Chicago's Unione Siciliana 1920 – A Decade of Slaughter (Part One)

Oct 14, 2009 - by Allan May - 0 Comments

Anthony D'Andrea

Anthony D'Andrea

The political feud between Anthony D'Andrea, the head of Unione Siciliana, and John Powers, the entrenched alderman of Chicago's 19th Ward, was a fight to the death.

by Allan May

The Unione Siciliana was as mysterious an organization as the Mafia, the Black Hand and the Camorra. In some circles there is still a belief that the Black Hand, known in Italy as Mano Nera, became the Mafia and in turn the Unione Siciliana.

In 1962, Italian historian and author Giovanni Schiavo wrote the hard-edged book, The Truth About The Mafia and Organized Crime in America. Schiavo was a prolific author on Italian/American history. His writings spanned four decades. His 1962 publication, however, seemed to have come right from the public relations department of Mafia, Inc.

Schiavo begins his discussion of the Unione Siciliana with the line, ''Let us get a few facts straight, once (and) for all, about the drivel that has been written regarding the Black Hand and the Unione Siciliana.'' To say Mr. Schiavo's views are somewhat slanted would be an understatement. He attacks both the Kefauver Hearings and the McClellan Committee as Italian-bashing productions.

One of the more ridiculous chapters in the book deals with the Apalachin Conference in November 1957. Schiavo blasts writer Frederic Sondern, Jr. and Bureau of Narcotics field supervisor Charles Siragusa for portraying Apalachin as a ''Mafia Grand Council'' meeting. He claims the raid came about due to a personal vendetta between New York State trooper Sergeant Edgar Crosswell, who was given credit for uncovering the conclave, and Mafia host Joseph Barbara.

Schiavo claims the purpose for the gathering was to have a ''steak fry'' for a sick friend – Barbara, who was recovering from a recent heart attack. Schiavo's book was written prior to famed Mafia turncoat Joseph Valachi's Senate Rackets Committee testimony in 1963, where the real reason the notorious crime summit was revealed. It would have been interesting to hear Schiavo defend his ''steak fry'' story after this revelation.

So, why, you might be thinking, am I using Schiavo's book to explain the Chicago chapter of the Unione Siciliana? He offers the best explanation of the origin of the society … at least in terms of how it affected the Windy City. Schiavo gives us the following description of the organization in Chicago:

''The Unione Siciliana – not Unione Siciliano or Unione Sicilione – was one of the thousands of fraternal organizations which the Italians established in America along the lines of mutual benefit societies. It was organized in Chicago in 1895 and for a time its membership was limited to Sicilians. After the turn of the century, however, natives of other parts of Italy were anxious to join and were accepted, so that by the end of World War One there were several lodges of non-Sicilians, like the Tuscan lodge, the Roman lodge, the Venetian lodge, and so on.''

Membership, yes. Leadership, no. The Unione Siciliana's leadership exclusivity would be a stone in the shoe of the most infamous gangster of all time – Al Capone, who was of Neapolitan heritage – and result in most leaders of Unione Siciliana being murdered during the 1920s because of their gang allegiances.

Anthony D'Andrea:

As the turbulent decade of the 1920s got underway, Anthony (Antonio) D'Andrea was the leader of Chicago's Unione Siciliana. Born in Sicily, D'Andrea was a graduate of the University of Palermo where he was a linguist and studied for the priesthood. In 1902, he was convicted of counterfeiting and served 13 months in prison. He was pardoned in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt after a former student of D'Andrea interceded on his behalf.

In Chicago, D'Andrea was said to be a ''former power in the old red light district.'' During the early teens he was suspected of being connected to a gang of Italian counterfeiters and bank thieves who operated throughout the country. While this was going on in Chicago, Ignazio ''Lupo the Wolf'' Saietta was arrested in New York City and sent to prison, and Anthony and Frank Milano were apprehended in Cleveland – all on counterfeiting charges. This is interesting to note because it indicates that Italian underworld criminals may have been working together many years prior to Prohibition.

After his release from prison in 1903, D'Andrea went to Chicago and settled in what was then the 19th Ward. He became involved in politics and some local unions. D'Andrea's brother, Joseph, was president of the Sewer Diggers, Tunnel Workers, and Water Pipe Extension Laborers' Union. The newspapers claimed Joseph had introduced ''the peon system of extorting money from Italian laborers.'' Joseph D'Andrea was murdered during a labor quarrel that took place during the building the union station on Canal Street. His brother Anthony would take his place as president.

John Powers, called ''Johnny De Pow,'' by his Italian supporters, had been the Alderman and Democratic political boss of the 19th Ward since 1888. Powers had won the alderman's seat (in other cities this position would be called city council member) in the ward for 16 consecutive elections. During this time, the ward had changed from predominantly Irish to 80 percent Italian. Most Democrats were now looking for an Italian Democrat to represent them, much like ''Diamond Joe'' Esposito was representing the Italian Republican voters in the ward.

The first split between D'Andrea and Powers came in 1915 when each backed separate candidates for mayor. On several occasions ''downtown leaders'' were called upon to work out a truce between the two men. D'Andrea made his first political move in 1915 running for the office of County Commissioner as a Democrat. His opposition tried to have him taken off the ballot because of his counterfeiting conviction. A Chicago Daily Tribune article called D'Andrea an ''unfrocked priest.'' D'Andrea fought back pointing out that he had cleaned up his act and had been elected president of the Italian Colonial Committee of the Italian Societies of Chicago, and was president of the International Hod Carriers' Union. D'Andrea was defeated.

In February 1916, D'Andrea ran for the Democratic alderman's nomination against Power's hand picked candidate, James P. Bowler. On Feb. 21, Frank Lombardi, a Bowler supporter and a political leader in the 19th Ward, was killed in a Taylor Street saloon. Lombardi was behind the bar serving drinks to three men, two of whom asked him to join them in a toast.

''Long life and happiness to you,'' said one of the men in Italian.

The toast over, one of the men drew a revolver and shot Lombardi twice. He died at a nearby hospital. Lombardi's 18 year-old daughter, Annie, told authorities that her father was murdered, ''because he had dared to head a determined fight against D'Andrea, who had lorded it over a fear stricken ward, too afraid of his power to cross him.''

Police from the Maxwell Street station claimed that Lombardi's killing was just the ''latest addition to the Black Hand toll.'' On Feb. 24, the Chicago Daily Tribune printed a front page article titled ''Police On Guard Over Two Homes in Mafia Terror.'' The article pointed out that police were convinced the killing was a result of a ''Sicilian feud,'' as opposed to a 19th Ward political war.

Before his next political endeavor, D'Andrea became the business agent for the Macaroni Manufacturers' Union. D'Andrea ran for the Democratic nomination to be the Constitutional Convention representative from the Democratic Second District. Although D'Andrea won, a judge gave the election to D'Andrea's opponent after voter fraud had been determined.

In Organized Crime in Chicago, John Landesco writes that, ''D'Andrea was then elected president of the Unione Siciliana, one of the strongest organizations of foreign groups in America.'' Recognizing D'Andrea's new constituent strength, Powers tried to make peace with him. Powers turned down the committeemanship of the 19th Ward in March 1920 and urged the ward organization to support D'Andrea. In return, D'Andrea agreed to support Powers for the alderman's position. The Illinois Supreme Court, however, voided the election and Powers retained the position. After this turn of events it became a political war to the death.

On Sept. 28, a bomb exploded on the front porch of a residence belonging to Alderman Powers. The home, on McAlister Place, had been owned by Powers for nearly four decades. In recent years he had taken to living on Michigan Avenue. His political opponents claimed Powers kept the house on McAlister Place so he could claim residency within the 19th Ward. On the night of the explosion, five people, including Powers, were asleep inside the house and claimed to have been knocked out of bed by the blast. The front of the home was destroyed and most of the windows of houses in the neighborhood were shattered.

Sometime after the bombing, D'Andrea announced his candidacy as a non-partisan, for the alderman's position in the 19th Ward. On Feb. 11, 1921, 11 days before the aldermanic elections, a powerful bomb exploded at a D'Andrea political rally in a building on Blue Island Avenue that was attended by 300 supporters. The bomb, consisting of three sticks of dynamite secured inside a wooden box, was placed alongside a wall outside the building. Whoever planted the bomb had either been in the building, or received inside help, as it was placed where it would have the best possible chance of injuring D'Andrea. The explosion blew a three foot hole in the wall and hurled bricks 25 feet across the room. Seventeen people were injured, three severely, two of whom nearly had their legs torn off.

The blast took place around 9:30 p.m. just after a speech by prominent civic leader Dr. Gaetano Rongo. (Rongo would be the future father-in-law of Capone gang leader Frank Nitti.) Outside the building police officers shot at a man who fled the scene on the running board of a red automobile in which another man and a woman were spotted.

Alderman Powers was quick to make a statement about the bombing to the news media:

''I deplore it very much.''

''I am the sorriest man that it happened, and the injured surely have my sympathy.''

''Why only last Saturday D'Andrea and I sat down together for two hours in the Sherman House and agreed to conduct a clean campaign. There was to be no mud slinging and absolutely no gunmen on election day, or any other time. We shook hands and parted the best of friends.''

Illinois State's Attorney Robert E. Crowe, who over the years would prove to be a man of questionable integrity, responded to the bombings by vowing to draft a new state bill. Under his proposed law the minimum sentence for bombing would be 25 years in the penitentiary and the maximum punishment would be the death sentence. He stated, ''Any one guilty of placing a bomb where woman and children are endangered should be hanged.''

D'Andrea's political nemesis, James B. Bowler, claimed the bomb was planted by the D'Andrea forces to ''discredit Alderman Powers.'' After the bombing Bowler proclaimed:

''Conditions in the Nineteenth Ward are terrible. Gunmen are patrolling the streets. I have received threats that I was to be 'bumped off' or kidnapped. Alderman Powers' house is guarded day and night. Our men have been met, threatened and slugged. Gunmen and cutthroats have been imported from New York and Buffalo for this campaign of intimidation. Alderman Powers' forces can't hold meetings except under heavy guard. Owners of halls have been threatened with death or destruction of their buildings if they rent their places to us. It is worse than the middle ages.''

Less than a week later, on Feb. 18, the home of Joseph Spica, a political lieutenant of D'Andrea's, was bombed, and later, a bomb destroyed D'Andrea's political headquarters. After each incident Powers posted a $2,000 reward for the arrest of the perpetrators.

On Election Day, Feb. 22, police were out early and in force throughout Chicago. They picked up 150 men during the day; the most notorious of which was Edward ''Spike'' O'Donnell the leader of a South Side gang. The biggest catch of the day turned out to be a cache of dynamite. In what law enforcement called ''the headquarters for the preelection bomb outrages'' in the 19th Ward, police raided a ''farm'' at 71st Street and Central Park Avenue. There they uncovered 200 pounds of dynamite and a large sack of blasting powder. Two men, residents of the 19th War, were arrested.

More than 400 policemen were stationed within the 19th Ward alone and over 50 people were arrested before noon. Despite the police presence, three of Powers' workers, including an election judge and precinct captain, were kidnapped during the morning hours.

Powers won by a slim margin of just 435 votes. However, this did not put an end to the violence. On March 9, less than three weeks after the election, two of Powers' precinct captains were mercilessly slain. Around 9 that morning Municipal Court Deputy Bailiff Paul A. Labriola left his wife and two young children and was walking to work. A short distance from his home, Labriola was confronted by two men of whom he nodded in recognition of one. Both men pulled automatics and began blasting. As Labriola dropped to the sidewalk on Congress Street near Halsted, two more gunmen ran up and fired. One man, later alleged to be Angelo Genna, was reported to have straddled the prone victim before shooting him three more times.

Labriola was hit nine times. The coroner later reported that any one of eight of the wounds would have proved fatal. Mrs. Labriola heard the gunfire and ran to the scene screaming. She was aware that her husband had received several recent death threats. She fainted at the sight of her husband's body. When an ambulance arrived, Labriola's body was taken directly to an undertaker's parlor.

Just hours after the murder of Labriola, Harry Raymond (real name Raimondi) was murdered in his cigar store on Taylor Street. Four men, believed to have taken part in the earlier killing, arrived outside Raymond's store around 1 p.m. Two of the men walked inside, purchased cigars, and walked out. An eyewitness recounts what happened next:

''They had been gone only a few minutes when the front door opened again. Two other men entered. They like the others, walked to the counter and asked for cigars. Raymond served them. One of them proffered a 50 cent piece. Raymond took it and reached his right hand into his trousers pocket for the change.''

''With that movement both men whipped out automatics pistols. There were three shots. The first hit Raymond at the left temple and went clean through his head, coming out on the right side. The other two struck him in the chest, penetrating the lungs.''

''For a moment he stood upright and rigid, his mouth opened as though he would like to say something. Then he toppled to the floor, dead.''

The two killers ran from the store dropping one of the murder weapons on the sidewalk. Immediate speculation was that the gunmen in both killings were ''imported'' from New York. Alderman Powers arrived at the Labriola home and told reporters that, ''Labriola was my best friend. I don't know of any enemies he had.''

Powers was later asked to comment about his second slain precinct captain. The alderman stated, ''Raymond was a warm friend of mine and very active for me in the campaign. It seems impossible that things like these can occur in this age of civilization. It is worse than the Middle Ages.'' This was becoming a popular line.

It was later alleged that the four gunmen were responsible in both killings. Police suspected Angelo Genna, Samoots Amatuna, Frank Gambino, and ''Two Gun Johnny'' Guardino.

When confronted by reporters, D'Andrea angrily denied any knowledge of the murders. ''It is a most regrettable incident,'' he claimed. ''I knew nothing of it and I can't see why my name should be dragged into it.'' While D'Andrea may have denied knowledge and involvement, when Amatuna and Gambino were arrested they were identified as saloonkeepers and friends and political supporters of D'Andrea. The newspapers claimed D'Andrea, working with Assistant State's Attorney Stephen A Malato, a friend, was instrumental in securing Amatuna and Gambino's release.

D'Andrea was also fearful for his own life. He began to carry a gun with him wherever he went. On April 12, he was arrested after a raid in a social club on Taylor Street. Several men inside were arrested for gambling and D'Andrea was charged with possession of a concealed weapon, which was found in the pocket of his overcoat. In court, D'Andrea was found not guilty because he was not wearing the overcoat at the time of the search.

It was reported that the violence and killings appalled D'Andrea. He announced that he was going to withdraw from politics, ''rather than have it thought his political ambitions caused bloodshed.'' Apparently this wasn't enough to satisfy his adversaries. A neighbor, who lived across the hall from D'Andrea on South Ashland Avenue, began receiving death threat notes that were intended for D'Andrea. The neighbor gave the letters to D'Andrea, then quickly moved out of the building. The killers then moved in.

In the early morning hours of May 11, 1921, D'Andrea was having dinner with two friends at ''Diamond Joe'' Esposito's Neapolitan Restaurant at Taylor and Halsted Streets. After dinner he was driven to his apartment by Joseph Laspisa, a friend who served as D'Andrea's bodyguard. D'Andrea said goodnight and turned to climb the stairs. Assassins, hiding in the recently vacated apartment, blasted away at him. The 49 year-old D'Andrea staggered inside the doorway and called out to his wife.

''Lena, Lena,'' D'Andrea cried. ''I'm dying. I'm dying.''

D'Andrea was carried into his home and a doctor was called. An ambulance arrived and took D'Andrea to Jefferson Park Hospital where, suffering from massive internal bleeding, he arrived in critical condition.

Police searched the vacant flat from where the gunmen had fired. They found a new shotgun – with the barrel sawed off – and a hat that was left behind. Inside the hat band was a $20 dollar bill with a note marked: ''For Flowers.''

The police were out in force the morning after the shooting. In the time-honored tradition of omerta, the Italian code of silence, D'Andrea wouldn't, or couldn't, provide any clues for the police. It was reported that he told his friend, Assistant State's Attorney Malato, that he didn't recognize his assailants.

On the street the police met the usual wall of silence. One resident told police detectives, ''The man who talks is a marked man. Our safety lies in minding our own business.'' A local attorney described the neighborhood in the wake of the recent rash of killings and bombings. ''Conditions here are terrible,'' he said. ''Flats are vacant because the fear of bombs prevents any one from moving in. Houses cannot be mortgaged nor insured because of the danger. And no one dares complain, or his life would be forfeit.''

D'Andrea, with 13 shotgun slugs in his body, succumbed to his wounds 36 hours after the shooting, but not before, police allege, he asked ''Two Gun Johnny'' Guardino to avenge his death.

On May 17, the day of the funeral, D'Andrea's body was to be taken from his home to Our Lady of Pompeii, for the service and then to Mount Olivet for burial. As his $3,000 bronze casket was being carried down the front steps of his apartment, word arrived that the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago refused to allow the remains to be brought to the church, or to be buried on consecrated ground. The explanation was that D'Andrea, ''had not lived as a Catholic, therefore he should not be buried as one…as he lived so shall he be buried''

The pallbearers, which included ''Diamond Joe'' Esposito, Dr. Gaetano Rongo, and Peter Russo (listed as D'Andrea's replacement as the president of the Unione Siciliana) placed the casket on the sidewalk in the exact spot where he had been shot. Two of D'Andrea's brothers, Horace and Louis, both priests, took over. The Reverend Horace D'Andrea conducted the prayers and sprinkled holy water on the casket of his late brother. He then said a prayer, which the newspapers described as not being from the ritual, but from the heart. A chorus of ''Amen'' followed the prayers from the 8,000 estimated mourners who filled the street.

D'Andrea's body was driven to Mount Greenwood Cemetery amid a caravan that included 12 flower cars. The funeral cortege was estimated to be two and a half miles long. Of the 39 honorary pallbearers, 21 were judges. The Chicago Daily Tribune incorrectly stated, ''Representatives of thirty branches of the Unione Siciliana, a fraternal organization founded by D'Andrea and of which he was the first president, were among the foot marchers who followed the body from the home.''

The day following the D'Andrea shooting, police arrested Paul Labriola, a cousin with the same name of the slain Municipal court bailiff. Labriola, who suffered from tuberculosis, had returned from Mexico, where he was living for health reason, for his cousin's funeral.

''I didn't kill D'Andrea,'' Labriola told detectives. ''I would have killed him in a minute though, if I had the opportunity. Some one beat me to it. I'm glad they got him.''

Police detectives claim when Labriola returned, he purchased a ''large revolver and vowed he would avenge his kinsman.'' Police claimed Labriola and a brother of the victim, Felix, swore an oath of revenge at the gravesite. When Labriola's fingerprints didn't match those found at the ambush site he was released.

Police were also looking for ''Two Gun Johnny'' Guardino. He had been missing since the day he allegedly received word from D'Andrea from his deathbed to avenge the shooting. On May 15, police raided a poolroom on West Polk Street and arrested 38 men for gambling, including Guardino. The poolroom was the scene of a shooting shortly after the Labriola murder. Guardino and Giuseppe Nuzzo, the poolroom owner, were wounded during a drive-by shooting while standing out front.

Despite the murder of D'Andrea, the bodies continued to pile up. On May 14, employees of the sanitary district discovered the body of a man in a drainage canal. The victim's head had been crushed and mutilated and a grain sack was tied around the neck with wire. Tied to the feet was another sack weighted down with cobblestones. The man had been dead for about one week. Although the victim was never identified, the police suspected the murder was part of the 19th Ward political feud.

Less than two weeks later, Michael Laccari was shot to death. Laccari was a D'Andrea friend and political supporter. One month later, on June 22, another D'Andrea friend and supporter met the same fate. Clemento Basile, a father of three, was sitting outside a candy and fruit store when two men shot him to death. The newspapers reported that when the killers struck there were, ''Hundreds of children playing in the Ghetto streets,'' near the store.

Four days later, former D'Andrea bodyguard Joseph Laspisa was murdered. Laspisa was the president of an Italian mutual benefit society called Ventimiglia and was busy planning its annual picnic. On this beautiful Sunday afternoon Laspisa had dropped off his son at relatives and was taking care of some business involving the outing. Around 2 p.m. Laspisa was seen driving on Oak Street with two men in the back of his automobile. All of a sudden the two men drew guns and aimed them at the back of Laspisa's head and fired. Laspisa's body was blasted forward over the steering wheel. While the two killers jumped out and vanished, the automobile hopped the curb and came to rest after hitting a building located next to St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church. As a crowd of onlookers gathered, the shadow from the cross of the church rested on the car.

At the sound of the shooting and the crash, many of the parishioners ran to the street. They were soon joined there by Reverend Louis M. Gianbastiano who urged the crowd, ''If you know who the men were who have done this fearful crime, and if there is in you the least spirit of Americanism, you will go to the police and tell. You owe it to the good name of your race, which has been shamed on many occasions by your silence. If you know these men, I implore you in the name of all good Italians, in the name of all good Americans, and in the name of the Lord, to tell the police.''

Laspisa's wife soon arrived at the scene. Upon seeing her husband's body she became hysterical. She cried out, ''Why did they kill him. He was not a politician. He was not a gunman. He was not of the Black Hand. He was the best man in the world. He was just as good a friend to Alderman Johnny Powers as he was to Tony D'Andrea. Everybody liked him, loved him. Why? Why? Why?''

Found in the car, next to posters advertising the upcoming picnic, was Laspisa's straw boater, which had powder burns on it. Police advanced two theories for the murder. The first was that D'Andrea's killers silenced him in case he knew more about that murder than he told the police. The second theory, in spite of all the wonderful things his wife had to say about him, was that Laspisa was murdered in revenge for a killing he had allegedly been involved with in 1913. A boarder at the Laspisa household had been found in an alley a short distance from the home riddled by shotgun pellets. When Laspisa's body arrived at the morgue it was placed on the same slab as his alleged victim.

Laspisa's attorney made a statement to the police that the murder was surely a mistake. He claimed, ''No one would want to kill Joe Laspisa. Everyone liked him'' Commenting on Laspisa's memberships in Italian social associations he said, ''As far as I know he did not belong to the Unione Siciliana, D'Andrea's organization. No they must have killed the wrong man.''

On July 7, another shooting took place involving a former D'Andrea supporter. Joseph Sinacola lived across the street from Laspisa. The two men were best friends; Sinacola was godfather to one of Laspisa's four children. Sinacola had seven children and when Laspisa was murdered, Sinacola became a father figure to his children. Sinacola was leaving the Laspisa apartment walking across the street to his home when an automobile pulled up and one man got out. As Sinacola's 13-year-old daughter Josephine watched in horror, the man pulled a gun and shot him in the head. The bullet entered Sinacola's right temple and exited through his left cheek. Incredibly, Sinacola recovered, but refused to identify his attacker.

Still another D'Andrea loyalist was murdered on July 21. Andrew Orlando, a 30 year-old barber, took 11 bullets in the head and back as he sat in his automobile at 11:30 at night. The killers, three gunmen who were in the backseat of Orlando's automobile, fled to another vehicle, which pulled alongside after the shooting.

The bloodshed was not over. Two days after Orlando's murder, assassins struck again. This time it was ''Two Gun Johnny'' Guardino, the man allegedly selected to extract revenge for D'Andrea's murder. Guardino was standing with two friends in front of a grocery store on Polk Street across the street from the poolroom where he had been wounded several months earlier. While the men talked, a lone gunman approached and fired six shots at Guardino, striking him three times.

The gunman ran a few feet down the sidewalk, knocked over a youth, and disappeared down an alley. Guardino's two friends stopped a man driving a pickup truck and placed the dying man on board. On the way to Jefferson Park Hospital Guardino died. His two companions fled the truck once they reached the hospital leaving the driver to explain what happened. By midnight police were holding 35 men for questioning, but again they were frustrated with not being able to find any witness who would talk about the shooting. By the following day, police had brought in more than 150 men for questioning, all to no avail.

Violence had become a typical way of life in the 19th Ward. Nothing was more indicative of that and the neighborhood's attitude toward crime than an event which occurred on July 24, 1921. Mrs. Mary Esposito (it is not known if she was related to ''Diamond Joe'') was sitting on the steps of her flat watching the excitement of a Sunday bridal party as it prepared to make its way to the church. (Mary Esposito's husband had been a victim of the 19th Ward political feud. A henchman of Johnny Powers, he had been murdered several months back.)

As Mary watched the excited wedding goers, Mrs. Emilia Panico stepped from the crowd and confronted her. Panico cursed at Esposito in Italian and slapped her in the face. Esposito jumped to her feet and the two began fighting – pulling hair and scratching – as members of the wedding party cheered them on. Panico pulled a knife from her ''bosom'' and cut Esposito on the arm. Esposito screamed and ran down the steps to her apartment trying frantically to close the door behind her. After a short struggle Panico stabbed Esposito in the breast and again in the abdomen.

Panico then ran out of the building where she was stopped by a taxicab driver who disarmed her. The wedding guests moved menacingly toward the driver and told him, ''Let go of her!'' Panico then disappeared up an alley.

Esposito, true to form, refused to name her attacker and died a short time later on the operating table.

Police soon suspected Panico as the murderer and after searching for her for 24 hours left word with neighbors that if she didn't turn herself in they would place her six children in an institution. The following day Panico went to the Maxwell Street police station and confessed. She told detectives that she murdered Esposito because, ''She was going around with my husband.''

Joseph Sinacola, who had miraculously survived being shot in the head on July 6, became the last victim of the bloody 19th Ward battle on Aug. 14. Incredibly the murder took place in front of his young daughter Josephine who had witnessed the first shooting. Sitting on a rocking chair in front of his home around 10 a.m., two men walked down the street and approached Sinacola. As the pair got closer, Sinacola recognized them and jumped up and drew a gun. The gunmen responded first firing two shots at Sinacola, who dropped his weapon and took off on the run. He got about 15 feet before he was cut down in a hail of bullets. The assassins dropped their guns and fled. Sinacola's wife, Catherine, ran outside with several of her children and surrounded her mortally wounded husband.

Two days later an article in the Chicago Daily Tribune claimed:

''Joseph Sinacola was murdered because he was going to talk.''

''He had prepared 'for the good of my people,' to break the Latin code of silence and tell police the names of the gunmen whose swift and certain vengeance already had taken a toll of twelve lives in less than half as many months.''

''He had agreed to bare the mess of ward political intrigue which levied a 'tax' upon the business men of the district for the support of the banditti in such a way that evidence could be obtained, witnesses procured, and convictions won.''

Chicago Chief of Police, Charles C. Fitzmorris, made the following eye-opening statement, ''Sinacola was killed because he had agreed to talk. The murderers must have learned about it, for they murdered him just in time. Another day or two and … I would have had information that would have sent a lot of fellows to the gallows and cleaned up the 19th Ward.''

Reporters asked the chief why Sinacola would break the honored code of silence. The chief replied, ''If I told you that I would be tearing down the whole fabric by which we eventually hope to break through the reign of silence in the 19th Ward.''

A police official, not wishing to be identified, claimed, ''It was money; money and the belief that by telling what he knew he could do his people a real service.''

At the coroner's inquest Catherine Sinacola was asked who killed her husband. As she opened her mouth to answer, she looked at five of her children who were seated nearby. Then through tear-filled eyes she softly stated, ''No, no, I can't tell.''

Although president of the Unione Siciliana, D'Andrea's death was not a result of his holding that position. However, at least six of the eight remaining titleholders throughout the decade would be killed directly as a result of their obtaining the office.


Next: Part II of Chicago's Unione Siciliana: 1920 – A Decade of Slaughter
Unione Siciliana president Mike Merlo's death leads to a war between Al Capone and the North Side gang leaders; the Unione permeates Chicago's Little Italy; and three Unione Siciliana presidents are murdered.


 

Allan May's e-mail address is: AllanMay@worldnet.att.net

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