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Authors: Howie Carr


BOOK: Hitman
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Once again, to Kathy, and to my mother



Title Page



   Miami 2008

   “Always Be a Man”

   Apprentice Gangster

   Gang War

   The Animal Flips

   Bwana Johnny

   The Winter Hill Gang

   Indian War

   Glory Days

   The Bubble Bursts

   The Fugitive

   The Last Hit

   “You Can't Rat on a Rat”

Where Are They Now—2010





First of all, thanks to my beautiful wife, Kathy, and our three daughters—Carolyn, Charlotte, and Tina—for their forbearance during the writing of this book. And Carolyn, thank you for your assistance in bailing me out of whatever computer difficulties I was grappling with from day to day.

Obviously, this book could not have been written without the cooperation of Johnny Martorano. I sought him out on his return to Boston, and eventually he came around to the idea that his life story could serve as the framework for a larger tale, a history of organized crime in Boston over the past half century.

We spent hours together, much of it in the city room of the
Boston Herald
early Sunday mornings. He talked, I listened. Everything that has been said about his memory is true. Not only does he have a near-photographic recall of details, but he's also a first-class raconteur. As one of my
colleagues who got to know Johnny on those Sunday mornings put it, “If only he wasn't so damned likable.” He also introduced me to a number of his friends and associates, who had their own stories to share and whose memories refreshed Johnny's recollections, as a lawyer might say in court. I appreciate everyone who shared their stories with me, although I won't name them, for obvious reasons.

I hope that the photographs will add a different dimension to this book. I would like to thank everyone at the
where I have worked for so many years, for their assistance. For allowing me to print many of the photographs, I owe a particular debt of gratitude to Pat Purcell, the owner and publisher of the
. Thanks also to the staff of the
's library, which came up with clippings about ancient crimes. Photographer Mark Garfinkel also provided invaluable assistance.

As for the mug shots, most of them were made available to me by people who probably wouldn't appreciate being identified here. But I hope they know how much gratitude I have for their assistance. The two organizational charts of the Winter Hill Gang, from 1975 and 1982, were made available to me by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Massachusetts State Police (MSP). Many thanks, especially to DEA agent Dan Doherty.

My great friend Larry Bruce spent what must have seemed to him like endless hours getting the mug shots into publishable form, and I appreciate it more than I can express. I would also like to thank my radio producer, Nancy Shack, for all her help on the book in so many ways.

Much of this book is based on public records and police reports. To break up the text, I occasionally used transcripts of Johnny's testimony at the two Zip Connolly trials, in Boston in 2002 and in Miami in 2008. He was asked many of the same questions at both trials, and I used what I considered the more compelling of his answers.

I am grateful to all who provided me with the FBI reports quoted in the book, and also thanks to the Boston Police Department's public-information unit, from which I obtained the official accounts of murders sometimes dating back more than forty years.

Bob Gleason, my editor at Forge, has been a pleasure to work with. He and his staff, especially his assistant Ashley Cardiff and editor Eric Raab, did yeoman's work molding the book's various elements into a coherent whole. Along with Larry Bruce, Eric's skillful handling of the photos gave this book its unique look. George Tobia, my agent as well as Johnny's, put together the deal in his usual professional matter.

Finally, for introducing me to Bob Gleason, I owe my friend Bill Martin, the bestselling novelist, more than one gift certificate to Fleming's Steak House or the Hanover Street Chophouse, whichever he so desires.


Prologue: Miami 2008

choosing his words carefully. It was September 17, 2008, and he was sitting in the witness stand in a state courtroom in Miami. The sixty-seven-year-old hitman was being cross-examined in the murder trial of a corrupt FBI agent from Boston, John Joseph Connolly, Jr.—better known as Zip, the nickname bestowed upon him by his underworld paymaster, the legendary gangster Whitey Bulger.

Zip Connolly was already more than five years into a ten-year federal sentence for racketeering. And now in Florida he was facing life for the 1982 murder of a businessman who'd made the fatal mistake of throwing in with the Hill—the Winter Hill Gang of Boston—of which Johnny Martorano was a founding member.

Martorano had actually pulled the trigger on the businessman, John Callahan, a good friend of his—the twentieth and final murder of his career. But state prosecutors were contending that the murder at the airport in Fort Lauderdale had actually been orchestrated by the “highly decorated FBI agent,” as Zip Connolly was invariably described in the newspapers.

Zip was accused of convincing the Hill that Callahan could implicate all of them, gangsters and FBI agents alike, in an earlier string of murders involving the takeover of a jai-alai company.

At Zip Connolly's first trial for racketeering, in Boston, Martorano had been the prosecution's chief witness, and Zip's attorneys hadn't been able to lay a glove on him. Now, in Miami, another high-powered defense lawyer was having a go at Martorano, and he, too, was flailing. The lawyer, Manuel Casabielle, had already told the judge during a sidebar conference that simply being in the presence of Martorano was intimidating him.

“It feels scary when you are close to him,” Casabielle whispered. The Dade County jurors didn't seem frightened, though. They appeared mesmerized by his tales of the Winter Hill Gang, a collection of unusually murderous mobsters.

At its peak, the Hill's cast of killers had included Martorano, admitted murderer of nineteen men and one woman, as well as Stevie “the Rifleman” Flemmi. The Rifleman was now doing life for ten murders, and in various other court appearances Flemmi had taken the Fifth Amendment when asked about nine other slayings he'd never been formally charged with.

Finally there was James “Whitey” Bulger, a fugitive since 1994, number two on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List behind only Osama bin Laden. Just two weeks earlier, on his seventy-ninth birthday, the FBI had doubled the reward for his capture to $2 million. Whitey, who hadn't been seen in the United States since 1996, was charged with twenty-one murders.

What Johnny Martorano hadn't known during his gangster days was that both Whitey Bulger and Stevie Flemmi were informants for the FBI—rats, as Johnny would put it. And for that he could never forgive them.

Whitey and Stevie hadn't been just Johnny Martorano's partners, they were among his closest friends. Stevie was the godfather of Johnny's middle son, christened in 1970 when Stevie was a fugitive from murder and car-bombing raps in Boston. Whitey was the godfather of Johnny's youngest son, Jimmy, born in 1986, when Johnny himself was on the lam, in Florida, living less than thirty miles from the courthouse where he was now testifying.

But Johnny Martorano was an even more fearsome killer than his two Winter Hill cohorts. In a few days, Stevie Flemmi would testify that after Martorano had become a fugitive in 1979, he had always kept the FBI informed of Johnny's whereabouts. But the FBI never moved to arrest him, Stevie explained, because Johnny was a life insurance policy of sorts for the feds' star underworld informants Bulger and Flemmi. The Mafia in Boston would never dare move against the two “independent” gangsters as long as Johnny was still out there … somewhere, capable of avenging his two sons' godfathers, the two guys he thought were his best friends.

“Johnny Martorano was a boogey-man to the Mafia,” Stevie Flemmi would testify. In fact, Stevie's older brother, another notorious Boston hitman known as Jimmy the Bear, had once taken—and botched—a Mafia contract on Johnny's life. The Bear was another of Martorano's closest friends—he'd been the godfather of Johnny's oldest son. But like so many of Johnny's old pals, the Bear was gone now, dead of a drug overdose in state prison.

*   *   *

direct examination, the state prosecutors had already gone over the complete list of Martorano's twenty murders, hit by hit. Between 1965 and 1982, he'd killed fifteen whites and five blacks, in three states. Their bodies had been dumped in alleys, in ditches, or left in the trunks of stolen cars. One corpse had never been found. Johnny Martorano killed them in telephone booths, at airports, at stop signs, on the open highway, and in coffee shops, as they left barrooms drunk or snorted cocaine in a parked car.

The jury now knew that he had mostly used a .38-caliber snub nose revolver, although he'd killed three others with a carbine, two more with a grease gun, and one with a sawed-off shotgun. One time he was the driver when Whitey and Stevie took out a guy in a phone booth. And then there was the pimp that Martorano had stabbed to death while out on a date with a nurse.

It was standard procedure in these kinds of cases for the prosecution to put onto the record everything that seemed even vaguely unseemly, before the defense could do so and make it appear to the jury that the government was hiding something.

So all Connolly's defense lawyer could do was re-ask as many of the same questions about Martorano's blood-soaked past as the judge would permit, and hope for an opening. Casabielle was reading aloud from Martorano's plea agreement with the state of Florida to testify in any and all prosecutions. The lawyer asked him if that was why he had come to Miami.

“I'm keeping my word to the government and I'm being honest,” Martorano said. “That's it.”

Casabielle instantly looked up from his notes. “You're honest?”


“You are an honest man?”

“I try to be.”

An honest man—this might be the crack that Casabielle had been probing for. Now the lawyer had to decide which of the twenty murders to use to pry some holes in Martorano's testimony.

He picked Richie Castucci, a middle-aged hustler from Revere, who Martorano had shot in the head in Somerville in 1976. Castucci died after the Hill got a tip that Castucci was an FBI informant. Castucci had told the FBI where two fugitive Winter Hill mobsters, Joe McDonald and Jimmy Sims, were hiding out in New York City. Zip Connolly had been convicted in Boston of tipping off Whitey Bulger that Castucci had given up McDonald, but that was something the Florida jury hadn't been told. They also hadn't been told at the time of the Castucci murder that Joe McDonald had been on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List.

BOOK: Hitman
13.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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