He then went to Medford between 5:00 and 7:30 p.m. to play poker with his buddies in a Medford social club. Rothstein told the table about his 10:00 p.m. Haverhill appointment.

Normally you do not want to murder a guy who owes you money. When you do, you will never have a chance to collect the money. On the other hand, killing him sends a message to others who may be delinquent.  The message is painfully expensive. But, then again, if you think a guy is informing on you, you not only send a two-pronged message but save lots of time and money in the long run with this one-time hit. The Mafia had likely decided that Rothstein was so desperate that he had gone over to the FBI to become an informant to save himself. If so, the money he owed would never be paid back in any event. The choice was easy.

One newspaper speculated on his murder: “[Rothstein] may have been killed, police say, to prevent his exposure of bootlegging operations in Massachusetts.” Later it noted that it was suggesting this because “agents of the Alcohol Tax Division, Treasury Department” joined the state investigators. The bootlegging idea is farfetched and misguided. “Bootlegging operations” had gone out with the end of Prohibition. The agents from the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) were there not because of alcohol or tobacco, but because of firearms. The ATF would be involved to assist in identifying the firearm used.

We know Rothstein had a planned meeting at 10:00 p.m. in Haverhill. It was an unusual place. Rothstein lived in Newton. It was also an unusual time for a meeting. It had to have been with a person either he trusted or had no choice but to meet. Perhaps, he was led to believe that his money problems could be solved. Obviously, he would not have done it if he feared for his life. It had to be a complete surprise when he showed up in Haverhill to find a hit man was waiting for him.

Elmer Burke

Three months earlier on January 14, 1960, three New York men, Thomas P. Hyland, Terrence F. Flynn, and his brother, Edward Flynn were arrested for threatening a Charlestown night club owner. Two of them had been questioned in the slaying of Tommy Sullivan and were said to be friends of the Hells Kitchen Trigger mam, Elmer “Trigger” Burke. They were also questioned about the slayings of Joseph DeMarco and Gaetano J. Di Nicola.  A machine gun clip was found in the car they were driving. Nothing seemed to come of the arrests.


Things quieted down for a year as far as I can tell. There are always people who go missing and are never found. The Buccelli, Cameron, Johnny Earle and Affanato killings had solved the waterfront drug problems; in the gambling and loan shark area DeMarco, DeNicola, Goldstein, Rothstein and Vazza made it clear the North End was tightening control over its operations.

Boston Gang Wars-Loan Sharks and Bookies: Gaetano J. DeNicola

GAETANO J. DeNICOLA, 49                                                           December 23, 1959

A little over a month following DeMarco’s murder, on December 23, 1959, Gaetano J. DeNicola, last name also spelled DiNicola, from Hartford, Ct, was found at 12:45 a.m.  His body was slumped over on the front passenger seat of his car while his head, with two bullets in the back, fell on the driver’s side of the car.  The car was on the service entrance to the Framingham Motor Inn about 300 yards from the building.  It had been seen there at 9:50 p.m. by a motel worker.  The two bullets in the back of the head recalls the Cameron and Buccelli murders; leaving the victim in his own car recalls them as well as the Vazza murder.

DeNicola was an ex-convict described as a “well known racketeer.” He had been questioned two years earlier in connection with a gangland murder at Worcester.  He had been arrested in Cleveland, New York, Connecticut and indicted for perjury in Massachusetts.  He served time in a Connecticut prison.  DeNicola called a “49-year-old fashion plate of the Hartford-Springfield rackets” was said to have been killed because of his own greed as he was expanding his bookie operations into the Worcester area.

Several hours after his murder, a late model sedan owned by one of DeNicola’s friends from Worcester, Carlo Mastrototaro was found smoldering and charred in Shrewsbury. The police rightfully concluded that DiNicola was murdered in the Mastrototaro car in Worcester. That car and DiNicola’s were driven to the Framingham location which is right off exit 12 of the Massachusetts Turnpike. He was then transferred to his car and plopped into the passenger seat. Bloody footprints were seen on the ground next to the car and on the passenger door. The killers then drove back to Worcester and destroyed the car and the evidence of the murder.

Mastrototaro would be convicted for transporting stolen securities in interstate commerce in 1970 based on testimony of Vincent Teresa.  Back in October 1968, Teresa had been charged in 58 indictments in Berkshire County in Pittsfield in connection with a stolen car ring. He was represented by Francis J. DiMento of DiMento and Sullivan law firm.

They were the two partners in DiMento and Sullivan law firm. I was the only legal associate in the office at the time. I was just starting to get my feet wet as a criminal defense attorney. I had only been with the firm for two or three months when DiMento came into my office. He told me that he was on trial in the federal court in Boston. He could not go out to Pittsfield. He told me to go to Pittsfield and get a continuance.

I dutifully went out to the western part of the state carrying my briefcase that contained a pad of blank legal paper and my lunch. When I got there as I waited in the attorneys’ room for the case to be called, I received a ribbing from other attorneys about me being a big gun attorney from Boston representing organized crime figures. I was far from that.

Judge Francis J. Quirico, a man with a sour and mean disposition who later ended up on the Supreme Judicial Court, came into the courtroom.  The case was called. I stood up. I introduced myself as being counsel for Teresa. I asked for the continuance explaining that DiMento was on trial in Boston federal court. Because an attorney could not be in two places at once, this was a valid and routine request that was almost always granted especially if the attorney was in the middle of a trial.

Judge Quirico

Quirico asked me if I were a Massachusetts attorney. I thought it odd because I had already indicated that I was. Nevertheless, I responded in the affirmative. He then said “your motion for a continuance is denied. The case is held for trial.” He then asked where my client, the defendant Vincent Teresa, was. I had never met the guy. I do not know why but I looked around the courtroom as if searching for him among the spectators even though I had no idea what he looked like. The court officer called out his name.

No one answered. I had no idea but said “he’s on his way.” Quirico said, “as soon as he gets here, we will impanel a jury.” He left the bench. I went up to the clerk. I asked to see the indictments which I was looking at for the first time. I figured I should know something about the case I was about to try. As I recall, I did not no get too worried about my predicament because I had no choice. I set about to learn as much as I could to prepare for trial. I had tried some minor jury cases before but had never been in superior court before a 12-person jury.

Vincent Teresa

I didn’t get the chance to try my first 12-person jury trial solely by the seat of my pants.  Instead, a short time later word came to the court that Teresa had an accident driving out the Massachusetts Turnpike. He was in the hospital in Worcester. Quirico ordered an arrest warrant to issue.

I could finally escape from Pittsfield. On the way back to Boston, I stopped at the hospital to see “my client” to tell him what happened. He was lying on a gurney with a white sheet tossed over him. He was quite corpulent. My inital impression was that I had found Captain Ahab’s white whale. I gave him the news, left, and never had anything to do with him again. I think he turned state’s evidence after that. I sometimes wondered whether he crashed on purpose because he had heard I was going to represent him.

The burning of Mastrototaro’s car in Worcester suggested that the murder of DeNicola was committed there.  Additionally, two divers swimming near a bridge in a lake near where the burned car was found discovered five revolvers.  Testing by the Massachusetts State Police ballistics experts in December 1960 linked the guns to the DeNicola murder.

The question that remained was whether this murder was part of the Boston gang wars? Police intelligence had suggested that Jerry Angiulo was attempting to extend his control of gambling into Worcester. Was DeNicola in the way?

Attorney General Edward J. McCormack set up a task force to investigate this murder. He called for a meeting. He said the purpose of the meeting was to determine if “the DiNicola and DeMarco killings have any connection with an organized crime syndicate in Massachusetts.”  The answer was a resounding yes.

A little over two weeks prior to the discovery of DeNicola’s body,  a “Little Apalachin” meeting was held in Worcester among the Mafia bosses of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. It was estimated that between 100 and 200 Mafia gangsters met at two restaurants.  Later the top twenty-five, including several from Boston, went off to a hotel room to discuss business.

The head of the New England mob, Raymond L.S. Patriarca, admitted he was there. He said that he knew DeNicola slightly. It may have been the move by DeNicola into the rackets in Worcester that prompted the meeting in the first place. The Little Apalachin meeting was clearly called to settle disputes and allocate territories. Police surmised the fate of DeNicola was settled that night.

It was suggested that DeNicola had pocketed between ten and twelve thousand dollars that belonged to the Mafia. Another suggestion was that he was cutting into the business of the Springfield Mafia. He was warned twice to stop but he did not heed the warnings. Then when the Springfield Mafia learned that inside information had been given to the investigators, they suspected that DeNicola was the leak.

Much speculation surrounds the DeNicola murder but no solid evidence. Patriarca’s involvement points to his close connection to Worcester where he was born and where his wife grew up. He controlled the rackets there. In a 1964 conversation, Raymond Patriarca and Jerry Angiulo discussed the finance of the Indian Meadows Country Club in Westborough, MA, a town next to Worcester. Angiulo expressed an interest in firing the Worcester guy who managed the club. This conversation showed he was taking an active role in the happenings in that city.

I think it is easy to conclude that DeNicola was a Mafia hit. Most likely because the word on the street was that he was cooperating with the police. Several murders share the similar cause. The Little Apalachin meeting under Patriarca who controlled business in Worcester settled his fate. It was most likely left to Gerry Angiulo to decide how it would happen.

Boston Gang Wars-Loan Sharks and Bookies: Joseph (Angie) DeMarco

JOSEPH (ANGIE) DeMARCO, 42,                              November 12, 1959
Six months after Goldstein was found, the body of Joseph (Angie) DeMarco, 42, was found in the Everett city dump. DeMarco called a “North End Shakedown Artist” had been convicted for the homicide of Anthony Pomo in 1941 along with three other men. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in January 1943.

He was sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison. Evidence showed that one of DeMarco’s co-defendants was “a pickup man” for a North End lottery. Police believed Pomo held up that lottery man in the North End and got away with $1500. The boss of the lottery sent DeMarco and the others to get the money back. One of the men shot Pomo.  Demarco stabbed him several times with a knife. DeMarco was released in 1955 after spending 12 years in state prison

When DeMarco got back on the street, he was feared and disliked. He was known for shaking down bookies, loan sharks, dice games, and other fast money operatives. The North End told Demarco to knock it off. He did not. The word around the North End was that Demarco would not last a year. He did not.

One detective said, “it’s a tough murder to solve because hundreds of guys had good reason to want DeMarco dead.” A real professional left his trademark sign on DeMarco’s body. The police found “a ring of six bullet holes in the back of DeMarco’s head that could be covered with a half dollar.” A report said that the “murderer, believed to be a slay-for-pay guy from out of town who was hired by DeMarco’s enemies, left what police say was his trademark . . .. “

The Middlesex District Attorney John Droney, empaneled a grand jury to investigate his murder stating the obvious: “it was unquestionably a gangland killing.” Droney tried to get the testimony of Anthony “Tony Canadian” Sandrelli, one of five men who “formed the first semblance in Boston of what is now called Cosa Nostra in 1931.” According to police information, Sandrelli owned The Coliseum Restaurant, an afterhours joint, where DeMarco was last seen alive at 3:00 a.m. on the day he was found murdered.

Tony Canadian took the Fifth. He was held in criminal contempt and sentenced to a year in jail. He appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the finding and let him out.

Another Boston gangster, Frank J. Balliro, was held on bail under suspicion of involvement in DeMarco’s murder as well as for the DeNicola murder (see next). On February 18, 1960, Trooper John R. O’Donovan  stopped Balliro on a motor vehicle charge. Balliro offered $500 to O’Donovan “to forget the whole thing.” Balliro offered the wrong trooper. O’Donovan, who served in the Marines,  locked Balliro up. Balliro died in 1969 on New Year’s Day when at 4:15 a.m. his car swirled off the icy and snow-covered McClellan Highway in East Boston.

I say that Balliro picked the wrong Trooper not only because O’Donovan later became a state police colonel but because of numerous interactions that I had with him over the years. He was the boss of the State Police Investigative Services. We often butted heads over investigations and use of troopers. He believed only state police could be used to do electronic surveillance while I used them along with local and other police. For several years, he would not let the state police work with me. He worked out of State Police Headquarters at 1010 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. Later, after we both retired, we had a nice sit-down session over a long lunch in a restaurant across the street from 1010. I left thinking had we not been such hot heads, we would have been better off.  We should have taken the time to clear the air much earlier in our careers.

O’Donovan’s boycott of my county only applied to the Special Services Unit. I had worked with the Unit on several cases previously, but he decreed it could not work with me again. Still, during this prohibition period, I did a wiretap for O’Donovan looking for evidence against a gang of robbers that the state police were chasing. Eventually O’Donovan lifted his boycott and the Special Services Unit were allowed to worked with me again. Things went awry, but that’s a story for another day.

O’Donovan was a trooper’s trooper. He was as tough as nails and once was shot chasing a well-known criminal, Myles Connor. He loved the State Police. O’Donovan’s regard and deep respect for the State Police is shown when State Trooper John Naimovich was wrongly indicted by federal prosecutor Jeremiah O’Sullivan based on phony evidence provided by the FBI. After he was indicted, Naimovich was abandoned by most on his job except five or six other State Police. Steve Lowell, a young trooper stands out as an adamant supporter of Naimovich’s innocence. O’Donovan may have been agnostic on the guilt or innocence of Naimovich but he felt a deep-seated obligation to back up a member of his force. O’Donovan would meet secretly with me to keep me appraised of the case from the State Police vantage point. I strongly believed in Naimovich’s innocence having worked closely with him for years. Steve Lowell and I were subpoenaed to be witnesses for his defense. Naimovich was acquitted by a federal jury.

Myles Connor

Nothing ever came of the Droney investigation of the DeMarco murder. This was Droney’s first murder case as district attorney. Unlike other District Attorneys at the time, Droney was willing to use the grand jury to try to make a case. An article in the Boston Globe by Jerome Sullivan, its crime reporter at the time, summed up the situation: “Like most other gangland killings, this one probably won’t be solved. The curtain of silence is always drawn in cases of this kind. No one ever knows anything, or as the police put it, ‘everyone is an oil can’ – slick and slippery when it comes to answering questions.”

Another example of the oil can is to be found when two brothers were shot at an Andrew Square café in South Boston. There were around 50 people in the café at the time. Boston Police Captain Herbert Mulloney said: “It is unbelievable that not one person in the dozens who witnessed the shootings would come forward to aid us.” He added: “It is still more unbelievable that not one witness placed an emergency call to police, in view of the fact two men were seriously wounded and desperately in need of an ambulance.” He told how one witness who was there at the time of the shooting said that everything was “serene.”

People did not want to be “oil cans.” They did not want to say that a shooting which causes people to duck under booths or run for cover was serene. It is just that no bystander wanted to be involved in washing the crimes of gangsters in public. It was a matter of necessity and survival. The consequences of speaking out against gun carrying hoodlums were stark.

The DeMarco hit was clearly a Mafia hit. He was operating in the North End in the home of the Mafia. The Mafia was intent on keeping discipline. DeMarco was not playing by its rules. The solution was to bring in an out-of-town gunman who would leave his calling card.

Boston Gang Wars-Loan Sharks and Bookies: Philip (Goldy) Goldstein

PHILIP GOLDSTEIN, 45                                                                                                                                          May 5, 1959

Eight months after Vazza, Philip (Goldy) Goldstein, 45, of Hull was discovered inside a sleeping bag in the trunk of a bullet ridden Massachusetts car belonging to Alexander “Sonny Boy” Rizzo of Revere. The car was parked in front of a poultry farm on Route 107 in East Kingston, New Hampshire.

He “died of “asphyxiation by strangulation.“ A length of new sash rope was looped around his neck in two places, stretched down the back and knotted around the ankles.  He was wrapped in a sleeping bag. He had no other marks of violence on his body.”

Goldstein was described as “a well-known Greater Boston sporting figure,” a euphemism for a big bookmaker and loan shark. He had been arrested on 28 occasions but only did time twice. He was known to carry large amounts of money on his person.

You may remember Thomas Ballou who was charged with being an accessory after the fact to the two Brink’s heist guys, Richardson and Faherty, by keeping them supplied with food and other necessities while they were holed up in their rented flat. Ballou plays a part in this gangster narrative again with Goldy on December 21, 1957. Christmas time causes guys to become desperate. Christmas meant you needed gifts which you could only buy with cash in those days.

The desire of everyone, especially gangsters, to have cash to buy Christmas gifts reminds me of a friend from my neighborhood named Muggsy. I was shopping with my wife, Maria, just before Christmas in 1966, the year of our marriage, at the main Jordan Marsh store in Boston’s Downtown Crossing. Out of the blue I see a guy with a big smile and his arms over-loaded with Christmas boxes coming towards me. It was Muggsy. I introduced him to Maria explaining he was a longtime friend from the neighborhood. We had a nice chat. He went on his way.

A short time later, I read about Muggsy in the newspaper. He had been shot attempting to hold up a liquor store. He had held up the same store shortly before Christmas which explained the bounty of Christmas gifts he carried.  Fortunately, he was not killed. He did some time back then; the last I heard of him he was doing well as a shop steward for a Laborer’s Local 223.  You will hear more about Muggsy later.

As it did with Muggsy, I presume the pressure of Christmas caused Thomas Ballou on December 21, 1957 to look to get some ready cash. He was really pressed for money as he was just released from the Deer Island jail the day before after serving 30 days for drunkenness. He targeted Goldstein because, as Willie Sutton said when he was asked why he robbed banks, “that’s where the money is.” After Goldstein left a Chelsea café, Ballou confronted him as he was getting into his car.  Ballou pushed the muzzle of a gun to Goldstein’s head. Goldstein fled from the car, screaming. The yells caught the attention of Patrolman William Monzione who pursued, and arrested Ballou.

Ballou was charged with attempted armed robbery. When his probable cause hearing came up in the Chelsea District court in February 1958, Goldstein failed to appear as a witness. Ballou was still indicted. The case in superior court then was dismissed after Goldstein again did not showed up. Like with Muggsy, I will write more about Ballou later.

Police suggest the motive for Goldstein’s murder was that he “had tried to set up gambling operations in the North End, Revere and Chelsea and had been ‘ordered out’ a week [earlier] by the local gangland heads.” Failing to leave as “requested” by the North End makes sense because, as I mentioned with Bittie, the Mafia was trying to consolidate its hold over the gambling activities in those areas. Goldstein apparently did not want to share his activity and funds with it.

Goldstein house in Hull

Goldstein’s murder was never solved. There are strange aspects to it.  The car in which Goldstein was found was stopped on the road in front of a New Hampshire poultry farm. Goldstein was already dead in the trunk. The car was then riddled with bullets. The gunshots alerted the neighbors. What was the purpose of shooting up the car other than to attract attention to it?

The poultry farm was owned by Louis Greco, formerly from Revere. He had owned the farm for six months. Why was the car driven from Massachusetts to that particular spot? Was the firing upon it with a rifle and a shotgun some type of warning to Greco? As best I can tell there’s nothing else which involves Greco in these matters.

The car’s owner Alexander Rizzo said it was stolen from a parking lot between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. the day of the murder. The county attorney in New Hampshire pointed out his car was on Highway 107 in East Kingston, N.H. at 12:15 a.m., three hours before the time he claims it was stolen. Rizzo was a long-time gangster. He was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 5 years in 1934; after he was released, he was caught carrying a weapon and got another year.

In May 1944, Rizzo was arrested with Abe Sarkis, a big-time Mafia connected guy who was involved in all types of gambling including boxing matches – most likely fixed like those of Terry Malloy in the movie On The Waterfront. In October 1963, Sarkis, mentioned again later, was listed as a member of the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Mafia working out of Boston. Little doubt exists that Goldstein had crossed the Mafia which brought about his murder.

Boston Gang Wars: Loans Sharks and Bookies: Vincent J. (Bittie) Vazza

VINCENT J. (BITTIE) VAZZA, 36                                                                     September 10, 1958 

Vincent Vazza, called “Bittie,” first came to the attention of the law when he got into trouble at age nine. After that, he did time in the Essex and Suffolk houses of correction. His criminal record involved charges for breaking and entry, larceny and gaming. He drove a late model, expensive sedan and was carrying $4,000 at the time he was last seen.

Ralph Vazza had not heard from his brother, Bittie, for three days.   Ralph and Bittie lived together in Revere. On the third day, September 12, 1958, a woman friend of Ralph’s called him at his home.

She told him she saw Bittie’s car parked near the waterfront in East Boston.

His car parked at the East Boston waterfront would not have been unusual because Bittie did his illegal business there. Like so many gangsters, Bittie was a former boxer, an ex-convict, and a high-pressure loan shark. He had been “loaning money to horse gamblers and longshoremen in recent months.”

Ralph got a ride to East Boston, got into Bittie’s car, and drove it back home. Driving into the driveway, he noticed the rear of the car riding low. Ralph checked the tires, under the car and then looked in the trunk. He found Bittie, rope or wire burns around his neck, lying dead on his side. He had been strangled by a heavy cord or light wire cable. Bruises on his face and stabs over this body showed his death was not without pain.

The location, East Boston, and the Italian rope trick point to a murder committed in the Mafia style. No one indicated whether he had a “surprised expression on his face.” Few clues existed to the identity of the murderers. More than one person was involved in the murder based on the type of strangulation as well as the location of Bittie’s vehicle. A backup vehicle was necessary for the killers to escape from the scene.

The police believed his strangulation was similar to that of our next victim. It was but  only in the sense a rope or wire was used. Otherwise, they differed greatly. The next murder involved the Chinese rope trick in which the victim strangles himself. One of the people questioned about the murder of Bittie was also a suspect in the murder of the next victim. The police believed there was a relationship. That, and the rope, suggested the hand of the North End.

It seems highly unlikely that Bittie’s murder was committed by someone who got in a fight with him when Bittie tried to collect on his loans. The evidence did not lean toward a spontaneous event but one in which some planning was involved. Most likely, the North End was consolidating its control or, as it would say, it was “maintaining discipline.”

Boston Gang Wars- Loan Sharks and Bookies: Harold “Zimmy” Zimmerman

HAROLD “ZIMMY” ZIMMERMAN, 38                        November 8, 1956

Zimmerman would be the first of three Jewish men involved in the bookmaking business who were murdered between 1956 and Labor Day, 1961. The North End sought to send a message to the Jewish bookmakers that dealing in the same business as the North End could be quite deadly. The message was clear. The response had to be equally clear.

Boston was different than New York City.  In New York City, the Jewish gangsters made up a big part of the muscle and killers in Murder Inc.  But, this was Boston.  Members of the Jewish bookmaking operations in Boston, for the most part, avoided violence. They recognized their business was all about making money and they knew the Mafia had the same interest. In Boston, Jewish gangsters had gotten gains by paying periodic agreed-upon tribute to them. The Jewish bookmakers knew by paying tribute, they would not only be left alone but, as an added benefit, they would be protected because they were now money makers for the Mafia. Paying tribute meant no issue mixing it up in gun fights and would have likely distributed one-to-one retribution.

It took some time for Jewish bookmakers in Boston to embrace the idea of cutting the North End Mafia in on their take by paying tribute.  The Jewish bookmakers initially had no plans to cut anyone in on their profits. Like any gangsters, they wanted to keep all the money they earned. But they slowly changed as they watched what happened to people who likewise felt they should keep all their profits.

Morris “Whitey” Hurwitz, an ex-West End boxer, a bookie and a tough strong-arm man was murdered in January 1953.  But then, Harold Zimmerman was murdered.  Prior to Harold Zimmerman’s murder, Hurwitz’s murder did not raise much concern among Jewish bookmakers.

Hurwitz’s murder was, according to a Boston Glove article, “the first gangland slaying in Greater Boston since another bookie-gambler, George Killeen of South Boston was shot down on Hanover Street, North End, three years ago.” Hurwitz was believed to have been holding up protected dice games.

Live by the gun die by the gun. Hurwitz was walking to his house when he went over to a car idling nearby. He stuck his head in the window and two .38 caliber bullets were fired into his head.  “Specs” O’Keefe ,when an inmate on death row at Sing Sing, said Elmer “Trigger” Burke murdered Hurwitz.

Zimmerman was found dead in his parked car on the Fenway at the rear of the Museum  of Fine Arts. He had someone in his car sitting next to him who fired two bullets into his face and one into his lung from inches away. He fell over from the driver’s seat onto the passenger seat on top of three spent shell. He had been lying there for a day or two before he was discovered by a police officer at 2:25 a.m. He was described as single and a Navy veteran.

Police found three diaries that belonged to Zimmerman with addresses and telephone numbers. Hurwitz’s name was in the diaries. The discovery of Hurwitz’s name would be expected since he and Zimmerman were in the same business. The names of over 200 women were also in the diaries.  The women’s names caused the police to theorize that a woman did the murder.  Witnesses said he was seen parked at that spot the night he was slain talking with a woman. This important clue caused the police to look for a jealous woman as the gun person.

The police also had information that Zimmerman had welshed on some heavy bets. An impoverished gambler, his personal effects and bank accounts showed that he had suffered recent heavy gambling losses.  The police also learned that he was being dunned by those who he owed money. Zimmerman had been threatened by someone shortly before his death.

At one point, the police considered a man who was incensed over the attention Zimmerman was paying to his girlfriend as a suspect. Zimmerman apparently had lots of women friends. Many woman were questioned,  but nothing came of it.

It would be highly unusual for a woman to fire a .38 caliber gun point blank in a man’s face because of jealousy, though it cannot be ruled out that a woman did the hit. The most likely explanation for his murder is Zimmy, a bookie, was not paying off his debts probably owing big money to the North End and was considered a dead beat.

Zimmerman parked on the Fenway waiting for someone. The person he let into his car was probably who he planned to meet. Whoever came looking for money, he got only promises, and so he killed him; or came with the intent of eliminating him as a threat to the organization. Rumors had circulated that he was cooperating with or would be called by a federal grand jury

Could the person who murdered him have been a woman? Perhaps. Although women do not usually do hired hits. We saw the movie, The Sting, had a hit woman. Boston may have had one hit woman named Barchard but she would have been too young to do Zimmerman. But one thing seems certain, the way the meet was set up seems to eliminate it being a spurned lover.

Zimmerman owed money. He was broke and out of choices. He was being threatened. He was rumored to be cooperating. When mixed together, this is usually the recipe that spells murder at the hands of the North End gangsters.  A couple subsequent murders point the Zimmerman murder in the same direction.