Roxbury Gang Murders – Andrew Von Etter

The body of Andrew Von Etter age 27 was found on February 7, 1967, severely bludgeoned, garroted with the rope left around his neck and shot at least twice. The garroting would tend so make one think about a Mafia type killing. However, other facts point toward the Wimpy Bennett gang. Von Etter had a small variety store in Roxbury which would have brought him into contact with the Bennett gang. But, another big clue points to Wimpy.

First, let’s back up a bit. A guy named William Geraway by age 31 claimed to have been convicted 102 times for various crimes and was under indictment for two murders. Geraway would be acquitted on both murders, one after an appeal. Geraway said he knew Walter Bennett, Wimpy’s brother, and knew John J. Sweet a bookie. In April 1966, Geraway said Bennett approached him and asked him if he would like to do a hit on a guy named Maxcy (Charles Von Maxcy) in Florida for five thousand dollars. Geraway was to drive to Florida and contact Sweet.

Geraway said he asked Walter what Maxcy’s offense was. Walter replied it was about romance. Geraway suggested they get a divorce and Walter replied “These people are worth an awful lot of money, Billy. It will be easy.” Geraway said, “I declined. I said I was a check passer, not a killer.” The matter remained up in the air until May 1956 when Walter told Geraway that Maxcy was going on a European trip so Geraway could forget about doing the hit.

Geraway did forget it but Walter didn’t. Neither did John J. Sweet. Instead, Sweet and Walter hired two other guys. One was William H. “Billy” Kelly a six-foot two mean killer.  Kelly was a suspect in the murder of a businessman George Hamilton which he allegedly did so Kelly’s business partners could collect on an insurance policy on Hamilton’s life. Kelly hung around at Walter’s Lounge. The other guy hired by them was Andrew Von Etter. Kelly and Von Etter murdered Maxcy on October 3, 1966. Kelly would not be apprehended until 1983.

The Florida police were quick to pick up the trail of John Sweet who they would eventually charge with Maxcy’s murder. A television series was made about Maxcy.  With the Florida police looking north, Walter Bennett believed that Van Etter may be a weak link in their scheme. He arranged for Van Etter’s murder; his bludgeoning and garroting. The manner of Van Etter’s murder seems like a Flemmi special. Take your choice: Jimmy or Steve, or both.

Walter Bennett had to do this to protect himself, John Sweet and Billy Kelly. Walter proceeded with Van Etter’s murder even though Walter knew that his brother Wimpy had gone missing since the middle of January. All the Irish Bennett brothers in Roxbury’s Italian gang were dead by Christmas in 1967. The core of the gang, the Italian members, were still very much in business after that time.

John Kivlan

I happened to meet John Sweet. He had been convicted of Maxcy’s murder in November 1968, but his conviction was tipped by the Florida appeals court based on speedy trial issues. I went with John Kivlan, another assistant DA whose job in the office was to prosecute the most difficult cases, to an apartment in Randolph, MA. Kivlan was interested in finding out more about the murder of George Hamilton having prosecuted those who we believed set up Hamilton’s murder. Sweet and Lt. Detective James Sharkey were at the Randolph apartment. Sweet was a con man which Kivlan quickly spotted. Afterward, we referred to him as John Not-So-Sweet.

Kivlan had previously told me how Ted Harrington, the local U.S. attorney in Boston, had a stool pigeon who had made a deal with the feds to get off from some charges. Harrington let Kivlan know that the informant might have some information in a matter he was interested in prosecuting. Kivlan traipsed into Boston to interview him.

It didn’t take Kivlan long to know the stoolie was scamming him. Kivlan was well versed in dealing with guys looking for deals based on information and knew not to trust them at their word.  Kivlan would always test them.  For instance, Kivlan would say, “do you know Pug Smite.” The stool would answer yes and then say “what do you want to know about him?” Kivlan would answer: “Describe him for me?” The stool would say, “he’s about average height, isn’t he?” Kivlan would answer, “if you consider six-foot two average.” The Stool would say, “that’s right, I now remember he was a tall guy.” Kivlan knew Pug Smite was a short guy. Kivlan was aware these stools liked to get the information from the prosecutors and parrot it back. Kivlan never fell into that trap that so many other prosecutors do. He never trusted guys looking for deals without putting them through some hard tests.

Kivlan never let up in his pursuit of trying to get the evidence against Billy Kelly. Meanwhile Kelly was defended in the Florida murder case by William Kunstler, the radical, well-known defense lawyer who also defended Raymond Patriarca and John Gotti. Kelly would be convicted in Florida of Maxcy’s murder and sentenced to death on April 2, 1984, by a jury vote of 8 – 4.

The last I heard Kelly was still on death row despite having been represented on his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court by Kenneth Starr and Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe. I never understood how some of these lawyers wanted to put these evil criminals back on the street by using some esoteric legal points. Aren’t there more deserving cases that call for their attention?

But then again, Kenneth Starr, was the sort who represented Jeffrey Epstein one of the vilest persons who ever lived. His highlight was the impeachment investigation of Bill Clinton where Starr made much ado about Clinton’s involvement a young intern, Monica Lewinsky, in his 1998 report. He then joined the defense team for Jeffrey Epstein around 2007. He was hired as president of Baylor University, I wondered if he disclosed his Epstein ties, but his interest in matters sexual continued. It was reported, “On May 26, 2016, following an investigation into the Starr’s mishandling of several sexual assaults at the school, Baylor University’s board of regents announced that Starr’s tenure as university president would end on May 31.”



  1. Good stories and I hope that there is more soon

  2. Good stories. Matt knew 100 times more about OC than Carr, and the Globe reporters. Most of the media stuff was pure fantasy.

  3. William F Fitzgerald

    It was a pleasure working with Matt and John and Peter Casey way back when.
    This link fleshes out some background on Kelly and Sweet